Brilliant Quirky Songstress
Led by a trail of incense and a little voice at the back of her brain that whispers “Nice try, 60s,” Nellie travels to a land of strange and wonderful music on My Weekly Reader, revisiting some of the melodies born out of that fertile, conflicted time.
“Freedom’s just another word for turning off your phone,” says Nellie, who first collaborated with famed Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick on her debut Get Away From Me.
They reunite for My Weekly Reader (March 24 / Savoy 429 Records). With the aid of Emerick’s golden ears, she covers songs from the era of political turmoil and creative delight by Zappa, Ray Davies, Steve Miller, Country Joe McDonald, and then some.
“It’s important for us to be aware and not succumb to what (jazzman) Dave Frishberg has referred to as ‘weapons of mass distraction,” adds Nellie. “These songs come out of a time of less cynicism – back in the 60’s the darker things in society were balanced by a certain innocence and hope.”
“If I was a duck, I’d swim in this record”- Robin Williams
“I don’t listen to that kind of music anyway”- Joan Rivers
“We played this album at my wedding – Nellie’s a lot of fun”- Charles Manson
“Nellie is without a doubt the single most self-sabotaging individual I have ever met”- Mike Nichols
“I see an audit in her future” – Dick Cheney
The New Yorker has warily described McKay as “funny and touching, ceaselessly clever and scarily talented.”
Since her last album, besides eating potato chips, scratching her ass, and watching reruns of Mister Ed, Nellie has indulged an extended run in the award-winning off-Broadway hit Old Hats and written three acclaimed musical biographies – I Want to Live!, the story of Barbara Graham, third woman executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin, Silent Spring: It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature, an exploration of environmental pioneer Rachel Carson, and her latest, A GIRL NAMED BILL – The Life and Times of Billy Tipton, named one of the Best Concerts of 2014 by The New York Times.
Nellie has previously released five full-length albums, including Pretty Little Head, Obligatory Villagers and Normal as Blueberry Pie (“among the killer overhauls of American standards” – The New York Times). She has won a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of Polly Peachum in the Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera and performed onscreen in the films PS I Love You and Downtown Express, as well as writing original music for the Rob Reiner film Rumor Has It and contributing to the Emmy-winning documentary, Gasland.
Nellie’s music has been heard on the TV shows Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Weeds, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS and Nurse Jackie, and she has appeared on numerous TV shows including The Late Show with David Letterman (with the Brooklyn Philharmonic). In 2010, the Chase Brock Experience produced a ballet of Obligatory Villagers and Nellie contributed the forward to the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat, by Carol J. Adams. Her writing has also appeared in The Onion, Interview and The New York Times Book Review.
A recipient of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Humanitarian Award in recognition of her dedication to animal rights, Nellie is an annoyingly vocal advocate for feminism, civil rights and other deeply felt progressive ideals. She is currently part of the campaign to get horsedrawn carriages off the streets of New York City.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“She is the rare young female singer completely at home (and on pitch) when singing in a classic pop style. At the same time, many pop-jazz idioms between the 1950s and today are echoed in her voice and lend her phrasing a freewheeling ease and flexibility and a sense that she can go anywhere at any moment.” -Stephen Holden, New York Times
“Quirky and unpredictable barely begins to describe this young pianist/singer’s oeuvre.” - City Pages
“lovably idiosyncratic cabaret savant Nellie McKay is all over the musical map. One of America’s great eccentric musical treasures delivers it all with uncanny sass, diverse musicality and a big wink.” – Jon Bream, Star Tribune