Nicky Egan
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Nicky Egan

Band Blues Soul


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"Yardley's Nicky Egan Brings Her Sound Home"


Nicky Egan may be new to Philadelphia's music scene, but it was the young singer-songwriter's old soul that exhilarated a packed crowd at World Café Live on Saturday.

Egan, 20, of Yardley, ably showcased her syrupy voice, which frothily mixes jazz scats with fiery R&B gusto, on a range of numbers, backed by a talented seven-piece band she brought down from Boston to play the City of Brotherly Love. Although her raucous set was full of well-received crooning over bluesy grooves and rock-tinged anthems, Egan's career wasn't always destined for the club circuit. In fact, many of her high school classmates would have pegged her as a future Mia Hamm instead of the next Janis Joplin.

At Pennsbury High School, where Egan graduated in 2006, she was known more for her skills on the soccer field than the stage, playing striker for the Falcons squad that landed in the state semifinals her senior year. Always a talented vocalist and pianist during her childhood, which she recalls was full of Joni Mitchell and classic rock, Egan never focused full-time on her passion for music until she began attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston two years ago.

Berklee, best known for its string of famous alumni, from John Mayer to Quincy Jones, was the place where Egan finally put down her spikes and picked up the mic. "At first, I had a different idea about music school," said Egan in our interview this weekend. "I thought it would be overwhelming. I missed playing soccer and having sports in my life." Fittingly, during Egan's first semester, Berklee made her transition a bit easier when the school, which traditionally has never participated in athletics, added a hockey team that fall. "I made sure to rally all of my friends to the first game," she laughed.

Limited sports didn't deter Egan from embracing Berklee's close-knit music community. "I needed to go somewhere where music was going to be encompassing everything I did," she says. Soon after arriving, Egan, already a prolific songwriter, decided to collaborate again with keyboardist Eli Winderman, another Pennsbury grad studying at Berklee. Egan and Winderman had performed together in high school as members of Gibbus Groove, a short-lived outfit of Pennsbury students that Egan recalls "played two weddings and an anniversary party."

Both wanted to play more than cover songs and party jams, so they began developing many of Egan's original compositions into multi-instrument arrangements, guided by other Berklee undergrads seeking out a band. Egan quickly put together a tight ensemble of experienced jazz and blues musicians from surrounding dorm rooms, including her current guitarist Johnny Simon, drummer Mark Purrington and bassist Chuck Jones.

Before Egan's show at World Café Live, the cozy stage adjacent to WXPN radio studios on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus, she brought down her band for a week of rehearsals, where she introduced them to the wonders of Philadelphia cheese steaks and the Oxford Valley Mall.

"It's a perfect mix," Egan says of her band. "We're really great friends and keep it professional, which comes from all of us being driven." After playing a few practice sessions at Berklee, the group began to quickly mesh. "We got excited about playing and it all just kind of clicked," she says. "It was almost weird."

Egan and her band have played numerous dive bars around Boston, but this past weekend's show was the group's coming out party. Winderman, who also plays keys for Crucial, the Bucks County band that played an uplifting set of guitar-heavy reggae after Egan's set, was dazzling throughout each performance, tickling improvised scales on the ivories that elevated Egan's rich pipes and propelled Crucial's lively melodies. Still, it was Egan's songwriting that captivated the Saturday night crowd on Walnut Street.

Starting the evening with a James Brown medley that smoothly segued into "So Bad," a tune Egan just recently penned, her band ignited on "Lullaby," a sauntering, feel-good pop song highlighted by Egan's soaring wails and warm melisma. Nodding to one of her favorite chanteuses, Egan covered India.Arie's "There's Hope," an up-tempo number that had the audience clapping along. Egan also effortlessly executed on her ballads, most memorably on the wandering structures of the low-key "Good People" and "Sad But True."

Calling the World Café Live show the band's "biggest yet," Egan says the group wanted the gig to be more than just it showcase - they wanted to truly entertain. "We've played in small venues in Boston and know that there's a difference between playing and putting on a show," she said. "We wanted to put on a show."

Indeed, Egan and her "band of funky young gentlemen" as she calls them, did put on quite a show this weekend, raising more than a few eyebrows from curious Philadelphians who wandered into the World Café. Egan also elicited rousing cheers from a crowd of Bucks County college students who wanted to catch a little R&B and reggae before heading back to campus.

For Egan, her new role as a soul songstress feels right. "My parents say I started singing as soon I could shower," she chuckled. "This has been a lot of fun."




Hailing from Yardley, PA, Nicky Egan has been focusing full-time on her music career since entering the Berklee College of Music in 2006. Pre-Berklee, Nicky enjoyed writing songs and performing with her good friend and fellow Berklee student Eli Winderman as members of Gibbus Groove. Once in Boston, they began assembling a group of experienced jazz and blues musicians who are now her guitarist Johnny Simon, drummer Mark Purrington and bassist Chuck Jones. Nicky and her "band of funky young gentlemen" have since entertained at several bars and venues around the Boston area and are currently in the process of recording an album.