Native son back to offer music venue
> Terry’s Basement Lounge allows artists to experiment, spread wings
Special to The Commercial Appeal
Neo-soul artist Tim Terry spent several years writing and recording in California, and after returning to his hometown of Memphis four years ago, he found the music scene here not particularly embracing of his brand of sophisticated R&B.
“It’s lacking,” says Terry of the opportunities for artists who don’t trade in rock, the blues or rap. “You don’t have a lot of venues that allow you to showcase original material. It’s a mainstream-type of city where you have to follow the status quo.”
But this weekend the singer-songwriter helps christen a new venue that could become a haven for more adult, urban fare like Terry’s. Events producer Corey Davis describes the Basement Lounge, inside the Rumba Room at 303 S. Main Downtown, as “an alternative to the traditional club scene many feel they have outgrown.” The venue, which is open the first and third Sundays of every month, will feature not just live music but also comedians, spoken word, and dance performances.
“There’s nothing like a live show,” says Davis, who is best known for his Rebirth of Soul series of tribute concerts. “I believe providing an avenue to perform original material is essential to the growth of Memphis’ ever-evolving artistic culture. It is very common to find venues and artists that promote cover bands, but there is not a venue that allows artists to be themselves and in their music. … When setting up the lineup for the Basement Lounge, it was no doubt that Tim Terry would be a first choice. Tim Terry’s music is the true definition of what originality, soul and creativity is.”
The son of a former pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Collierville, Terry began learning the keyboard at age 3 from his big brother.
“Basically I was a musician before I was anything,” he says of his early start.
As a teenager, however, church music was supplanted in his heart by the sounds of Al Green,
Marvin Gaye and Prince. After graduating from Fairley High School, Terry attended Tennessee State University with an eye toward injecting himself into the Nashville music industry. But the prospect of spirit-crushing session work in genres that didn’t particularly appeal to him left Terry disheartened.
“If you’re doing session work, it’s almost like working in a factory,” he recalls. “It’s pretty much you’re on an assembly line, shuttling the music through. You make great money, but there wasn’t a lot of life to the music.”
Terry had better luck in California, where he moved after college. Working out of San Diego and San Francisco, Terry made great career strides. He worked with Nick Cannon on the actor/musician’s eponymous debut record, singing backup vocals on the track “My Rib.” More importantly, Terry produced his own CD, 2005’s Tim Terry Experience, and even managed to land some of his songs on film and television soundtracks, including the album cut “On the Dance Floor” which was featured in two episodes of the sitcom “Girlfriends.”
It was a family tragedy that brought Terry back to Memphis four years ago when his father, Rev. Walter Lee Terry, passed away. Since returning, however, Terry has found himself recharged, if not by the opportunities, then by the talent here.
“Every place I’ve gone they have more of a respect for our music than we do,” Terry says. “In Memphis you can hear good singing any day of the week. ... So people don’t really appreciate a lot of up-and-coming artists that are working on their craft.”
Terry hopes that changes soon. He’s putting the finishing touches on his sophomore CD, Born II Live , which he plans to have ready for a January release. The first single from the record, the Latin-flavored slow jam, “Ooowee,” is already for sale on most of the major music download sites. The new material is reflective of Terry’s coming out of a long dark period, including the aftermath of his father’s death, during which he couldn’t write.
“It sort of hit me one day that my problems were no bigger than anyone else’s,” he says of his emergence from his funk. “It hit me that day that I was put on Earth for a purpose, not to wallow in self-pity. So at this point in my life I’m prepared to enjoy every minute of my life.”
Memphian Tim Terry left the Mid-South in favor of a more accommodating atmosphere for his neo-soul music in California but is back home to advance local talent at the Basement Lounge on South Main.