Mina Tank is a hometown hero. Four weeks ago, representatives of “The Ellen Degeneres Show” contacted the local 32-year-old singer with an invitation to appear on the program, which aired March 2. Her performance of the Etta James classic, “At Last,” was received with a resounding standing ovation and had the talk show host showering Tank with praise.
“You have such a great voice,” said a gushing Degeneres. “I’m going to try to help you in every way I can. You are amazing … I mean really, I’m calling every producer I know.”
Now, locals will have a chance to find out just how good she is when Tank appears with The Damn Band, Saturday (March 20), 10 p.m., at The Alley Cantina, 121 Teresina Lane.
This will be her first appearance in Taos since taping the program. As front person for The Damn Band, Tank sings a bountiful repertoire of R&B, soul and pop classics delivered with a level of excellence that clearly reveals why she was chosen to be a featured guest on the syndicated variety show.
In recent phone interviews with Tank, she recalled the series of events that led to her appearance on one of daytime television’s most popular shows.
It started Feb. 18, an evening that wasn’t particularly unusual. She and her husband, Sherman Tank (yes, that’s his real name) had taken their three young children to dinner at one of their favorite haunts. It was during the drive home that things became surreal.
“We got a call from my brother on my husband’s cell phone,” she said. “He said, ‘The Ellen Show’ just called and they’re looking for Mina.’ ” At first, Tank was puzzled. “I’m not (a huge fan of) TV, but when we got home there was a voicemail from someone from the show. They said they had heard me sing on MySpace Karaoke and they wanted background information about me and wanted to know if I would sing if invited to the show.”
Although Tank has performed only minimally over the past 11 years since the birth of her eldest daughter, her online presence is extensive. A year-and-a-half ago, she began uploading songs to MySpace Karaoke at her brother’s prompting. She has since recorded 67 songs via webcam, has entered several online competitions and has placed in each.
The singer said Degeneres and her crew were particularly moved by her rendition of “At Last.” Although Tank was attracting adoring fans online from around the globe, she seemed to be somewhat bewildered by why she was chosen by Degeneres.
“All I kept hearing was that I’m ‘refreshing,’ but I honestly couldn’t tell you what they meant.”
Like Degeneres herself, Tank has a down to earth nature that is highly refreshing and utterly appealing. On her MySpace page there’s a photo of Tank peering out from her kitchen to her online audience. Dressed in a simple halter dress she offers a beaming smile and a friendly yet slightly shy wave of the hand. With her head cocked to one side she seems to be saying, “Howdy folks.” It’s from this kitchen that most of her karaoke songs have been recorded.
“I think they also thought it was a cool story,” she said, “You know, mother of three who does karaoke in her kitchen.”
There’s nothing flashy about Tank’s online performances and her unpretentious presence leaves a huge space for viewers to be absorbed by the infinite soulfulness of her singing. Her delivery is impeccable and the control over her vocal technique is thoroughly skilled giving the impression of absolute ease. Even before she begins to sing, something seems to wash over her, taking her to a place devoid of self-consciousness, the place from which true artistry arises.
Tank says she has never felt a need to impress. “I always have my mom calling saying, ‘I can’t believe you put that video up there,’ because sometimes I don’t fix my hair and stuff like that … To me I’m just like, hey, I’m just like everybody else at home singing karaoke. I don’t know, for me it’s just fun.”
Listening to Tank sing it’s evident that she was born with a gift. Coming from a musical family that included 11 brothers, she was singing and dancing at a young age in her father’s Polynesian show in Hawaii. When she was 7 her family moved to New Jersey where they continued their variety act. Later, as a teenager in Indiana she performed in her father’s band singing pop standards, including songs made famous by the likes of Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin.
When she was 19 she met her soon to be husband, Sherman, and it wasn’t long before the couple began their own family. A devoted mother, Tank put her musical pursuits on the back burner for nearly a decade. In 2006, the family moved to Angel Fire and eventually settled in Taos. For the past year she has been performing with The Damn Band.
Tank said her nervousness during her taped interview with Degeneres caused memory failure. “When I came home I felt pretty bad because I realized that I had forgotten everything. I forgot to mention my husband, my band and that the whole karaoke MySpace started with my little brother. I was determined to mention him, but I forgot that I had a brother.” However, when Tank stepped up to the microphone to sing, the magic washed over her. “That is my comfort zone,” she said. “As soon as I was singing I was OK. It was like my relief from the interview.” (The five-star rated clip of Tank’s appearance on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZPDbX-lTOY .)
Back home in Taos now, Tank is trying to assimilate the whirlwind that has swept her up in the last few weeks. “I just feel very lucky right now,” she said. “There are a lot of singers on MySpace Karaoke and I’m really lucky that they picked me … The exposure is great, but I’ve just never been one to count my chickens before they hatch.”
And what will happen if Tank is approached by a producer? “We have dad and he’s on board and ready to do whatever it will take,” she said. “We had our huge family discussion and talked about me being busy … yeah, everyone’s on board so we’re going to see how it works, but the family comes first. I already told them if this becomes too much we’ll have to throw down and do something else.”
Chances are good that in the near future Tank will be getting some promising offers, but regardless of whether she hits the big time, this is one damn singer to keep your eyes and ears on.
For details on the Taos show call (575) 758-2121.