400,000 in the streets of NYC

the march was quite an experience. I am still exhilarated by the showing of awareness to get in the street and be counted. The amount of young people there was amazing. It means a lot to see youth concerned about their future. I had a chance to be interviewed for an article in The Epoch Times. So many slogans caught my eye, my favorite being "Change the System Not The Climate."

I went with my poodles and was joined by friend photographer Nousha Salimi (you see many of her shots of me throughout my site).  And here's one she took of me and The Epoch Times journalist Shannon Liao as she was interviewing me.

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!

Memorial Day to "Remember"

I am a pacifist who believes in the preciousness of life through non-violence.  Memorial Day is bittersweet for me as I can't help but remember and honor all those who lost their lives in fighting for our country. And to those who continue to serve.

Today at your BBQ or party, take a moment, a pause to give thanks to our lost soldiers and those who continue to serve.

Remembering my cousin Charlie Mcglauflin who was buried last week at The Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, NJ. He was a United States Marine Corps veteran as well as a Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer. 

Remembering my cousin Charlie Mcglauflin who was buried last week at The Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, NJ. He was a United States Marine Corps veteran as well as a Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer. 

As another reminder of how precious life is, here are some veterans of our armed services who are part of the inspiring I Wish For Project, by photographer Nousha Salimi :

Anna / US war veteran  "I wish I owned a Harley, so I could participate in more memorial runs with Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard Riders."  Oct.2013      Bronx,NY

Anna / US war veteran

"I wish I owned a Harley, so I could participate in more memorial runs with Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard Riders."

Oct.2013      Bronx,NY

Myles / US War Veteran  "I wish a happy and healthy life for my family and a new camera so I can take good pictures so I can write another cookbook."  Oct.21.2013     Bronx,NY.

Myles / US War Veteran

"I wish a happy and healthy life for my family and a new camera so I can take good pictures so I can write another cookbook."

Oct.21.2013     Bronx,NY.

Sidney / War Veteran  "I wish to live my life the best I can in the eyes show me the money."  Oct.2013    Bronx,NY

Sidney / War Veteran

"I wish to live my life the best I can in the eyes show me the money."

Oct.2013    Bronx,NY


I also celebrate the work of The Josephine Herrick Project this is from their website:

Josephine Herrick Project Honors our Veterans

"As we celebrate veterans as heroic young people who risked their lives for their country, today of all days, we must also commit to helping the more than 2.9 million disabled veterans from wars over the last seven decades. Josephine Herrick Project has had the honor of serving veterans with free photography programs for over 70 years. Join us and commit today to helping veterans in need"  Executive Director Maureen McNeil


Photograph by Mai Jun Li, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and participant in JHP photography programs "My dog tag is important to me. It was there with me with witnessing things good and bad. Taking photos of my ID is making me feel grateful. When I try to remember the past, my dog tag has been on me for years. It means a lot to me. I hold on to it like it's saving my life."

and what I wish for:

"I wish we truly lived by the people,of the people and for the people,and that the glass is always 1/2 full".  Cathy / Musician / New Yorker   www.nycsubwaygirl.com   March.27.2013 / Manhattan,NY

"I wish we truly lived by the people,of the people and for the people,and that the glass is always 1/2 full".

Cathy / Musician / New Yorker


March.27.2013 / Manhattan,NY

NYCSubwayGirl News Music + Art mashup at New Museum

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hello, The calendar hadn't even switched to a new year since I sent out my last news. We lost a musical hero, (here's my blog Pete Seeger Remembered,) and I've recorded some songs from my musical songbook and look forward to releasing it to the public in the next months. Here's a post about it: New Recording Session. And a free download of my song Rise Up that I wrote for Eve Ensler and her V-Day One Billion Rising campaign.

In NYC it's been a pretty long cold winter and busking in the subway has had it's challenges as you can imagine (I've had to cancel a few times).  We've had back to back storms, bitter cold and a Super Bowl to contend with, and those of you who know what it's like to walk a dog on chemical salt covered sidewalks, it's quite a challenge (and I have 2). I am excited to share the news about a cozy and warm inside gig.

This Thursday February 20th from 6-9 pm I will be performing at the New Museum during the Pawel Althamer exhibition entitled "The Neighbors" (located @235 Bowery. NYC). Pawel wanted to have street musicians performing during the exhibit to express the idea of collaboration and connection. I will be performing from time to time (here's a link to my schedule). Many other street musicians have been selected to also perform. 

Someone asked me why I don't consider this a concert series in a museum lobby. I am being amplified so that the live music is heard up on the 3rd floor. Much like performing in public spaces, people are on their way to something, the fact that a performer happens to be on their route is not static or stationary as a concert would be. I have seen the exhibition, and I visualize it while I play. It definitely affects the way I perform as seen from two points of view. One is from the perspective of where I am physically performing in the lobby as people enter and as they wait for the elevator, and the other, where the music through speakers is part of the aural landscape of the exhibition. Having the music as a live soundtrack for an art installation switches the dynamic of performance. I hear and see things differently in this situation and find intriguing the mashup of music + art. Something that is new to my world. When I shared this thought with Pawel, he responded "welcome to the temple." 

Here's Pawel's Inspiration video clip:

It's a wonderful opportunity for me create spontaneous soundscapes.  I sing or play chordal arrangements based on my memory of a piece, say for example the whimsical one of Pawel imagining himself living in a suitcase….  

I hope to see you at one of my performances.

I am looking forward to March the month of Spring and new growth!

All the best,



the pups enjoying snow on the beach by   Lilian Haidar

the pups enjoying snow on the beach by Lilian Haidar

Harper James engineer, Degraw Sound + Cathy Grier by  Nousha Salimi

Harper James engineer, Degraw Sound + Cathy Grier by Nousha Salimi

New Recording session

I spent a very long Sunday at Degraw sound on January 19th with engineer Harper James. I recorded 22 songs live. it was kind of a marathon monstor recording session.  I have always wanted to get a good recording sound out of my thin bodied Guild Songbird. It's a great performance guitar, but I've found it lacking in the studio. Harper did a great job of mixing in the mics along with the direct out from the guitar and we put it through a fender amp for a bit of a springy sound.

Once we got the room sound like I wanted, I just sang and played for 7 hours straight. Guess singing in the subway has been a great way to keep my stamina up. My whole creative energy is about performing, (and why it was important to record voice and guitar at the same time), and I was happy to have friends Carter McElroy and Nousha Salami come to support, which was really comforting.

I wanted to record newer versions of some of my favorite older songs, and also interpretations of songs that fans and commuters often ask me if I have recorded.  I returned to the studio last Sunday and Harper and I mixed 15 songs.  I've been listening to them and trying to decide which ones to choose and what to do next….stay tuned for how I plan to get them out to you. but first here's a little listen. 

top row is from my iPad, and bottom row by Nousha Salami

My One Billion Rising

15 years ago Eve Ensler's play the Vagina Monologues turned into V-Day, a campaign to end violence against women and girls. 15 years later she created One Billion Rising, proving 1 person can get 1 billion people to rise up and say stop it, no more violence.  Today we pledge to do something to make non violence a reality. I am proud to have been there 15 years ago and proud today as the movement continues.

I performed on the steps of ABC carpet + home as a One Billion Rising flashmob arrived.  Deepak Chopra spoke passionately about the importance of this movement.  A truly amazing moment for me to be sharing his energy and wisdom. Later I went to Hammerstein Ballroom for the big 4 hour NYC event.  It was videoed and you can watch it here. My performance comes in at 3:12. 

Deepak Chopra excites the crowd saying "a new revolution for humanity," on the steps of ABC carpet + Home before I sang my song Rise Up

flashmob outside ABC carpet + Home

Hammerstein Ballroom One Billion Rising event

photos by Nousha Salimi

Times Square real life in split second frames

every once and a while a photographer comes along and captures perfectly the experience of an underground performer. November 29th happened to be such a day. Maybe it was that odd scenario where in the midst of so many strangers, a few friends passed by at just the right moment.

images by Nousha Salimi:

2012-11-29 - Times SQ - Nousha Salimi  - Jorge Vargas - *** - IMG_9216.jpg

singing for friend Jorge Vargas (Broadway + film make-up artist)

2012-11-29 - Times SQ - Nousha Salimi  - Tim Higginbotham -  IMG_9278.jpg

a surprise visit by Music Under New York Coordinator Tim Higginbotham

2012-11-29 - Times SQ - Nousha Salimi -  Roger Rees -  IMG_9283.jpg

a chance hug from friend Roger Rees (exceptional actor and director)

2012-11-29 - Times SQ - Nousha Salimi - Yesnoyes jam -  IMG_9337.jpg

On rare occasions, I have the joy of a spontaneous jam with other musicians. The next group scheduled after me to perform was Music Under New York group Yes Noyes, and they happily joined in to the delight of those passing by.

It's these moments captured here that show the real time life of the underground captured in split second frames.  I especially like the couple kissing off to the left.

Thank you Nousha

Return to subway after Sandy

I showed up at Grand Central Shuttle today and performed for a steady stream of commuters.  People seemed, tired, and focused on their movement. Lots of rolling suitcases which I interpreted as flights are now back on schedule, or people were moving to their next shelter.  No matter what, I could feel the energy as a sort of accepted shock, and I was glad to do my part and fill the station with song and positive vibes. I reminded people that we were all in this together and that kindness, patience and support were needed in a time like this.

People were kind, generous and well if I may say so, softer.  It wasn't as noisy as usual either and I found singing to be effortless. I had a nice chat with "Piano Red" who told me he had been playing on the street to a daily crowd of generous New Yorkers.  I chatted with Calvin who traveled here to run in the Marathon, and although disappointed to not have run in dedication to his grandparents, he was positive, inspired. He gladly let me film him for my Inspiration Project.  What Inspires Calvin?

I talked with an MTA worker who had been working non stop, since last week. Nousha Salimi a wonderful photo journalist came by to capture the day and sent me some great shots. One of me and Brisdane Ford, another Music Under NY musician who sadly lost many of his possessions including his keyboard a few years ago in a fire.  It was great to see him. 

Nousha Salimi photographs

I walked past the Public Library on my way to Grand Central.  Do you know that by Thursday 55 branches were open?  I applaud Tony Marx the President of NYPL for mobilizing his staff to provide not only a place for people to read books, but to charge phones, connect to the internet or meet up with friends and neighbors. To know the doors were open, this is what a great institution is all about.

Encouraging words from NYPL President Tony Marx:

I hope that you and your family are safe. As our city recovers, we at The New York Public Library are working to provide essential services to New Yorkers who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

In the aftermath of this disaster, families across the city have relied on our branches to meet crucial needs. With the support of friends like you, we have built a Library system that is far more than a repository of books; it is a place where neighbors come together, resources are freely available, and New Yorkers can find information and a place to work together when schools and subways are closed. Over the past few days, we have served countless New Yorkers by providing welcoming spaces and making computers, Internet, and charging stations readily available. We've also added programming for thousands of public school students -- and we will continue to offer enriching activities and services in the days and weeks to com

For New Yorkers seeking reliable information, librarians have been helping patrons navigate the FEMA and Con Edison websites. We've also been providing resource and reference assistance via our Ask NYPL phone line (917-275-6975). In addition, we've waived fines and given automatic renewals to all borrowers, extending the due dates for 390,000 items. When the storm caused the cancellation of Library Lions, our annual fundraiser, NYPL decided to donate the evening's food -- enough to feed more than 600 people -- to the residents of hurricane-ravaged Staten Island. We're striving to ease the burden on New Yorkers in every way we can.


and on a personal note, 57 years ago today my parents were married in NYC. Both native New Yorkers. My father who sadly died young, is remembered every day. He was a civil engineer and there are many bridges in NYC that he worked on including the Broadway Bridge across the Harlem River. My mother no longer lives in NY but enjoys the NY stories I tell in my blogs.  Happy Anniversary.

Subway holds it's Charm on me

My first performance back from my summer break was at Columbus Circle, uptown 1 platform.  This spot is great. The crowd builds in between trains, but it's also quite noisy with express trains passing in both directions on the inside tracks.  I learn how to pause to save my voice. When the train arrives and the doors open, I love to see people inside look out in my direction, seemingly surprised to hear live music. I see a lot from my vantage point where I set up, and the colorful Sol Lewitt mosaics are behind me.

I met photo journalist Nousha Salimi who discovered my website and found where I was playing. She came to my gig the following day where I performed in Brooklyn at the LIRR station. It was interesting to have Nousha spend the entire gig with me 2 days in a row and each of the locations couldn't be any more different.  To be able to see what I witness, the humanity, the intense experience of being in one location for 3 hours at a time, while everything and everyone else is speeding by on their way to somewhere.

Columbus Circle:
by Nousha Salimi
Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn, LIRR station
by Nousha Salimi