As a child, Miss Tess often drifted off to sleep to the sounds of a big band rehearsing in the living room. Her parents, members of Doc Scantlin and His Imperial Palms Orchestra, perform music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
In her teenage years, Tess found herself more drawn to alternative and punk rock than to the lush arrangements they play.
“I was into music, but I guess it took me a while to come around to that style of music,” says Tess, who commits to her stage moniker in all professional matters. “When you’re a teenager, you’re like, ‘My parents aren’t cool.’ ”
Miss Tess and the Talkbacks will perform a free album-release show at 8 p.m. Thursday at Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville. The album, “Baby All We Know,” will be officially released July 8.
Tess’ music has a rockabilly swing sound mixed with classic country and Southern rhythm and blues. The music is retro without being gimmicky, a result of Tess being exposed to that classic big-band sound from a young age.
Boston, Brooklyn, Nashville
Tess didn’t warm up to that swing style of music until college, where she was exposed to jazz and early blues.
The Rockville, Maryland, native moved to Boston in 2005 to study at Berklee College at Music. She stayed in Boston until 2010, when she moved to Brooklyn. A year ago, amidst writing and recording a new album, she decided it was time to relocate to Nashville with her partner and guitar player.
“We tour a lot, and it just made sense to have a cheaper apartment for our central home base,” Tess says. “And, of course, you have the whole great music scene down there as well.”
By chance, she ended up moving a mere three blocks away from Oliver Craven and Maya de Vitry, of the Lancaster-born group the Stray Birds.
Tess first met the Stray Birds at a Folk Alliance International Conference. They ran into each other at festivals in the following months and fostered a friendship, which has only strengthened since Tess moved to Nashville.
“We’ve had a lot of late-night music hangs,” Tess says.
Craven and de Vitry sing background vocals on “Baby All We Know.” Craven also plays the fiddle on the album.
“Baby All We Know” marks Tess’ first album since leaving her label. When the label suggested she crowd-fund the album, she figured she might as well go independent.
Tess raised $16,523 on Kickstarter to create the album.
“It was really heartwarming to know that there are people out there —even if they aren’t at your shows all the time — they’re out there somewhere, and they want to be a patron to the arts,” Tess says.
Invested in herself
Tess also invested a significant amount in the project, which cost about $30,000 in total.
“I believe in this enough that I can invest in myself,” Tess says.
While writing songs for this album, Tess explored taking on different characters rather than writing every song in her own voice. “Lola” was inspired by her neighbor’s cat and the hip-shaking groove of the Coasters.
“I was trying to step out of myself a bit and create these little stories,” Tess says.
Tess thinks it was a reaction to reading Louis Armstrong’s autobiography, “Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans.” Inspired by the way Armstrong painted vignettes of the city, Tess wanted to create a similar visual experience for her listener.
Another priority was keeping the music lively and danceable, Tess says.
“We’re focusing on songs that are just fun to play and upbeat and make people want to dance,” Tess says. “That’s been more of what I’ve been into recently. When I go out to hear music, I like to go out and dance, too.”