Soul singer week! Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and the Tantrums interview

From the beginning, Fitz and the Tantrums was a band built around a vision. Its founder, Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick, saw it as a soul band, but also, more than that.
It would be keyboard-driven, with horns, and its focus would be sing-able songs like their hit, “MoneyGrabber.”     

Good singing is paramount in a soul band. Fitz took on half of that task himself and Noelle Scaggs would become the Sam to his Dave or — to use a more recent example — the Oates to his Hall.

But before all of that, Scaggs was a misunderstood kid who liked to sing.

“It was an escape from people who used to bully me, way back when. It was my thing to show that I was more than what they’d say I was. It was something that made me proud,” she said.

She couldn’t picture herself as a star on stage, but the allure of a music career was always there. She studied music business in college. Royalties, music labels, showcases: she watched others take their shots and she sang in bands. But nothing stuck. At one point, she even gave up and started an alternate career in fashion.

That path lasted a few years. She worked in boutiques and then came a shot at rebirth.

“It wasn’t until I met my former bandmate Carlos (Carlos Guiaco) who was actually the keyboardist for the Black Eyed Peas in the earlier days. He had a project called The Rebirth,” she said.

He asked her to be The Rebirth’s lead singer. It was a vocal-centric neo soul band that Scaggs described as having a “70s feel, melodic, with a lot of chord changes.”

They put out a record and traveled the world. Scaggs gave 10 years of her life to The Rebirth, and although she had gained credibility as a lead singer and songwriter, this wasn’t the neo soul band that would work out for her.

Enter Fitzpatrick. A mutual friend recommended Scaggs when Fitzpatrick needed a singer.

“It just really worked and it gelled. We just went for it. Now we are together for three years. It’s been an amazing ride for us.”

So what was different this time around? Bands like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and The Poets of Rhythm led the way showing Scaggs that there are different kinds of success in music. They were making good money while doing their own thing and creating their own sound.

“I didn’t realize that you didn’t have to be Beyonce to be respected in the music industry,” Scaggs said. “It could have gone any way for Fitz and the Tantrums. But there seems to be more of a calling for what we are doing now. People are looking for that kind of sound, especially in the U.S. The younger generation is starting to find out about the Motown sound, and that era. They are excited to find artists like us.”

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