The Press Of Atlantic City

HARDY THRIVES ON BEING A TYPICAL BLUES WOMAN

By SCOTT CRONICK

The Press of Atlantic City

April 21, 2000

Heather "Lil Mama" Hardy feels like she's ready to break out. And as a blues musician, that's not always an easy thing to do.

Hardy has lots going for her. She's not your typical blues guitarist or even you typical soulful female blues singer. She's an amazing fiddle player who possesses a husky, real voice, perfect for her type of rock/blues.

"It feels like I'm ready to hit that next level," says Hardy, who has made a name for herself as the fiddle player for Sam Taylor's blues band over the last 10 years. "I've been getting some interest from labels, and that's very promising." Considering Hardy's only 34 years old, it's hard to believe she's been Taylor's side-woman for the last 10 years. Bit it's Taylor that helped groom her into the blueswoman that she has become, and her allegiance to him shows her appreciation.

"I can pretty much do whatever I want to when it comes to Sam," says hardy, who comes to the Rock'n Chair Restaurant and Jazz Café in Avalon on Friday, April 21, and returns for Beachfest in Atlantic City at 1p.m. June 17 in front of the Trump Taj Mahal. "I can decide to play with him whenever I want. But if there's a conflict, he always understands. He's very supportive of my own band."

Hardy, always passionate about the blues decided to take up the violin in a Connecticut school district as a youth.

"My parents thought it would be cool, so I decided to take violin," she remembers. "I grew up an hour outside of New York in a town full of musicians that always worked in the city. All of my teachers were very good and played all of the time in New York, So I learned from some of the best. They were amazing players from Juilliard and the New York Philharmonic. So after my initial introduction to the music, I just kept it up."

Hardy studied at the Manhattan School of Music and learned how to play the blues the hard way.

"I started playing in the subways to make extra money," she says. "I was always into the blues, but it wasn't until I started jamming with these great blues musicians in the subways I learned what it was all about. You make great money doing that; better money than I make now playing in some of these clubs. You can make 40 or 50 bucks an hour."

But Hardy eventually decided the subways weren't the best place to be.

"It's fun doing that and you make a lot of money, but it's a job going nowhere," she says. "At least in the clubs, there's a chance of something happening."

Hardy has a 3-year-old son. The father of her child, is Mike Nordberg, the bassist in her four-piece band that also includes a guitarist and drummer.

Hardy recently released her second CD "I Believe," the follow-up to 1995's "Violins."

"My music is similar to Sam's because I learned so much from him," she says/ "But his sound is very traditional; he's the real deal blues cat. My blues sometimes leans toward more of a blues/tock with some funk elements, and sometimes even R&B. I sometimes say it sounds like Bonnie Raitt because it's bluesy, but not straight blues. There's definitely enough blues about it to generate people who dig the blues."

Hardy met Taylor in Arizona. Before she knew it, she was singing the blues instead of just fiddling with it.

"He got me into singing because he likes to do a lot of duets and harmonies and stuff like that," Hardy says. Although I think I've grown as a writer, the thing that stands out about the latest album is how much of a better singer I am than I was on the first CD."

Hardy was trying to avid mangers and record labels, but she decided it was unavoidable in the end.

"I just got myself a manager and a booking agent to help me, and things are turning around for me," she says. "I realized that you can't do everything you want to do unless you have a label behind you. They don't care who you are. No one wants to give you a shot. A booking agent helps pave the way into clubs because they know the club owners. Sam also helps. He always tells club owners to give my band a chance. Sometimes they listen; sometimes they tell me to just come back with Sam."

But if a record label does come knocking with a real offer, Hardy says she won't jump at the first offer.

"Some labels have been coming to check us out, and it's real exciting, but it has to be the right offer," says Hardy, who's currently working on her third CD. "We're getting courted a little bit, but I don't want to give up some of the things like selling my own CE's at shows because I do real well with that. But I also realize I'm running into some walls as far as the exposure I need from a label to get into some festivals and things like that. So if the offer's right, I'll take it."