Hello Beautiful People,
Leslie DiNicola is, without a doubt, a class act. She is a Syracuse University Graduate. She is a world traveler, and we quite literally mean WORLD traveler. Since the age of 22, Leslie has been adding a bit more class, sass, and soul to the New York City music scape – performing at Crash Mansion, Arlene’s Grocery, The Delancey, Fontana’s, and Googie’sLounge. Leslie has performed the national anthem at games for the Atlanta Braves and the New York Rangers.
We have had the pleasure of seeing Leslie perform, and one day, we hope you all will too! It goes without saying that we are absolutely, positively ELATED to introduce Leslie DiNicola as our first artist in the Music Magic Series at The Write Teacher. And now, without further ado, is our exclusive Q&A with this dynamo artist:
TWT: When did you first start singing?
LD: As long as I can remember, I was always singing. I would sing along with my parents records, the car radio, or just alone in my room. I used to ask my Mom if I could join a choir, but it always got brushed off for one reason or another. It wasn’t until I was in 4th grade and my neighbor was driving me home from school one day that I started singing along with Van Morrison in the backseat. She sped into my driveway and marched me into the house demanding to speak with my Mom. I thought I was trouble and had done something terribly wrong when she just started yelling at my Mom that I had an incredible voice and that she needed to do something about it. My Mom admitted that with a houseful of kids all the time she must have just never noticed. I think Moms tune out a lot of things they hear their kids doing- it’s a self-preservation thing. Anyway, that fall my Mom signed me up for a choir audition. She must have just opened the phone book and called the first place she saw, because what we didn’t know is that she signed me up to audition for the most prestigious choral program in the state- The Northwest Girl Choir. I showed up for the audition and was taken into a very small dark room where I was left alone to take a music theory exam. Please know that, at this point, I had never in my life taken a music class or had any musical training. Nor was there any musical talent running in my family. After that, I was taken into another uncomfortable room where a piece of music I had never seen before was set up on a music stand. The woman played a note for me (she called it a “starting pitch”- whatever that meant) and told me to sing the music. I was only 10 at this time, but I was pretty confident that I was experiencing the feeling a person gets when they are completely screwing up. Defeated, confused, and very chilly, I was taken into the last room where it was finally time to just sing. And what does a 10 year old choose as an audition piece? Well, it was almost holiday time, so I prepared Silent Night. I remember just closing my eyes, tilting my head back, singing, and wishing I could just go home. When I opened my eyes, I looked and saw the face of the woman I was auditioning for. And I knew that it was the look someone gives you when you completely take him or her off guard. I was accepted immediately into the Northwest Girl Choir– even though they were halfway through their semester. I had to start with the younger girls and learn basic music theory, but the following semester I joined my age group, and began touring and competing all over the country.
TWT: Can you tell our readers more about what drew you to the type of music that you do?
LD: Well, after joining the Northwest Girl Choir, I did nothing but perform classical music and opera. But, then I would go home and listen to Roy Orbison, Otis Redding, The Doors and Bob Dylan. After that, I would go out with my friends and see artists like Ryan Adams, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and The National. I just, naturally, started becoming more and more interested in the music I was listening to and less interested in the music I was studying. So, I put together a band and we started playing at the local bars. I stopped studying classically when I was 20 and devoted myself entirely to creating my own blend of pop, rock, and folk music. Over the years, my style has evolved out my love for the soulful classic melodies of the 50’s and 60’s and the honest story driven lyrics of the alt-country bands I used to go see in high school.
TWT: What’s your inspiration for your songs?
LD: My songs are mostly about life. Things that I have gone through, things I have seen other people go through, and things that I hear or read about people going through. I try to write music that is relatable because what stole me away from my classical training was watching performers sing songs that I could relate to. I heard them singing about emotions that I was feeling and telling stories that happened to me. Or, at least, that’s how I felt- that someone else knew what I was going through. And, to me, that is the most powerful thing about music. That it can tell you your own secret story.
TWT: Do you write your songs at a particular time of day and/or place?
LD: The worst part about music is that, for the most part, you don’t get to choose when or where it comes to you. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and pissed off my boyfriend because I’m in our little studio recording a melody idea before I forget it- or jumped off the subway nowhere near my destination so I can run up to the street and leave myself a voicemail singing a great hook idea- I would be able to buy a bigger apartment. But, the best part about music is that it can, also, come to you anytime you want it to. Sometimes I like to sit near a big window or out in some beautiful quiet park and write. And sometimes I like to just sit in a chair at my desk with every instrument at my fingertips. Music is completely versatile that way. It goes wherever you go.
TWT: Growing up, what type of music did you listen to?
LD: When I was a kid I listened to my parents records all the time- and, of course, the golden oldies radio stations during car rides. So, I was surrounded by a lot of the 50’s and 60’s music that inspired me. When I was in middle school, I started getting into all the great classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and the Band. And high school is when I started sneaking out to go see all those local bands I mentioned that inspired me to pursue this career as a singer/songwriter.
TWT: What can fans expect from Leslie DiNicola this year?
LD: I have a lot a great shows lined up for the fall, playing venues such as the City Winery and the big room at Rockwood Music Hall. But, I’m most excited about the new album that I’ll be releasing in February. It’s called Some Greener Yard and one of the songs has already been picked up as part of a 9/11 Tribute Campaign. I’ll, also, be releasing 3 music videos in the months leading up to its release. I’m very excited about this album. These are very special songs to me and I had an incredible experience bringing them to life in LA with producer Julian Coryell. It was the first time I’ve ever worked with someone who wanted to share these stories as intimately as I did.
TWT: What advice would you give to aspiring singers/songwriters?
LD: I think the most important thing for artists right now is to be true to oneself. We are in a tricky time where artists are hearing a lot of different advice from a lot of different sources. We hear a lot of “You gotta do this” and “You gotta do that”. But, unlike the artists of other generations, we aren’t hearing this come from just the labels. We’re hearing it come from everyone. Because, now we live in a world where artists don’t really need labels. Anyone can make a record and get it out into the world. Which means anyone can sell it, anyone can promote it, and anyone can review it. So, we’re hearing advice and critiques from all kinds of people from all different levels of experience and perspectives. So, I’ll tell you what “You gotta do”: You have to make your music. You have to love your music. And you have to help each other. You can’t hate other artists and allow this industry to pin you against each other. We don’t get anywhere without help from other people. And the more you help others, the more others will help you.
TWT: Who has been your greatest teacher?
LD: There have been many people that have guided me along my journey to where I am. I believe there is always a wealth of knowledge to be gained from everyone you interact with throughout your life, even the ones that leave you with the desire to have never met them. But, since I moved to NYC to start my career in music, the greatest teacher for me has been a woman named Julie Flanders. She is the lyricist and singer for a highly renowned band called October Project. She has been a wealth of knowledge, a huge source of advice, and a true friend during a very critical time in my career. Getting up on your feet and starting your own brand isn’t easy. And she has been there every step of the way. Because of Julie, I know that I am pursuing my passion and that I am pursuing it in a way that I can be proud of. With no regrets and no compromises.