A native New Yorker, Audrey Silver has been surrounded by music from childhood to adulthood, in vocations working for record labels and beyond, and her art reflects her wide range of influences. Having recently released her fourth album, Let Me Know Your Heart, she will perform at the Gin Fizz club in Harlem on Nov. 22.
Silver, who has been compared to Karen Carpenter, says she played piano and cello growing up. “I was in chamber groups in high school, primarily, and then I always sang in every chorus and chamber choir,” she said. “But I was also in love with the movie musicals from the ’50s and ’60s and ’30s, actually, because my great passion as a kid was Fred Astaire. I took tap for years because I wanted to be just like Fred Astaire and people would say, ‘Why don’t you want to be Ginger Rogers?’ I would say, ‘Why would I want to be Ginger Rogers?’ I was pretty nerdy but I listened to pop music and stuff on the radio. I guess now that I’m thinking about it, it was pretty eclectic what I listened to.”
Here in My Arms, Dream Awhile and Very Early have all preceded her most recent effort, released Sept. 6. Let Me Know Your Heart is different from the other three in both style and content, and includes a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” (see video below)
“My music has elements of a few different things,” says Silver. “But the thing that makes this album different from the prior albums is that this one is almost half originals. The original music has a lot of different influences; there’s a bit of pop and there’s also a couple of songs that are very (Thelonious) Monk-influenced since I listen to a lot of Monk.”
Regarding “Solsbury Hill,” she says “I did it with a second line groove and made it all four-four, because I tried singing it the way he wrote it and I was like, ‘This is just not happening for me.’ (laughs) I think unless you do exactly the drum patterns that he has in it, it’s pretty hard to do … It doesn’t sound like a complicated song, but then when you actually sit down and try to do it you realize, ‘Okay, there’s a lot more going on here than I thought.’
“I’m like a lyrics-first kind of person. I come up with a concept and I write lyrics and I find that once I’ve written the lyrics, that melodic ideas kind of present themselves. I’m not a jazz pianist but I grew up playing classical and studied harmony. But I think what’s happening is, when I’m developing melodic ideas in my head, I’m hearing a specific harmony behind them.
“I co-wrote all of the (original) songs on this album. I actually co-wrote the music with a woman named Dominique Gagne who has an incredible sense of harmony. I would basically tell her this is what I’m hearing in this melody and she just got it right away. She’d put her hands down and play a chord and I was like, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I had in mind!’ There may have been once where she might have played a chord and I was like, ‘What? What was that?’ Almost always it was exactly what I was thinking, and it’s rare to find that.
“I knew the song ‘Solsbury Hill’ and I was in the car driving with my son a couple of years ago and he started playing that song and I listened to the lyrics. I mean really started paying attention to them, which I hadn’t really done before, and to me they were all about a spiritual experience. He talks about climbing up on this hill and seeing the city lights and this eagle flies and it has a message for him. I’ve been studying Native American spirituality and healing methodologies for about 10 years and so it actually sounded very familiar to me when I heard those lyrics and I immediately felt like I had to do the song and figure out a way to make it fit on a jazz album (laughs). People seem to like it so I think it worked.”
Sometimes the creative process can be a long road, rife with twists, turns and unexpected bumps. Silver says that this album lacked a certain something at first, so she stepped away from it for quite a length of time, and revisited it later on in her musical journey. So how long did it take her to complete this latest record?
“From start to finish it was close to two years,” she said, “but I went through a year where I just didn’t do anything with it. Then I listened to it again and I felt like a bunch of the tracks just didn’t have the magic in them that I felt was present in some of my other things, so I spent a while trying to figure out what was behind that. I decided that it was because when I was recording the vocals I was a little more concerned with, ‘Am I getting exactly the right sound? How perfect was my pitch?’ I was so involved with technical stuff that I wasn’t really thinking about; what am I really doing here?
“I know this may sound very new-agey and I don’t know if you feel this way, but you’re given music and you’re supposed to share it, so you should be sharing it with a consciousness of giving rather than thinking about yourself when you’re doing it. So I went and re-recorded a whole bunch of tracks and I like them much more now.”
For more about Silver, visit audreysilver.com.
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