When local blues shouter Teresa Gunn sold more than half of the 1,000 or so copies of her debut EP last year, she was positive that fame, fortune, or at least a few weeks off from a day job was just around the corner.
From Gunn's point of view, it was about time. After all, the vampish redhead given to leather skirts and shimmering eyeliner had been twisting, jumping and singing her way toward the Big Break for the past five years, in an eclectic style mixing two parts blues and soul with one part jazz-tinged rock. One year later, she can be found putting the finishing touches on a video matched beat for beat to the sound of her first 45, "Love Ghost."
"My early songs were like minimovies -- each one had a beginning, middle and an end," Gunn says in a throaty voice that sounds like Chrissie Hynde with laryngitis. But gone are the trademark dime-store confessionals and two-minute sax solos, replaced by what Gunn terms a "sharper and punchier" sound.
A military brat, Gunn, now 32, grew up in places as diverse as Montana, California and Japan. She landed in D.C. six years ago on her way to New York, where she planned to join the cattle-call life of an actress. But after a few successful poetry recitals at now-extinct artist hangouts such as the Atlantis Club and Columbia Station, she traded in her iambic pentameter for some soulful wailing in her first and only rock 'n' roll band, the Teresa Gunn Group.
"Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to act, but I finally decided to concentrate on a rock 'n' roll band," she says. "I started off with bluesy stuff like Jim Morrison's. I mean, he was a poet who made a go of it in rock 'n' roll."
Gunn's current band -- which will perform at d.c. space tomorrow -- includes bass guitarist Mike Colburn, lead guitarist Scott Holland, and drummer Scott Douthitt, Gunn's husband. "Our main reason for doing the 45 was to fatten up our press kit after the EP got some good reviews last year," says Gunn, who admits that the fast-paced, danceable "Love Ghost" and the flip side "Don't Tell My Baby" have less to do with creative genius than with commercial appeal.
"The 45 was sort of an experiment -- I was trying to change our sound, to use less lyrics and more feelings," Gunn says. But since feelings don't pay the rent, day jobs for all band members are a must. A job as a manicurist at a suburban Maryland beauty salon not only puts food in the mouths of Gunn and her 11-year-old son Dusty, but long days of "sculpted" nails and fuchsia polish provide ideas for new song lyrics.
While trends may come and go, Gunn believes vinyl is forever. "If you can say, 'Yeah, we have a 45 out,' " she says hopefully, "it gives the impression that you're already famous."