musings of a subway performer and lifelong troubadour

Tracy's New York Life features NYCSubwayGirl

Added on by Cathy Grier.

Tracy Kaler has a blog called Tracy's New York Life, she found my site and contacted me for an interview.  I am pleased to see what she had to share about me.  Here it is, feel free to share and spread the love around.  It's always fun to see something positive come out of what I do.

 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

NYC Subway Girl Cathy Grier Talks Busking, Poodles, and Her Love for the City

COFFEE BREAK
A chat with a fascinating New Yorker
by Tracy Kaler

photo by Nousha Salimi

photo by Nousha Salimi

 "All my life, NYC has had a lot of special meaning for me. My parents were born and raised in the Bronx, and many generations of my family have lived in the NY environs. I first gigged here in the early '80s in Greenwich Village." --Cathy Grier

  
If you frequent the New York subway, you've probably listened  to the music of Cathy Grier, also known to many as "NYC Subway Girl." You'll find the artist jamming in underground hubs such as Grand Central Station, South Ferry Whitehall, Columbus Circle and the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) at Penn Station, but her experience reaches far beyond the island of Manhattan. Grier played around the world in destinations like Paris, Morocco, Australia, and Germany before moving back to her NYC roots in 1996. 

Busking in the city since 1999, she was happily accepted into the MTA's Music Under New York, a program that schedules performances for its members in high traffic stations. But beyond entertaining New Yorkers on the move, Grier's talent has captivated audiences in high-profile locales. The troubadour has played in impressive spots like Joe's Pub, 54 Below, BAM, Avery Fisher Hall, and on CNN, The Today Show, and CBS Sunday Morning.  

photo by Russ Weatherford

photo by Russ Weatherford

Grier, who professes to busk for the love of music and not money, earns an average of $70 per 3-hour shift, including tips and CD sales. The idea of NYC Subway Girl occurred to her after waking up one cold winter morning in February 2009 only to discover that she had made the cover of amNewYork, the widely read daily newspaper.


 TK: What do you like most about living in New York City?

CG: That you can see and hear just about anything. That we all figure our own ways to get along and live in such a chaotic place. It's a thriving city on multiple levels. You don't need a car, and trains can take you anywhere. Even my dogs take Metro-North. 

The art and music you find is amazing, including the architecture. And of course, due to the high cost of living and continued influx of residents, other boroughs are being discovered for their own special charm.

  {photo by Amal Chen}

  {photo by Amal Chen}

TK: Why did you move back to NYC?

CG: In 1996, I was working as a lyricist adapting two French/Spanish albums for an artist named Nilda Fernandez.  He wanted to record the project in New York, so I came to scope out studios. I had just ended a relationship and thought maybe it was time to move back to the US. NYC seemed like the most logical place. I realized that I missed my family who lived nearby, and the NYC energy and music scene. 

 TK: What's your favorite spot in the city?

CG: Since I have two dogs, I would say the parks. Madison Square Park and Bryant Park aren't far from home, and in Central Park, you can take dogs off leash before 9 a.m. every day. Grand Central Terminal for the people and architecture. 


TK: If I caught you playing, what are some of the songs I might hear?

CG: Many of my own originals. I am happy to say people enjoy and compare me to many artists that I respect, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Carole King, for example. My style is what one Time Out reviewer coined me as "Folked-Up Blues." But I also love to interpret popular songs, and some that get the most responses are: "The House Of The Rising Sun" (Traditional), "La Vie En Rose," "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, "Piece Of My Heart" by Janis Joplin, and "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse, to name a few.  People like what they know.

video by Michael Zaleski

TK: When you’re not performing, where can we find you?

CG: Walking my dogs –– two standard poodles. I cut their hair myself and the most popular question is,  "What are they?" The three of us make a formidable sight to see (we all have the same color hair). People constantly stop to talk and want to take pictures.  I finally created a hashtag because I wanted to see the pictures people were taking which you can find at #poodlesnyc.

 

5 poodles tulips.jpg

TK: What accomplishment are you most proud of and why? 

CG: That I have continued to perform since 1978 in many places throughout the world and that I have performed in the NYC stations and public spaces providing live music since 1999. To be able to see a steady stream of people smiling, because what I do makes that kind of an effect on them is quite humbling. Art and music are being stripped away, out of our schools. Even in our culture, the high cost of tickets to attend makes it unobtainable for many. To keep music alive is very important to me.

  {photo by Nousha Salimi}

  {photo by Nousha Salimi}

"While my songs are sometimes political, sometimes analytical, they are always infused with love, optimism and hope."-- Cathy Grier


Follow Cathy Grier on Facebook or Twitter, and read about her Inspiration Project where  she interviews people and asks the simple, yet complex question "What Inspires You?"  
 

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