Her influences of Phyllis Hyman, Chaka Khan and Donny Hathaway are evident in the searing vocal performances she delivers on Grown Folks Music.
Music and singing for me is so much more about passion, says Nicci. And that is not something to say because it sounds good. It feels better to me when I think about singing from an emotional perspective versus making sure that I am [technically] doing this right. Nicci made sure she did no wrong on her new album, co-writing and co-producing most of the tracks.
Before she executive produced her solo debut or even before she rose to the highest of heights with Brownstone, Nicci spent her formative years in the musical city of Detroit. It was a lot of sitting on the front porch with my sisters listening to the radio, watching people breakdance, playing kickball in the middle of the street -- just the normal, Midwestern, seven steps from the ghetto life, says Nicci of her childhood. But what was different about her upbringing was that, as the child of a single mother who was a touring jazz singer and an often absent father who was a Motown staff writer, she was constantly surrounded by music as a kid.
Nicci always knew she would perform, but she felt she was a little eccentric -- and her high school classmates agreed. I sang Crazy For You by Madonna [in a talent show]. I was in an inner city school so nobody was really into the music. I went out on stage they started to boo me because they werent familiar with the song. But by the time I got to the hook they were like wait a minute, she can blow and I got a standing ovation, says Nicci, who got her first taste of fame when she won first place in that talent show.
After stints in her high schools honors chorus group, band, drama club and orchestra, Nicci was off to Eastern Michigan University on music and drama scholarships. But fame was calling her name and she had to answer -- immediately. She and a friend, inspired by the Carpe Diem theme of the film Dead Poets Society, left college after two years and headed for La La land. We took our financial aid money and flew to L.A. Didnt know a soul, recalls Nicci. My mother had a fit. We went out there, got an apartment and hustled up for years and years.
Those years had Nicci working jobs everywhere from Taco Bell to department stores, while trying to get into the business in local talent shows, hoping to catch the eye of someone that could put her on. She got some celebrity encouragement after one of those performances. It was three oclock in the morning, we were waiting at the bus stop and Damon Wayans drove by us in his limousine she says. He rolled down his window and said All I have to say to you is that youre going to go somewhere. Youre going to be big. Keep the hustle. Keep the grind. Something is going to happen to you.
Nicci made that something happen for herself when she put an ad in a few Los Angeles music magazines in early 1994 saying she wanted to start a group. She ended up with the members of Brownstone, who got their deal with Epic Records by performing for the King of Pop. We didnt know he was going to be there. It never registered to any of us. We had lights in our faces. We were more interested in singing our hearts out to try to get this deal. Later we were told it was Michael Jackson, remembers Nicci. Afterwards we were on our knees praying ever single solitary night that we would get the deal.
A week later they were signed to Epic and went on to much success with two albums, Still Climbing and From the Bottom Up.
With the material on Grown Folks Music, there is no doubt that the affect Nicci will have on people will be so tremendous, that if youre not ready, you better get ready. Because Nicci Gilbert is back and she aint playing.
|< Prev||Next >|