Nicole Belanus
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Nicole Belanus

Gainesville, Virginia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF

Gainesville, Virginia, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2009
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

May
11
Nicole Belanus @ Epicure Cafe

Fairfax, Virginia, United States

Fairfax, Virginia, United States

May
07
Nicole Belanus @ Stillwaters Studio

Marshall, Virginia, United States

Marshall, Virginia, United States

Apr
23
Nicole Belanus @ The Winery At La Grange

Haymarket, Virginia, United States

Haymarket, Virginia, United States

Music

Press


Nicole Belanus, a promising acoustic/pop singer & songwriter based in Williamsburg, Virginia, has won the March SingerUniverse “Best Vocalist Of The Month” Competition, for her performance of her song “These Wounds". This song was featured on her first album Notes On Paper, which she released independently in 2009. Belanus has also released a second album called Tune My Heart, which came out last December (2011).

“These Wounds” is a graceful, heartfelt acoustic ballad which is pleasant to listen to. The song provides a fine showcase for Belanus' clear, expressive vocals. The music arrangement presents a nice balance of piano and acoustic guitar, and there are good harmonies in the chorus. "These Wounds" was skillfully produced by Belanus, who plays guitar, some piano and percussion on this cut. Belanus worked with recording engineer Billy Ricketts on this album, which was recorded at his home studio.

Belanus was born in Michigan, and she moved with her family (because her father was in the Navy) to many locations on the East Coast, and she spent her middle school years living in Japan. She grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, the Mamas & Papas, and more recently Patty Griffin. Belanus learned to play guitar and piano early on, but interestingly, her main instrument for many years was oboe. She studied classical music in high school and in college (at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI).
After graduating from college, Belanus began focusing on playing guitar and writing songs. In 2009 she recorded and released her first album, Notes On Paper, which contained 10 of her original songs. Belanus subsequently won a regional event called the Sea Level Songwriting Competition, for which she performed her song, "Home."

In 2010 Belanus promoted her debut album by performing live shows (mostly solo) and making radio appearances. Then in 2011 she began writing and recording songs for her second album, Tune My Heart. "There are 11 songs on my new album--it's a faith-based album, with songs which are more inspirational and uplifting," explained Belanus. "The feedback has been good; I'm happy to see that people are embracing the album and listening to it."

Currently, Belanus has been promoting her new album and performing more live shows. "The past few years, I've been focusing on my music," she said. "I want to push myself to do as much as I can musically--playing live and touring beyond the Virginia area. I also want to meet more musicians, and I'm looking for a manager to work with." - SingerUniverse


Some musicians strive for success by creating an easy-to-grasp image.

Williamsburg's Nicole Belanus isn't one of them.

Belanus, who last month was named a winner in a regional songwriting contest, wants to avoid getting crammed into any sort of box.

"I haven't done a lot of performing outside of churches. I'm trying to break out of that mode," she said. "I don't want to get boxed into something. I'd rather be free to be more unlimited in lyrics and content, or just style."

Even though she's employed as a music director for Stone House Presbyterian Church in Toano and she's written songs on religious themes, Belanus doesn't want to be known strictly as a Christian artist.

In that, she's taken several steps in the right direction.

Last year, Belanus was invited to play in a showcase in Richmond at Alley Katz, a beloved-but-grimy rock club in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom.

Playing for a beer-guzzling crowd at Alley Katz is about as far from a church sanctuary as you can get. Looking back, Belanus laughs, admitting that she didn't fully understand what she was getting into.

But the crowd - mostly younger rock fans - were receptive to her thoughtful, tuneful acoustic music.

"No tomatoes were thrown," she said, smiling. "And it was good for me, a growing experience. I don't want to get locked into any sort of niche. That doesn't interest me. I just want to continue to get the music out there."

Thanks to her strong, sharp singing voice, polished musicianship and a gift for writing memorable melodies, word is spreading about Belanus and her songs.

Last month, she was named co-winner of the Sea Level Singer-Songwriter Festival's emerging songwriter competition held in Norfolk. As a winner, she got the change to perfom live on Paul Shugrue's eclectic public radio show "Out of the Box" as well as on Hunter Hughes' digital/Internet radio show "Hunter at Sunrise."

She played "Out of the Box" on April 29 and "Hunter at Sunrise" May 3.

That exposure - from both winning the contest and getting the chance to sing on the radio - has given her musical aspirations a lift.

"It's definitely led to some cool things that wouldn't have come about otherwise," she said. "It's given me the motivation I've been looking for."

For Belanus, music has always been a central part of her life. She grew up in a musical household where her mother taught piano lessons in the family living room. As a kid bouncing around the globe in a Navy family, she wrote tunes about friends, moving to a new school, pets and riding bicycles.

Her father retired from the Navy in Norfolk, but Belanus headed off to Michigan to attend Calvin College, a Christian school located in Grand Rapids. There, she studied sociology and played oboe in the school's orchestra.

After college, she lived in New Mexico for a time, then arrived on the Peninsula in 2005.

In July, she'll start working on her first solo recording which she hopes to release in the fall.

It won't be her first experience in a recording studio, though. Late last year, three of her songs appeared on "A Renewal Artists' Sampler: 2008" which also included tunes from area musicians William and Loretta Ricketts.

Belanus compositions "Meaning of Life", "Salvation Sings" and "Other Side" - one of the tunes that helped her win the Sea Level contest - were included on that disc. Belanus also contributed her version of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" which allows the 31-year-old singer to show off what her voice can do.

Songwriting, though, is her main focus. Belanus said she's penned more than 50 tunes. She says she's been influenced by Patty Griffin, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman and the Beatles.

As she looks to the future, she imagines herself touring regionally at least. "I think that would be really fun, but a hard way to live after awhile," she said. "I could see myself doing the local or regional circuit. Maybe I'll go to Nashville and give it a shot."

For now, though, she's happy to push her musical career at a measured pace.

"I'm trying not to put pressure on myself, but to take advantage of opportunities that are presented. For now, I want to keep it manageable. One thing at a time."

Her day job at the church, after all, is a good one.

"It's a place where I feel very supported in what I do," she said. "I think folks at the church get a kick out of it." - Sam McDonald, The Daily Press


Some musicians strive for success by creating an easy-to-grasp image.

Williamsburg's Nicole Belanus isn't one of them.

Belanus, who last month was named a winner in a regional songwriting contest, wants to avoid getting crammed into any sort of box.

"I haven't done a lot of performing outside of churches. I'm trying to break out of that mode," she said. "I don't want to get boxed into something. I'd rather be free to be more unlimited in lyrics and content, or just style."

Even though she's employed as a music director for Stone House Presbyterian Church in Toano and she's written songs on religious themes, Belanus doesn't want to be known strictly as a Christian artist.

In that, she's taken several steps in the right direction.

Last year, Belanus was invited to play in a showcase in Richmond at Alley Katz, a beloved-but-grimy rock club in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom.

Playing for a beer-guzzling crowd at Alley Katz is about as far from a church sanctuary as you can get. Looking back, Belanus laughs, admitting that she didn't fully understand what she was getting into.

But the crowd - mostly younger rock fans - were receptive to her thoughtful, tuneful acoustic music.

"No tomatoes were thrown," she said, smiling. "And it was good for me, a growing experience. I don't want to get locked into any sort of niche. That doesn't interest me. I just want to continue to get the music out there."

Thanks to her strong, sharp singing voice, polished musicianship and a gift for writing memorable melodies, word is spreading about Belanus and her songs.

Last month, she was named co-winner of the Sea Level Singer-Songwriter Festival's emerging songwriter competition held in Norfolk. As a winner, she got the change to perfom live on Paul Shugrue's eclectic public radio show "Out of the Box" as well as on Hunter Hughes' digital/Internet radio show "Hunter at Sunrise."

She played "Out of the Box" on April 29 and "Hunter at Sunrise" May 3.

That exposure - from both winning the contest and getting the chance to sing on the radio - has given her musical aspirations a lift.

"It's definitely led to some cool things that wouldn't have come about otherwise," she said. "It's given me the motivation I've been looking for."

For Belanus, music has always been a central part of her life. She grew up in a musical household where her mother taught piano lessons in the family living room. As a kid bouncing around the globe in a Navy family, she wrote tunes about friends, moving to a new school, pets and riding bicycles.

Her father retired from the Navy in Norfolk, but Belanus headed off to Michigan to attend Calvin College, a Christian school located in Grand Rapids. There, she studied sociology and played oboe in the school's orchestra.

After college, she lived in New Mexico for a time, then arrived on the Peninsula in 2005.

In July, she'll start working on her first solo recording which she hopes to release in the fall.

It won't be her first experience in a recording studio, though. Late last year, three of her songs appeared on "A Renewal Artists' Sampler: 2008" which also included tunes from area musicians William and Loretta Ricketts.

Belanus compositions "Meaning of Life", "Salvation Sings" and "Other Side" - one of the tunes that helped her win the Sea Level contest - were included on that disc. Belanus also contributed her version of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" which allows the 31-year-old singer to show off what her voice can do.

Songwriting, though, is her main focus. Belanus said she's penned more than 50 tunes. She says she's been influenced by Patty Griffin, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman and the Beatles.

As she looks to the future, she imagines herself touring regionally at least. "I think that would be really fun, but a hard way to live after awhile," she said. "I could see myself doing the local or regional circuit. Maybe I'll go to Nashville and give it a shot."

For now, though, she's happy to push her musical career at a measured pace.

"I'm trying not to put pressure on myself, but to take advantage of opportunities that are presented. For now, I want to keep it manageable. One thing at a time."

Her day job at the church, after all, is a good one.

"It's a place where I feel very supported in what I do," she said. "I think folks at the church get a kick out of it." - Sam McDonald, The Daily Press


Songwriter Nicole Belanus explored Christian themes in some of her earlier recordings. For her latest, she's focused her full attention on her faith. Her new collection, "Tune My Heart," depicts both personal pain and the ecstacy of redemption. "When days are short and nights are long, I need your strength to carry on, be thou my hope when hope is gone, o spirit come and rescue me," she sings on the album's final track, "Spirit."

"Tune My Heart," released Dec, 12,features songs skillfully written, performed and recorded. Nine of the disc's 11 songs are originals. Belanus worked again with producer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Ricketts, recording most of the tracks at Rickett's home studio in Chesapeake. It's much the same team that created her 2009 disc "Notes on Paper."

Belanus said she was nervous about making a faith-based record and wanted to make sure it achieved the right tone.

"I never want to exclude a listener, but I also wanted to do something that speaks to things that are important to me," the Williamsburg resident said in a telephone interview. Belanus, 34, works as a music director for Stone House Presbyterian Church in Toano and she's written music for various services over the years. "Anything an artist does is a reflection of everything they are," she said. "They can't really filter too much."

Belanus also hopes to raise the bar for modern Christian music, some of which she finds lacking.

"I regret that we live in such a polarized time," she said. Not all Christians are eager to point fingers and loudly condemn the actions of others. "It really sickens me that that's some people's perception of a Christian," she said. "I wanted to get art out there that reflects what's really important: Living a life of faith, using love as a template...down to the small choices and decisions you might make. it's a life of deep reflection, hard times, difficult choices...but with opportunities to live a more purposeful life."

The centerpiece of the album is a luminous track called "Weight of the World," which describes a soul in turmoil. "I could write a song with a million hallelujah's to you, coax the melody from my throat, but it wouldn't be true...Please take this weight away," she sings. In the story of the lyrics, God hears her prayer and lifts her burden. It's a song of struggle and comfort.

Providing comfort is Belanus' aim for the album as a whole.

"My goal is not just to sell copies and make money," she said. "It's my way of communicating things that are important to me...the life of love that keeps me going. Encouraging the listener would be the best compliment. I'll worry about making the record that makes me a big star later." - Sam McDonald, The Daily Press


Songwriter Nicole Belanus explored Christian themes in some of her earlier recordings. For her latest, she's focused her full attention on her faith. Her new collection, "Tune My Heart," depicts both personal pain and the ecstacy of redemption. "When days are short and nights are long, I need your strength to carry on, be thou my hope when hope is gone, o spirit come and rescue me," she sings on the album's final track, "Spirit."

"Tune My Heart," released Dec, 12,features songs skillfully written, performed and recorded. Nine of the disc's 11 songs are originals. Belanus worked again with producer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Ricketts, recording most of the tracks at Rickett's home studio in Chesapeake. It's much the same team that created her 2009 disc "Notes on Paper."

Belanus said she was nervous about making a faith-based record and wanted to make sure it achieved the right tone.

"I never want to exclude a listener, but I also wanted to do something that speaks to things that are important to me," the Williamsburg resident said in a telephone interview. Belanus, 34, works as a music director for Stone House Presbyterian Church in Toano and she's written music for various services over the years. "Anything an artist does is a reflection of everything they are," she said. "They can't really filter too much."

Belanus also hopes to raise the bar for modern Christian music, some of which she finds lacking.

"I regret that we live in such a polarized time," she said. Not all Christians are eager to point fingers and loudly condemn the actions of others. "It really sickens me that that's some people's perception of a Christian," she said. "I wanted to get art out there that reflects what's really important: Living a life of faith, using love as a template...down to the small choices and decisions you might make. it's a life of deep reflection, hard times, difficult choices...but with opportunities to live a more purposeful life."

The centerpiece of the album is a luminous track called "Weight of the World," which describes a soul in turmoil. "I could write a song with a million hallelujah's to you, coax the melody from my throat, but it wouldn't be true...Please take this weight away," she sings. In the story of the lyrics, God hears her prayer and lifts her burden. It's a song of struggle and comfort.

Providing comfort is Belanus' aim for the album as a whole.

"My goal is not just to sell copies and make money," she said. "It's my way of communicating things that are important to me...the life of love that keeps me going. Encouraging the listener would be the best compliment. I'll worry about making the record that makes me a big star later." - Sam McDonald, The Daily Press


"Notes on Paper," the debut CD from Williamsburg songwriter Nicole Belanus, offers more than quick, loose sketches of her musical soul. The album's 10 songs unfold as finely detailed portraits of her moods and attitudes.

Clearly, Belanus likes working in classic singer-songwriter mode, an approach that brings benefits as well as risks.

On the plus side, "Notes on Paper" is a carefully polished, well-recorded collection of strong original songs. Belanus has a gift for melody and a crisp, clear singing voice that resembles that of Shawn Colvin or Dar Williams. Belanus' musical collaborators - on bass, drums, keyboards and guitars - play with professional-caliber taste and tone.

On the downside, some of her tunes suffer from an ailment common among singer-songwriters: mushy self indulgence.

Belanus gets it out there right from the beginning on the album-opening track, "These Wounds." When she passionately sings, "Nothing seems real except the feelings that I feel," I braced for an avalanche of overly earnest emotion.

Thankfully, though, no avalanche came - only a few sporadic crumbles.

The track "Other Side" is a heart-felt description of an imminent breakup, and it's one of Belanus' strongest songs. it follows a pattern familiar to anyone who's heard coffeehouse troubadours, but wins on melody and simple, straight-forward language.

A few tunes find Belanus leaving the comfort of the coffeehouse and exploring other styles. They're refreshing. "Memphis" employs a bluesy touch and a few of the album's best lines. "I long to hear that rock'n'roll drown out the traffic and see Beale Street lit up in neon lights and decked out in plastic cups," she sings. Elsewhere, on "Hanging By a Thread," Beatlesque psychedelic touches widen the album's musical scope, hinting at what a more free-wheeling Belanus disc might sound like.

In the end, "Notes on Paper" is worth a listen because it captures a fresh local voice with plenty of talent and ambition. - Sam McDonald, The Daily Press


"Notes on Paper," the debut CD from Williamsburg songwriter Nicole Belanus, offers more than quick, loose sketches of her musical soul. The album's 10 songs unfold as finely detailed portraits of her moods and attitudes.

Clearly, Belanus likes working in classic singer-songwriter mode, an approach that brings benefits as well as risks.

On the plus side, "Notes on Paper" is a carefully polished, well-recorded collection of strong original songs. Belanus has a gift for melody and a crisp, clear singing voice that resembles that of Shawn Colvin or Dar Williams. Belanus' musical collaborators - on bass, drums, keyboards and guitars - play with professional-caliber taste and tone.

On the downside, some of her tunes suffer from an ailment common among singer-songwriters: mushy self indulgence.

Belanus gets it out there right from the beginning on the album-opening track, "These Wounds." When she passionately sings, "Nothing seems real except the feelings that I feel," I braced for an avalanche of overly earnest emotion.

Thankfully, though, no avalanche came - only a few sporadic crumbles.

The track "Other Side" is a heart-felt description of an imminent breakup, and it's one of Belanus' strongest songs. it follows a pattern familiar to anyone who's heard coffeehouse troubadours, but wins on melody and simple, straight-forward language.

A few tunes find Belanus leaving the comfort of the coffeehouse and exploring other styles. They're refreshing. "Memphis" employs a bluesy touch and a few of the album's best lines. "I long to hear that rock'n'roll drown out the traffic and see Beale Street lit up in neon lights and decked out in plastic cups," she sings. Elsewhere, on "Hanging By a Thread," Beatlesque psychedelic touches widen the album's musical scope, hinting at what a more free-wheeling Belanus disc might sound like.

In the end, "Notes on Paper" is worth a listen because it captures a fresh local voice with plenty of talent and ambition. - Sam McDonald, The Daily Press


Discography

"Renewal Artists Sampler 2008" 2008 [with Renewal Artists]
"Notes on Paper" 2009
"Tune My Heart" 2011
"Build Things, Break Things" 2012

"Common Thread" 2015

Photos

Bio

Nicole Belanus is a singer/songwriter whose eclectic musical taste is apparent in her personal style. Using her guitar and voice, she delivers a blend of folk and rock. In the classic singer/songwriter tradition, her lyrics are raw and honest, telling stories from personal experiences, yet undisguised, creating accessible language and images meaningful to diverse audiences. She writes about her feelings, faith, relationships, and her experiences of growing up with raw emotion, maturity and sincerity. Her voice has been compared to such artists as Shawn Colvin and Dar Williams. Growing up in a very musical household, where her mother taught piano in the family living room, Nicole has always had a passion for music. Picking out instruments during the summer months and teaching herself how to play them, she has succeeded in becoming a multi-instrumentalist. Though Nicole began to write songs at a young age, it was not until October 2009 when she released her self-produced debut entitled Notes on Paper, an eclectic album that demonstrates her unique style and dynamic abilities. A local reviewer called it tuneful and polished and it has been a regular pick for local radio shows since its release. Also in 2009, Nicole won a local songwriting contest, which helped give her the motivation needed to record her first album. She followed up her debut release in 2011 with "Tune My Heart", garnering her continued praise and support from the local music scene. She was selected as "Best Vocalist" for March 2012 by SingerUniverse, an online publication based out of Los Angeles, CA. Nicole has performed in various settings including coffeehouses, outdoor music festivals, cultural arts centers, churches, restaurants, bars, and has appeared extensively on local radio and television.  In September 2012, Nicole released her third CD, "Build Things, Break Things", a project recorded entirely in her home studio in which she performs all instruments. Her latest work, "Common Thread" contains some of her best material. Produced and recorded in Asheville, North Carolina, the album features a stellar group of backing musicians and features a polished sound infused with folk-rock sensibilities.

Band Members