NANCY 'NOW' - MONTHLY DIARY
As we go from one lockdown to another, there is no end in sight to this new life of restrictions. I’m pretty tired of this ‘event’ but I’m looking for ways to make good use of time as we all wait for the World to open up again.
My current theme is ‘one song at a time.’ When you make music for a living, you get used to having to prepare a lot of repertoire very quickly, and that can mean missed opportunities to find new nuances in a song. I’m currently working in my home studio, recording vocals for eight songs I have in production. Since I’m not working on a deadline, I’m giving myself time to try new approaches to the melodies, harmonies, feels and vocal tones. Since I wrote all the tunes, I have that liberty, and I’m finding it really satisfying. I also think I’m improving as a musician and as a singer. There’s nothing like recording, listening back, and repetition to make you aware of your tendencies, good and bad… so if anything, I am happy to have the time and space to dig deeper.
I’m also re-evaluating how to make a living going forward. We don’t know what’s going to happen with live music and touring. I’ve never had a day job, and the thought of it scares me a bit, but who knows, maybe a steady pay cheque would be incredibly exiting… hehehe …
And, my little kitten is four months old now. He is getting too big to sleep on the keys but remains a studio cat just the same.
I made a good decision this month: I got a kitten! After a year in and out of solitary confinement amongst all the uncertainly in world, I was feeling a lot of stress.
I found a 2 month old siamese kitten in need of a home, and he’s turned out to be such a good pal. He loves it when I practice, so it turns out he’s a good motivator as well.
I’ve been working on arrangements for a solo piano/ vocal Christmas album, which I hope to release next year. Here’s a taste..
Until next year… be well.
As winter slowly sets in on the Costa del Sol and travel is still looking a long ways off, I’ve been taking time to update home studio gear and learn new systems for performing and teaching online. I participated in the World’s longest running variety show on Nov. 15, which gave me the chance to experience performing live online via zoom.
I’ve also discovered a new love for teaching this year, offering jazz vocal workshops and private coaching, and now I’ll be doing more of that, online.
It’s been quite a process, to absorb and digest all the changes we’ve been through in the music business, but I am happy to report that I’ve been getting airplay of my two singles Turn the Lights Back Down and Breathing In Indigo on the following stations - thanks to all!
- KAFM Grand Junction, CO
- KCSB Santa Barbara, CA
- WMNF Tampa, FL
- WERG Erie, PA
- KDVS Davis, CA
- KSER Everett, WA
- WPKN Bridgeport, CT
- KMUD Redway, CA
- WRFR Rockland, ME
- KFAI Minneapolis, MN
- KBOO Portland, OR
- KBGA Missoula, MT
- KCSS Turlock, CA
- KDNK Carbondale, CO
- KEOL Le Grande, OR
- KISL Avalon, CA
- KMNR Rolla, MO
- KPFA Berkeley, CA
- KPSU Portland, OR
- KSTO Northfield, MN
- KSUA Fairbanks, AK
- KUCR Riverside, CA
- KWSB Gunnison, CO
- WIDB Carbondale, IL
- WLUW Chicago, IL
- KFJC Los Altos Hills, CA
Still in Spain. The increase of restrictions around the world due to the virus is making it hard to plan travel, and my return date to Canada is still uncertain.
Doing a lot of looking back, writing.
Enjoyed being a guest on the QuaranJazz podcast: talked about how I ended up in Spain, the challenges and payoffs of writing and touring with original music, writing music based on the rhythmic impulses of Spanish musicians, and the importance of visceral reactions from the audience. Listen here:
To my surprise and delight I actually played a couple of live shows this month. Nearly all the live music venues are shut down, but there are some exceptions… the upscale Marbella Club, where I did a piano/ vocal gig, and the very out-of-the-way Tottam, El Jardín Interior, in Alhaurín El Grande, where I sang some jazz and boleros with Daniel Amat, Francis Posé and Andres Litwin. It was great to make music again, and of course I was happy to see the place was sold out. People are starving for live music and human connection and I admire those last standing venues which are making the effort to support that.
I’m also happy that the two singles I have out right now, Turn the Lights Back Down and Breathing In Indigo, are getting a good amount of airplay in Canada and the US. Here are links to some of the press around those tracks.
Last year at this time I was in New York, recording and catching up with colleagues there, and looking back I could never have imagined what was to come with this obligatory mask-wearing, disinfecting, social distancing, histeria abounding era. I’m concerned by how some governments are taking advantage of this situation to invoke fear, and impose restrictions which are often illogical and unnecessary.
I’m limiting my exposure to media and giving myself more time in each day to write, create, spend time in nature, and stay connected with my instincts.
Here in the South of Spain, we’ve seen live music venues reopen, and then close again. Between dwindling revenues due to audience capacity restrictions and new laws prohibiting late night activity, the live music business has suffered blow after blow. A few hotels and restaurants along the Costa del Sol have maintained some musical offerings during this tourist high season, but that scene has also diminished this year. And there’s no point in thinking about international tours yet, with so much uncertainty still in the air. So…. what better time to re-mount live shows?? It seems counter-intuitive, but dire times call for equally as dramatic positive measures. I took some time this month to recap the last few years of touring with my original music project, Sangria Jam, with this little video, as well as release a live performance that hadn’t been shared before, Jasmine Tree. I think it’s important to keep making music, and playing it live if even in our imaginations. I’m also putting a new jazz trio together to re-work some standards from a Latino-Spanish perspective, with Cuban pianist Daniel Amat, and Spanish bassist Francis Posé. I’ve been working on new arrangements as well as liberating myself from the piano for this ensemble, and getting back to singing out front. It’s fun. So… despite all the gloom, there is plenty to feel good about during those music-making moments. So turn off the news and let’s make as much music as possible, for longer periods of time, and let’s see just how quickly the live scene bounces back bigger than ever. I’m counting on it.
It's strange to not be travelling all the time. For the past 35 years, I've been on the road, making my living as a musician. I'm still adapting to having to stay in one place. It's funny how ingrained a lifestyle can become, and how anxiety can result from change.
One thing that hasn't changed is my lack of interest in watching TV. I bought one of those screen apparatus right before lockdown, as friends were pressuring me ... 'you need a TV!' I'd protest, saying, I have a laptop, if I want to entertain myself watching Youtube. But I chanced upon a deal, and thought, what the heck. Now that I've had the chance to scroll through TV channels a few times, I am back to my original position: I'd rather be making music. I find the news to be particularly annoying... one story, one perspective, and relentless repetition. Being in show biz, I see how good the media is at selling a point... yes... most of the news is a melodrama. That's how I see it.
Meanwhile, I've released a single. I love this song, and how it came together.
I originally wrote this tune as a simple piano/ vocal feature, and then it turned into a full production, with parts recorded in Vancouver, New York, and Malaga, Spain, thanks to the collaboration of talented friends.
Although it could be described as a romantic ballad, ‘turn the lights back down’ is also a way of saying, let’s cut down on all the noise and distraction, and focus on the love that connects us all.
As we slowly come out of lockdown, I’ve been disconnecting as much as I can from social media and the news, and getting outside to connect to nature again. As tours for the next year have been cancelled due to travel restrictions, I’ve been thinking about the best ways I can be useful, and have decided to dedicate more time to teaching. With curriculum in both English and Spanish, I look forward to sharing all I’ve learned from 35 years of singing and playing for a living.
I’m also getting ready for the July release of a single I have a special affection for… more on that next month, but here is a taste:
Take care, everyone!
'Where the Sea Melts To Sky' was released this month. I wrote the song a few years ago. The lyrics came to me as I was swimming in the sea in front of my little home in Spain, and I couldn't see the horizon, as all the blue shades of the sea and sky seemed to melt together. I was thinking about situations and relationships that have no easy solutions in this lifetime, and how maybe they'd all resolve 'where the sea melts to sky'... a metaphor for another life.
I am lucky I had the chance to record this song before the world went crazy. It's the first piece I've written that's been orchestrated, and I had the luxury of recording it in New York with members of the New York Philharmonic. Joe Gianono wrote the arrangement and conducted. Multi-grammy award winning Oscar Zambrano recorded, mixed and mastered the track.
The lyric video was created by Egyptian visual artist Nancy Razk.
I hope everyone is staying safe and sane. We’re living in surreal times.
Here in Spain, I'm heading into a second month of solitary confinement due to COVID-19, which has given me time to re-evaluate how I’ve been managing my career. It’s my observation that the music business has been spinning out of control for years now.
V13 Magazine in Toronto reached out inviting me to write a piece about how the corona virus is affecting musicians in Europe, and once I got writing I realized I had a lot to say - not just about the current challenges, but on the evolution of the music business since I started over 30 years ago.
I try to answer the question ‘what do musicians actually do all day?’, as this seems to confuse a lot of people! I remember my dad used to ask me that all the time, and I never knew quite where to start. The list has been getting longer every year, and unfortunately it has less and less to do with music.
I also try to offer some ideas on how we can create some positive outcomes from this mess.
Here’s a link to the article (title and intro was written by the editor):
Feel free to share it wherever you like.
ALSO...Since all the kids are doing it, I decided to start a little series called 'Live At the Home Studio'. Here is my first attempt: a song that doesn't follow the social distancing rules ;) - I would love it if you said hi with a comment on Youtube if you feel inclined.
I've been waiting all year to release this single/ video! It was tied up for a while in contract negotiations but in the end I decided to release it on my own label, Salerosa Records. I wrote the song a few years ago, and have performed it live many times, so by the time I went to the studio to record it, it was feeling pretty good. It's a song about change, which seems appropriate in this surreal time we're living in. You'll hear great guitar work by Luis Robisco, bass and audio production by Juan Soto, and percussion by Juan Heredia. Jorge Pérez for Libra Producciones directed the video, which was shot in the province of Malaga, Spain.
In these strange times of change, do you ever feel like you're 'breathing in indigo'? Feel free to share the video, and leave a comment on Youtube.
Back in the studio this month with my long-time rhythm section Juan Soto (bass, sound engineer), and Juan Heredia (drums and percussion)… one of the reasons I came to Spain to record all those years ago was to find musicians who understood, in a natural way, the rhythmic impulses I feel when I write. The symbiosis of my vision and their ability to bring it to sonic life is a wonderful thing to experience. Plus, it’s fun.
I also had the pleasure of playing at a lovely private event in Fredericia, Denmark, and spent a week in Madrid doing some networking and sitting in with friends there. I look forward to spending more time in Madrid this year!
This year is already gearing up to be exciting, mostly because so many projects I've been working on are coming to fruition. Life as a musician feels risky at times; we spend so much of our lives working on our craft without knowing where it will lead. Still, the creative force is so strong, as is the will to refine, learn and progress as an artist, that we continue.
I've written dozens of songs in the past few years, and when I'm in that process of creation, which balances skill, experience, and intuition, it feels all-consuming. I follow the process until I get the song to that point where it can rest, then put it away in a drawer.
When some time has passed, I pull it out, see if I still think it's any good, and if it feels right, I start thinking about instrumentation and how I might arrange it, and who to call to lay down the tracks.
This month, I pulled out eight songs that I've written over the years and decided to bring them to life. I called on my long time musical colleagues Luis Robisco (gutiar) and Juan Soto (bass) to lay down the bed tracks with myself on piano and vocals, and from there I'll be calling on some special guests to play percussion and flugelhorn.
Here are a few moments of video, below from our time in Estudio 555 in Malaga, Spain. Songs will be released as singles throughout the year ahead on Salerosa Records.
Also, very excited this month to release the music video portion of my project 'Nancy Ruth in Morocco'. The song is called 'Just Can't Let It Go - Extended Mix in Morocco'. Documentary about the project in the works...