TUPELO • The moment Barbara Fleishhacker heard Sarah Potenza sing on a cruise ship, she vowed to bring Potenza to Tupelo.
It took Fleishhacker two years, but she did it – and it’s for a charitable cause.
Potenza, who turned heads four years ago with her performances on NBC’s “The Voice,” brings a mixture of self-enpowered R&B, swaggering soul and contemporary blues here Sunday afternoon for a downtown benefit concert.
She’ll be the headliner at MGKOK, which is next door to Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen restaurant at 124 Main St. The concert, which starts at 2 p.m., is a benefit for the Kidney Head Foundation.
“The people who come are in for such a treat,” said Fleishhacker, owner of The Main Attraction emporium and coffee bar downtown. “We’re bringing somebody fabulous to Tupelo and having a good time for a good cause.”
The local folk trio TomFooley will be the opening act.
Potenza enjoyed a breakthrough moment in her singing career in 2015 when she sang during the eighth season of “The Voice.” Since then the singer/songwriter has released two critically acclaimed solo albums: 2016’s “Monster” and this year’s “Road to Rome.”
Rolling Stone magazine, in its review of “Monster,” said “Potenza is to the blues what Adele is to pop; a colossal-voiced singer who merges her old-school influences with a modernistic sound.”
“(The Voice) really helped change things for me,” said Potenza in a telephone interview from her home in Nashville. “We’ve put out two albums, and the most recent one has received incredible reviews. ‘The Voice’ opened a lot of doors for me, and the work I’ve done since then has opened more doors.”
Potenza, a Rhode Island native, brings a bold, brassy attitude to her recordings and live performances. The first song on her latest album, “I Work For Me,” reflects her confidence in taking care of her own business and doing things her way.
Potenza was one of 42 recording artists performing on the week-long Cayamo music cruise into the Caribbean in early 2017 when Fleishhacker heard her. Tupelo’s Paul Thorn is an annual performer on the cruise.
“Sarah was one of the headliners,” she said. “I adored her lyrics. She had so much energy and told so many funny stories. I
Turn to potenza,
related to her humor. She talked about doing ‘house concerts’ (performance in a small venue). She asked if anyone was interested in her doing a ‘house concert,’ for them to show up.”
Fleishhacker put her name on the list, and then reached out to Potenza when it came time to organize the fund raiser.
“I compile a list of people who come up to me at a concert and say they’re interested in having me perform at a house concert, venue or whatever,” Potenza said. “You definitely want to catch all those people and perform everywhere you can, no matter how big or how small. At the end of the day, that’s what really makes your career.”
Potenza sometimes travels with a full band for concerts. However, with a smaller setting, she said it may be her and her husband, Ian Crossman, performing together.
“We play a couple of acoustic guitars, tell stories and sing songs the way we wrote them,” she said. “ It’s a cool, ‘Behind the Music’ thing we like to do. We enjoy giving fans inside stories on what the songs mean so that the music will be more meaningful for them.
“I’m so excited about coming to Tupelo for the first time,” Potenza added. “I don’t know what to expect, but I think it’s going to be really neat.”
Tickets for Sunday’s concert are $25, which can be purchased at The Main Attraction, also located downtown on Main Street, and online through Eventbrite. The ticket price also comes with hors d’oeuvres. A cash bar will be available.
All proceeds from ticket sales are going to the Kidney Head Foundation, which helps children on dialysis and their families. For more information, call (662) 842-9617.