- Smooth Jazz Network feature story
"DQ" WITH SHARON RAE NORTH
This is the first in a series of conversations with our elite group of 'smooth' artists we're calling "DQ with...".
I recently got together with singer Sharon Rae North and asked a DOZEN QUESTIONS "DQ" and we threw in #13 just because.
1. Tell me about your first ever live singing performance. The first one I remember was when I was probably in my teens and my cousin asked me to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” a cappella during a Black History Month event in my hometown, Youngstown, Ohio. I recall standing on-stage at a lectern and being really nervous. Everyone was standing…and looking at me. Then they joined in and started singing. It actually turned out very well. 2. When did you know you wanted to sing professionally and how did it change your life. I’ve known since I was a little girl, probably four years old. I used to sit by my parents’ record player and listen to vocalists such as Nancy Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Little Anthony and so many others. I would sing the songs right along with them, close my eyes and envision the audience listening and applauding for me. The change was a long time coming because my dad scared me. When I was about 16 and told him I planned to sing when I finished high school he said, “Sharon, singers are a dime a dozen. They’re on every street corner. Don’t be thinking about being a singer…better go to college.” Even though I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, I still always just wanted to sing. So, little by little I began getting myself out there. But, it was stop and start for a long time, until I finally just decided to go for it. I had to stop holding back and let the singer become. 3. Favorite current TV show? This one is difficult to answer. It’s a four-way tie: The Haves and the Have Nots, If Loving You is Wrong, Scandal and Jeopardy. And, just for good measure, I love watching re-runs of Perry Mason. But my serious guilty pleasure is any show on the Investigation Discovery Channel, which appeal to my love of forensics..and the macabre. 4. Do you come from a musical family? Somewhat. My mom had a beautiful singing voice when she was younger. I remember being a little girl playing outside on the patio and hearing her in the kitchen singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” My dad played a horn in high school. He loved straight-ahead jazz. His favorite musician was Charlie Parker. He had some phenomenal albums in his collection. I kept them after he passed. 5. How was the title 'Sincerely Yours' chosen for the EP and the title track? The project was produced by Chris “Big Dog” Davis. He had an instrumental track that he’d named ‘Sincerely Yours’. I picked it for my project. Fred “Freddyboy” Sawyers wrote the lyrics. The song is so beautiful and fun that I thought it would be a good title for the EP. Once I did my photo shoot and saw the images, I knew ‘Sincerely Yours’ had to be the title. It fit just as well with the cover art as it did with the song.
6. What is your favorite place to visit? Pretty much any place that has good weather, good restaurants and a vibrant live music scene. 7. What is my favorite track on the EP? It varies from one day to the next. What I love about the project is each song could drop as a single, including the standard “My One and Only Love.” I think Big Dog and Freddyboy did such a fabulous job on the originals and on our arrangements of the two covers that I can’t pick a favorite. One day “Lonely Nites” is my favorite, the next day it’s “Mystery.” 8. What are your hobbies? I love to read and go for walks. I’m going to be in a stage play in May in Richmond, Virginia. It’s my very first time acting and I have the lead role. I was really scared when we first started rehearsing, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying it. So, acting may end up being a hobby as well, at least I hope so. 9. Tell me about your musical influences? Some of my earliest influences were Nancy Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and pretty much anyone who sang standards. The contemporaries at the top of my list are Oleta Adams, Lalah Hathaway, Lindsey Webster, Kurt Elling, Rene Marie. 10. How many studio albums have I recorded? ‘Sincerely Yours’ is my third. The first was “The Way You Make Me Feel” in 2007, followed by “Gee Baby” in 2012. 11. What’s next? Well, Big Dog, Freddyboy and I plan to hook up again either later this year or early next year. I’ve also spoken with some other top-notch producers who I hope to also have on my next project. I can’t wait to get started. 12. Who would you like to perform with but haven’t yet? I would love to perform with Leslie Odom, Jr. His voice is absolutely wonderful and I’d love to record a duet with him and do a live show. Hmmm, let’s hope he reads this.
13. Do you only listen to jazz and smooth jazz? No. I listen to a lot of different genres of music and often incorporate some of them into my live performances (except the gangsta rap… which I listen to when I’m driving).