- Smooth Jazz Network
Selina Albright: Behind the Beats
Updated: May 4, 2022
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Selina Albright.
Selina, thank you so much for sitting down with me for a short chat. Our Smooth Jazz Network listeners are loving your music and I just got a tease of the new single coming to our airwaves next week. Please tell us about “Jenny (Perfect Little Rows).”
First, thanks for having me! I’m so happy you all are loving my music - that means so much!
In the song, when I refer to “Jenny,” she represents our interpersonal tendencies or the parts of our past that we want to deliver ourselves from. Specifically, in this case, I’m referring to spreading yourself thin to meet the traditional expectations of others in society, family, relationships, career, etc. without questioning whether it’s what you actually want for your life.
This is the reason for the retro influence you’ll hear. These societal pressures to achieve some form of perfection have gotten old. But the goal and hope is that we can all do the emotional work to individually free ourselves from these prisons and generational curses, in order to just LIVE and pursue our own definitions of happiness.
Or “Jenny” could just be an exhaustingly troubled person that you know and support a little too much, who you’ve decided you need to let go of, because he or she is a spirit-draining entity. It can go either way, depending on the listener.
Your lyrics are often very personal. Tell us about your process and how it feels once a song is complete.
You’re right - writing music has become a form of therapy for me. I reach a milestone or observe something about the world, and then my gears start turning.
My process usually starts when I wake up abruptly between 4:00 and 6:00am with an idea for a lyric or a melody. Then I fumble for my cell phone, make a tent over my head with the bedsheets, and let the lyrics flow out of me. I don’t go back to sleep until I have the whole thing written, melody and everything. If I like it enough the next morning, I’ll record an a cappella reference vocal with the harmonies added. That file gets sent to a producer, so that later we can build that initial concept into a polished song. “Discovering” was created this way.
Other times, like in the case of “Holding On,” I’ll schedule studio time with a producer and we’ll create in real time. Or I’ll get a beautiful track in my inbox from one of my colleagues and write to it from wherever I am in the world. If a track inspires me, it usually only takes about 30 minutes to write the first draft. Then I record all the vocals on the spot and tweak as I go if something doesn’t feel right.
I probably made that sound simpler and easier than it actually is, but… it’s exhilarating when everything comes together and I listen to that final master, knowing all of the focus, investment, time, and collaboration went into it - all from a single idea in the middle of the night!
You are both a writer and singer. Do you prefer one part of the process over the other?
I’ve never gotten that question before! I honestly can’t choose between the two because they both create something new that reflects a snapshot of time that I can never fully get back, but can always revisit and remember. They’re also both great learning and collaborative tools. I’m always aiming to grow in both.
Tell us about some of your vocal influences.
I love Ella Fitzgerald, Mariah, Whitney… Lately, I’ve been deep into Nancy Wilson - she’s so velvety with her delivery. Dinah Washington is big one for me, too. Amel Larrieux, Lalah Hathaway… Way too many to list!
You have performed with a slew of artists over the years. Any highlights to mention?
So many! I traveled to Italy to perform with Gianni Vancini and a group called The Pact. I sang in Italian for the first time on stage, which was fun and little scary. The audiences were so loving, and I ate all the things. All the things were delicious!
I’ve also had a lot of fun on Christmas tours. I traveled for years with David Benoit on the Charlie Brown Christmas Tour where we had a local children’s choir in each city to perform with us. We had so much fun rehearsing and performing with the kids!
Then, I toured with Dave Koz for his 20th Anniversary Koz and Friends Christmas Tour with Peter White, Rick Braun, and David Benoit, where somehow we pulled off 26 shows in only 30 days. It was a rigorous schedule, but Koz’ band and the road team just made the whole experience a true class act on and off the stage.
My favorite Christmas Tour to date, though, has to be the one I did with my father for the Albright Family Christmas Tour in 2019. Anytime I tour with Dad, it’s special, but on this particular tour, we’d just dropped a Christmas album together that year and I was about 6 months pregnant with my son. Three generations were on stage together at once, the band was family, and the baby was dancing around inside me every time we hit the stage!
Anyone still on your wish list?
I’m gonna let God surprise me. He always does.
We have all experienced a challenging 18 months. How have you dealt with all of the ways the COVID pandemic impacted your life and career.
Yeah… It was definitely a challenge! Being a first-time parent added an extra layer of chaos to our experience in the pandemic, especially living so far from both our families. But I’m really proud of my husband and I for how we leaned on each other and kept our faith in God so strong through all of this.
I went to therapy more often, I kept my load as light as possible, I became intentional about self-care, we set boundaries, we embraced the chaos, we made our home as functional and enjoyable as possible, I only made new music when I had the capacity, and I focused on being the best overall person possible under the circumstances.
Any favorite tv shows binged during this time or hobbies taken up?
*laughing* We‘ve been a little out of character with our binge choices. We were glued to The Bachelor, Circle, 90-Day Fiancé, and Love Is Blind at one point. Right now, we’re into Celebrity Dating Show, The Good Doctor, Celebrity Family Feud (yelling answers at the TV), Central Park, Atypical, and Physical. When I have time to myself, I watch Call The Midwife, any food related series, Hoarders Buried Alive, Master of None, and My 600 lb Life. I took up vegetable gardening!
Looks like you have some tour dates set for later this month. Eager to get on the road and perform live?
Absolutely! I’m really excited to see all the faces in the audience. There’s such an elevated experience that you get when you musically connect with people in person. I’ve missed that so much.
And I’ll finally get to perform the new releases from the past year-and-a-half! Recorded music just takes on a whole new form when you play it live. Can’t wait to hear it for myself!
Keep up with Selina Albright at www.selinaalbright.com.