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The Vocalist
BY: Caitlyn Perrin 

Just because a musician doesn’t get wildly famous, doesn’t mean they haven’t been successful. That’s what can be learned while talking to Rio Grande Valley native, Analisa Thirwall.

 
While she isn’t a household name, her career is long and varied. Thirwall spent the ‘90s and 2000s in Deep Ellum with a variety of bands, collaborated with DFW artists like Red Young and MC 900 Foot Jesus, was a co-host on the Hawaiian television show “Brown Bags” and currently teaches music at Septien Entertainment Group in Carrollton.


Growing up in Brownsville during the ‘70s, Thirwall was first exposed to music through the local Tejano scene. Her influences came strictly from her family and the radio. While her relatives never pursued music like her, they were still musically inclined. She began singing hymns in church around the age of 7 and went on to tour around the country in all-state choir, eventually leading to a scholarship at the University of North Texas.


Thirwall’s first taste of other music happened at age 13. She had graduated middle school early and met a guitar player in her freshman year of high school. He introduced her to rock n’ roll, among other subgenres, and broke her heart later that year. Thirwall went on to join a band called Rapid Fire and went on to win battle of the bands with them in the Valley.


Leaving Brownsville proved to be a bit difficult.


“Brownsville was laid back and if you had some ambitions, you really had to work to get out,” Thirwall said. “We were kind of instilled with that family orientation to stay nearby.”


Fortunately, Thirwall’s mother supported her decision to leave Brownsville and pursue a bachelor’s at UNT.


“When I graduated from high school, my ears opened up to a whole new Pandora's box at UNT, which is the Mecca of jazz for the United States, for this country, it's the best school,” Thirwall said. “I heard jazz for the first time... And I flipped out when I heard Ella Fitzgerald. I said, that's it. Love this stuff.”


But her opera teachers didn’t care for jazz.


“My major was classical, but that didn't stop me,” she recalled. “I went ahead and diversified myself.”


While at UNT, Thirwall became close friends with jazz majors, and began seeing jazz shows on campus. Later on, she joined one of the bands she saw performing, called Zebras, and met one of her idols, Dianne Reeves. However, she couldn’t have predicted the audition that would change her life.

One day, a musician friend of hers told her about a band named Red and the Red Hots, headed by Red Young, was looking for a singer. He told her that she should audition, even if it was just for experience. Reluctantly, she agreed.

Red and the Red Hots Photo.png

“Red Young had worked with Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Blaine Campbell... Nelson Riddle orchestra, jazz orchestras in California, and I had no idea how huge he was,” she remembered. “I didn't know what I was in for. And all these girls were in this auditorium ready to audition with little 1940s hairdos and gloves, and here I am in flip flops and shorts and a backpack and my Walkman.”


Her friend, who turned out to be the bassist for the band, told her to just “chalk it up as an audition experience.”


Eventually, her name was called, and she went up to the stage for the audition. She counted off her first song.


“It swang so hard,” Thirwall said. “And Red stood up and started playing, and he loved it. Asked me if I had another one, and then the third one...”


The next day, he called and asked her to join the band.


“We went on tour all over the country,” she remembered. “My mom was a little bit upset because she didn't want me to leave college, but I knew this was going to be a great opportunity to work with a man like Red Young.”


She spent most of the ‘90s and 2000s performing at clubs in Deep Ellum, playing in various bands like FM and Blueface, recording jingles for commercials--all while holding down a day job as an office manager at Psychotherapy Associates of Dallas.


During that time, she met musician Clate Bowen through mutual friends. He became a close bandmate and friend.


“Back then there was a place called Club Dada that was a hub for bands that I was playing in, and then also she was playing in,” Bowen said. “Probably the first time I heard her was with a band called Big Boss Groove.”


For the majority of Thirwall’s career, she never wrote original music. For 20 years, she spent her career performing in cover bands or in groups where others wrote the music, like Red and the Red Hots.


However, in 2007, she began to feel inspired by her dreams in the form of lyrics and melodies. It took the form of a Christian album named “Jesus, He Knows Me,” released in 2008.


“In the middle of all of the writing, one day a voice said to me, why are you even doing this?” Thirwall said. “Why are you even writing this music? You're not the greatest person in the world. You've done some stupid stuff. You've done some stuff that wasn't so nice. Why would anybody listen to you?


“But then another voice came by in my head and said, stand up and walk to the window and look out your patio.”


She looked outside and saw birds flying around her birdhouses and realized how much she loved their singing.


“So, you keep writing because I need to hear my birds,” she said.


Thirwall shelved the album, unsure of how to proceed. She didn’t have an agent; she didn’t have a manager. She wasn’t even sure if anyone wanted to hear the album.


Three months later, she got a call from the president of a Christian record label named Spiritual City Music, who said they wanted to put out her album.


“And so, I said, ‘are you sure this is not a joke?’” Thirwall said.


The president of the record label was true to his word and put the album out on streaming services and in stores like Walmart. Following that, Thirwall got calls from churches asking her to perform concerts.


“This wasn't for a profit,” she said. “This was strictly because it was just inspired and hopefully uplifting to people.”


Nowadays, Analisa teaches voice lessons and directs the teen program at Septien Entertainment, while performing solo and with her current Tears for Fears cover band, Mad World.


The band will be performing at Lee Harvey’s in Dallas every other month, with updates posted on Septien’s Instagram page at @segsings.

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