Jonathan Frahm:Your new album, Little Secret, was released in Canada back in April, but has just seen release in America earlier this month. It is described as a homage to jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James, while also incorporating your own individual pop sound. With your previous album, Nikki, you basically founded your own genre, your own niche in the industry, with what you call jazz pop. Is it out of bounds to classify this upcoming album under the same genre? In what ways does its sound differ from your last album, and in what ways is it, in a sense, remaining the same?
Nikki Yanofsky:With Nikki, you're right, I was kind-of founding my own genre with jazz pop. On the other hand, though, you also had a hefty mixture of jazz covers and then jazz pop originals. In that sense, Nikki was like the parent album of Little Secret. The new one is more like the fully-realized jazz pop baby that wouldn't have been possible without Nikki, the parent, having existed. Does that make sense? [laughs] There were so many jazz and pop elements involved in Nikki that I'd call it accessible jazz, and Little Secret is what is totally jazz pop.
JF:Going into the studio to record Little Secret, how was the recording process different for you this time around as opposed to when you stepped into the studio to record for the very first time?
NY:Well, you change a lot as a person from when you're 12-years-old compared to when you're 20. [laughs] A couple of things that were definitely different artistically between Little Secret and Nikki were the songwriting and production processes; I feel like I had a lot more of a say in developing the latest album, this time around, from that perspective. Other than that, the same goal has always been in-line, and that is to achieve what you feel reflects you yourself as a person during the time of recording. It's a good continuance of that - the next big step from off of the last album.
JF:Tony Bennett has gone on the record to call you the greatest young singer he's heard since Ms. Judy Garland, and Quincy Jones has proclaimed that you're "from heaven" and that you give him hope for today's music industry. Of course, you've been working closely with Quincy since 2013. How do you feel about the praise from such tremendous heroes of the world of jazz music so early into your career?
NY:It is extremely flattering and humbling to receive praise from anyone. Quincy says you have to have a grace concerning success in the industry, so you don't let it get to your head. If people like Tony Bennett and Quincy think so highly of me, then my job is to continue getting better creatively and not thinking of making other people happy when recording my new music. You need to make yourself happy with what you're making first, and I think that that would continue to make them proud above anything.
JF:And, of course, how has it been working directly with Quincy Jones officially for a little over a year now? In what ways would you acknowledge Quincy's involvement in your career has bolstered your artistry? As in, what have you learned from Quincy since starting to work with him?
NY:Just being around Quincy, you learn a lot. What I've learned the most from Quincy, I've learned from just being near him, hearing his own stories about his career, and watching him in action. Watching him while he's at work is a beautiful thing. He never discounts the opinion of anyone, and while he's confident about his abilities, he never says that he has stopped learning. Quincy is so open-minded and graceful, and I think that that is why he has had a career that is as successful as it has been for him.
JF:Speaking of Tony Bennett, I'm sure you've heard of the duets album that he'd recently released with Lady Gaga earlier this year.
JF:He's also worked with K.D. Lang on the 2002 duets album What A Wonderful World. So, the question is, if you had a similar opportunity to duet with Tony in a similar fashion, would you?
NY:Of course! Tony is one of the jazz greats. He's one of the great crooners. I would love to work with him.
JF:At what age were you exposed to jazz music, specifically? Do you remember the first song you'd listened to that really inspired you to create music of your own?
NY:I do! I was sitting in the exact spot I am now, actually, because my landline that I'm talking to you on is in the kitchen, and I was in this seat on my computer when I'd first discovered jazz. [laughs] I looked up jazz on iTunes and freaked out when I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing "Airmail Special" for the first time. It was just four straight minutes of pure scatting; I wanted to know how to do that! Luckily, my mom had some old records and we began listening to those - especially Ella & Louis - and I still listen that a lot and keep it close to me. I was already doing a lot of Motown, R&B, and pop performances around town here in Montreal for local charities. At one of the charity events, the guy that had founded the local jazz festival had invited me at 12-years-old to open his show, and I thought that, even though he said I didn't have to perform jazz, that I should since it was a jazz show. That's how I discovered jazz and had gotten into singing jazz music.
JF:Ultimately, what do you weigh as some of your greatest accomplishments not just as an artist, but as a person, since your career started? Furthermore, where do you hope your career will take you, in say, the next ten years?
NY:I think most of my accomplishments that I've had as a singer, I'd also call personal accomplishments. I've been singing for as long as I can remember, and music has always been such a huge part of my life. What I would definitely weigh as one of my greatest accomplishments was performing with Stevie Wonder. I remember being asked during our rehearsals how they were going, and I would just cry because they were going so well! [laughs] He was so sweet when I was so nervous, and he made me feel comfortable on stage with him. Getting to work with Quincy, of course, has been huge for me as well, and Rod Temperton has basically been a mentor and best friend to me for the past four years, especially when it has come to developing my songwriting lately. As for the next decade? I'm going to chase what feels right. As my dad always says, I'm going to try not to "put the carriage before the horse" when writing and choosing songs to go on a record. If more songs become big hits, then so be it, but I think that people can sense whether you're being genuine or not and that plays a big part in whether they will listen to your music or buy your album. So, wherever I am ten years, I just want to be chasing what feels right.
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