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Who is Tatiana LadyMay?
In July of 2013 Tatiana “LadyMay” Mayfield, a 26- year old native Texan, stepped off of an airplane and found herself in the London Heathrow Airport. It was hard to believe…for her. Surreal even. But hard work and pure talent had paid off. A Kickstarter campaign. Countless concerts and gigs as fundraisers. Constant plugging of her latest album, a masterpiece called “A Portrait of LadyMay.
In the fall of 2012, loyal fans watched LadyMay’s social media accounts intently as the song “Real” from “A Portrait of LadyMay climbed to the #1 slot on the “UK Soul Chart.” It was time.
Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield had arrived.
Her first tour, LadyMay in the UK, was a success. For nearly a week, LadyMay and her band was widely received on London’s top radio stations and popular performance venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express in Soho and the Flyover Portobello.
It’s no surprise the tour was a hit. LadyMay’s fan base is growing daily and it is worldwide. Her listeners hail also from Switzerland, Germany, Nigeria, Brazil and France.
Many of her fans describe her sound and persona as refreshing and beautiful. And jazz lovers relish in the fact that LadyMay seems to be keeping the genre alive and well. Scott Yanow, jazz journalist, described her voice on her first album as “attractive with excellent elocution.”
Her first big break came at 17 after auditioning for the “Showtime at the Apollo Tour” show when it came to Dallas. She made the show, even shared a quick laugh with then-host Steve Harvey but didn’t win overall. Still the exposure put her on the radar of the show’s executive producer at the time. Vanessa Brown called and asked LadyMay to come to New York be a part of the Apollo’s famous amateur night to be recorded for national television.
Donning a brown evening gown and signature flower in her hair, LadyMay rubbed the famous log for good luck and bravely belted out “Good Morning Heartache” before host/comedienne Monique and the critical Apollo audience. She didn’t win the overall contest, but the opportunity was a boost in confidence. The recording aired in October of 2004.
Born in 1987, the youngest child of Charles and Cecelia Mayfield seemed to always gravitate towards music. In fact, she feels she was basically groomed to be a musician.
“Growing up, there was always music around the house. It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a record or CD playing. My parents listened to all kinds of music ranging from jazz, classical, R&B, rock and funk.” LadyMay says her mother, an avid fan of jazz legend Nancy Wilson, gave her the jazz bug.
“She would sing to me every day. And she would talk about the way Wilson covered standards…Later I was singing songs around the house making up tunes for my wind-up toys.”
LadyMay was around six years old when she realized her love of music and singing to a small audience. But then she went through a period of time where she suffered from a bit of stage-fright. “I finally came out of my shell again around age 11 at a local community talent show.” She sang her favorite tune “Reflection” from Disney’s “Mulan”.
It wasn’t long before the budding musician was in her middle school band learning to play trombone and taking piano lessons after school. She also was getting an informal musical education singing during church services at the Catholic Church she grew up attending. “I sang all the old classical hymns, some in Latin…I was Cantoring (leading song) by the time I was 14 years old.”
LadyMay says one of her biggest turning points was attending a jazz camp at the University of Texas at Arlington when she was 13 years old. “I felt so musically and creatively liberated! I had fallen in love with jazz for the first time. I remember I was the only girl, only trombone player and only vocalist at the camp. Talk about being singled out!”
High School/College life...
LadyMay knew that music was going to be her life’s work by the time she entered Brewer High School. She honed her skills in the school band and choir and later began getting college credit at Tarrant County College (TCC) at the same time. LadyMay spent her time at TCC studying jazz piano and voice, for starters. She also played trombone and sang for TCC’s lab band.
LadyMay started her formal studies at the University of North Texas in the fall of 2005. It didn’t take long for her to meet fellow students with a passion for making melodies.
Her first band, called “Intonation”, was with pianist Erskine Hawkins III. They started out performing on campus and soon began getting paid gigs.
“Our first real gig was for a lawyer’s convention at the Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth,” LadyMay remembers with a chuckle.
“Intonation” later morphed into “The Tatiana Mayfield Quintet”, a band also including Hawkins III and other musicians. Word got out and the Quintet soon found itself in demand, doing shows at local jazz festivals, clubs and restaurants.
Performed with the legendary Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in the "I'm Every Woman" concert with vocalists Capathia Jenkins and Measha Bruggergossman, 2016
Performed with the YoungArts alumni in the "Backyard Ball" show amongst several celebrities, 2015
Indie Song-writing Competition 5th place for "For You" (A Portrait Of LadyMay), 2015
Performed for the honorable congressman G. K. Butterfield of the Congressional Black Caucus for EPA black history event. (2015)
Performed for the honorable congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis for EPA black history event. (2014)
Received "Best Vocalist Of The Month" from SingerUniverse.com for original song "It's Over Now", 2013
Completed the “LadyMay in the UK” tour, Summer 2013
Labeled as one of the “Best New Jazz Releases of 2013” by Soul Brother Records
“Real” from A Portrait of LadyMay reached #1 on the UK soul chart in November 2012
Her music has been featured so far in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, France, Nigeria and Brazil
Released sophomore album A Portrait of LadyMay, 2012
Has appeared numerous times on WFAA’s “Good Morning Texas” television show
NFAA Silver Award (National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts) for Jazz Voice, 2006
Released first album From All Directions, 2009
Received the “Outstanding Performance” award in the college “Jazz Vocal Soloist” category in DownBeat magazine’s June 2009 and 2010 Student Awards issues
Received “Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Jazz Studies” from the University of North Texas, 2009
Semi-Finalist, Thelonious Monk Competition, 2010
Amateur Night performer on “Showtime at the Apollo”, 2004
Another album is born...
By 2009, Hawkins and LadyMay were in their junior year recording their first album, a collaboration called From All Directions. It turned out to be a wonderful blend of Hawkins’ instrumental talent and the finesse of LadyMay’s vocal appeal. And putting together an album from scratch was a huge learning experience.
“We learned how to get everything done. Mixing, mastering, promoting…finding a graphic designer. We did a lot of asking around, talking to people who have recorded projects, our professors.”
It wasn’t a cheap project either. So they made sure studio time was efficient.
“The first half of the album was mine. We did all of my takes in one day, over a span of about 6 hours…no overdubs. Some of the arrangements were thought of right there in the studio! Erskine’s half was a little more involved. A little bit more electrics, a little more modern, so it took a bit more time. But it was just really awesome!”
The album was released in October 2009. It received positive reviews by JazzTimes Magazine and jazz journalist/writer Scott Yanow.
LadyMay says her sophomore album, A Portrait of LadyMay reveals a lot about where she was in life at the time (2010-2012). Doing the independent project was challenging and costly—she was thrown off temporarily due to vocal illness and financial constraints—but she was thankful that she was finally able to complete it in July of 2012.
“The album is a true reflection of who I am as a woman, an artist and musician. I’m showcasing my writing ability on this along with the works of my musician friends. It varies in styles while still staying in the jazz idiom.”
She says she feels a lot of the material is relatable to her fans.
“A lot of the songs are about love and different things that most people have experienced at some point in their life. Whether it’s a good love story or a bad love story, it’s relatable and then musically, it’s versatile.”
LadyMay wrote most of the songs herself, unlike her first album, which were mostly jazz standards. And two songs were specially written for her.
“A Lady Never Cries” and “Where Have You Been?” were written by composer and former writer for Jazztimes and Downbeat magazines Harvey Siders. Siders felt the songs were perfect for LadyMay’s vocal range and wanted to be a part of her album in a special way. He had fallen in love with her voice after her first album, describing LadyMay’s intonation as “flawless” and her scatting “as natural as breathing”.
How she became “LadyMay”
LadyMay constantly gets questions about the story behind her stage name and why she wears a flower in her hair for every performance. She says her pianist/composer friend Darwin Martin started calling her “LadyMay” every time he saw her. Before she knew it, everyone else was calling her “LadyMay” and it stuck. (This was a couple of years after From All Directions was released). In a sense it’s a tribute to Billie Holiday, who was known similarly as “Lady Day”.
LadyMay knows one thing for sure: She will continue to create music--her way. She wants her fans to share in her passion for what she calls “the evolution of jazz”.
“I feel like jazz is very much alive, it’s just different now… It’s evolving, it’s fusing into other things. It’s fusing into your pop music, your R&B Soul, your rock, whatever. There’s just a lot of fusion going on.”
Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield can often be heard at various local venues including The Scat Jazz Club in downtown Fort Worth and the Dallas Museum of Art. She teaches voice and piano lessons to children and adults when she’s not performing. LadyMay still plays trombone on occasion, writes songs, loves playing with her dog Sweet Pea, and is working on her next album.
-Story by Takisha Roberson (Journalist)
In the beginning...
LadyMay doesn’t take her career for granted and soaks up moments when she is able to be surrounded by influential jazz artists. In October of 2010, LadyMay was chosen to be one of the 12 semi-finalists in the Thelonious Monk Competition held at the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American in Washington, DC. She sang before an all-star vocal jazz panel of Al Jarreau, Dianne Reeves, Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling. The experience is one that she truly cherishes.
“I got a chance to meet jazz greats Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Wayne Shorter and T.S. Monk. Also at the hotel I got to meet Esperanza Spalding (she was in town doing a show), Gretchen Parlato and Tierney Sutton. It was crazy!”
She has also opened for other well-known artists such as Kirk Whalum, Randy Brecker, Dave Valentin, Bobbi Humphrey and “The Main Ingredient”.
music for your soul
Copyright 2016. Tatiana "LadyMay" Mayfield. All rights reserved.