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Take Five with Mercedes Nicole

Mercedes Nicole By

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Your sound and approach to music.
There's something mystical that happens when I sing songs from the '30s and '40s. The sensation of sound vibrating and bouncing around in my mouth truly amazes me. Kia Strauss, Buddy Guy, Kenny Neal and a few more have recorded the song "I Go By Feel," and that's my approach to singing. What really ignited my desire to sing was sitting at the last concert Nancy Wilson did at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle in October 2010, and drinking in her amazing storytelling and vocal dynamics. Here I witnessed a woman I had only stared at as a child on my father's album covers, surpassing my wildest imaginations in pose, beauty, grace and delivery. She was so intimately explosive. Like Nancy, I wanted to sing the stories of my life, stories of love, won and lost, and to have fun doing so.

Your teaching approach
I begin asking them what the song means to them. Why they feel compelled to sing the song? Where in the storyline do they connect, and to start from there. In fact, I ask them to never leave that place...that place of connection. It will guide them safely past fear, and embarrassment, and someone will receive their offering with gratitude.

Your dream band
If Rachelle Ferrell was a vocal coach and accompanist I would spend all I had to tour with her. Of the actual band members, I'd love to work with Cyrus Chestnut Trio really, that would be a blast! It would be a dream to record with Wynton Marsalis. Our musical landscape here in Seattle is rich with amazing talent, of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, it's just a joy to work with our local artists, so I really have a lot to choose from and really couldn't go wrong, but my dream would be to tour with the Cyrus Chestnut Trio, if only for a season.

Road story: Your best or worst experience
Four months ago I went to New York for the first time to gig. Having never really stayed in New York, the subway experience was a bit of culture shock. Using the infamous Metro Card was a little challenging during rush hour traffic. My particular card wouldn't open the turn gate, so I repeated put it in and ended up using all the money on the card without ever entering the subway! It was frustrating because you need to hit the turn gate a certain way in order for it to turn and let you in. I had an oversized suitcase with me, filled with charts, clothing, and toiletries, and a coat in case the weather turned cool, so I often found myself staring up at mountain of cement steps from three levels down trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get my suitcase and myself up to street level. After the 2nd or 3rd time of feeling helplessly exhausted, a complete stranger would grab my suitcase and carry it all the way to the top, as I struggled to keep up, so i could tell them thank you. The kindness of strangers in a big city like New York blew me away. The gig went well, it was at a little spot on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan called Piano's, almost hidden away, but the stage, lighting, and tech's were awesome!

Favorite venue
My favorite international stage is Dimitriou's Jazz Alley. The venue holds almost 300 people and every seat is good. It's rather plush, beautiful decor, and the sound will knock your socks off. State of the art equipment, great wait staff, just ideal for creating the perfect ambience to set the mood for great music, great food, and great people!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My favorite recording on my discography is "People are Talking" because the music makes you feel warm, arresting, evokes smiles from everyone who hears it. The pianist is Darin Clendenin, Clipper Anderson (bass), Alexey Nikolaev (saxophone), and D'Vonne Lewis (drums). My second favorite recording, on that same project is "I Loves You Porgy" because it's raw with emotion. It's the Nina Simone arrangement, and deeply moving. On Porgy is my pianist, Gregory Smith, Clipper Anderson, and Jamael Nance (drums).

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Acceptance that life is a journey, and everyone's journey should be respected. I 'm authentic. I don't strive for technical perfection, I strive for emotional connection. People walk up to me during intermission, and after my shows and say things like, "Wow, you really understand what I'm going through, or went through" "You voice takes me places I haven't thought about or been in a long time." One gentleman told his wife, I love coming to Mercede's concerts...her music makes me feel good!"

Did you know...
I played drums in 10th and 11th grade, and wanted to be a drummer, but my parents didn't want me hanging around all those boys, so they made me quit. I've never dated a drummer, but they certainly grab my attention!

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