Tracy's New York Life features NYCSubwayGirl

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

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?"  

You can subscribe to all blog posts from Tracy's New York Life!

Live Radio appearance for Hudson Radio WGXC

I'm happy to share that I'll be on WGXC radio in Hudson NY Monday March 10th at 9am on the Philip is On The radio show in Columbia and Greene Counties at 90.7 on the FM dial, or you can always listen online.


I love Philip's show, He has a great intro that I always believed was "Fill-up on the Radio, Fill-Up on the Radio, Fill Up On The Ra-Di-O."  Then I learned the DJ's name was actually Philip.  Still Philip fills me up with classic blues, Rhythm and Blues and Soul.  He's always been a great supporter of playing my music. I love supporting Community local public radio,

I'll be there to support their fund drive, hope to you tune in Monday at 9am and please consider making a pledge.





I recently performed for a pop-up restaurant event for NYC foodies. It was held in a cool Soho Gallery.  

“Cathy lights up the room with her distinctive blues-folk sound, and has a little something for everyone. Her performances are not to be missed.”

Eli Cassel, Music Curator Dinner Lab

OWWR radio interview

My trip out to Hicksville in Long Island was easy, no real traffic. I really enjoyed my interview on Michael J. Mand's show St. James Infirmary. We had a fun free flow conversation, and I also got Michael to answer my favorite question "What inspires you?" Michael's "day job" is dentistry. Michael is a dentist with an amazing love of music and people. On air he calls himself Michael The Molar Maven a perfect handle.

Here's an MP3 audio of the full interview:

Michael's comfortable style of interviewing revealed his inquisitive nature asking me such questions that ranged from "What's the difference between an engineer and a producer," "Who invented seats that recline?" to "What is it about musicians that make them more activist than dentists?" We discussed the rights of a subway performer, and Michael's experiences meeting other performers. We touched on other subjects ranging from rap as folk music, to violence against women. I performed live, and Michael played my Rise Up (One Billion Rising) song that I wrote for Eve Ensler's The show is a little over an hour.  To the left of the image of Michael and I is the MP3 file of the entire interview

Michael The Molar Maven and me

Michael The Molar Maven and me

When chatting about New Yorkers Say No To War, apologies to Laura Flanders for mangling her name. And to Willie Nile song One Guitar (completely missed the 2nd verse)… that's my world of live interviews folks!

Spenser Mestel's BuskOff

Spenser met me in Grand Central in late March 2013. He listened to me perform and then we walked outside and sat in Bryant Park to chat about my subway experiences for his blog Busk Off - A Subterranean Look at New York City. It was still a bit too cold to be outside, but there was Spring in the air and I was hopeful.

From Spenser Mestel, "To be clear, this blog is not trying to describe Twenty-Something Urban Life or The New York Experience.  Instead, I want to see how passionate people navigate this city, and I think the subway is a great lens through which to do that.  To the best of my ability, I’ve fact-checked what my sources have told me or indicated that it’s their version of events.  At times, I’ve changed my interviewees’ names out of respect for their privacy or professional integrity. If you feel these decisions diminish the legitimacy of the blog, then I’d remind you that this is not journalism proper.  For lack of a better word, Busk Off is a series of vignettes about people far braver than I am, struggling to entertain perhaps the world’s most hostile audience.  I am extremely grateful for their time and cooperation, and I hope you read something that resonates with you.  At the very least, if you ever find yourself almost alone on a subway platform late at night, and a guitarist finishes his cover of “The Trapeze Swinger,” I hope you applaud. He’s trying his best."

 "BuskOff" A Subterranean Look at New York City

Spenser tells my story through his lens

Thanks Spenser.

Live on NH public radio

Today I enjoyed a live interview with Virginia Prescott host of New Hampshire public radio's program Word Of Mouth.  I'm excited that she discoved my Inspiration Project and wanted to chat with me about it.

Virginia is a strongbeliever in empowering local voices to create informed communities.  That's what my project is all about. It was fun to hear the excerpts she chose of some of the voices of the people I meet that share what inspires them.

Here's a link to the interview.  And a screenshot I took from the NHPR website.

2013-05-21- word of mouth teaser NH public radio.jpg

We Love NY French blog

For those stuck at home, without any way to get to work, or have any damage to clean up, I am thinking of you. This is the best time to reach out to friends, neighbors and family to connect and show strength of community.

Maybe you might enjoy reading this article I'm in. I woke up to a nice interview about my performing in NYC subways in a French blog called We Love New York. Glad I'll have new readers from France who might enjoy learning about subway performers in NYC.

The first paragraphs are in French, but the article is in English.

Here's the link


subway documentary, my early years

In the category of nothing is ever lost in the age of YouTube, I recently discovered this trailer from documentary film maker Jason Scianno, entitled Legends Of The Underground.  I am featured along with many other subway performers I've known over the years and luckily whom are still performing. Filmed between 1999 and 2001. It captures the beginning of my performing with the Music Under NY program.  Not sure when or if this film will ever be distributed, but Jason does a great job of capturing the essence of street performing.

Grand Central Commuter

I stopped to speak with you at GCT around 1pm today and bought two of your cds.  I was getting my shoes shined, reading the paper and said to myself "who is playing that beautiful music?"  I listened to "Coming Back to Me" tonight and really like it.  I said to myself that there is a lot going in this voice...I heard Natalie Merchant, Lara Nyro, Joni've got quite a range and your guitar work is impeccable.  I didn't know that you opened for Laura Nyro, so that was a good guess.  Anyway, my first and true love is folk music and I enjoyed stumbling upon your music today. Thanks and all the best!

Ron Schulman

Documentary Film on NY Street Musicians

Carl Kriss and Chris Viemeister stopped by to film me performing underground on a few occasions last year for a feature documentary film about New York street musicians.  The title "Give and Take" comes from a lovely description that what we do gives more than it takes.  I love that.   The film features many of my friends.  I'm excited the film now completed, has been chosen to be the the first screening at SENE Film Festival in Rhode Island April 6-10.  Here is the link to the festival, check it out.

And the trailer:

Give and Take- Trailer (Rough) from Carl Kriss on Vimeo.

and a fun interview of film maker Carl Kriss in Interview Magazine by By MICHELLE ONG

Northeast Public Radio NYCSubwayGirl conversation

I'm a featured guest on Northeast Public Radio station at 1pm (EST) WAMC Conversation with Cathy Grier: NYC Subway Girl

Last week I traveled to Albany, NY to be interviewed by Alan Chartock President and CEO of WAMC for his program 'Conversations with Alan Chartock'.  We spent an hour chatting about my life as a subway performer, sharing some of my crazy experiences mixed with anecdotal stories and also a few live songs.   

For those of you out of radio range you can listen live on their website, scroll down and select from the 3  types of MP3/media streaming

and if you missed it, here's the interview

link to the podcast


Me and Alan Chartock, get your own 'Be Inspired@NYCSubwayGirl' t-shirt available through Cool People Care 

you can also check my Inspirations page where Alan and producer Ian Pickus have their Inspirations posted. 

I'll be back in the subway next week, and be sure to check out my gig listings for the locations.

William Russo, NYTWS

note from Billy after my Joe's Pub concert June 15, 2010

None of your recordings prepared us for the power of your live performance. You filled me to the brim emotionally and your virtuosity on the guitar is thrilling. Your La Vie En Rose had me in tears at the end when you went acapella. You've made my week so much better from having been serenaded by you. 

All the Best, Billy and Richard

William Russo is the managing Director New York Theatre Workshop

Valerie Smaldone WOR interview

Here's an audio file of my interview with Valerie on her WOR radio show "Valerie's New York."  

Valerie is a sharp interviewer and asked great questions.  Too bad my land line phone was crackling so much. Valerie has a standing invitation to come underground and let me film her "Inspiration" for this site.  Can't wait Valerie!

Thanks to Nancy VanReece for uploading the file.  

NYC Subway Girl on WBAI morning radio show Thursday 21st

WBAI Wake-Up call 99.5 FM 

Sedera Ranaivoarinosy profiles street musicians on WBAI radio “Wake Up Call” morning show (99.5 FM in NYC, or streaming online). She came by Rockefeller Center some weeks ago to hear me perform. Amidst the chaos of a crazy Friday afternoon, (Dora The Explorer was upstairs at Radio City), she interviewed me while the place was teeming with excited children with plentiful smiles and glee.

My 5-minute profile will air this Thursday April 21, 2010 at 7:30 am on Wake Up Call. You can either listen to it online on 99.5 FM or you can stream it live and if you can't listen at the air time, you can go later in the day to WBAI's archives and download Wake Up Call's 7 o'clock hour and skip to the middle!

I hope you enjoy it!


 Sedera and me