Growing up in a musical family, Tia Fuller knew she would end up in the business... and then she got a call from Beyoncé
She's the woman who said no to Beyoncé - and not many people in the music business do that once, let alone three times, as Tia Fuller knows from personal experience.
The saxophonist and cover star of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival toured the world with Beyoncé’s band for five years and felt privileged, and excited, to gain “the inside scoop” on how the singer has been so successful.
“For me, as a bandleader, it was fascinating to watch this woman who is an artist and a visionary operate,” says Fuller. “She gets what she wants and makes it almost impossible for anyone to say no to her but she does it in a very diplomatic way. I learned a lot and really enjoyed working with her and, although I’ve been busy the last three times she’s called, I hope to work with her again.”
Fuller has been hell-bent on a music career since the days when she watched her parents rehearse in their basement at home in Aurora, Colorado, and then go out to work with their band. Her mother is a singer, her father a bass player, and she loves them dearly but one thing about them did bother her: they always hired a saxophonist.
“I used to think, ‘That’s my gig’,” she says, “and when they got my sister Shamie into the band on piano, I thought, ‘This could be my chance.’ So it was an incentive, not that I really needed one, to practise.
“I’d been used to playing the flute, a relatively quiet instrument, and I remember taking this alto sax up to the loft and blowing a low B flat,” she says. “The whole house vibrated and I felt empowered by this loud noise I could suddenly make. And that was it: I became a saxophone player.”
After studying in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, Fuller moved to New Jersey two days before September 11, 2001. She used the events of this dark day as a spur and, having been spotted playing in a big band at a fish fry (“the only one I’ve ever played”), she began to get regular gigs around New York. Beyoncé’s band followed stints with legends Jimmy Heath and Nancy Wilson, and as a recording artist in her own right, she’s now touring with a band that includes her pianist sister Shamie.
“My brother-in-law’s in the band too, so it’s a real family affair,” she says. “I like that because when we’re travelling we all look out for each other, which is important, and when we go out on stage, there’s an instant connection. I just know that wherever I go musically they’ll be right there with me.”
Words Rob Adams
When & Where
Tia Fuller, The Queen's Hall, 19 July, 8.30pm. From £15, Tel: 0131 668 2019