AskAsheville.com sat down recently with one of the city’s most beloved sirens, CaroMia Tiller, to discuss her many projects and her one of a kind musical journey.
Goldie and the Screamers performing at the Asheville Music Hall – July 11, 2015
Step out onto the streets of Asheville on any given night and it would not be entirely uncommon for you to walk past one of the city’s seemingly countless music venues to hear a sultry and seductive voice you’d swear you’d only heard dotting the landscape of your dreams.
If you by chance had this experience previously it’s possible that you were either within the midst of an enchanted symphonic reverie or more likely just fortuitous enough to be within earshot of one of the many musical performances of the one and only CaroMia Tiller.
The 29-year-old songstress may literally be the most talented vocalist, female or otherwise, plying her musical wares throughout our fair city on a regular basis.
Whether it be as a solo artist or fronting one of her other musical projects, which include the bands Goldie and the Screamers, Siamese Jazz Club or the Feels, Tiller rarely goes too many weeks without providing the residents of Asheville the opportunity to come see and more importantly experience her music in live setting.
I met up with Tiller recently at the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar downtown and as I walked through the doors of the establishment it quickly dawned on me that this location, which Tiller had personally chosen for our sit down, actually kind of mirrored in essence the singer herself.
The part book store, part coffee shop and part bar is elegantly laid out with wrought iron stair cases throughout, furniture that looks as though it was plucked out East Indian Company catalog, if that actually ever existed, and shelves lined with hundreds of books, some of which appear to be hundreds of years old.
Tiller herself comes off wise beyond her years; a venerable soul whose presence immediately puts anyone within her immediate radius at ease. She’s graceful, intelligent and would seem to be the exact type of woman who normally wouldn’t want anything to do with this reporter.
Yet Tiller is another Asheville musical transplant that welcomes me as though we have been life long friends and someone who actually seems enthusiastic about speaking with me on the day.
Literally thousands of millenials have found their way to the mountain town we call home in recent years, however, Tiller’s musical odyssey and what ultimately lead her to the Appalachian oasis we know as Asheville is as unique and eclectic as the woman herself.
Originally hailing from Michigan, Tiller was not raised nor surrounded by musicians in her immediate family or within her inner circle.
I was a bit surprised to learn of this fact because it’s somewhat common for individuals that possess the vocal and instrumental talents of someone like Tiller to often be influenced at a young age by people close to them that are musically inclined themselves.
“I come from a family that loves music and appreciates the arts but no one actually played music,” said Tiller. I just somehow knew I wanted a keyboard when I was eight years-old and I think I just started writing songs immediately.”
It’s more than apparent when speaking with Tiller for even a short amount of time that she’s beyond astute and that she’s an individual that will continue throughout the course of her life to pursue new experiences and to seek to broaden her knowledge whenever presented the opportunity to do so.
Thus it came as no surprise to me when Tiller mentioned that high school graduation came early for her and that she decided to take a path most people at such a young age would likely never have chosen to pursue.
“I graduated from high school at 16 and my step mother worked for an airline, so the deal was before I turned 18 I could get free plane tickets anywhere in the world,” Tiller said.
She further goes on to explain, “At that point I had already traveled Europe and I wanted to go somewhere different and exotic but my parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of South America so I decided on India.”
Tiller goes on to expound on her journey to southern India to study music with a gleam of fondness in her eyes, however this would turn out to be short lived as after just a few months she would end up leaving school, instead deciding to continue her travels to unique destinations such as Thailand, Egypt and Morocco.
Eventually Tiller made her way to and through Europe supporting herself with street performances with her travels eventually winding to an end after almost two years of wandering the globe solo.
“I kind of had enough at that point so I decided to go home to Michigan and I ended up applying to music school,” Tiller said laughingly.
“Besides the couple of months I had spent in India I never had any formal music training so I enrolled in the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota.”
Like her time in India Tiller wouldn’t stay stationary for too long as after two years in St. Paul she moved back to Michigan for a brief time, eventually making her way to of all places Asheville.
“I had never been to Asheville and I didn’t know anyone that lived there. I think I just heard that there was a good music scene and that it may be the right size city for me,” said Tiller.
Having already traveled the world, attended college to study music and then choosing Asheville as a destination one would think upon arrival Tiller would have immediately embedded herself into the city’s thriving musical climate.
“I was a little bit burned out on performing when I got to Asheville so I just took a few years off from gigging out when I first moved here,” Tiller said.
Then with a slight smile and while unsuccessfully attempting to hold back some laughter Tiller goes on to provide insight into how she attempted to financially support herself during this time period, “I actually discovered that you can buy used computers from government auctions and resell them, so I did that and just tried to continue to do anything else I could do to avoid getting a real job.”
Following a stint as veterinary assistant Tiller found herself working in massage therapy but was eventually lead back to music kind of organically.
A friend of Tiller’s at some point ended up showing the folks over at 5 Walnut Wine and Bar a video of her signing, which in turn had the establishment eventually asking her if she would like to perform at the venue.
“So 5 Walnut asked me to come play and they just kept asking me back, so I ended up performing there every Monday night for something like two years,” said Tiller. She continued, “It was at that point I really got excited about performing and pursuing music as a career again.”
Tiller’s music palate is quite diverse. Her solo efforts are more roots and Americana based while her band oriented music is more closely tied to soul, jazz and R&B soundscapes.
After mostly working in town as a solo musician Tiller eventually decided to get together with a group of friends to try something different. This effort, which started out as an attempt at just a fun side project, would eventually become local R&B and soul outfit, Goldie and the Screamers.
“I feel I have a lot of different faces of music and personalities and they can’t all fit into that “rootsy” or Americana sound so I wanted to do something more electrified that was also more soul and R&B based, so I asked some close friends if they wanted to do something like that,” Tiller said.
Tiller further goes on to explain, “It (Goldie and the Screamers) kind of evolved on its own. People liked it and were excited about it and I think that was because we were playing music that had a sound that wasn’t necessarily all that prevalent in Asheville.”
This upcoming Saturday November 21st Goldie and the Screamers will be taking the stage at the Asheville Music Hall supporting locally based groove, funk and rock outfit the Fritz. The evening’s performance will be somewhat distinct as the band has chosen to use the show as an opportunity to record a live album.
“We knew we wanted to do a live album because we need some kind of recording to sell and to promote ourselves. It will also be a lot less expensive to do it this way and we think it will come out better than anything we might have tried to quickly put together in the studio,” said Tiller.
Success in the current age of free music downloads and file sharing is far from guaranteed. It seems as though if one chooses to pursue music as a career these days your goals almost have to be more rooted in something else beyond any elusive financial windfall.
I’ve spoken with quite a few musicians and bands in Asheville and all of them surprisingly have given the same kind of response when I’ve asked them to talk about what success would mean to each of them. Tiller’s answer to my “success” query yielded a very similar response.
“You always want to keep developing as an artist and developing your fan base and hopefully I’ll be able to do that while also being able to become more financially stable.”
Humble, introspective and soulful CaroMia Tiller has already inspired countless Asheville locals and tourists alike with her extraordinary talents.
If you haven’t had the chance to see and hear why Tiller’s voice literally has stopped traffic and created throngs of crowds at venues such as 5 Walnut come be a part of it yourself this upcoming Saturday November 21st as her band Goldie and the Screamers will take to the Asheville Music Hall stage to record their very first live album.
Who: Goldie and the Screamers
Where: Asheville Music Hall / 31 Patton Avenue
When: Saturday November 21, 2015 / 9:00 PM (doors) – 10:00 PM (show)
Cost: $7 (advance) / $10 (day of show)
Also catch CaroMia Tiller performing with Jason Kenny on Thanksgiving Eve:
Who: CaroMia Tiller with Jason Kenny
Where: White Horse Tavern / 105 Montreat Road Black Mountain, NC
When: Wednesday November 25, 2015 / 7:30 PM
Cost: $10 (advance) / $12 (day of show)