Last summer, it was a heatwave of discoveries for me; from the most exciting and serious hip-hop artists from the US who were virtually unheard of in France until they stole the stage with an amazing performance at Les Eurockéennes, to the Spanish and Mexican bands heard in the annual Fiesta of Santa Barbara, one of the nicest cities in SoCal. There were plenty of unforgettable musical moments when time seems to freeze but the heart beats stronger.
The Lady Crooners were part of that lovely triptych of music events I attended. These creative beings lit up my stay in the Bay Area. I was lucky enough to be struck by their sound and shocked by the capacity they had to mix folk music, americana, rock and soul in one big, magic, sexy blend. The group of Americans were raised in places where the best musician in town usually starts from scratch with nothing but talent and determination… and usually without a dime in his pocket. The « can do » attitude and the energy helped The Lady Crooners to build their songs with good ideas and to believe in themselves. These songs sound very different if you compare the first two albums « The Lady Crooners » and « The Surface ». A third album is on the way and no doubt the band will come across and fix all the little bumps that were noticed after the making of the long players when number 3 will be finally cut. The Lady Crooners love country music. They had no problems welcoming the ghosts of Hank Williams and other Gods of that sort in their melodies to finally showcase a wonderful new music genre that invites a lot of different styles to dance together. Listen to their original music and read the interview (the first in English for that website) with Nadia Krilanovich, singer and songwriter.
Nadia, would you agree with me when I say that you have mixed a lot of genres to end up with one distinctive sound that defines The Lady Crooners?
Yes, absolutely I would agree that all of the genre influences you mentioned are part of our music, but as we mature, we really are creating our own original recipe. With the release of our forthcoming third album, I really believe our sound is finally concrete. It is a raucous, sensitive, sensual, wall of sound that features heavily the harmonies between me and my siblings, still centered upon the narrative quality of the lyrics and melody, and anchored by my voice. Everything has evolved from our foundation of a trio in our first album, to a full-fledged band leaning more heavily upon percussion and definitely moving us closer to a roots/rock sort of vibe.
You and your brother seem to have found a productive technique to compose music and lyrics. Could you describe your relationship on the composing process? Who else from the band bring their composing parts?
When my brother and I decided to have a band, originally I was writing songs for him to sing, and encouraging him to keep playing music because he was at a point in his life where he was sort of drifting from creating and needing a little motivation. He was in Europe and traveling to Australia. I was on an island in the Pacific Northwest. We began writing songs via the phone and internet. We’d have a weekly prompt and the concept from that prompt grew into songs so by the time we were together on the same continent again, we had a pretty good archive of material to finesse into an album’s worth of music.
And it grew from there. I just kept writing melodies and lyrics and became so prolific that when we got together again, it became clear that I was to be the one singing these songs. They were from my personal experiences shaped into a story for everyone to relate to, and they just came across stronger with my voice singing them.
As we’ve grown as a band, I’ve welcomed collaborators beyond my brother. We’ve been very lucky to work with some fantastic musicians and there is something so rewarding in bringing a melody and lyrics and working with another musician to create the music for the song. Once we have finalized the music and format of the song, we bring it to the band for the final arrangements. It is in this phase that I believe the song becomes truly identifiable as a Lady Crooner’s tune. Once you hear those harmonies, there’s no turning back.
« Incredibly lucky to collaborate with John Smart »
For our third album, I have been incredibly lucky to collaborate on the majority of the writing with my sweetheart and bandmate, John Smart. I still write the melodies and lyrics, but he has put together most of the music for the songs. It’s been unique in this instance because he is also producing and engineering our record and so we have been cognizant of the overall sound we’re going for from the get go. This forthcoming album is incredibly personal in the sense that I’m writing and recording love songs for the man I love who is composing the accompanying music right along with me. It’s been like sharing a Valentine meant to be just for that special someone but they’re reading it before it’s ready to be given away and so potentially too could the rest of the entire world. And the thing is, I couldn’t be happier with any of it! I truly feel like we’re creating a remarkable collection of songs to capture this moment in our lives of being so in love and celebrating all of our vibrancy, creativity, and the emotions that unite us in our humanity.
In studio and to a bigger extent live, you leave a lot of space for guitar soli like a jam band? Is improvisation and the « Jam feel » that jazz or funk bands usually have some important elements of Lady Crooners’ music live?
The Lady Crooners have been blessed with talented guitar players in each iteration of the band. And there’s been three! We’ve always had a player who can jam, but usually in our performances we stick to a pretty solid roadmap for solos, leaving room for more if the crowd is into it and time permits, but always conscientious of the overall movement of the song and to not go too far down the path of epic jams. I would say we’re much more interested in what the guitar is adding as the only featured instrument within the band outside of my voice. I consider it to be the call and response to the emotional element of the song, taking the emotionality of my vocal melody and running it through a screaming amplifier. It’s always a pleasure to let the guitar go wild and bring the song home!
Nadia, you like to be accompanied in a duo of voices by your sister Megan, how would you describe the association of your two voices?
Yes! I absolutely love to sing in harmony. That is my comfort zone. That is where I feel we really shine. It is completely relaxing for me to sing with my siblings. What is interesting is that it takes the combination of our three voices (me, Joseph, and Megan) to create that magic blend.
Mine and Megan’s voices compliment each other in a unique way. Where mine is soft, her’s has a rugged edge, where mine is quiet, her’s is loud and visa versa. Onstage I definitely feed off of Megan’s energy, particularly when she smiles and dances at me, and what I hear her doing in all the backing harmonies pushes me to be and give more.
« Joseph can be a bit of a vocal chameleon »
Joseph’s voice can be sweet as well as anchoring. He’s got an incredible natural talent for hearing harmonies and creating that blend. He can be a bit of a vocal chameleon. But he also has a lot of personality and a unique way of phrasing that undeniably stands out.
It’s been interesting to analyze recordings and solo up Joseph and Megan’s harmony parts to find that it’s my voice that really ties our three voices together. Which is funny because I’m the middle child, and Joseph and Megan are the ends.
Is love in general, the distance between loved ones, melancholy… the theme that you enjoy to sing the most about?
I write about love because I think it’s the most profound and truthful thing we can do in this lifetime. Love takes countless forms and takes us through many experiences. I’ve found if I have an open heart and I am honest to myself and with everyone I encounter then amazing things can and will happen. All of my songwriting is autobiographical but written with the intention of accessibility for the audience.
Our first album, « The Lady Crooners », was really an exercise in me learning how to write songs. My songwriting craft solidified on our second album, « The Surface », and it was full of the heartache and loss that I had gone through the year prior. Our forthcoming album will be about the joy of being with the one you were meant for. Love is something everyone can relate to in any time, culture, or age. So, yes. There is nothing quite as gratifying as singing a full on melancholy introspective of heartache, or a tongue-in-cheek romp-style rebuttal, or iconic ode to that one and only. I think love and loss are hand in hand. If you go all in, you get to fully feel the joy of letting someone be who they were meant to and experiencing the loneliness of letting go followed by the freshness of starting anew. And hopefully with each experience you learn to love and know yourself more. And if you’re really lucky, then you get to recognize the one you love and they love you just as much in return.
« The Lady Crooners » was probably less produced than the second album « The Surface ». Would you say that each time you go to the studio, your « sound » becomes more consistent, more radio friendly?
“The Surface” our second album was more produced than “The Lady Crooners”, which was just supposed to be a demo, but we liked it so much we released it! Yes. I agree entirely that each time we go into record, we’re going with the mission to be comparable to bands that are getting airplay but with the intention to be truthful to our own creations of our unique sound that is crafted/produced enough to catch the ears of a contemporary listener. It’s a completely conscious decision to create material that we love and feels like us, but that we also consider highly marketable.
« The sound is bigger than anything we’ve done before »
What are the ideas you came up with for the third recording?
The third album is all about love. It’s a triumph of love and generally uplifting and anthemic in feel although thematically it has a strong element of mortality and urge to make the most of the time we have. John (my fiancee, drummer in The Lady Crooners, and co-songwriter/producer/engineer) jokingly asked me to write him an album, which I did! And so now he owes me a symphony as part of the deal! The sound I and we wanted to achieve is bigger than anything we’ve done before: more driving, more soulful, more wall of vocal harmonies. It’s great! I haven’t heard it’s like yet with a band fronted by a female vocalist and I’m so excited to share it soon as we’re done.
Is the Bay Area (and more over) California good enough to stick around or are you looking for a bigger exposure, dates around the States, Canada, some far off places?
California is our home state and San Francisco our adopted hometown. Yes. Absolutely we are looking for bigger exposure both here and abroad and hope our forthcoming album can be the vehicle that takes us there! We’d love to come to Switzerland!!!
Country music became more and more popular thanks to young artists being produced in Nashville and appealing to a younger and more general audience. Do you feel your music could also appeal to that new generation of « country » aficionados, to a foreign listenership or fan base, like a Swiss one (we love country music here)?
I think good music crosses cultures, age, and borders. It’s just a matter of people finding out about it and sharing. We’ll always have country roots, but we’ve never been fully anything other than The Lady Crooners.
I feel our music can and does appeal to a younger audience as well as people of our parent’s generation. We’re part of the new “West Coast Country” genre, but people draw a lot of comparisons to the great artists of the 70’s such as Linda Ronstadt, Crosby Stills & Nash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and that old timey Appalachian sound, mostly because apparently when I sing I have a bit of an accent and we have those blending harmonies from being related that is evocative of the music of the South. Lately folks have been comparing us to Lake Street Dive and The Civil Wars. I’m flattered by anything we do that evokes a response from a listener to compare us to bands they love.
« We chose San Francisco because there’s not many acts like us here »
How is it to be a band from the Bay Area? Do you enjoy playing for a lot of different kinds of venues, festivals, private events like the Farmscapes’ party last summer?
Being a band from the Bay Area is great! We’re lucky to be part of a community that is very supportive of live music and appreciates a great performance. We chose to launch our music from San Francisco because there’s not many acts quite like us here, whereas if we were in Nashville, we would potentially be one of many. We do get to play in many different settings for a diverse group of audiences. This fall we’re proud to be volunteering with an organization called, Bread and Roses, that brings music to people who are housed in isolated facilities outside of society. We’ll also be playing in some well known venues as well as appearing at a few unique ones such as a private party on a farm in Marin that’s been hosting musicians for over 30 years, and giving a surprise serenade for a young man on the front porch of the lady that he’s wooing. It’s always an adventure! I love putting on a great show, regardless of location or venue. It’s rewarding to bring these songs to life and share them with folks that want to listen. We have a great time playing music and we’re honored to have the opportunity to keep doing so.
Interview by David Glaser (firstname.lastname@example.org)