Houston Music

Marcie Chapa Gives Freedom Over Texas a Beat

With all due respect to pop-country stars Sara Evans and Billy Currington, the real show-stopper at the City of Houston's Freedom Over Texas July 4 celebration in Eleanor Tinsley Park Wednesday might be the Ernest Walker Band, the jazz/R&B/funk/Latin table-setters whose ranks -- all of them with Houston connections -- include Santana's singer, Andy Vargas; B.B King's sax player, Eric Demmer; and one of Prince's proteges, Tamar Davis.

Joining them in the EWB's lineup is Houston native Marcie Chapa, who spent several years as a percussionist in Beyonce's all-female "Suga Mama" ensemble that crisscrossed the globe on the diva's 2007 and 2009 world tours. Rocks Off spoke with Chapa, who has been profiled by Modern Drummer and named the world's fastest-rising percussionist by Drum! magazine, last week by phone to find out a little bit more about her.

Turns out Chapa also teaches lessons at her private studio and says she's been thinking about volunteering with an organization always close to Rocks Off's heart, Girls Rock Camp Houston. How about that?

Rocks Off: How did you get started in percussion?

Marcy Chapa: I got started around age 11. I first started on the drum set, and started playing in school, jazz and the stuff on the radio.

RO: I feel like I kind of have to ask you about Sheila E. Has she been any kind of role model for you?

MC: (laughs) Haha, yeah. I saw her when I was 16, in concert, and seeing her gave me the motivation to say that I could do this as well, that it wasn't just a male-dominated role.

RO: Have you ever had a chance to meet her?

MC: Yeah, but not to a point where we've become friends. But I've met her.

RO: Are female percussionists still relatively rare?

MC: They're popping up left and right as we speak. Entertainers are looking for female percussionists. Sometimes it's just a look, sometimes they just want it. It's still a little bit of both. There's still times when I can go to shows and I'll just see the percussionists being male. Every now and then I'll see a female.

RO: Do you have some kind of solo project?

MC: I'm working on one. It's still in the thought process of what's gonna be done, and what's gonna be done, but it will be bits and pieces of me showcasing my talents in pretty much every genre of music -- me on drum set, me on percussion, anything that has anything to do with drums and percussion, it'll be showcasing me.

RO: How do you imagine this will be different from what you've done with others?

MC: This will be my stuff. I'll be collaborating with musicians, just to showcase what I do. The difference is it's me. I'm not playing for somebody.

RO: For example, would that be jazz or R&B or...?

MC: There will not be a genre. You can't pinpoint a genre, because it will be every genre. It will be a combination of jazz, Latin, rock, funk DJ - a little of everything.

RO: How far along are you?

MC: We're still in the beginning process of it.

RO: What other gigs do you have coming up?

MC: Every year I do a BET show called Black Girls Rock, and I'm in the house band. I've done that for the past few years. I did Beyonce's all-girl touring band for five years, and I did some stuff with J.Lo.

RO: Do you have any big tours lined up?

MC: At the moment, no because I'm trying to finally focus on my project. Friday nights I have a night over at Scott Gertner's at Houston Pavilions called the Marcy Chapa Project. It's just me collaborating with a bunch of Houston musicians, all-star musicians in town.

We're just kind of playing. We vibe off each other. We will play covers, but we don't stick to the covers - we'll vamp off something else and then come back. It's just showcasing everybody's skills.

Gates open at 4 p.m., free. See more at www.freedomovertexas.org.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray