Performer Talya Groves on singing KC to Broadway and back again

Talya

Talya Groves performs often at The Phoenix. // Courtesy of Talya Groves

Born and raised in Kansas City, Talya Groves began understanding at a young age that performing was her passion.

Throughout the years, she has traveled and worked professionally as an entertainer on Broadway in New York and found herself returning to KC when COVID hit. Now settled in, she is rediscovering Kansas City as not only her home but a hub for her career.

We sat down with Groves to talk more about her experience making a life in New York, performing professionally, and finding her way back to the Midwest when she least expected it.


The Pitch: Did you always want to be a performer, or was there any other path you could have seen yourself taking?

Talya Groves: It was always that. I grew up here in Kansas City, and I’ve laughed before that I feel all moms put their daughters in dance class. For some people, that doesn’t last, and it’s just like a fun thing.

It just felt like my safe space, and it was what I was most excited about. I went to a competitive dance school, so once I started doing competitions and got more opportunities to be on stage, it just clicked. Like, “This makes me happy, and it also makes other people happy.”

What was it like making the transition from Kansas City to New York? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

It’s so funny because as it was happening, I didn’t think twice about it. It just felt like something I had to do. In hindsight, it was terrifying. I mean, I had lived in Kansas City my whole life, and what happens in New York is that you know, as performers, you don’t do everything for your ego, but there’s a lot of ego involved. 

When you got to New York, you might have been the best singer and dancer in your high school, but now you’re in a group where everybody was the best singer and dancer in their high school. 

It was a lot of newness at once. I was definitely equipped for it, but I think I was just in “go” mode. It’s not until now that I look back and think, “Wow, I really just moved across the country.”

Talya 2

Talya performing in Kansas City. // Courtesy of Talya Groves

What was the process like beginning to work on Broadway? Was it intimidating to get into the business?

I started doing auditions during my last year of school because I really wanted to get myself out there. I was terrified. I was like, “This is great. I came here, and I did this college thing, it’s been the safety net for four years, and now I’m in New York. what am I going to do?” 

When I started on my first show, Motown: The Musical, it was so intimidating. I got to LA, and a lot of the people I was stepping into the show with were not only twice my age but had all this experience. I also had this real go-getter attitude because I was young and ready to make friends, whereas some of the people there were already jaded. So it wasn’t the easiest, socially. 

But, one really cool thing about my first show being Motown is that it was a brand new community of Blackness for me. It celebrated the music I love most, but I also got to build a community with my peers of color.

What was your favorite production that you worked on while on Broadway? 

I loved getting to do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was so special to originate a show and to be a part of the original cast. We got to do the cast recording, so I’m on it. Any other time that I’ve been on Broadway, I’ve been stepping into a track that’s already been made.

It’s so fun, because that will forever be me. Like, the diva who wears the orange tracksuit is always going to be “Talya’s track.”

What was it like having to come back to Kansas City?

Even when COVID first hit, I really didn’t have any intentions of coming back, and I waited. I mean, everything kind of shut down in March, and I didn’t come back here until November 2020. I waited it out, but it eventually got to a point where I was like, “I’m out of money, I can’t be doing this.”

I saw that Kansas City was opening up a little faster, and I had kept some relationships with great musicians in town like Walter Bryant. 

I knew that Walter and I had musical compatibility so I called him and Kent Rausch, who is now my drummer, and told them, “Guys, I’ve got to move back and make some money, so if I can get us the gigs, can we do this thing?”

I don’t think anybody doubted me, but there’s a lot of great live music in Kansas City, so I had to be bold. I just called places and let them know who I was and what I did. 

Were you bummed about having to move back? 

I don’t think I knew what it was going to be. It was just like, “This is what I have to do right now,” and I never expected that I would really be able to sustain myself here. I’m gigging three to four times a week, and it’s only just now hitting me that I made something on my own, and I’m here to stay.

Has getting back into performing locally felt different than being on Broadway? Who are your go-to artists?

I find it to be a little more rewarding, I think, because it is more personal. The fact that on my breaks at The Phoenix, or anywhere else, I get to go talk with everybody, learn their names, see their faces, and see that I’m making a difference. Even if it’s just for those four hours that they came to have a good time, it’s so special.

In terms of artists, I really try to brand myself as a human jukebox because I know that when I go hear live music, I would rather hear a lot of different things. I also get excited about any song that the audience gets excited about, because it then feels like we’re working together.

I really love Tina Turner, because I think she really threw everything she had into her music, and that’s how I try to be. So, when I get to her stuff, that feels probably the most personal to me.


You can find Talya performing at The Phoenix, Johnnie’s Jazz, Stock Hill Steakhouse, and more. Visit her website here.

Categories: Music