musings of a subway performer and lifelong troubadour

This blog is about the eclectic world of folked-up blues, social activist, NYC Busker Cathy Grier aka NYCSubwayGirl. Clips + blog postings from the Metaphorical Underworld in the virtual Underground. A video blog "Inspiration Project" featuring commuters spontaneous views. 

NYCSubwayGirl says "Whether it's a folk blues song or inspired jazzy melody I love to sing and play guitar.  Some say I have that Bonnie Raitt sound, or Concrete Blonde edge. I live in NYC, sing in the subway because I love performing in public spaces. Read on….."

Archived blog posts on Sustainability, Eco-tone perspectives, Guest Bloggers focusing on humanity, non-violence, and interesting insider view of NYC experiences to share.

Since 1999, I have participated in New York City’s MTA program, Music Under New York where I am also known as NYC Subway Girl.  The connection with the audience = commuters on their way to their destination, is a very different experience than performing on a stage.  It's a deconstructed approach to music.  Most of us are living in a multi-tasking, low fidelity, and ear-bud listening digitized and photoshopped world.  Street performing is authentic in the pure fact that it is live-sometimes challenging, certainly spontaneous, which makes it exciting to me.

My style is what I call folked-up blues.  It's funky, it's groovy, and it fits in with the chaos of the underground. Underground, commuters and I are collaborators in a musical, rhythmic, spontaneous soundtrack.  

“You’ve really got to see Cathy, she has such great energy and you can see that she loves what she’s doing, it’s contagious.”  Larry Wolfert, DJ WRSU radio

....besides being a singer/songwriter in the NYC subways... 

Diverse and eclectic career highlights include, opening for Laura Nyro and Joan Armatrading, touring Germany with a French girl band, an MTV basement tape award, writing a #1 French dance hit “Misery” for artist Indra, recording CD ‘Comin’ Back To Me’ at Magic Shop NYC, performing at Avery Fischer Hall, BAM and being featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Some press quotes:

"New York based singer-songwriter, activist, Cathy Grier combines rhythmic guitar, gutsy vocals and an infectious energy. Grier mixes folked-up blues with a political mind-set, and there’s more than a little funk in there too.” Time Out, NY Smith Galtney

“Grier carefully etches stories meant to prod listeners to action-through her mix of gritty rock, sexy jazz, and dusty blues songs.” NY Blade, Karen Iris Tucker

Some intense and multi-layered snapshots that inform my music and my life: I grew up in Connecticut and now live in New York, my music has pervaded the walls of Key West, and France where a French/Swedish pop star sang my lyrics for a French dance hit. With a 14-piece band, I sang in the Paris Opera at the Hermes/Rostropovich wedding, and a performance in Morocco. I rode in an almost-sinking gondola in Venice, weighed down by amps and drums, while writing for an award-winning French recording artist. I've had solo performances in Brazil, England, and Wales. Despite many attempts, I cannot forget performing at the Holiday Inn in Paladka, Florida... a New Years Eve gig in Yapoon, Australia… dancing on a table at a bar mitzvah in Paris... a Donald Trump Atlantic City gig. I toured Germany with a French girl band, Parallel Vif, as lead guitarist. I’ve opened for Joan Armatrading, Laura Nyro, and Dave Mason. I recorded my first demo at Paul Leka’s studio (he wrote 'Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye'), and later, with my group Troia/Grier, we performed at Folk City, Lone Star Cafe (opened for The Band) and the original Bitter End, where I was curious but cautious of the soon-to-be-murdered Roy Radin. 

Some stories: When I was just 17, using photography to gain backstage passes, I met John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt, an invaluable look at life as a career musician. In 1980, with partner Lenore Troia, I formed Synergy Records, an independent label—back when there was only vinyl, and hardly any women heading companies (numerous recordings as Troia/Grier and later as Students Of Life, highlighted by an MTV basement tape victory, 1986).

I lived and performed for many years in Key West, where I released live recordings on cassettes: ‘Moonlighting In Key West’ (1988), followed by ‘Community’ (’89). In NYC, 1990, I recorded “New York Sessions,” a self-produced album (remember DAT’s?), then took a chance and flew off to Paris, where I performed and released my first CD ‘Solo’, and wrote English lyrics for many artists, including World Music guitarist Pierre Bensusan, Carrere artist Indra (whose 1991 single “Misery” hit number one on the French dance charts), and Sony’s Maryanna Matisse.

Back in NY in '98:  I recorded ‘Retracing’ in a Key West studio, co-wrote songs for Sony artist Anggun and fell in love with producing and engineering. I met and worked with Alicia Keys as a live sound engineer in 2001. 

I sing in small empty churches for their amazing acoustics and pure spirituality. I sing for friends at family special occasions and sad events. Great Aunt Molly believes I sing a mean La Vie En Rose (especially while cooking omelets), not to mention a heartfelt Amazing Grace. Music is life to me and it comes in many sounds, shapes and sizes.

But you can’t get the whole picture of my life without Eve Ensler's presentation of The Vagina Monologues at the Hammerstein Ballroom in 1998.  That's where I met my life partner Michele Steckler (like many good things that evolve, in 2013 we separated).  In 2003, I released ‘Comin’ Back To Me,’ a solo recording (Magic Shop, NYC). 

I've fought hepatitis C and won, lost friends and a cousin to AIDS, got political, wrote songs from my heart and believe that all is possible, even though world events occasionally suck…but also produce amazing possibilities like President Barack Obama, Eve Ensler, Malala Yousafzai.

As a career-long DIY artist, I am involved in handling all aspects of my career (although most days I could use some help).  I've performed at Joe's Pub, Studio 54, Arlene's Grocery, the Brooklyn Academy Of Music as a recipient of a 5 Continents Annual Award.  I've appeared at The New Museum, Avery Fisher Hall and on CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, and NBC’s Today Show, all as a result of my subway performances.

The idea of NYCsubwaygirl came to me after waking up on a cold February 2009 morning to find myself on the cover of AM New York, a free daily newspaper distributed throughout the city: 

AM NY.jpg

 

The headline got it exactly wrong - my playing in the subway is about the art, not the pay -  but as they say, "never let the truth get in the way of a good story."  None of that seemed to matter anyway -- suddenly "subway girl" seemed to describe what I am to commuters: that girl who plays in the subway. Yet I have so much more to say and express. Thus, NYCsubwaygirl was born.

My life is fun, full, and adventurous. I am blessed with vocal talent, a funky-rhythmic guitar style and an innate fearlessness, mixed with a fierce desire to entertain and maybe make a difference in the world. Equally important is the love and support of my family and friends. Ultimately, I believe music is a powerful tool that counteracts ignorance and hate. While my songs are sometimes political, sometimes analytical, they are always infused with love, optimism and hope.

Cathy Grier on Wikipedia