“If he were alive today, he’d be working for the Tea Party, or living in a hovel somewhere,” chuckles the singer, who was raised Baha’i.
Then there was her granddad, B-movie actor John Shelton. “He died mysteriously in a prison in Sri Lanka, so there’s some real intrigue there,” says Price, who brings her R&B quartet to Monterey’s second annual First City Festival this weekend, backing its second CD “Bad Self Portraits.”
Price loves recounting bizarre stories, like how Shelton, a quick-witted prankster, named his son Darwin. “He said, ‘We already have one strong creationist in the family, so this should balance everything out,’” she says. “And my uncle Darwin still lives in Australia.”
Yet her father was most influential. Tom Price, a musician and choral arranger who worked with more than 400 voices at a time, and artists like Ravi Shankar, allowed his daughter to sing gospel and classical music in choirs at age 5.
“That does a lot for your ear,” she says. “So I was singing by myself, in a lean style, but I was also singing in the choirs and picking out harmony parts and learning to blend. It was a completely different approach to making music.”
During her stint at the New England Conservatory of Music, Price earned a jazz studies degree and began entering events like the Thelonius Monk Institute Vocal Competition, and then found regular employment with the T.S. Monk Sextet.
But after two jazzy solo recordings, she grew tired of the genre’s rigid rules and uptown attitude, and she found three other classmates who felt the same.
“We weren’t interested in being session musicians, or playing five nights a week in at the same club — we wanted one project,” says Price, who morphed into a remarkable blues belter in Lake Street Dive, which debuted with “in this episode ...” in 2006.
“We were just going to make music to play in dive bars, not concert halls — music that would be spontaneous and fun, not serious,” she says.
Busy with touring, she laughs when asked if she will keep her legacy alive with a crazy clan of her own: “This life is just not conducive to anything like marriage — let alone relationships!”
IF YOU GO
First City Festival
with Beck, The National, The Naked And Famous, Phantogram, Lake Street Dive and others
Where: Monterey County Fair and Event Center, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey
When: Noon Saturday-Sunday
Tickets: $79.75 to $159.60
Contact: (888) 929-7849, www.axs.com, (888) 929-7849