NANCY 'NOW' - MONTHLY DIARY
This was a busy month, starting with the return of my original band project ‘Sangria Jazz.’ We did a show to a packed house at La Nave, in Malaga, trying out some new material as well as leaning into some old favourites.
I also returned to Melilla this month to sing in the ‘Jornadas de Jazz’ festival, as well as an impromptu sit in with Javier Colina's band as well, which was a bonus.
My short film ‘Musical Adventures In Morocco’ was released on Youtube after making the festival circuit (with features in London, South Africa and the U.S.) - an 18 year labour of love, it's my first attempt at producing and directing a film. You can watch it here:
Gigs continued in Melilla early this month, and I look forward to returning with the same line-up for the Jazz Festival in February.
Another highlight this month was meeting Diego Amador (pianist/ vocalist/ composer) at the Clarence Jazz Club in Torremolinos. In a word, if that’s possible, it was magical. Rarely have I had such a reaction to a concert, and upon reflection, I’d put it this way:
My musical mind started trying to analyse what he was playing, until I quickly gave up (with a sigh of relief, letting myself being taken for the ride)… it’s like, he was playing things that didn’t make sense, but then,… made sense! I suppose he is that rare artist that is divinely tuned in, and seemingly immune to interference or commercial pressures. He was joined by his cousin Luis Amador on drums/ cajón, and Pablo Zapata on bass. We had a great conversation after the show, about the importance of original, live music, and the challenges of keeping it going.
I had a lot of fun singing with the ‘Christmas Jazz Quartet’ this month, especially since we did a long run of shows in Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa. It was the first time I’d been there, and I really enjoyed discovering the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, reminiscent of what you’d find in Barcelona (designed by Enrique Nieto, a student of Gaudí, in the early 20th century).
We did two outdoor shows a day, rather demanding vocally, but fortunately the sun was shining for the daytime shows, hence the big hat! It was a great way to spend the holidays.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how to best move forward with my original music. Meaning, how to finance it. Most people don't realise that touring costs money - ticket sales rarely cover the costs of travel and promotion, for starters. Back in the day, CD sales helped to offset costs, but those days are mostly gone.
I've been working on downsizing my act from a five piece to a trio, and have even played around with the idea of going solo. I want to get back out on the road, playing my own tunes.
A few years ago I wrote a show based on my influences... a more commercial venture that did help pay the bills. I performed as a guest entertainer on cruise ships and theatres. Maybe it's time to revisit that idea. Here's a little taste:
Sangria Jazz was back this month! My original project has been on standby since 2020, and it felt so good to get back to playing and singing my own tunes. I performed a show at the Huber Platform in Estepona, with Juan Soto on bass and Juan Heredia on percussion. The 2 Juans have been with me on this for 10 years now, and although we haven't done a show for a while, they remembered every shot, every nuance. It was fun.
I've otherwise been enjoying being on the judging jury for an annual copla singing competition in Malaga. Copla is a traditional Spanish song form full of drama (think Lola Flores, Rocio Jurado), and I was quite honoured to be invited as a judge. There is so much talent in this country... I'm really enjoying the performances of the contestants. The final will take place on December 12 in Malaga's incredible Teatro Cervantes.
I took a road trip to the North of Spain, something I've always wanted to do. I drove from Mijas to Vitoria-Gasteis, Bilbao and Santander, stopping in Aranjuez. As well as exploring the contrasts in climate, culture and gastronomy, I investigated the jazz scene, and in particular, connected with the passionate people behind the live scene and learned more about how they keep live jazz alive. I'll be writing more about that in an upcoming article. For now, a few photos:
Continuing with 'un poco de todo', a few gigs, classes and trying to keep the ball rolling with my original projects. I've been talking to colleagues about their opinions and experiences with Patreon. Most artists I know are facing this growing dilemma of how to continue to finance our recordings and tours, now that music is 'free', Spotify and Apple Music, etc. don't pay enough to buy a coffee unless you have millions of streams, and tours are getting more and more risky to book because of frequent travel complications and the increasing cost of transport. A lot of us feel like gerbils on treadmills, having to create free content to maintain fan engagement on social media. So... what is the solution? Would Patreon just be another spoke in the treadmill, since we have to be constantly promoting that as well? I don't know the answer, but I'm looking for creative ways to continue.
On a brighter note, I had a lot of fun doing an interview on Mijas TV, talking about the importance of creativity, original music, and how easy I find it to stay in the creative flow here in Andalusia... must be something in the air here.
It's hot this summer! This month was about dodging wildfires... I was actually evacuated for a day, but fortunately my home was safe. Didn't think I'd make the headlines for escaping a fire.
I've been doing some fun gigs with some fabulous saxophone players, though - here with Juanpe Berrocal in Mijas, Spain. Also joining me on sax this summer are Stefano Tomaselli and Edu Cabello.
Did some fun gigs 'just singing', which was great, with Kiriko and Higinio, on some flawlessly warm and fragrant Malaga nights.
I'm continuing with my Gig Advice series over on Instagram @nancyruthmusic, and working on a new series where I share some of my composition processes. And, jumping in the pool to cool off whenever possible!
It's good to be back playing live again! I've got a number of little gigs booked over the summer in the Marbella, Spain area... keeping it local for now, as I rebuild momentum. Let's hope things continue on the upswing as live music comes back.
I released a new music video for Llórame (Cry To Me), as it's featured in the film La Ley Del Embudo, now streaming on Amazon Prime and Flix Olé. It combines footage from one of my trips to the Moroccan Sahara Desert, and a live performance from a Moorish castle in Benalmádena, Spain.
Things are opening up on the Costa del Sol in Spain, and it looks like it's going to be a strong tourist season. That means lots of work for musicians, so I've been busy re-vamping my repertoire for local gigs.
Aside from playing, I've finished filming my 'Gig Advice' series: there will be more than 32 videos in all, sharing useful information I've learned (often the hard way), from the past 30+ years on the road.
Here's the Youtube channel for 'Gig Advice'
This month has me asking: who actually likes listening to singers or solo instrumentalists playing along with karaoke tracks while they’re having dinner?
Here on the Costa del Sol where I’m currently living, this strange phenomenon of karaoke performers has taken over the majority of local hotel, club and restaurant gigs, and I honestly don’t get it. Nothing against the performers - some of them are good singers/ players, and I imagine they’d probably rather be playing with real musicians. And OK, to be fair, I’ll put myself in the shoes of the bookers who have a limited budget. But here’s the thing: as a listener, I find this sound really offensive… karaoke tracks being streamed from Youtube or downloaded as MP3s playing on big speakers just don’t sound good. I mean, they sound downright horrible. Certainly not a nice accompaniment to a beautiful meal or a cocktail.
This is a local trend that has become the staple of the local scene. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. Does it continue because people actually like it, or is it because the bookers feel they don’t have options?
I wonder… what do you think?
With all the teaching I’ve been doing lately, I’ve realized that after singing for a living for 30+ years - everything from rock bands to mounting theatre productions on cruise ships, to singing in royal palaces and headlining international jazz festivals with my own music I’ve learned a lot. Of course my formal musical education has kept me healthy along the way, but from putting my bands together and touring around the world, a person learns a lot that can’t be taught at music school.
I’ve been thinking about how I can best be of service at this time, while tours are still being cancelled due to ongoing instability and travel restrictions throughout the world.
There is a lot of educational content online, but I wanted to do something different, especially since people are so busy these days, and don’t have time to watch a long Youtube video, only to have to watch for 7 minutes before finding the useful information.
So, I’m starting a series called ‘Tuesday Tips for Singers’, offering weekly tips and advice for singers and other musicians, in ONE MINUTE OR LESS.
I’ve always liked it when people get to the point, so this suits me ;)
I’ll be sharing little gems of useful information I've learned along the way - not so much focused on singing technique, although there will be some of that, but rather all that stuff NOBODY TEACHES YOU IN MUSIC SCHOOL.
Here’s the first one, a little tip for overcoming stage fright.
I’ve also offering a ‘one time free’ class/ consultation for anyone who is interesting in vocal or performance coaching.
Take care out there!
My little studio space is done! Now to get back into the swing of things: finishing the 8 songs I have in production, developing new material for the live show, and teaching.
I’ve moved! I’ve been wanting more space for such a long time. After 30 years of living on the road when I’m not in my stopover pad in Spain, I figured it was time to find a space where I could set up my little studio. I found a place in Mijas, Spain. My days are spent converting a 22 square meter storage locker into a music studio. Laying carpet, installing soundproofing, painting, and putting everything in place. I hope to be up and running within a month…
DECEMBER 2021/ YEAR RECAP
Due to the ongoing instability in the world, this is the first year of my adult life that I haven’t done a concert. Not a single gig. It’s such a disorienting feeling, since my entire life has revolved around the necessary discipline to perform every night… keeping the voice in shape, as well as daily piano and guitar practice, writing arrangements, and organizing rehearsals, logistics, promotion, etc. I’ve been observing my reactions to this change, and have come to a few conclusions:
- Like most musicians, I have an intrinsic need to play and perform - it’s my most natural form of communication. The inability to do so can lead to depression.
- The way I was managing my career up until 2019 was becoming unsustainable, meaning, my desire to ‘do it all’ was leading to burnout. I think a lot of musicians can relate to this, since changes in the music business have required us to be our own managers, agents, publicists, and tour managers, on top of our daily musical routines.
-That being said, I’m kind of amazed by what I actually did accomplish in the past few years, and now look back with some nostalgia on the amazing opportunity I had to tour Australia, be a headliner at Africa’s biggest jazz festival with my own music, and in the past 10 years, tour all over the world with my trio and as a soloist. It’s been an incredible ride.
- I need to re-evaluate how to re-vamp my career to keep a healthier balance - doing the music that most matters to me, while making a living. This is an ongoing process as I adjust to ongoing changes in travel and venue restrictions.
However, looking back on this year there have been some nice developments:
My little film, Musical Adventures in Morocco, continues to make the festival circuit, and was recently featured in South Africa’s Rustenburg Film Festival, where I had the opportunity to virtually connect with African documentary producers who are telling similar stories about how music unites. Here’s the trailer:
I licensed two songs to a Spanish film that came out this year: Llórame and Sigo Viviendo are featured in La Ley Del Embudo - here’s a little video of my performance for the producers of the film in Madrid, at the release party.
In other news, I am moving this month, to Mijas, Malaga, where I’ll have a teaching studio. I continue to teach online as well.
As far as getting back to performing, I hope that will be very soon. I have 2 new albums in the works - one is nearly recorded and is a collection of fun, feel good songs… the other explores more dramatic themes, both musically and lyrically, on my thoughts about what I see going on in the world. Both will be released to coincide with what I hope will the next tours… fingers crossed.
Thanks to all - take good care out there.
I’ve been thinking a lot this month about the state of the music business. I’ve seen gigs come back, and then entire tours get cancelled due to new restrictions.
Booking and organizing a tour takes months of work, and is usually a financial risk, so I haven’t booked any live shows yet. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get to tour with my whole band again.
For now I’m in ‘maintenance mode’… continuing to practice, write, record, and teach.
For the last two decades I’ve had this crazy idea that it would be fun to open my own music venue someday.
-I could put my 35 years in all aspects of the biz to use (artist management, hospitality, education, performance, logistics, live show production, etc…)
-Supporting live music is one of my missions in life
-I could play there once a month and wouldn’t have to travel so much
-The venue could double as a music school/ workshop space during the day, to help offset costs
-Food and drink management - that’s a big subject you have to stay on top of so as not to get robbed blind
-Taxes, rent, hard to get music licenses, operating costs and red tape (I live in Spain)
-It would tie me down
-Could be a risky, time-consuming venture that wouldn’t leave much time for playing music, which is my priority.
Still, I like the ‘big idea’ of it, if I could find the right partners and find the formula to make it work. So, I started thinking of where the best place to open such a venue would be, and decided to check out the North of Spain this month. I went to Asturias, a province known for its rainy, green, rustic, mountainous beauty. I loved it, as it reminded me a bit of where I grew up on Vancouver Island. That took me to Oviedo (population 220,000), where I checked out the music scene. Not much going on, as a lot of venues were still shut down from all the restrictions. But, I found some good deals on real estate, and rent. Everyone I spoke to at local hotels and restaurants said they thought it’d be a great idea to open an acoustic music venue, and that it would be a much needed addition to the city.
I came back to the Malaga area in the South, and was advised that such an idea would work better on the touristy, ex-pat saturated Costa del Sol, an area I’ve largely avoided. A music venue might work there, but then again most of that population is here for the sun, not for culture, if the music scene there is any indication: bars and hotels mainly hire soloists who play along with karaoke tracks from an ipad. Artistically depressing (for the musicians, too, I imagine). Maybe that leaves a gap for an opportunity, or maybe it’s an indication that it’s not the right scene.
So, all this got me thinking about the state of music education and awareness. There is hope, as learning about jazz seems to be catching on among young people here, and there are a couple of music schools that have modern music as a focus. It’s very new here, but I’m glad to see there is interest, if only to cultivate an appreciation for …. music. Live music played by musicians. What a concept…
There are quite a few classical music conservatories, but again, limited performance venues. As for flamenco, it’s sadly under-appreciated by the Spanish youth, even here in Andalucia. I’ve been volunteering on the board of my local flamenco peña, and they’re having a hard time attracting young people. There are incredible artists coming up, though - but they are generally limited to performing in competitions and the odd private tourist event.
I'm well aware that the challenge for venue owners is finding ways to finance the entertainment. A combination of ticket sales and even memberships are used in dedicated live music venues, and can be a feasible business model depending on the clientele demographic. Perhaps my frustration comes from seeing venues that have the budget, from the tourist sector (hotels and high end restaurants), choose to hire backing tracks - based acts.
That’s my summary of the local scene. On a more positive front, it seems like every little town has a music festival these days, and many of them are government funded. There are a few jazz clubs left in Spain that are trying to bounce back. Many towns have little theatres that try to offer a variety of music and theatre. So, there is hope…
En fin. I’m working on writing up proposals, both for educational programs, and for that venue, wherever it may end up being… investigations continue…
I love September because it reminds me of going back to school, and buying new pens and paper. Fresh starts.
That being said, I’m still in the process of recording an album I started 2 years ago - the guitar (Luis Robisco), bass (Juan Soto) and drum (Juan Heredia) tracks are all recorded, but I still need to write and record horn and cello arrangements. The vocals are coming along, but slowly, since I had some gear issues (see this video I uploaded about audio interfaces).
In a way the tech glitches have given me time to reevaluate my approach to singing… as I step back into the producer’s role more and more, I’m developing a more critical ear to my own voice. It’s pretty interesting! Anyway, this next album is full of fun, feel good tunes… you’ll hear my usual jazz and Latin influences, but you may also hear a 70s pop vibe… it’s just turning out that way, and I like it!
In the meantime, I’m producing tracks for others - a really fun song by Argentinean singer Veronica Dahl, as well as audio for a wellness website here in Malaga.
Aside from the ‘feel good’ album in the works (no title yet, it’ll come to me…), I have a second album written, which is more intense in nature, more flamenco influenced. I’ve started recording and will take my time with it.
There’s never enough time in the day…. but I’m feeling good.
My little documentary has been selected for another festival, this time in South Africa - the Rustenburg Film Festival will take place in September, and I wish I could attend in person but travel is still complicated. I’m honoured that they’ll be including my piece about how music unites cultures - out of 450 submissions from 16 countries, they will show 55 films, including my ‘Musical Adventures in Morocco’.
Turn the Lights Back Down continues to get airplay in the U.S., and I’m honoured to be on the front page of INK 19 Magazine this month, with this generous review.
At home in Malaga, Spain, I’ve finished writing out arrangements for many of my original tunes, and now I’m working on playing them, and putting a new line-up together for what I hope will be a busy 2022. I miss playing live and I’m gearing up to bring my music back to the stage.
I love Summer in my little Spanish town, because I can swim every day that the water is calm (most days). I’m lucky to have a view of the Mediterranean from my studio, and my siamese kittens enjoy it, too. Taranto is 10 months and Soleá is 41/2 months old.
I’ve been busy updating all the arrangements and charts for music I’ve written and still plan to perform or record, as well as a few standards I may include. It’s a lot of work (using both Sibelius and Muse Score), but it feels so good to have clean, clear charts. I hope travel conditions will be favourable enough to be back on the road in 2022. I’ll be ready.
‘La Ley Del Embudo’ goes into movie theatres on July 23 - it’s a Spanish film that features two of my songs on the soundtrack, Llórame and Sigo Viviendo. The film’s producer, Alfredo Carrasco, heard my music after we followed each other on Twitter many years ago, and I’m thrilled he liked it so much to use it in the film. 'Llórame' (Cry To Me) is used for a long scene featuring actress Bárbara Hermosillo, and 'Sigo Viviendo' (I’m Still Living) is used in its entirety for the credits.
I’m still teaching, as well as producing music for other artists and websites.
All in all, keeping very busy and grateful for good health and a beautiful environment to work in.
P.S. - if anyone would like the chart to Llórame, (here’s what the song sounds like on Spotify), just send me an email and let me know, and I’ll send you the PDF.
I spent most of this month writing new music, and I disconnected as much as I could from social media. I’m working on tunes that tell my story (why did I give up a perfectly good life in Canada to come to Spain? p.s. not for the sun…) and also reflect my jazz and flamenco influences. Writing music is such a satisfying process for me - a real synthesis of inspiration, intuition, technique, skill and experience.
I’ve also got 7 other tunes in production, songs I wrote years ago that I’m finally getting around to recording.
Aside from my own projects, I’m enjoying teaching voice students with a whole range of goals and musical interests; I love engaging with them, and being a part of their exploration and development.
My little documentary is still on the festival circuit - here’s the trailer!
Aside from teaching, I've been getting back into writing music again, and delving further into the study of jazz composition. It's good to get the creative juices flowing again.
My little documentary has been selected for a few festivals so far, and I'm learning more about the whole world of film. There are a lot of parallels to the music business, and I'm grateful to have the guidance of a representative from Madrid who has been guiding me through the process.
A foray into documentary film making has been quite an adventure. So far my little film 'Musical Adventures in Morocco' has been selected for a couple of festivals and I'm learning as I go. It started as a passion project - just a story I wanted to tell, from the heart. Turns out the message 'music unites' is resonating with people and I couldn't be more pleased. Just finished the version with Spanish subtitles, with dialogue in Spanish, English and Arabic - it's all coming together. Will release the trailer soon.
I’ve been focusing on teaching this month, as well as producing music for other artists. I love the whole act of creation - developing a structure from an idea, and then putting the pieces together: evaluating harmonic options, writing arrangements, planning instrumentation, hiring the players, and managing the recording sessions. After years of doing this for myself, I’m finding it quite gratifying to be able to offer this experience to emerging artists.
I’m also back in the studio this month, working on a series of songs I started recording last year - a few of them are fun tunes, as well as a couple of more complex instrumentals. I haven’t decided on a release plan yet but it’s great to be recording again.
I’ve got my studio all set up - the Mediterranean breeze keeps the inspiration flowing.
Not sure if I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel, or if it’s just that I’ve adapted to working from home, but February was actually quite busy. I started teaching singing online via Zoom, and have found ways to make the lessons productive, as well as getting some of the tech glitches solved.
I started exploring opportunities for a documentary I wrote and produced, and started working with a film agent in Madrid who will help me with festival submissions. The documentary explores the theme of how music unites cultures - it was filmed over several years of traveling throughout Morocco.
My little siamese cat turned five months old and is losing his fangs as new ones grow in… kind of like having a teething baby around the house. He keeps me entertained and on my feet, as I have to watch he doesn’t eat all my cables. He loves hanging out with me in the studio!
I did this lovely interview for a local TV station in Canada, on Phil Rossner’s show ‘In Our Midst’. He did such a nice job of putting the show together, as it features some of my past work.
We talked about mounting projects overseas, and what it means to be a Canadian abroad. I hope you enjoy it.
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.
Tinnitist - feature and interview of Turn the Lights Back Down
Jazz Corner Review of Breathing In Indigo
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.
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):
‘Singer-Songwriter Nancy Ruth Offers Her Well-Rounded, Cosmopolitan Take on Our Current Global Health Crisis.'
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...