Leslie DiNicola, a singer/songwriter from New York City, recently released a new EP titled “Some Greener Yard”. DiNicola has performed at various venues of all sizes over the past five years, from intimate stages to professional sports arenas and stadiums alike! “I want to share my experiences in song so that others can see their lives mirrored and pass through the door of whatever is troubling them or holding them back,” she explains. Enjoy our interview with the NYC-based artist below.
What life experiences and events influenced the writing and recording of your latest release “Some Greener Yard”?
“When I was writing the songs (that make up “Some Greener Yard”) I was writing about both difficult and magical experiences I had gone through. In the days and weeks leading up to my Los Angeles departure to record some new and unexpected events occurred that deeply shaped the tone of the record. There were people that I cared for deeply who passed away. There were also people deeply loved by people that I care for who passed away. Yet there was also a great reminder from the universe that, no matter how hard and jaded we become, we still carry with us the ability to experience the euphoric joy of new love. “Some Greener Yard” is somewhat a reflection on an idea that became very clear to me during those weeks: love is where all things begin, and love is where all things end.”
What are some of your favorite venues to play in New York? What has been your overall experience with the music scenes in New York City?
“One of my favorite places to play is City Winery. It is a beautiful room that carries sound magnificently. The people are wonderful there and the audience is always filled with attentive music lovers. It is a true listening room. A place people go to have a unique, intimate experience with artists that they love. Not to mention, the food and wine is fantastic! On the other side of the spectrum is Arlene’s Grocery, a down and dirty rock club on the lower east side that makes no apologies and always delivers; they have one of the best backlines in the city, they stream the concerts live online, and the FirstLive studio in the basement captures amazing audio and film. Arlene’s has become my home base. Everyone there is talented, fun, and very supportive, which is why I have released all three of my EPs and held the Benefit for Childhood Leukemia there.”
How does “Some Greener Yard” compare to your debut EP? What has it been like working with Julian Coryell on your two most recent releases?
“The songs on my first EP, “It Resembles Fiction”, are largely about love and loss. In the two years between the release of that record and the recording of “Some Greener Yard”, I grew up a bit. I experienced loss of a different nature than the troubled relationships that encompass “It Resembles Fiction”. I believe that my covers EP, “Draw Back Your Bow”, was a stepping stone that bridged the gap between these two records. I was changing in the way I viewed production and I was growing as an artist. Covering those songs (on “Draw Back Your Bow”) gave me more freedom and confidence to explore the more mature and vulnerable voice (both lyrically and vocally) that spans “Some Greener Yard”. Working with Julian Coryell on “Draw Back Your Bow” and “Some Greener Yard” was a unique experience I would liken to enrolling in a musical boot camp. No one challenges and inspires an artist more than Julian. He never allowed anything to get between me and the songs, other than the truth.”
How did interpreting others’ music on “Draw Back Your Bow” allow you to create even more impressive compositions the next time you wrote original music?
“When you cover a song, the bulk of the work is done for you. The story is there, the lyrics are there, and the chords are there. All you have to do is find a way to make it uniquely your own. And there’s no way to successfully pull it off without, first, choosing a song that is extremely well-written. By diving so deeply into this collection of bulletproof songs, I was exploring each and every aspect of them that made them work (and made them stand out and wither the test of time). I believe that this made me a sharper and more expressive writer and singer on my next go-round.”
What was it like working on “Draw Back Your Bow” with Coryell, Erich Gobel, and Mark Schulman?
“Working with Julian Coryell and Erich Gobel on “Draw Back Your Bow” and “Some Greener Yard” was just an absolute joy. No two people have ever worked harder for me and had such extraordinary gifts to lend to a project. There was an effortless and easy-going chemistry right from the get-go. Each of us appreciates and has a deep respect for the same aspects of creating music. Julian Coryell is a human jukebox that can play any instrument as if he was born with it in his hands. Erich Gobel is one of the warmest individuals I know with an exceptional gift for manipulating sound and space. And when the work gets hard and hours run late, no two people in the world can make you laugh harder than Julian and Erich. Mark Schulman was, unfortunately, not involved in “Draw Back Your Bow”, but I did get to work with him earlier this year on my most recent recordings in Los Angeles. “
Who are your biggest musical influences, and how do these artists find their way into your overall sound?
“My influences constantly change as I keep developing as an artist. But, at the foundation is an unwavering love for old soul singers I used to listen to as a child: Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, and Roy Orbison. Those were the artists that I would mimic alone in my room or in the backseat of the car. At first it was just about copying the sound. But, as I grew up, it became about so much more. They shaped the way my soul connects to music. No matter what current or past artists are influencing a particular song I am writing, at the root of each song is a heartfelt bond between the melody and me. And that is a direct result of listening to those singers.”
What has it been like performing the National Anthem at stadiums around the country, including professional sporting events at Madison Square Garden and Citi Field?
“There is no greater thrill in the world than singing such an epic song in front of 30,000 people. It’s one of those iconic moments that singers grow up dreaming about. Every time I get the opportunity to perform the Anthem at a major league sporting event, I am reminded of how lucky I am and how much I love what I do. Those feelings are immediately followed by massive anxiety over what shoes to wear. Am I walking out on ice? Dirt? Grass? Wedges with a rubber sole always seem to be the safest bet. Girls don’t have it easy.”
Could you tell us about the most recent project you’ve been working on with Ron Allaire (of Keith Richards, Madonna, and David Bowie fame)?
“I was asked by October Project to create a cover of one of their songs (‘Take Me As I Am’). I had just met Ron Allaire and thought he would be a great person to record it with. From the beginning I knew I was with the right producer. Our version of ‘Take Me As I Am’ is layered with multiple complex vocal harmonies. Creating and recording them was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in the studio. Ron has a wonderful ability to communicate with a singer to get an endless variety of imaginative vocal qualities and textures.”
You’ve uploaded a number of very well-done, professionally-filmed videos to YouTube; how has having these videos available online allowed you to attract new listeners and grow your fanbase?
“I’m very lucky to have met some wonderful filmmakers. The majority of my videos are done by Chia Messina, Peter Roessler, and Emon Hassan. They are each immensely gifted in their own unique ways. I believe having all of your songs on YouTube is a necessity. And I find that, actual video footage (rather than a still photo or lyric video) is just more compelling to the viewer. The beautiful videos these individuals have created for me have definitely helped grow my fan base in countless ways.”
You’re working on a few new tracks with Julian Coryell at the moment, correct? What can you tell us about these new recordings?
“Yes! Earlier in the year, I spent 3 weeks out in LA recording a new EP with Julian Coryell that will be released in November 2014. As always, Erich Gobel was there to engineer. I had the opportunity to work with Mark Schulman and he, magnificently, played drums on 4 of the 5 songs. These new songs are very close to my heart. I would say that they are a little more sophisticated; as I have been growing, I have become even more interested in experimenting with production, layers, and rhythm. These songs are a bit more up-tempo and quirky – but, in no way, less sincere or genuine. At the root of every song I write, there is the same principle: to tell a story my soul needs to tell.”