It’s great feeling being inspired, motivated and encouraged when you discover friends and fellow artists making advances with their careers. Nancy G is an amazing up and coming jazz vocalist and guitarist, currently making her mark on the New York jazz scene. Hailing from Greece she now lives and performs throughout the New York City area. At the very early age of eight Nancy knew she wanted to pursue music, learning to play classical guitar. She studied with Costas Cotsiolis, the master classical guitarist, receiving her degree in classical guitar.
Her singing career began when Lakis Tzimkas, an accomplished Greek bassist, invited her to feature as a vocalist in his band. While in Greece, Nancy performed as a vocalist in Athens and Thessaloniki, her hometown at various jazz venues, restaurants, hotels and private functions.
After receiving her B.A. in Music/Fine Arts in 2007 from Aristotle University, she moved to New York City, ready to pursue her dream of performing whilst continuing her study of jazz vocals. She has studied with many accomplished vocalists including JD Walter, Miles Griffith, Cynthia Scott (member of the legendary Ray Charles vocal group “The Raelettes”), Barry Harris and many more.
Her debut album entitled “I want to be your star” (the English translation of Nancy’s first original song written in Greek) with pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Dwayne Burno, saxophonist JD Allen, and drummer Rudy Royston, with special guests, vocalist Miles Griffith, bassist Richie Goods and percussionist Daniel Sadownick is released this year. In customary fashion I share a conversation I had with her about her career to date.
You are talented in both singing and song writing but which do you prefer ?
Well I’ m doing my first steps in song writing. I can’t compare these two things because they are so different. Of course you give your soul to both of them. Maybe in song writing you add a little more from your personal experiences. At least the 2 tunes featured on my album which I composed came from my personal canvas… When you have two ingredients, love and a broken heart, the results are good songs. I think myself more a singer who occasionally composes when inspiration strikes.
Q:To date, what’s your biggest achievement as an artist?
The life of an artist is a constant fight to improve his or her art. In my personal path there have been good and bad days. Some of the small victories are I’ve become a better musician, I still continue to grow as an artist, collaborate with great musicians and perform at well-known jazz clubs. And as I referred to jazz clubs, I’m thrilled to announce that on November 18th I’m invited to perform at John Hart’s Jazz party with vocalist Cyrille Aimee and guest vocalist myself, at the legendary “BIRDLAND”, the Charlie Parker’s jazz corner. This day is very special for me because I am celebrating my 5 year anniversary in NYC. It was November 18th, 5 years ago, when I first landed in this city and I am excited to celebrate in Birdland.
Q:How does the New York/ Philly scene compare to your experience of learning your art in Greece?
Well my first steps in Greece were excellent. My career as a vocalist began when Lakis Tzimkas, an accomplished Greek bassist, discovered me and chose me as a featured vocalist in his new jazz band. Lakis gave me the opportunity to perform on stage with the best musicians in town; saxophonist Charis Kapetanakis, guitarist Makis Stefanidis and drummer Nikos Variamidis. I owe these musicians a lot because I learned a lot from them. It ‘s very important to collaborate with good musicians. Then the next step was to move on. Where else but New York the “The Mecca of Arts”! All the talented people from all around the world come to NYC to expose their talents. The competition is huge. “If you can make it in NY you can make it everywhere…” But the learning that takes place here is tremendous too! Of course, Philly is producing mighty musicians. I’m very fortunate to have musicians from Philadelphia on my record. So all of this “traveling” helped me to grow musically.
I can appreciate what you mean. NY is definitely a Mecca of the arts and I’ve met some wonderfully talented people in this city from various corners of the globe. Equally, I’m coming across a number of rising stars from Philly. I’m always keen to see artists pursue their dreams whilst overcoming obstacles.
Q: What have been the biggest obstacles if any in your career to date?
Hmmm… lots of things… First of all the city itself. NYC is one of the sweetest and also toughest cities in the world. The competition is fierce. Some of the best musicians and singers are here. And in my case, as a jazz singer, I have to compete with many good singers, some of them were born in to this jazz tradition. You have to bring something different and something special in order to stand out and of course to love deeply and respect your art. Being able to perform in some of the legendary scenes and receive positive feedback gives me strength to go on. Sometimes I think it’s hard to be a woman in this city, all by yourself, and especially a woman in music business. On the other hand, there are obstacles that come from my own self. Research – concerns to be the best I can be in my art. And of course not to lose Nancy, myself, in the process. All the obstacles that crossed my path in my personal life, affected my musical development, sometimes in a good and sometimes in a bad way. I am however, blessed and very lucky that my music family here opened its arms and gave a huge hug to a Greek girl …
Q:You are originally from Detroit? What is the story behind your hometown and do you miss it?
Haha.. That was an inside joke with my producer Richie Goods that I m originally from Detroit!!! The story? Dreams and goals to improve and grow as a musician. Of course I miss my country Greece but I love my new home, New York, and of course DETROIT!!! 🙂
Q:How would you summarise the experience of producing your first album?
My first album… It sounds and it feels good! Since I was a little girl I was dreaming that one day I will have my own record! 🙂 This album was created in a difficult period of personal and professional transformation. Having completed it and listening to the result is very rewarding. The experience of collaborating with these fabulous musicians in the studio is unique! Working with Richie Goods who is producing the record is a huge school! And not only with Richie but with all the musicians who played in the record… Orrin Evans, Dwayne Burno, JD Allen, Rudy Royston, Miles Griffith, Daniel Sadownick, thank you all for your love and support.
Q: Is it fair to say you’re a musician working within a genre that isn’t the most commercially rewarding? Will you explore a variance of music styles or is jazz exclusively your field of music?
It is fair to say that I am a musician – vocalist who sings and plays in guitar the music that she truly likes and adores. But it is true that being a musician and trying to make ends meet solely from music is very difficult. Thank God I have partially solved “the survival” problem. I’m a music educator. I’ve been teaching classical guitar for 15 years and voice for the last 5 years to kids, an experience I have benefited a lot from. Sure I am open to expand my musical horizons. I have already done it and I will always strive for more. I have a classical background. I have a diploma in classical guitar and a BA in Musicology but for me Jazz is the style of music that I m in love so far… I can t predict what is going to happen after 5-10 years.
Q:Are there any artists in particular who inspire you?
All I can say is that I listen to a lot of music and it is difficult to say who inspires me the most… Good music inspires me. If you check my iPod you’ll find a lot of musicians and different styles…
Q: Who ideally would you like to collaborate with?
Hm… There is lots of people I admire and I would love to collaborate with but ideally, if I had to pick one, I would go with Mr Wynton Marsalis for now.
Q: So what are you plans for the next year?
My plans for the next year… Uhm.. I’m not a person who’s planning ahead. Not so good in this business though… Well, it is going to be great to have a new record and of course touring with my band and presenting my work…
I congratulate Nancy on her forthcoming performance at Birdland and wish her the very best for a rich and rewarding career. For further information please visit the Nancy G. official Facebook webpage or Birdland for details on the weekend performance