Rene Marie began her professional career at the behest of her oldest son, who told his mom she was a much better jazz singer than one he saw at a club. This started a revolution for Rene Marie, who moved from life as a housewife to life as a jazz singer.

Her first record came out when she was in her 40s and she has been recording and performing ever since. Her music has been critically acclaimed and she has come forward as a songwriter. Her new Grammy-nominated album, “Sound of Red,” is all her own work.

While in her teens, Rene Marie sang in an R&B band, where she met her husband. They married young, had a family and moved away from music after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. While she occasionally performed at a wedding, she mostly sang in her kitchen, recalling that growing up  “singing was like sitting down at a meal. It was part of our daily routine.”

Transforming into a jazz singer wasn’t easy, and she was often nervous and striving to be perfect. The she realized, “all I have to do is sing and be in the song.” Rene Marie thought about all the singing she’d done while making meals for her family. “All I really needed to do was bring the kitchen to the stage,” she says.

Now, joy mediates all of her creative decision. “Having the joy is the litmus test,” she explains. “If I can’t find the joy, then it’s not the right thing.”

Long a fan of sultry singer Eartha Kitt, Rene Marie garnered attention for her tribute album “I Want To Be Evil,” but “Sound of Red” has opened her up creatively as a songwriter. She said some mornings she would wake up with the first lines of a song in her head and finish the tuen within an hour’s time. Others she worked on for more than a decade, jotting down lyrics here and there before they turned into a full-fledged song. She likened the songwriting to “pulling spices off my kitchen shelves.”

Rene Marie will perform at the Rialto Theater on Friday, April 20. She says she is excited to be performing with the Georgia State Big Band Orchestra. For tickets and information, visit

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta writer and musician.