Singer-songwriter Teresa Tudury, performing Sunday in Olympia, is perhaps as well-loved for her comedic gifts as her musical ones.
Although most of her songs are serious, her stage patter is anything but.
In a video taken at a 2010 house concert, Tudury talked about the crowd of cats and even raccoons that showed up at her cabin in the woods. “The raccoons come inside,” she said. “They want to read your journals, put on your clothes; they bounce up and down the bed. … I actually have prints of the raccoons on the ceiling. I don’t know how they do it.”
Then she interrupted herself.
“This is interesting,” she said. “I’ve done two songs, and I’m 45 minutes into the set.”
But the audience was clearly having a good time.
How did this serious and dedicated musician, who began writing songs at age 12, become such a humorist?
“You had to be funny in my family to get fed, truly,” said Tudury, who lives in Sonoma County, California. “My mother had a wit on her, and you really couldn’t get her attention unless you made her laugh. I learned to be fast on my feet, and funny and entertaining.
“I tend to take off,” she added. “I never know what I’m going to say. It’s a hoot.”
Her humor shows up in her music, too, but Tudury — who has worked with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Leo Kottke, Lyle Lovett and Taj Mahal — said she’s definitely not a comedic musician.
“I’m a serious musician, and some of my songs are funny,” she said.
“A lot of my work is very vulnerable and sensitive,” she added. “It helps to have a sense of humor to present that.”
Writing a song is like mining, she said. “You’re going in and really asking yourself some deep questions. It’s very personal work, and yet if it’s good, if it works out, then it’s very universal. We can all relate to what it means to be a human being and how scary it can be, how lonely, how beautiful.”
LA Weekly’s Johnny Angel described Tudury as a cross between Bette Midler and Bonnie Raitt, and she has inspired even more unlikely comparisons.
“It’s not clear yet whether singer/comedienne Teresa Tudury is another Tracey Ullman, a new Sophie Tucker or a revitalized Bea Lillie,” Don Heckman wrote about her back in 1989 in the Los Angeles Times. “Tudury is taking risks all over the place.”
He defined her as a star in the making, and although that’s eluded her thus far, Tudury has earned critical respect as both a singer-songwriter and an actress.
She’ll perform this summer at the Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, Calif.
“Somebody at a concert once said it was like Leonard Cohen meets Bessie Smith, which is kind of a funny line, but it’s kind of true,” Tudury said. “I have a big voice, and I’m a songwriter first and foremost.
“I’ve been writing for a long time, and whenever a song starts to come through me, I have to match that song with what it’s asking for,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a blues song. Sometimes it’s a country song. Sometimes it’s like a polka. My style is eclectic.”