Singer/songwriter, pianist and animal activist Nicole Zuraitis will celebrate the release of her self-produced album Pariah Anthem on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 which is the follow up album to Nicole Zuraitis; Spread the Word, Pariah Anthem is a collection of 10 original, unique and exciting compositions that find Zuraitis pushing the envelope through her unparalleled vocals, dynamic story-telling, lush composed melodies and polyrhythmic world grooves.
The album features a global cast of characters; Israeli drummer Dan Pugach and California native Scott Colberg on bass alongside some of New York City's most sought after young musicians; Mexican-Israeli guitarist Ilan Bar Lavi, trumpet player Billy Buss, Julian Shore on Rhodes and organ, and internationally acclaimed Indian Carnatic singer Nandini Srikar plus two duo tracks with acclaimed pianist, Victor Gould.
Pariah Anthem focuses on personal stories and activism from across the globe represented by Zuraitis' wide ranging compositions influenced by jazz, r&b, pop, folk and Indian music. The music draws from personal tribulations and aspirations and Zuraitis' experiences fighting animal abuse. She will also continue her unrelenting dedication to helping homeless animals by donating all proceeds of her song "the Bridge" to animal rescue groups she has worked closely with for years.
Her concept of the word "Pariah" is closely connected to her experience teaching music in India and the lasting impression it left on her as both a composer and person. Having started her career in music as an opera singer, Nicole has always found her own unique way of making music and forging her career to the beat of her own drum. In the process of starting a non-profit organization to kick off a CD release tour in conjunction with select shelters in each state, Nicole shares her passion for music and animals across America while raising money for pets in need. "I've always rooted for the underdog (no pun intended)," says Zuraitis, "and this album is my own dedication to everyone and everything that has ever been misunderstood or represented. It's my opportunity to speak for those who can't."
No stranger to the New York music scene, in 2008 Zuraitis released her first CD of classic love songs "Nicole Zuraitis; Spread the Word", which featured Luques and Zaccai Curtis and Winard Harper. Zuraitis was a finalist in the 2013 Songdoor International Songwriting Contest, as well as a selected competitor for the 2013 New York City WNYC Battle of the Boroughs and was featured in a video interview by Columbia News Tonight as "New Yorker of the Week" for her work with music and shelter animals. Zuraitis has shared the stage with Jane Monheit, Rachel Z, Prasanna, Panagiotis Andreau, Lauren Sevian, Michael Kaanan, Don Braden, Dave Stryker, Charli Persip, Winard Harper, Victor Gould and Chris Brubeck and is an educator and voice teacher who joined the faculty of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in Chennai, India in the Spring of 2012, as well as a longstanding vocal faculty member at Litchfield Jazz Camp. Zuraitis has appeared at The Zinc Bar, Iridium, Rockwood Music Hall, The Sugar Bar and has held residencies at Toshi's Living Room and Penthouse, The Cupping Room, The Waldorf Astoria, The Astor Room, the Friars Club and world renowned Litchfield Jazz Festival, sharing the stage with the extraordinary Jane Monheit ("Jane Monheit and the Ladies of Jazz" in Connecticut in April 2012).
Question: How would you describe Pariah Anthem?
Nicole Zuraitis: Pariah anthem is a collection of 10 songs I've written over the past 5 years. They are memoirs of my travels, experiences of unrequited love, political unrest, homages to the planet, soaring heights in my career and deep lows in my own self-worth and confusion as an independent artist. It documents my love for animals with two songs dedicated to their plight, including one song that donates $1 from each download to dog rescue and homeless animals in need, particularly Pitbulls. Pariah Anthem is a voice for the underdog, no pun intended.
Question: Did you have any pre-conceived ideas about the music industry?
Nicole Zuraitis: I entered the industry in a strange way: through the doors of the opera world! In my young college age I found the classical realm to be a bit confining and frustrating and so I turned to the total opposite spectrum, jazz! What I found out from either genre is that the pop music industry is turning into 90% aesthetic, 10% talent. But the two genres I fell in love with (opera and jazz) are impossible to "fake" or "auto tune". If you have an extraordinary ability in the arts, you will work. This is refreshing.
Question: Do you write your own songs? What's your inspiration?
Nicole Zuraitis: I wrote all the music on my current album "pariah anthem". I now consider myself primarily a singer/songwriter as much as a jazz vocalist/pop pianist. I pull inspiration from personal experience and it's safe to say that I'm well-travelled and have loved and lost openly and often. Recently my songs have taken a lighter turn, but I remain rooted as an activist and tend to write music based on the trials and tribulations of the voiceless or those that need a little momentum.
Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
Nicole Zuraitis: Ah! Who don't I listen to is an easier question! My great current inspirations are Sara Barrellis and Brotherly, but I am a diehard Joni Mitchell and Carol King fan. You also won't catch me without a Led Zepplin, Michael Jackson or Ella Fitzgerald album. Living in New York City is wonderful because I have the opportunity to see live music every night of the week. Some of my dearest friends are some of the best musicians I know and I love listening and being inspired by them.
Question: What's next? Tour/Album/Single?
Nicole Zuraitis: I am now booking a CD release tour and trying to get an international booking agent so I can come overseas! My group tours as a trio with myself singing/playing piano, Scott Colberg or bass and Dan Pugach on drums. We are ready to take on America and then go international with this music. I am also considering recording a new single that is not entirely jazz based like my record. I'd love to play keyboards or sing backup for a major recording artist if I could find the time between leading 4 bands myself!
Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel?
Nicole Zuraitis: I am a firm believer that if you are given a gift, then you must utilize it. There have been moments when I am coming home from a gig at 3am and I say to myself "this is exhausting, how can I do this forever?" But then I remember the joy of bringing a cathartic experience to the audience, the happiness of making my own schedule and being my own boss, and the countless opportunities to use my talents for the greater good. With this, I keep trudging along. I've been very fortunate to support myself full time as a musician. Being a multi-instrumentalist helps immensely.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Nicole Zuraitis: Live! I struggle with recording because I am missing a key element: adrenaline! I also love performing live because I believe the audience and the musicians become one in the same during a concert. People are drawn to music because it brings them to another dimension of themselves and what is better than personally being the catalyst for such an experience? I miss this while recording alone in a studio. I can safely say that I sound better live.
Question: What/who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Nicole Zuraitis: I used to sing along to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston religiously in my bedroom. However, when September 11th happened, I watched the tribute concert from my living room. I remember crying and being so moved by all the performers, particularly U2. It was then I realised I wanted to heal people with music as well.
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
Nicole Zuraitis: I titled my album "pariah anthem" because it doubly represents my feeling of constantly being on the outside of the industry combined with my love for activism and voicing for the voiceless (ie dogs, politics etc). Since I came into the Jazz world through the side door instead of the front, I've felt like I could never quite figure out where in the music industry I fit in. Too jazzy for pop, too pop for jazz. And what on earth do I do with those classical chops? Only in recent months have a come to realize that good music is good music. Audiences respond to authentic and honest performance, and I believe this is helping me find my way and plant roots.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Nicole Zuraitis: Being a freelancer has its pros and cons. Some days are so packed with rehearsals, traveling, teaching and gigs that you can't imagine having to do it again the next day! But some days are completely empty and you sit alone in your apartment praying for inspiration, desperately sipping coffee and banging your head against the piano. I do love having a different schedule every day and being able to travel while doing what I love.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Nicole Zuraitis: I love being able to make people take a journey with me and leave their lives for a while. I'm thankful for my classical technique and ability to play the piano because it gives me opportunities to play all types of music with all types of people. I've meet incredible people and heard incredible stories all thanks to art.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Nicole Zuraitis: Stevie Wonder or Billy Joel. I am still amazed every time I hear their music that one personal wrote so many unbelievably awesome hits!! They write the songs that the whole world sings. What could be better than that?
Question: Do you have a website fans can visit?
Nicole Zuraitis: My primary website is www.NicoleZuraitis.com. I also have a frequently updated Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nicolezuraitismusic I'd be honoured if you followed me there or on twitter/Instagram.
Question: Can you tell us 5 things required for a happy healthy & enjoyable life?
Nicole Zuraitis: 1. Coffee/green tea
2. The outdoors/ the ocean
3. Intelligent fiscal management
4. Compassion for animals and people alike
5. A safe and steady place to call home (if you have a wonderful boyfriend and a chubby pitbull, that's an added bonus!)
Question: What message would you like your music to say to your fans?
Nicole Zuraitis: Thank you for spending your hard earned money on music and live performance. In a digital world it's so wonderful to see people still engaging in life's simple pleasures: art, music, literature. We, musicians, would not have a career if it were not for our supportive audiences. Thanks for the love, and feel free to reach out and send me a message with any questions.
Interview by Brooke Hunter