Nikki Yanofsky Is Single-Handedly Bringing Jazz Back
Fortunately for jazz fans, the untimely death of Amy Winehouse did not put the revival of a historic, long-revered music genre to bed. Like other great artists before her, the raspy-voiced Brit blazed a trail for other young, Sinatra-obsessed musicians to reintroduce horns and scat lines into the modern zeitgeist. Of the burgeoning talent rising up in Winehouse's wake, we have our eye on 20-year-old Montreal native Nikki Yanofsky. You might recognize the petite brunette from her memorable performance of Canada's national anthem at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and now she's back with a brand-new album, Little Secrets (out today), and executive producer (Quincy Jones!). "It's a mix of Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James," she told InStyle of the record, which is already climbing the charts in Canada and France. We caught up with Yanofsky at the InStyle offices in advance of the release. Here’s an excerpt from our chat:
Has your sound deviated at all since your last album, Nikki?
I think it's definitely evolved, but the roots are always going to be the same. I feel like you automatically pull from things that you're influenced by, and I'm extremely influenced by jazz—it's what I grew up singing. I feel like no matter what I do, it's going to have that old-school throwback vibe.
How did you get into jazz? It's not a hugely popular genre for young artists.
It was really random how I fell into it. I used to perform at a lot of charity shows around my hometown, and when I was 11 years old, I landed a bigger fundraiser, and one of the members of the audience was the founder of the Montreal Jazz Festival. He heard me sing and asked me if I wanted to open the festival. At that point, I hadn't ever listened to jazz, but I took the offer. That was my first real-show—I was 12 and I performed in front of 125,000 people.
What songs did you perform?
I sang a lot of Motown, and threw in some Ella Fitzgerald for kicks. Right after the charity event, I figured I should learn some jazz, so I looked up "jazz" on my computer and I stumbled upon her voice. Once I heard that, I was hooked. She has such a youthful tone, and I really related to it at a young age.
Who are some of your other favorite jazz musicians?
Definitely Etta James. I also love Anita O'Day and Frank Sinatra. And I think Amy Winehouse is one of the greats. Quincy Jones's arrangements have influenced me a lot, too.
And he's the executive producer of Little Secrets. What's it like to work with such a legend?
It's so great to see how his demeanor is with everybody around him. He's so warm and so welcoming to anybody and everybody that wants to talk to him. I've never seen him be rude, despite how illustrious his career has been.
Listen to Yanofsky cover Sam Smith's “I'm Not The Only One” below, and download Little Secrets for $8 from the iTunes Store.