An Evening with Nicolette Emanuelle is an intimate concert by an intriguing new Atlantan on Sunday evening at Oakhurst coffee shop/wine bar Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. The singer/songwriter/burlesque performer hasn’t been in Atlanta long, but she’s already made her mark with a volatile voice and songwriting style that’s been compared to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey. Our Retro heart, though, beats to another side of Nicolette – the influence of Kate Bush and Nick Cave. She has a passionate love for the piano and even more for the cello. She had the chutzpah to apply for and score a grant to produce her first rock album, as well as a striking look and a fearlessness in revealing costumes that has been drawing attention at local club events. Oh, and she says she gives great hugs! Needless to say we were just curious enough to make her Kool Kat of the Week!
Can you talk a little bit about what it means to be compared to Kate and Nick and the influence of these two artists on you?
I consider it to be a huge compliment when someone compares me to Kate Bush or Nick Cave. I was raised on Kate Bush, and I have memories of pulling the endpin all the way out on my cello so I could pretend it was a bass to do the choreography from the “Babooshka” video. Nick Cave I wasn’t introduced to until later in life. I fell in love with MURDER BALLADS, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The only cover I will be playing at this upcoming show is a Nick Cave song in honor of Halloween.
Did you grow up Goth or is that a rhetorical question?
Well, my wardrobe was all black from the ages of 14 -18, but I’m not entirely sure if it was a fashion statement or laziness when it came to fashion. I was much more of a orchestra/drama/band nerd than anything else.
How did you decide upon the stage name of Nicolette Emanuelle?
Emanuelle is my middle name and also a family name. I identify more with the name “Emanuelle” than I ever have with any of my last names – of which there are three.
Lots of artists are raising money for their albums via crowd-sourcing, but you did it for your album PINAFORE the old-school way with a grant from a county arts council. How difficult was that, and are musicians overlooking that opportunity?
I have my ex-girlfriend Laura to thank for that. She had a history in non-profit work and had written many grants, so when we found the Regional Artists grant [from the North Carolina Arts Council] we decided to go for it. I put together a sample of my work and she wrote the proposal and helped me with the budget (she also played drums on the album). When I told my peers what I was doing they insisted that no one would give a grant for rock music, but that just made me want it even more. We were ecstatic to find that not only did we get the grant, we got the full amount that we asked for. I encourage any musician, no matter what their genre to use whatever resources are out there to produce their work.
Grants are a good resource if you have a specific project you are trying to fund, like an album. When considering your proposal keep in mind how your project will benefit the organization, pay attention to their mission and carefully read the grant requirements, then read them again! We went from the angle that not only would recording this album help my music career and allow me to contribute more to the artistic community, it would make the ASC visible in the alternative community. A lot of people didn’t know about the ASC and if they did they didn’t think they would support that part of the artistic community. Some of my peers in that area are now utilizing the many workshops that the ASC holds to help artists become better business people so they can make a living off their work.
You just moved to Atlanta? Where are you from originally? What drew you here now and what do you think of the music/performance art scene in Atlanta now?
I moved to Atlanta in February – I had visited back in ’97 but never lived here – after a few months of wandering from state to state trying to decide what to do with myself. The most recent place I called home was Seattle; I left there in December, 2011. Originally? I always found that to be an interesting question, and people ask it often. My dad was in the Navy, so a little here, a little there. I love the arts scene here; it is very eclectic and there is a lot of talent.
You’ve said how much you love playing the cello. What is it about this very old-school instrument that appeals to you so strongly?
My cello is my husband, it’s always been there for me even when we were fighting. There was a time when I tried to step away and, but people would call me up with work. I would ask it “why do they want you? Can’t they see how in love I am with my piano?” and it would sigh that low mournful sigh. Then we learned to communicate and the more we played the better we got; then one day I realized that I was in love with my cello. It is a very different kind of love than I feel for my piano, more like a familial love. You know those relationships you have that exist because you went through some shit together and came out on the other side stronger? That is my cello, it is my voice. It has been my voice when I couldn’t communicate any other way
Kavarna is an intimate musical venue. Can you talk a bit about what you have planned for your performance this Sunday?
All of the songs I will be performing were written between June 2011 to present. I was happily married to a wonderful person. I loved Seattle and loved living on Capitol Hill. I was performing burlesque, training in the aerial arts with a fantastic group called The Cabiri, and I had a loving four-legged companion named “Charlotte.” I was pretty content with my life, and then I lost everything. It was like a bad country song: I lost my husband, I lost my dog, I lost my home, and then things got worse. I started down a decline and couldn’t recover.
So after two years of producing barely anything music-wise, I was inspired to write. It started when I was packing some of my things to move into a room I was renting after we decided to separate. I found a poem Fritz wrote called “I-Centric” and made a song out of it. It is a very personal set, and so I wanted to play somewhere low-key and intimate. I want to take the audience on a journey with me, and if one person hears something that they can relate to or can take something positive away from it, even if it’s as simple as “I like that groove,” then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It’s a story, my story on how I came to be in Atlanta miles away from everything I knew and loved. The good news is I have found new things to know and love.
You also do burlesque and performance art, and have been seen out at club events in some racy outfits. Can you talk a bit about that persona? How does that compliment your music or is it more about having fun with expressing a different side of you?
That is a complicated topic! It first became a way for me to take back my body. It was taken without my permission, and for years I hid under baggy clothes thinking it would protect me somehow. I hated my body and felt betrayed by it. It took a very long time for me to even get to a point where I felt comfortable showing my legs in public. For years I didn’t even own a pair of shorts, and if I wore a skirt, I would wear like two pairs of stockings. I had to re-learn how to love my body. Aerial trapeze helped a lot with that; it allowed me to start trusting my body and what it could do. I started to become impressed that I could climb ropes and flip around bars like when I was a kid. Burlesque taught me that it was okay to be sexy and have fun, that my sexuality was not a curse – well that and years of therapy. I started to notice that while my music always came from a place of pain, burlesque and performance art came from a place of joy. I need this persona to balance the other one. The funny thing is I don’t feel naked when I’m performing burlesque or out at a club. I feel the most naked when I’m playing music.
What’s next for Nicolette Emanuelle?
I need a drummer and a string player! I would like to put together a band, record my new material and have highly artistic videos made for each song. Then I want to release each song/video a week apart until the whole album is released, then have a big CD release party. At the CD release party I would like to have performance artists and burlesque performers come up with a piece for each song to be performed at the party – and recorded. Then I want to release a DVD of the videos, performances and songs. Then I could cross-promote on film sites, music sites and performance art sites. I’m really excited about this idea and this show is the first step. I’m really hoping some musicians see it, like it and want to play with me. There is nothing like having people to work with who have faith in your vision.
Finally, just how good are your hugs?
Well, you’ll just have to come out to the show see for yourself.