By Jenifer Ruano for Tom Tom Magazine | Photos: Callie Giovanna
We featured dynamo Nikki G in our Drum Corp issue # 11 back in fall 2012. Since then Nikki has released a solo album and has kept the fires of creativity burning through her artistry and sheer passion for music. She’s a true testament of boldly reaching for your dreams and to follow the beat of your own heart.
Hi Nikki, it’s really nice to catch up with you! TTM is excited to hear that you just released your first solo album, Nikki-G heART! Tell us how this project came to life. Nikki: The project heART came to life when I found myself at a crossroads between the realization of having spent over two decades creating others art/music and having nothing of my own to identify with, in other words my own music, my “heART.” I decided to take a leap of faith and journey into the unknown, after over twenty-six years of being a musician I’d only dabbled in composing so this was going to be quite the adventure. I have always been intrigued by the link between story and music, which was the leading force behind the instrumental concept throughout the album. The self titled debut album, Nikki G-heART, features a variety of musical illustrations, which allows the essence of the art to truly flow beyond all barriers. I sought out to have the music push limits and become an instrument in itself to make the integral use of the mind come to life.
I loved reading about what your creative process was like while writing and recording this album, which evolved over time. It’s like a labor of love for you. How was the experience for you? The experience was challenging but also very rewarding. When I began the project I wanted everything surrounding the music to have meaning in order to create an unparalleled energy. Every step was met with extra care, even the selection of producers, engineers and instrumentalists were met with meaning. For example, the roster consisted of musicians who had helped pave my path towards becoming a professional musician, some of which were my family members. I even took it a step further and gave opportunities to up and coming artists through my compositions that were written for a wide variety of instruments along with granting charitable wishes of each musician, producer, and engineer involved. The plan was to provide an environment where musicians could artistically thrive without boundaries while helping the world around them by giving to a charity in which the artist believes. Not only did the music come to life but also my DIY project involved funding the album and giving back to the world, as a small token of gratitude. I wanted the “labor of love” to reach inside the studio and out. To my amazement, we not only created art but we were able to feed the homeless, plant trees, and much more.
Tell us about the various instruments you used for this album. I should start this off by stating, “The world is my playground.” I have no boundaries as far as what I consider an instrument. Truth be told the album consists of everything from a dryer unit to a 1924 Wurlitzer pipe organ. This was a coming of age, a time that I set out to discover my artistic self so I made sure I didn’t set any boundaries, therefore the variety of instruments was vast. Some tracks are as simplistic as a piano and violin and others carry the excitement of a Vaudeville feel where the instruments lead up to an entire marching band ironically marching through the bridge as the grand piano, tack piano, accordion, upright bass, trombones, bass clarinet, and clarinet play on. The world’s musical playground, waiting to be heard.
In Tom Tom Magazine’s issue #11 we talked about your work with Street Drum Corps. How are things going with the group? I am thankful to have worked as a professional musician for quite some time. Being a freelance/independent artist has given me the opportunity to work with many different bands ranging from performing with musical directors of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Spike Jones, etc. to Industrial Street Drumming percussion ensembles such as, Street Drum Corps. This year, 2014, marked the tenth anniversary of Street Drum Corps and I have had the pleasure of working with them for the past eight years performing on tours, college residencies, television appearances, theme park residencies and much more. I am currently the only female representing Street Drum Corps and it’s an ongoing adventure to which I feel honored to be a part of such an amazing family full of drummers/musical brothers.
As artists, maintaining creative integrity is vitally important. How do you manage to do that through your work? Why is art so important to you? Sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong generation, but then I reflect and remember that I was very fortunate to have been mentored by what most consider the “old skool” musicians or puritans of sorts. I was taught, shown, and woodshedded towards playing for the music, to create a story and fulfill my musical responsibility of making people feel, think and thrive. Originality is the key and the more knowledge you have, the more you’ll have to give. In my debut, heART, I was able to create with no holds barred and truly allow anything and everything to come to the musical surface. I hold a belief that music has the largest fatality rate and every note that plays quickly dies; so every single note was carefully crafted, layered, and harmonized to musically illustrate the emotion behind the stories of my life. Music is a language that can be used for the betterment of everything around us, so I speak wisely maintaining my integrity and responsibility as an artist to maintain the integral part of the cohesion within us all, the music.