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Mindi Abair

Is It the Wine or Is It the Music?

On Friday afternoon I sat down with singer and saxophonist Mindi Abair from Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers and her husband Eric Guerra who has worked with some of the most distinguished wineries in the North Bay.  Right from the start their warm and friendly personalities came though as we dove into our conversation about their recent marriage, creating music, and their new establishment Reserve Tastings Wine Company.

Empress: Are you enjoying Northern California?

Mindi: I love it I am having so much fun, I get to be joined at the hip with Eric and wine is his business, it’s pretty awesome to be in that world, and he comes into my world which is music.

Eric: If we can’t sell what we have we can always eat, drink, and listen to what we have.

Empress: When you made the move from Florida to Los Angeles and you were gigging on the street you showed strong initiative for your hunger to be successful, did you ever imagine it would go this far?

Mindi: I grew up in Saint Petersburg Florida it’s a little beach town, music was all around me, my grandmother was an opera singer, my father was a saxophonist. I grew up on the road with his band until the time I was born until around the time I was five. It was everywhere, I was watching music, it just became what I did, it was not like ooo I’ve got to be a musician or something, I just became a musician it is what was around me. I went to Berklee College of Music and it was incredible for me to grow. I moved to LA because it seemed like the warmest place that was a music hub. I played on the street, I didn’t want to go get a job and ask people if they wanted fries with that? This is what I was born to do, this is it, I just wanted to play. So, I figured take my saxophone out and play and maybe good things would come and they did. I got hired and it snowballed into different gigs and it was a really cool thing to take that journey and become what I wanted to become on my own terms. So, did I ever think it would go this far? Absolutely.

Empress: You have always had a strong stage presence did it start out like that?

Mindi: I think playing on the street is probably the greatest place to learn how to be on stage because you just have to deal with all this stuff that you don’t have to deal with on stage. I have had people dance next to me on the street, I have had people try and rob me, I have had people come up as a perfect audience and clap at the right times. You just never know, you’re in touching distance with people too. You’re just with them as to on stage where you are elevated and you have a little space between you and the audience. You learn how to take it on and communicate with people in a different way. From there I got hired by Bobby Lyle to Teena Marie, Adam Sandler, Backstreet Boys, Duran Duran, and Aerosmith. You become a performer because you have to be in these different situations, you have this depth as a musician because you have to put yourself in these different places and as a performer hopefully you grow and learn from every situation you are in.

Empress: Steven Tyler approached you on the last day of American Idol, did you feel that coming? Did you think he was going to ask you to go on tour?

Mindi: No way, I did not see that coming at all. American Idol was such a machine, and it was live and the pressure was just you know intense. All these performers were making their way and battling it out for getting a spot at winning. It was this kind of mad rush to come up with material for them and be there and shape their careers. I got this call at ten in the morning while I was sitting in bed going through emails and it was Steven Tyler saying, “We got to do this now! You gotta come to my trailer! It’s time we gotta make this happen!” They had a new record, they were going out on the road. He was one foot from my face singing me the new Aerosmith record, “Sing this back to me! Play this back to me! Play over that! I want you to go on tour with us, I want you to do the summer with us, this would be amazing.” You can’t say no to that, you can’t say no to Steven Tyler.

Empress: You both are in a creative field what do you do to get inspired? 

Mindi: We Have been through a lot of twists and turns in my music career and his career in wine. We always tell people that we sit and drink wine and listen to music, and we always put together playlists of what we think the wine feels like, sounds like, and that seems to put us in a great place.

Eric: Yeah, it kind of shakes loose the creative space a little bit. It’s the wine, we do meditate in the morning and it’s the greatest thing that I have ever learned. It sets everything at a base level for the rest of the day, the energy level, the creativity just kind of opens up. You just have to take a step back and let it come to you.

Empress: For the women that are trying to make it in the music business is there any advice that you could give to them?

Mindi: I could go back to a story that happened to me when I was in high school. I wanted to be in this band it was the Florida All-State Jazz Band. I sat in my room and played along to records, the whole state of Florida they chose two alto saxophonists for the jazz band. Of course, that’s what I wanted to get, that was the hardest to get. There was an audition so I started practicing for the audition, I thought yeah I could get this, but then I thought about it, there’s around fifty guys that play saxophone in the state of Florida. There’s no way a little girl from Saint Petersburg is going to get this, not a chance, so I stopped practicing. Then my dad came in a day later and asked, “Hey why no saxophone? I’ve been hearing you play a lot.” I told him the whole thing and he goes, “Well yeah I guess you can just quit, sure that makes sense.” I did not like that answer. Well I’m not quitting, so anyway I went back, the reverse psychology he used worked. Alright I’m just gonna go for it, well anyway I went to the audition and I got it, I got first chair alto saxophone Flordia All-State Jazz Band. I come to my dad, oh my god I got it! I can’t believe it I got it! This is amazing! He gave me the best advice, “Don’t get psyched out, don’t trip yourself out. So many of the most talented people never get what they want because they don’t go after it. Go out there and go after what you want and show up, and then you have a chance.” It’s not about being the most talented, it’s not about any of that. It’s about going out and putting yourself on the line and as a woman sometimes you can get psyched out or you can think I don’t have a chance at this, there’s someone that’s better suited or maybe looks more the part, and you know what? So many times I’ve just shown up and gone after it, and in music right now if you can play you get invited back. If you come to the party with something to say as an artist you get invited back. Show up and be you.

Courtesy Bob Hakins Photography

Empress: So, what is Reserve Tastings Wine Company?

Mindi: It’s a business that my husband Eric and I started, I am music, he is wine, so how do you bring the two of those together? We pair music that goes perfectly with the wine. We thought that if maybe we liked it other people would want to do that. We took the best of who I am and the best of who he is and brought it together. You are listening to the music that pairs perfectly with the wine.

To catch Mindi Abair on the road check out her website:

Also, to purchase some great wines please visit:

Rocky Greenleaf

Rocky Greenleaf

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