When a name like Tillis shows up with a lilting drawl, one might wonder if there is any relation to the trademark, country music name. The simple answer is yes. What is more surprising is the rest of the package that Carrie, daughter of country legend Mel Tillis and sister to superstar Pam Tillis, brings to the table.
With a resume that jumps from opera to Grand Ole Opry, Broadway to Branson, it seems like this Tillis has turned what could have been a serious identity crisis into a good thing. Any skeptics that once likened the idea of a Tillis being more than country to something like an Earnhardt Studying ballet, stand corrected as this Tillis shifts gears easily through the many styles she loves.
Performing opportunities with her famous family became a showcase for Carrie’s many talents. While Carrie had gone further south to study her first love of theatre at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, she also fell into what she calls the happy accident of singing opera. Seems it was no accident as the genetic influence of Dad’s rich baritone mixed with her own lyric saprono made for some serious singing chops. The family was so proud that Daddy Mel began incorporating Carrie’s newfound talent right in the middle of his traditional country set. Between twin fiddles and steel guitars, Mel’s famous comedy and trademark stutter, Mel would introduce the daughter that “sings opera…not Grand Ole Opry.” Carrrie would first sing one of her Dad’s big country hits then seemingly out of left field, step up to the plate in genteel southern demeanor, introduce the opera aria she’s about to sing – then proceed to knock the ball out of the park to the unsuspecting audience. Rousing standing ovations don’t lie.
When not touring with her family, Tillis trades her father’s legendary Statesider Band for an even bigger orchestra. On her own, Tillis travels the country singing with symphonies and orchestras in her favorite format-live musical theatre and recreating the American songbook in pops concerts around the country.
Singing Rodgers and Hammerstein, Porter and Berlin, Tillis transports us with her authentic style and delivery, captivating the audience with a melody that makes us ache for the old days. Where she feels most at home, the symphony concerts may very well be the platform that sends Carrie into the wide recognition she deserves.
With a couple of CDs under her belt- Roundtrip a self penned country album and Just A Little Gift, her classical Christmas offering, Carrie has rounded out her presence, giving us just a taste of what she does. But to Tillis, it has been a wrangling of the last few years into a couple of packages that says this is just the start. “I’m catching up, just now showing what I’ve been up to. As soon as I get one thing done I realize I’m already a million miles ahead of that, but that’s a little closer to putting this all together into something that is clearly defined as my style and that’s so exciting”, says Carrie.
In a family where a lesser talent might have been overlooked, it’s clear that Carrie has stepped up to carry on the Tillis family tradition while carving out her own impressive identity. Whether country or classical, you’ll be sure to get carried away. One can only look forward to the destination this Tillis is bound for.