By, Danny Coleman
“You never know where someone is going to hear you; ya’ know? Bluesville is a blessing, I’m so happy to be on there,” says Detroit born and current Jersey City, NJ resident Eliza Neals as she covered all of the bases from her past to the present as well as the upcoming release of her new album “Badder to the Bone,” via E-H Records and on all the major platforms.
Growing up in and around Detroit and learning a love of music from a young age, Eliza seemingly knew she was destined for the stage but once she enrolled in a music school at Wayne State, she discovered that life’s journey can take you down some unintended roads; hers led to being “Discovered” and eventually to the blues.
“I studied with Barrett Strong, Barrett Strong of “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “I Wish It Would Rain;” learning the Motown and soul thing and R & B but I really grew up with my family and sisters doing the blues, southern rock, classic rock and then I studied opera too, if you can believe it,” she said with a slight laugh. ”I went to music school and studied opera and piano and I’d been singing in all of the clubs in Detroit five nights a week while I was going to music school. I was sitting in at Bert’s; have you ever heard of Bert’s? It’s like the longest running jazz club in Detroit where you go there and you sit in and if they like you they let you stay and if not they boo you off of the stage; kind of like The Apollo. I’d go there and sit in at places like that and people would tell me, wow, you have a voice for the blues; people would tell me that all of the time. No matter where I’d sing I’d hear, you should sing some Etta James, you should sing some Bessie Smith, Koko Taylor; they thought my voice went with that. So, I started doing a lot of the ballads; Etta James “At Last” and stuff like that and then I started writing more songs in that vein but they always had a blues rock tinge to them. It has been a long road doing it, I sang in cigar clubs and I don’t even know how I did it; five sets from seven o’clock until two o’clock in the morning in these huge smoke-filled rooms; I would be dead now if I had to do that (laughs).”
Lead by Motown, Detroit has always been known for its strong music scene and it is one in which Neals was and still is firmly entrenched. So, how does she find life in Jersey and wait; did she say opera?
“I’m in Jersey City, I moved here about 12 years ago but I’m from the Detroit area and I go back and forth a lot because my family is there and everything I did, do and learned was from there,” she explained. “Like I said, I went to music school because my dad said, “You have to get a degree if you live here,” so, I said, OK, I’ll get a music degree that should be easy but oh boy! I had to pick either jazz or opera and I picked opera because I thought it would help me with my training to save my voice if I ever had to sing a lot and it did; it really did help and it helped me a lot. I like it here, it’s so close to New York but I like going back home because it’s home; I like going all over actually. A lot of my tours were cancelled, I was supposed to go to Spain and back to the UK and that’s all pushed back now until the Fall so, I’m regrouping.”