Good evening everyone, I’m Dr. Bob, and welcome back for the second episode of The Fireside Interviews with Nicole Noel and Chance Meyer where each week I’ll be bringing you thought provoking answers to insightful questions about these two talented and energetic artists, in anticipation of their upcoming Music Land concert at Your Big Picture Cafe on Friday, February 7th, 2014 (8pm to 11pm, free admission). For further information about this much anticipated and exciting event, please visit:
Also, to read the first episode in this series go to:
But for now, pour yourself another cup of tea, pull your chair back up close to the fire, then sit back and enjoy The Fireside Interviews with Nicole Noel and Chance Meyer – Part 2 of 4.
Which famous musicians do you admire and why? What have you learned from their music?
Nicole: Singers with unusual voices interest me the most. When I was learning to sing jazz, I listened to a lot of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. Nina pushes too hard sometimes, sings off-key, even makes her voice sound ugly, if that’s what she needs to do to be true to the story, and to the music. What all those singers have in common, despite their disparate styles, is that they are great interpreters. Each of them can take a song that everyone knows and turn it into something fresh and new and exciting. That’s one of the reasons I love old time music. These songs have been around for over a hundred years, and that’s because they express something timeless about the human condition. What’s interesting to me is to take those themes and ideas and try to make them into something new and exciting. That’s why Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’ songwriting is so brilliant. They’re masters of that. Chance and I saw them play in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was like a master class in what two voices can do together if they are well-paired and singing lines that are developed with a hyper-sensitive attention to each musical decision.
Who was your first music teacher?
Nicole: My first music teacher was my flute teacher when I was a kid, and then my dad taught me to sing jazz. But when it comes to the music that we’re playing now, I’d have to say Chance. I never knew anything about this music until I met him. But when Chance introduced me to Gillian Welch and Ryan Adams and John Prine and Steve Earle, I felt like I had found something I didn’t even know I was missing. Americana—contemporary old time—songs are all about storytelling, which resonates with me, both as a musician and a former actor. So I definitely have Chance to thank for opening up this world to me. He’s also teaching me to play guitar, which takes some patience since I’ve never played a stringed instrument before, except for an ill-advised and short-lived dalliance with the violin.
What are your fondest musical memories?
Chance: The best are recent, really. Bringing the shell of a new song to Nic and pouring some drinks and just working that song for awhile. It’s like holding it up to a light and turning it around and making little changes. Really digging into and discussing the consequences of musical decisions, like should the low harmony turn up here or just hold that note while the other moves around a little with more attention on it. Should I sing that more in my nose to get a sharper pierce from that line at the beginning of the chorus. Stuff like that. Testing out different things and seeing how it makes us feel. And eventually something happens and there’s this magic little moment where we’re both like, yes, that’s what needs to happen there.
We recently worked up a song about Nic’s dad, who made a living playing jazz until he died. He was a complicated man, just tormented but also very dear, and we worked pieces of “Someone to Watch Over Me” into the chorus, since that’s the sort of music he used to play. But, of course, it’s a sad story, so when we get to the end of that beautiful Gershwin melody for the line “someone to watch . . . over me,” where the “me” turns up hopefully, we decided instead to turn that “me” down into a minor. I cross Nic’s vocal to sing a really sinister sounding nine above her while her voice descends a little down a minor scale. Me… down, down, down. And the effect is to go from happily wistful with Gershwin, to dark and strange and tragic, back to our story about Nic’s dad, just with this one musical decision. And the first time we did it we were all teary and like,yep, that’s the one.
Were you influenced by old records or tapes? Which ones?
Chance: Well other than that collection of Dylan’s early albums that I mentioned before totally blew my mind and got me playing music, Skip James’ Paramount recordings from 1931 come to mind. I think that first line of Devil Got My Woman, when his voice sort of drifts in on this way high note with the over-driven mike signal and the crackling from the, I guess it was shellac, record, that still has to be one of the greatest moments in studio recording. It’s just so haunting and dreamlike and the guy is singing in this really intimate style at a time when most guys were just trying to make some big musical sound on those old plywood Stellas and whatever else they were playing, just banging out the blues. It got me thinking about the power of nuance and subtlety and intimacy and honesty in songwriting and performing. That stuff transcends an almost hundred-year time gap between James and a modern listener to make that song still relatable and personal. So that album helped me realize there is some powerful stuff at play here, in writing music, and got me thinking about how to figure out a way in there.
One again, that concludes this evenings presentation of The Fireside Interviews with Nicole Noel and Chance Meyer, and we thank you for spending this time together. We hope you enjoyed tonight’s show and that you will join us again next week for The Fireside Interviews with Nicole Noel and Chance Meyer – Part 3 of 4.