Trixie Whitley is more than her father's daughter

CorrespondentJanuary 31, 2013 

Trixie Whitley.

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Whatever you do, don’t ever say Trixie Whitley sounds a lot like her dad. As the offspring of Chris Whitley, the Texas-born, blues/rock guitarist who died from lung cancer in 2005, the young singer/songwriter has had to deal with the obvious comparisons to her father. And she’s tired of it.

“I think the one thing that I’m just a little worn-out on, because I’ve been dealing with it for my entire life, is having to talk about my dad all the time,” says Whitley, 25, on the phone from her Brooklyn home base.

“First of all, I’m my own person and, you know, I don’t play music to replicate my father in any way.”

Despite the fact that her voice has a soulful, bluesy aggression to it (along with the fact that she has sung background on several of her father’s albums), she didn’t pick it up from her old man or the Texas blues sound that she says her father wasn’t fond of being associated with.

“I grew up listening to a lot more classic soul stuff,” she says. “I never listened to any Texas blues music… I know my dad was quite often really frustrated when you put him in the Texas blues box. I don’t think of his music as that at all either, and neither did he.”

For Whitley, it’s not just making music that’s different from her father, but also making music that’s different, period.

“I’m interested in innovation, sonically,” she says. “So, yeah, I’m looking to innovate, really. I really find it a very uninspiring position to be confined to one style. So I try to break that as much as possible.”

After releasing several EPs that showed off her knack for breaking away from musical genre conventions, Whitley has now released her first full-length release this week, called “Fourth Corner.”

“I’ve been working on this first record I feel like – at least the vision that I had for it sonically – since I was a child, in a lot of ways,” she says.

As someone who grew up listening to everything from hip-hop to electronica to classical to North African blues, Whitley is looking to merge all the music that’s influenced her throughout the years and come up with a sound that’s all her own.

“I hope to really create a sound that can be unique to my own identity, really,” she says.

“That’s kind of the journey that I was on with this record; to create a sound that’s truly my own, you know, without neglecting the influences that are obviously there.”

Born in Ghent, Belgium, Whitley had the itch to perform since she was a youngster. She began playing the drums at age 10 and toured with European theater companies.

“I mean, really, when I was 11 years old, I basically was kind of embraced by this collective of theater and dance companies in Europe,” she remembers.

“So, that really had nothing to do with my dad too, but that’s where I started really kind of exploring the need to have my own musical identity.”

To this day, she continues to surround herself with artists who also aspire to create challenging music. Her first EP, 2008’s “Strong Blood,” was co-produced by Meshell Ndegeocello. In 2010, she joined forces with famed producer/musician Daniel Lanois (U2, Willie Nelson) as the lead singer for his supergroup Black Dub. For “Corner,” Whitley worked with producer/keyboardist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), who has performed and toured with such artists as Martha Wainwright, Glen Hansard and Antony and the Johnsons.

As long as it’s under the right, positive circumstances, Whitley is always willing to collaborate with fellow rafter-shakers.

“What I do recognize with all the people that I feel most kind of drawn to is that they have this hungry spirit to grow, you know, and to innovate,” she says.

“In that sense, of course, as long as that spirit is there, of challenging one another to push the envelope, that’s really what I long for.”

So, it’s safe to say that Trixie Whitley is staking her own claim as an independent performer. But, seriously, enough with the dad talk.

“Like, I’m so proud of him and I’m so proud to be his child,” she says. “But, also, I can’t wait until I’ve made a few more records where people will hopefully come to a point there they will start really acknowledging my own identity, my own sound.”

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