Gary James' Interview With
Janis Joplin Tribute Artist
Sparrow La Point
Sparrow La Point is Janis Joplin! She looks like her. She dresses like her. She talks like her. She sings like her. With her tribute show, Sparrow La Point is reminding people once again of how great Janis Joplin really was.
Q - I don't believe there's many Janis Joplin tribute acts out there.
A - Well, that's good for me, isn't it? (laughs)
Q - Yes, it is.
A - Just from what I've heard, and I've done my research and scoured the internet, there's maybe a gal down in South America that sounded pretty good. She doesn't speak English and she's pretty far away. And there's a gal up in Canada who charges a fortune. She looks very much like her and her emulation is pretty great, but she doesn't sound as much like her. There's a local artist I saw perform during the Woodstock reunion locally in Irvine (California) that is from somewhere in Southern California. My husband and I made it a point to go there and to participate in the events of the day. When she got up to sing, when it came to the high notes and the different notes of her rendition of Janis Joplin, she held out her microphone to the crowd. He looked at me and I looked at him and he said, "You're so much better." That was the beginning of us starting on this journey. Several years ago I was singing a couple of times a week just for fun. I was working as a massage therapist. I am a massage therapist. Every couple of nights they had Karaoke. This was a destination resort where people came from all over the world to enjoy Southern California and beautiful grounds, jacuzzi, tennis courts and I was the massage therapist. It got to the point where we had karaoke a couple of times a week. So, I started singing again. I had been involved with singing since I was in the fourth grade. So, I was like nine. I always wanted to be in a band from fifteen on and had been in the restaurant business and did late-night restaurant stuff. Whenever I would have an opportunity I would get on stage and sing. People would say, "Oh, you have such a sweet voice." Well, that wasn't really much encouragement and I was shy actually, although nobody I know now really believes it, but I was. They'd say, "Keep working on it." Anyway, it was quite a surprise that one night I had put all my little papers together with the names of certain artists and alphabetized them all. It had never occurred to me before to learn all these different songs. That makes sense, right? If you're gonna sing, you learn a bunch of songs. I have a cousin who's a very talented singer and she teaches voice and she was an actress back when I was in my young twenties. I had visited her a few times in Hollywood. She worked at a restaurant and had a degree in music and was a beautiful singer. She said, "You have to be here and there and people get to hear you sing.." Bottom line is, every couple of days I would sing. One night I chose to sing what I thought was a Porgy and Bess song, Hamerstein's "Summertime". I had, I don't know, about six songs that were "Summertime". I had not tried this one out and so I gave it to the kj to put out there on the stage. There were about 60 people in the audience. As they came up on the screen, it said Janis Joplin version. I didn't know what that meant, but I had been taught to read music and to read by ear and so I just improvised it. At the end of singing it, the crowd stood up and went nuts. I was standing there going "What?" A friend came up and he said, "Now you gotta do 'A Piece Of My Heart'." I looked at him and said, "Well, who does that?" He looked at me like I was crazy and he said, "Well, Janis Joplin!" I go, "Oh, okay. I'll try it next time." Sure enough, a few days later I was there working and it was karaoke time. I put up that song and sang it like the way it sounded like it should be sung. And again, everybody stood up and went cuckoo. Now, there were some people in the jacuzzi about 200 yards away and they had outdoor speakers. This couple came over and said they came over because they heard a Janis Joplin album. I said, "Oh, well that was me singing a karaoke version." They started arguing with me, telling me that was not me and that it was a recording of Janis Joplin. And they were arguing about it. (Laughs). I said, "Well no, that was me!" They were really adamant that was not me singing. I go, "Okay," because I didn't want to be rude. I didn't want to argue with them. At any rate, they did hear me sing later that evening and they sat there with their mouths open. It started to get around that I sang like Janis Joplin and people started to tell me I needed to do something with that. That was about three years ago (2011).
Q - I'm not going to ask your age, but it sounds like you were not born when Janis Joplin was around.
A - Well, thank you for the compliment. But no, I was alive. But I am quite a bit younger than her. I was actually a young postpubescent young lady at the time she passed, but I was not a fan. I didn't know her per se. I don't remember hearing her, but this is the thing that's very cool, just like Janis Joplin said that when she started singing she was surprised that she could sing, that's the same feeling I have about singing her. The people that were inspired by her are similar people. I grew up listening to Leadbelly, Peter, Paul And Mary, The Kingston Trio.
Q - The Folk singers.
A - My mom and dad were Navy brats. Both of them were military officers's children. Admiral's kids in fact. They had access to Japanese Aka: reel to reels and so my dad had brought home to my mom a six hour tape that we would listen to over and over and I loved it. If you asked me to sing (Harry) Bellefonte or Nat King Cole, there's a lot of songs I would know off the top of my head. I found out later when I found out about Janis Joplin that those were the same people, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Odetta, people like that, that inspired people with soulful Blues. My parents listened to that kind of music as well as listening to things like Liberace and that era. They had good equipment that they bought and brought back from Asia. They passed that kind of equipment on to me. So, the other part of my learning was being able to have my own equipment and practicing with the microphone and talking and reading things, which I don't think Janis had that background. It added kind of a ballsy nature to my ability to improvise, if you will. Today, I have a husband who is a genius with sound equipment. If you tell him a song or play him music, he can easily tell you who the musician was or the band. So, we've started a business a few years back where he said, "If we're going to do this, let's do something that we can do together." He heard me sing and it blew him away. He's been recording me.
Q - You have taken this act of yours outside of California, have you?
A - We were traveling quite a bit. I have had an invitation from a gentleman who owns 16 radio stations to come visit him in the Midwest. He has ample connections. Everything from small-town bars to huge events and wants to promote and hook up the band for that. So, that's part of the tour, the states of Nebraska, Arkansas, Colorado. All those Midwest states are involved in part of the tour we are working on right now. I'm revisiting my choices for musicians. I'm actually revamping the whole band and having backups in two different versions of the band. I have a new manager and an agent who is going to be promoting me in Vegas. He's a professional. That's what he does. He specializes in tributes and sound-alikes and look-alikes. His commentary of me is, as far as he's concerned, I do what I do better than anybody else, quote, un-quote.