Women Making Music: CaroMia Tiller – The Beautiful Bohemian
By Peggy Ratusz
Because there’s a “circle of love” going on in this town within the music community, finding and connecting with women making music is effortless. Exalting and praising women artists is my favorite job and I’m supremely grateful for the opportunity to introduce to you, yet another sweet song sister you have a duty as a resident of WNC to discover for yourself live and in person if you haven’t already.
CaroMia is a bohemian rhapsody and when word of her entry onto our soil, bringing with her a guitar, an arsenal of prolific songs and a voice of worldwide adventures truly like none we’ve heard, came on the wire, I grabbed on. She made it all so easy for me.
I was attempting to find a different artist a friend had recommended to me when I stumbled onto YouTube footage of CaroMia. I was captivated by what I heard and saw; so much so that whenever possible from that day forward, I gathered people around my laptop or to their PC and insisted they hear and see this artist virtually, with whom I’d become enamored. She made every one of them swoon too.
Very soon after stumbling upon her and recommending her to anyone and everyone, I was asked to perform alongside her for a benefit concert and fashion show. I was eager to meet her because like the other females on that bill with us, she made me feel star struck. CaroMia is gracious and warm. Her laugh is amazing. Her eyes are beautiful and penetrating and she truly engages people in conversation. She allows people in. She’s a true listener and possesses an affable soul.
Since that show, I’ve watched her star gradually shine brighter and brighter. The reviews of her current 10-track release, The Spectrum are glowing as they should be. The buzz you hear about her unstoppable, soaring, lilting, soothing, soulful bluesy voice are accurate as all get out. You’ll want to purchase that CD via CD Baby, or at one of her shows. You should purchase one. I predict she’ll go as far as she wants to.
And it would not be the first time. It’s Tiller’s wanderlust and spirit, driven to pursue whatever she wants whenever she wants wherever she wants and on her terms that makes her material feel close and tangible. She’s gone and done things that many only dream of, and she brings back these souvenirs in song. From Michigan, Minnesota, India, Southeast Asia and back, we’re lucky she chose this place to settle down, record and share her lifetime of experiences, packed into someone still so young.
I ask her about new tunes she’s working on and she shares with me this: “I feel like my new stuff is a little more grove-oriented as opposed to the classic singer songwriter style of writing. And I think my style is changing because I’m working with a bass player which I’ve not done very much of in the past. While it still has the roots sound that will never go away, the newer stuff is more R&B and Soul laden. We’re tapping into the new, quirky Indie Pop style a the same time.”
She explains that her writing consists of “almost completely reflecting what I’m going through. I usually don’t write anything down. I heard when I was a teenager that the Beatles never documented their ideas in progress because their theory was that if it didn’t stick in their heads that it probably wasn’t worth pursuing. It hasn’t been a problem not writing ideas down, so I just go with it.”
She’s formed a trio she’s incredibly excited about that includes Mary Ellen Davis (Menage, Swayback Sisters) on upright and electric bass and guitar, Matt “Mad Man” Williams (side man to the stars!) on violin, mandolin, guitar and vocals. They’ve been collaborating, bringing their songs to the table alongside hers. The chemistry between them is evidenced in their effective arrangements, content, harmonies and grooves. Moving forward, they’ll be incorporating a collective of songs and shared lead vocals. They’re searching for a perfect band name that encompasses the unity.
Before moving to WNC five years ago she grew up in Harbor Springs, Michigan where she graduated from high school early at the age of 16. Older brother Orson, and younger sister ElenaLee and her parents, Marcy McGregor and Bob Humphrey were the quintessential supportive family to her music. Deciding to study music abroad, she chose India as her educational destination where for a short time she studied Carnatic vocals with South Indian masters. After, she spent two years busking her way through South East Asia, North Africa, as well as Europe. It was a “crazy adventure I now refer to as my ‘happy place’. When I left the school in India, I imagined a life of independence, traveling and being free; that feeling of the wind in my hair or at my back, rickshawing toward the sea. It was everything I imagined for myself.”
She came back to the states and enrolled in a 2 year intensive program at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. The melting pot of musicians from every walk of life and culture, whom she befriended and studied alongside there, influences her still.
After college she toured with a band out West and then flew back to India to tour. During that second trip abroad, she decided to move to the Asheville area. “My soul needed some stability and I knew that I needed to set up camp somewhere and I kept hearing about Asheville. I just wanted to get here and start working on music, so I left India earlier than planned.” She met her husband at her first job at a Spay/Neuter clinic where they were scrubbing dog’s testicles together and fell completely in love. And she laughs telling me the ridiculousness of their first encounters. Russ Tiller, actor, writer, film maker and costume designer and CaroMia were married just two months after meeting.
In her song The Real World which is the 5th track on her album, The Spectrum, she offers a world of advice in slow waltz style: you decide what it is you want, be honest then go out and get it … I want you to look back on your dying day and I want you to smile cause you did your way. She takes you down the Appalachian trail in a dedicated ditty called Mountains of North Carolina where she proclaims in giddy fashion, that she will take her “cabin fever to the Mountains of North Carolina … I’m moving to the country, gonna let my roots down low. Gonna drink a little coffee and watch that green grass grow.” She confesses with tearful country twang and so too deep and intimate jazz juiced undertones, “I’ve cried out of joy and I’ve cried out of pain and at the end of the day it’s funny how they both feel the same … they just hurt” from the song she calls Virgil Grape. Hole in My Pocket is a slow bluesy love song and she borrows from Nina Simone, begging with convincing conviction: my baby please, I beg on your sugar darling, don’t let me go, just put a little sugar in my bowl.”
No box will this young and beautiful bohemian be put in. In one song alone you could hear many influences—Blues, Gospel, Country, R&B and Soul. It’s groovy and cool, it’s warm and compelling. It is toe tappin’ and head boppin’ on one tune and then an aching slow burn on the next. Everybody gets what they come for when they hear CaroMia and her two comrades perform live. You’ll walk away feeling like you’ve just come off a counselor’s couch, a preacher’s prayer meetin’, a lover’s bed, a hoedown or a long hot bath.
She’s got some shows coming up where you can take advantage of all of it. On Monday March 4th and 11th at 8 p.m. and Friday, March 22nd at 10 p.m. she’ll be at her home away from home, 5 Walnut Wine Bar. On Thursday, March 21st she’s at Aloft at 9 p.m.. To keep up with all things CaroMia Tiller, visit her website at www.caromiamusic.com.
Peggy Ratusz is a songstress, writer and vocal coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You cn listen to her work at www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz.