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  January 2009
"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Nikki Yanofsky
Interview by Baldwin "Smitty" Smith

Nikki YanofskyJazz Monthly:   I am just totally excited when there’s new music and a great new artist on the scene, and I am honored to have her as my special guest here at Jazz Monthly.Com for the very first time.  She has an incredible voice, a dynamic style.  She has a great record that is called Ella: of Thee I Swing.  You must check out this artist because when I talk about musical stamina, this just epitomizes what she has accomplished. I see so many wonderful things happening for her in the future.  Please welcome the young lady with the Blu-Ray voice, the fabulous Ms. Nikki Yanofsky.  Nikki, how are you, my friend?

Nikki Yanofsky (NY):  I’m very good.  How are you

Jazz Monthly:  Wonderful.  Well, I must say that when I heard your record, I was completely blown away, but then you have a DVD along with it and the DVD just blew me away.  That was it.  I was over the top by then, and might add that the quality of the DVD is astonishingly good.

NY:  Thank you so much.

Jazz Monthly: When I listen to you talk and when I listen to the music, I continue to wonder:  how did you develop such a passion for music?  At what point did you discover this great passion that you have for music? I mean you’re singing ELLA!

NY:  I think it was born inside of me, you know what I mean?  It was just always there.  I always had a passion and it was always just in me waiting to come out and I guess I was always listening to music.  When I was two years old I was listening to the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and I could already appreciate that sort of music at a young age and I just started singing along, and before you knew it, I guess, here I am and I’m living the dream. It’s sort of a cliché, but it’s really exactly what I want to be doing and I’m really fortunate enough to be doing it.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes, well, you truly are living the dream.  And I must say that your parents certainly had a lot to do with that.  I’m sure they let you listen to some fantastic music as well.

NY:  Yes, my parents have been very supportive.  So has my entire family, as a matter of fact.  I actually have two older brothers and they’re the ones that introduced me to the Beatles.  I’m the youngest of my family.  I have a 20-year-old brother and an 18-year-old brother, so after five years of listening to nursery rhymes, I guess they sort of wanted to see if we could actually appreciate some older music, and so that’s how I got involved with music to begin with. Also, my dad’s also a piano player, well, just as a hobby he plays the piano, and my mom has a pretty voice.  I was just always around music. I remember like when I was a little younger, my friends would say “Oh yeah, I want to be a singer” and I’d say “Yeah, I want to be a singer too” and then the next week they’d say “I want to be an actress” and I’d continue to say “I want to be a singer.”

Jazz Monthly:  So you knew very early on what you wanted to do.

NY:  Exactly.

Jazz Monthly:  So now I’ve got to ask you, and I must let everyone know you’re 14 years old.

NY:  Yes, I am.  Gonna be 15 in February.

Jazz Monthly:  Very cool.  Do you remember your first performance?

NY:  I remember.  Well, actually, if you count this as a performance, I don’t know if this would count, but me and my cousins, we always have dinner on Sunday nights because we like to see each other at least once a week, so when we were really small, when we were around six years old or maybe even younger, we used to always go downstairs after dinner and prepare talent shows for our parents to watch and I would always sing in the talent shows.  That was always my thing.  And then I guess my first real big show was in 2006 for the Montreal Jazz Festival.  It was in front of 125,000 people and so I opened up for the Neville Brothers and I also closed for them as well, and at that time, I was the youngest person in history to ever perform at the jazz festival and I only found that out after I’d performed, so I was like “Oh my Gosh, that’s so cool.”

Jazz Monthly:  Well, it is cool.  In fact, on the DVD there is some footage there of your performance that is just stunning.  I mean, it’s amazing.

NY:  Thank you.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes, and when I analyzed what you were doing, your style, your phrasings, it was as though you were 30 years old and you had been doing this for years.

NY:  Thanks.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes indeed.  And I noticed that you can get into character, you completely feel every song and it’s a different feeling, but you capture that and incorporate your own style into that, which I think is just remarkable for a 14-year-old.

NY:  Thank you.  That means a lot because I’m actually working on that.  Because I’m only 14, certain songs’ theme is a little bit old for me.  You know, let’s say a love song.  It’s not like I’ve ever been in love before.  You know, I’m 14 years old.  I have time for that later, but when I’m on stage and I’m singing a song like, say, “You’ve Changed,” and it’s all about loving someone and breaking up and you once loved someone and then all of a sudden now they’ve changed and you want to break it off.  I can’t really relate to that, but I try to find a way to connect to it and the common thread between all the songs, how I connect to them, is always through the melody because the melody is the thing that gets to me originally…. that’s the reason why I’m interested in singing a song, a particular song, and so that’s the reason why I can get into those love songs because the melodies are all so really beautiful, and so that’s something I’m really working on, actually. I just try to get inspired by the melody and I guess that’s how I get into character of those things.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes, and I think that when you have the level of passion that you have for music, it’s a little easier to do or you understand the path to get there, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.  Your dad mentioned something about enjoying the process.

NY:  Yeah, I love it. I love every second of it.  There’s nothing that I would want to take away, you know?

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, and I think that’s a beautiful thing and you have really nailed that, I think, because that’s not something you see every day, not even in adult artists, so you have really captured that and I think you’ve done it in a most unique way and it’s your style. Because when I watch you feeling the rhythm of every instrument and the entire song and recognizing the chords, it’s a beautiful thing to watch because you’re in that moment and you’re communicating that to your audience, and that’s not always an easy thing to do, but you make it look so easy.

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