St. Vincent’s Aunt And Uncle, The Jazz Duo Tuck & Patti, Tell Us How To Balance Music, Love

Guitarist Tuck Andress and singer Patti Cathcart have cobbled together a remarkably steady career.

They’ve been performing together for 37 years as Tuck & Patti. And come October, they’ll celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary, too. Basically, they’ve perfected the art of collaboration both on and off stage.

On stage, at least, their process is as follows: Patti writes the music and caters it specifically to Tuck’s style — because she’s the expert in all things Tuck. Meanwhile, Tuck describes performing with Patti as dancing with a familiar partner that you’ve danced with 1,000 times before: You know what’s coming, but there’s going to be something new and exciting every time.

It’s in the details, he says.

Indeed. So here’s one about Tuck & Patti: They’re also auntie and uncle to Dallas’ own Annie “St. Vincent” Clark, one of the most talented rock stars alive.

So, ahead of their show on Saturday at The Sanctuary in McKinney, we chatted with the duo about their work/life balance, their style of play and, of course, about St. Vincent.

Y’all have been together for over 30 years, how do you balance marriage with the rock star life, so to speak?
Patti: [Laughs.] Rock star life? We have never…
Tuck: We missed out on that one.
Patti: We have a niece right now, who goes by the name of St. Vincent. She is experiencing the rock star life. We are not rock stars. But we’ve had an amazing career together. We’ve had an amazing life together. We started playing together the moment we met the day we met we began to play together.

You began to play together the day you met?
Tuck: Yeah! That was how we met, through music. Essentially, we gave up at a fairly early point on attempting to find any kind of balance between our personal life and our professional life and our artistic life. Everybody encouraged us to do that if we had any chance of surviving. Everybody says you just gotta draw a line and play these different roles and be aware that you’re playing the different roles. We didn’t do that because it seemed so unnatural. It just all flows into everything. We’re just up together basically 24 hours of the day, most days, with whatever it is we have to be doing, whether we’re on stage or whether we’re doing the business or we’re just living life.

Jazz has kind of taken the form of classical music — like, I guess, a contemporary version of it. And I know some of your influences are classical. Do you lean more towards the free improvisational style of jazz or the perfectionist aspect of classical music?
Patti: Well, we love jazz and it’s a jazz-based thing. But we both are rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll, and all that kind of music has influenced us. We play both of those groups. At our concert, you’re gonna hear, like, a Tadd Dameron or Count Basie classic — and right after that, it’s gonna be Jimmie Hendrix. For some people, the definition of jazz is a lot of single line solos. We improvise. I tend to be an improviser not only melodically, but I’ve changed lyrics, improvised lyrics and all of that too. In the classic museum idea of jazz, we don’t fit that mold.

St. Vincent is probably the greatest living guitarist in my mind, at least in mainstream rock ‘n’ roll. And you guys helped teach her how to play guitar. Can you tell me what that was like?
Patti: Well, she just watched. She watched Tuck like a hawk from the time she was like 14. We took her out on the road with us and she went on to some trips with us to have that experience. Annie’s really like Tuck was. Look at the people you love and then just sit there and play that guitar. I remember Tuck’s sister calling and saying, “Tuck, this is so weird, it’s just like you when you were a little kid, sitting down with the guitar, 24/7.” To me, to anyone that does the arts, we [teach] lots of kids at all ages and we tell their parents, there’s nothing you can do to keep them from this. It’s in their heart, it’s in their blood. It’s in their soul. You can’t not do it. It’s like bread, it’s like air. And that’s what it was to her. She worked really hard and did her thing so we just proud.
Tuck: It’s more that she learned from my example than that I taught her anything. I taught her, as I recall, exactly one thing on the guitar. The rest, she figured out herself. But I had wondered if the genetic code is so detailed that the way of putting it horizontally on the neck is something we both inherited. You see all these little micro-aneurysms… maybe it’s because she kind of picked these things up from me. It certainly seems fully credible that it’s just that.

When you’re teaching, do you ever expect to find another future rock star?
Tuck: Yeah. We have a lot of confidence in people to be great. It seems to me, the fact that I, for example, ended up being a great guitar player and was once a non-guitar player suggests that it’s just a matter of getting from here to there for anybody.
Patti: Mainly, the biggest goal for the both of us as teachers is not to impose us on them. We’re there to help them achieve their goal, their dream and what they want to do.

In recent years, have you had a chance to sit down and play with Annie?
Patti: Oh, we’ve played around before. Y’know, the holidays. But it’s more Christmas carols.
Tuck: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve played anything besides Christmas carols. I promise you, we’re trying to get her to put out a Christmas album!

Tuck & Patti perform Saturday, September 19, at The Sanctuary in McKinney. Head here for more information.

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