• Smooth Jazz Network

Nicole Henry: Behind the Beats

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Nicole Henry.

Nicole, thanks so much for taking a few minutes to share some of your story with our listeners. Your current single is a jazzy, upbeat version of the classic “Feeling Good”. Tell us about your decision to record the tune and about the arrangement as well.

For years people asked me if I sang this song and I didn’t because I felt that the song had it’s signature style and arrangements between Nina Simone and then, Michael Bublé, in particular. But after really listening to the lyric, I reconsidered the idea of singing it, but I wanted to really come up with something different. So, I kept it in the back of my mind, and then one day in 2015 before a big Valentine’s Day Concert it kind of came to me to try to create a more rhythmic version of it. The lyrics are ALL about nature and the outdoors…and at the end there’s that liberating phrase “freedom is mine.” Personally, when I think of FREEDOM I think about dancing. I went to my bassist, Eric England and sang and somewhat beat-boxed (LOL) the idea I had. (It’s one of the reasons we start the song with just percussion and vocals.) Eric did an amazing job creating the arrangement and over five years it’s come to be what it is- thanks to Dave Chiverton on drums, Pete Wallace on keys, and Aaron Lebos on guitar. And then, I wanted to add horns and my friend Phil McArthur came up with the lines which are just perfect, I think.


Your vocal style very successfully navigates the world of jazz and smooth jazz. Any other styles of music that inspire you?

Classic gospel and classic R&B and soul…for sure.


You received wonderful critical acclaim for your performance in “The Bodyguard”. Tell us about your experience of acting and singing in a musical vs. your regular solo performances.

Mmmm…interesting question. They’re quite similar in the fact that you have to bring truth and spontaneity to the stage on both platforms. Your intentions and goals are different of course…. But in theater, at least you don’t have to think of your outfit every time. HA!


… and do you have more theatrical / acting plans?

I definitely do. I hope the casting directors agree with me! I’ve always loved dialogue and copy. I studied advertising and theater in college. So, whether it’s on stage, behind the camera, or voice-over work, or singing I truly love communication and dissecting it.


How did it feel to win a Soul Train Award?

Mind-blowing. Sometimes it’s hard to connect the life of Soul Train I saw on TV as a child, with the award on my shelf and ME. IT’s such a blessing to get such a recognition. IT’s a reminder that anything you want in life is within reach. You just have to do it…once, twice, or over and over again until you reach your goals.


What singers inspired you to become a performer?

Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka, Whitney…those are the vocal souls I have inside my heart and mind since childhood. But I never really was inspired to become a singer, I didn’t have that as a dream as a child per sé… it truly just happened. I thought I’d go into acting, perhaps. But I loved singing because I could sing – and I did it whenever I was invited to do so, or when opportunities arose. I just didn’t know how you ‘became a singer’ if that makes any sense. But after having my first proper 4-song performance singing house music at the age of 23, I was bitten and I never looked back.


Any advice for young singers out there?

Find your music and get to gigging! Find the players in your community, take lessons, and learn to perform not only sing. And always ask for help if you need it…don’t be afraid.


What are your plans for the rest of 2021 and beyond?

WHAT???!! It’s 2021??!!! 😳🤦🏽‍♀️

Just kidding. I am working on an album of songs from Nancy Wilson’s huge discography and that should come out in the late fall. I’m looking forward to regular touring again and hopefully, I can get back on the stage with the production of this fabulous new musical called “A Wonderful World” – telling the story of the life of Louis Armstrong. Otherwise, God-willing… staying healthy, happy and busy as all get-back!!


Keep up with Nicole Henry at https://www.nicolehenry.com/.

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