After Prince died in April 2016, singer-songwriter Shelley Nicole began posting his lyrics on Instagram. And she kept going, one song a day, for a full year.
“It wasn’t something that I thought I was going to do,” says Nicole, who will sing with the New York-based collective Burnt Sugar, the Arkestra Chamber, in a Prince tribute at the free, outdoor, Hoboken Arts and Music Festival, June 11.
At first, she said, “I went to the songs that were right at the top of my head — the hits that everybody knew. I think that first day, I might have posted, like, two or three, like, ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘1999’ or something. Then I think I did it the following day, and then a third day, and then I said, ‘You know, I think I’m just going to do this (every day).’ It just felt good. It felt like a nice way to honor him, and really take a look at what he was all about.”
(Nicole — who also leads her own band, Blakbüshe — posted them at Instagram.com/blakbushe. Use the hashtag #prince365 to search for them.)
Nicole says that spending that much time focused on Prince’s songs “really enhanced my appreciation for his fearlessness. It’s not like you’d look at every lyric and think every lyric is profound. But he put it out, regardless. Like, ‘I’m feeling this, this is where I am right now, and this is what I’m going to put out in the world, right now.’
“Everybody is just not that fearless. Sometimes we comb over stuff. And that’s not to say that he wasn’t particular, because obviously he’s got a vault full of things that he didn’t put out. But some of us will write in a closet, and we’ll just keep those things there, and they won’t ever see the light of day. So I was just impressed with the fact that he was like, ‘You like it, you hate it, whatever … I’m putting it out. This is who I am, right now.’ ”
Founded by multi-instrumentalist and “conductor” Greg Tate and bassist Jared Michael Nickerson in 1999, Burnt Sugar features a few dozen musicians, who rotate in and out depending on what the project is and what their other commitments are. They perform original music in addition to tributes; their latest album, All You Zombies Dig the Luminosity, came out in May. For more information on the band, visit burntsugarindex.com.
They participated in a David Bowie tribute that took place at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, in December. Among the highlights was “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” which Nicole sang (see video below).
Nicole says Prince and Bowie — who died within a few months of each other, last year — were similar in that “they were saying, ‘Hey, be yourself. And look at all that you can do while being yourself.’ If you’re like that weird kid, it’s like, ‘Well, look, I’ve got another weird kid icon I can look at.’
“And I think that was really important, especially with their gender fluidity: To really recognize that there is a space to be in, wherever you are, whatever space you stand in, where your gender is concerned. Having that person saying, ‘You know what, you’re okay. And we’re going to be over here, okay together.’ ”
The Hoboken Arts and Music Festival will take place on Washington Street in Hoboken, and will feature, in addition to music, art displays, food vendors, children’s entertainment and more.
Here is the music schedule. For information, visit hobokennj.gov.
8TH STREET STAGE (Main Stage)
Noon: The Rose & the Squid
12:30 p.m.: Glenn Morrow’s Cry for Help
1:30 p.m.: Overlake
2:30 p.m.: The Demolition String Band
3:30 p.m.: The Karyn Kuhl Band
4:30 p.m.: Burnt Sugar, The Arkestra Chamber’s (tribute to Prince)
14TH STREET STAGE
11:50 p.m.: In the Works
12:45 p.m.: Emily & The Ideals
1:30 p.m.: Sylvana Joyce + The Moment
2:15 p.m.: Mike Daly & The Planets
3:05 p.m.: Christina Alessi & The Toll Collectors
4 p.m.: The RockNRoll Hi-Fives
5 p.m.: Frankie Morales & the Mambo of the Times Orchestra
Here is a video of Shelley Nicole singing David Bowie’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” with Burnt Sugar, the Arkestra Chamber at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, in December.