One-on-One with Wayman Tisdale
Former Suns foward Wayman Tisdale has traded in playing time for "Hang Time," his latest venture into the Jazz music world. His fifth CD will be making its Los Angeles debut when Tisdale performs at his official Hollywood release party in December. You can win tickets to the big gala at The Garden of Eden on Dec. 15 and a host of other prizes by logging onto WaymanTisdale.com.
Sun.com spoke with Tisdale recently to get his thoughts on his basketball playing career and his equally successful jazz career.
Suns.com: How much fun are you having?
Wayman Tisdale: I never thought I’d be touring more now than when I was in the NBA. We did a 45-50 city tour in about three months, so it seems accelerated. It’s a whole new level of awareness and I’m having a ball, man. This is just incredible. It’s a fantasy.
Suns.com: When did it all start to explode for you?
Tisdale: It was a growing thing from day one. It just blew me away. When my first record came out in 1995, I was still with the Suns. Everyone took it right away and ran with it. They loved it, bought the record and sold a lot of records right out of the box. It’s been gradually growing from there. With this new record, with the move to go with Dave Koz’s label, it’s really starting to explode. Maybe they can relate to Dave, maybe they relate to Wayman Tisdale and the whole Wayman Tisdale sound.
Suns.com: And you’re actually touring with Dave Koz, right?
Tisdale: I’m touring with Dave this summer and this Christmas.
Suns.com: How much fun has that been for you? I’m sure you’re learning things from him as well.
Tisdale: When he called and asked me to go, I was like, “I’m on the Dream Team.” It’s just like a Dream Team tour. To be called for a Dave Koz tour, you have to be a heavyweight just to go out with him. I’m really thankful that he thought enough of me to go out with him. That’s great. I’m so tall and Dave’s shorter, and it’s the funniest thing. We have a lot of fun out there.
Suns.com: How did you get started playing jazz and how did the second career start?
Tisdale: I got started playing because I was going out and playing in clubs and Suns banquets. Everyone would egg me on to go up and sit in with the band. They would urge me on and I would ultimately sit in with the house band. I started some solos when I was out. I did a demo with seven songs on it. The guys from Motown got a hold of it and they didn’t even know who I was. They liked the material and after that that was what the record turned out to be… my first demo.
Suns.com: Did you ever dream you’d be doing this?
Tisdale: It was a dream of mine. This was my first love. I thought I would be playing music before basketball came along. And then I fell in love with that, so I had to suppress the music for about 12 or 13 years. Then toward the end of my career, at the end of basketball, what am I going to do? I went back to my first love. I always knew I was going to play music, but I didn’t know it was going to be at this level. If you asked me six or seven years ago if I would be up on stage with Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, David Sanborn, Aerosmith... I’ve had a ball doing this and it’s taken me almost as far as basketball did, so I’m really excited about it.
Suns.com: You mentioned the Wayman Tisdale sound. How would you describe that?
Tisdale: It’s definitely a happy sound, a happy feeling. You hear my music… it’s just something that when people hear the melody, they can relate to a song or record of mine. I keep it like ear candy. I just make sure its fan friendly.
Suns.com: Tell us about the new album.
Tisdale: It’s probably my most fun record to play. Most records you do, you play a couple of songs off them and then you have to grow into the rest of them. This record, you can pretty much play everything off it. I call it my barbeque record. When people hear it, it’s like being around a barbeque. Put it on and people are dancing around the house, dancing around the grill, getting fat (laughs).
Suns.com: Was basketball or this new career more fun for you and which one are you better at?
Tisdale: Wow, man. That’s a hard one. I love the both of them the same, but as far as being more natural, I’m more of a natural performer or musician. It trips everybody out because I don’t read music. I never had a formal lesson or a bass coach. Music has become a natural thing for me. I feel I have the versatility. It’s one thing to be in the studio, but to be able to go out and play live, it’s a whole different animal. You have to learn how to do it. It’s not like going up there and playing a whole lot of songs. You have to learn who your crowd is, what personnel you have to work with. I like basketball and the camaraderie you have on the ball court as well as the guys you have on stage with you. You need to know your strengths. I’ve taken stuff from both fields of professionalism and incorporated it into the whole formula of being successful.
Suns.com: How much do miss basketball, if at all?
Tisdale: When I walked away, I knew it was time for me to go. To be honest, I haven’t missed it. I loved the time when I was there. I had a great time. I loved my teammates and being around everyone, but when it was time to go, it was time to go. I had something to welcome me in, and I feel I’m fortunate because I prepared before I actually left the game. It wasn’t like I wanted to leave the game to be discovered. I was gathering a fan base three or four years before I left the NBA. A lot of that, I had to invest in myself. I invested in Wayman Tisdale when nobody else would. I would pay out of my pocket, because it was important to me to be seen in other areas and circles. Through that, it just caught on. Word of mouth just started catching on. Once I left the game, it was like I had a built-in tour waiting for me. It was something I could do year round.
Suns.com: What are some of your favorite memories of playing here in Phoenix?
Tisdale: It was like I had finally gotten out of purgatory, coming from Sacramento. Finally, respect. It was great to finally be respected as a basketball player. That’s where I really felt like I was born in the NBA. Once I got to Phoenix, I finally got me respect. I probably wasn’t putting up the same numbers, but that didn’t matter. People knew what I could do. I had to fit into a role and I feel I played that role once I came to the Suns. I really enjoyed it and the things that went on there.
Suns.com: Do you follow the Suns now?
Tisdale: They are definitely a young team, but I do follow the team. They’ve had a couple of rough seasons, but it should all turn around for them.
Suns.com: You like the mix they have right now?
Tisdale: I’m the biggest Amaré Stoudemire fan. Yeah, he is awesome, man. I’m the biggest Stoudemire fan. He is awesome. He’d be a great starting point for any team. Once they get the pieces to go around him, the sky’s going to be the limit for him.
Suns.com: Tell us about your family and the new ranch you have?
Tisdale: I have 20-acre ranch here in Tulsa. I have horses, chickens, ducks. It’s funny, man. On a rainy day, I have to get up early to feed the chickens or the horses. It’s like, “Man, what am I doing?” I love it. I get to get in touch with nature and it puts me in a really great frame of mind.
My daughter Danielle is 21 and a senior at Oklahoma University. She’s also one of the few students selected this year to have an internship at People Magazine. She’s going to New York and she’s doing wonderful. My other daughter is 16 and a junior in high school. She’s finishing a year early, which is awesome. Wayman Jr. is 13 and he’s almost 6-1. I can’t believe this kid. Gabrielle was born in Phoenix when I was there and she’s 9 now. Everything else is going great and it’s going fast as usual.
Suns.com: Everything sounds like it’s going really well for you. We’re really happy for you.
Tisdale: Thanks a lot, man. Phoenix supported me even when I first got started, so I appreciate everything you guys have done for me.