Nikki Capra
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Nikki Capra

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"Meet Nikki Capra"

Meet Nikki Capra

See Nikki Friday at Phyllis' Musical Inn in Chicago

Lisa Balde | Beep Staff Writer
Thursday, June 08, 2006

Nikki Capra knows her game. A flourishing vocalist in Chicago who’s tried her hand at piano-based songwriting for eight years – and says she's only just begun the process during the past two – understands what she’s up against as an artist:

A radio saturated industry fueled by teenage emo pop, a lack of local “scene” or a well-known one that traps female vocals in coffee shop acoustic sets. Oh and in general, false pretenses under which the term singer-songwriter actually falls.

“It’s sort of evolved into just another genre with a woman and a piano or a man and a guitar instead of a form of expression,” Capra says.

But that’s not how it has to be. Nor is she willing to conform to it quietly.

Still, Capra is, at her core, a poet and a pianist, both practices she started as a child in Denver. She’s an artist. A vocalist. A singer-songwriter. And with that come a few innate stigmas – and a lot of unique talent.

Trained as a writer, Capra is the kind of songstress whose music relies on the pictures her mind’s eye sees when she writes.

But not just pretty things like buildings and landscapes, the visions cookie cutter vocalists might tell you they see if you asked them what moves them. No. Corporate junkies stuck at the office until 1 a.m. and stars that up and leave the sky to avenge decent music and meaningful life relationships – that’s more like it.

Capra is the kind of artist who talks about celestial revolutions with such conviction that stars suddenly seem relevant to the genre. When she tells you, “I had to reconcile with the stars and convince them to come back” during her last imaginary revolution as she wrote “The Stars Have Left the Sky,” you have no choice but to believe her.

“I have a really overactive imagination,” she says, almost apologetically, as if she’s said too much.

But Capra is no dreamer. She knows the misconceptions that fall on female singers, especially for mainstream radio watchers who only have Tori Amos by which to reference the girl/piano scenario. (For reference’s sake, Capra does get the “you-sound-like-Tori Amos” thing all the time, and it only fuels her motivation to be different.)

Not long ago Capra, who sits at her keyboard like a dancer performing a demi-plié and who sings about darkness, identity and apologies, played a show at Chicago club the Mutiny, a dive bar whose website touts the “world’s most fabulous urinal.”

It was her best show, she says, to date.

“I don’t think that just because you play an acoustic set it means you have to play at a coffee shop,” Capra says. “It helps if you put yourself in places you wouldn’t normally put yourself in.”

Capra came to Chicago from her native Denver for the second time several years ago. Unlike her first four-year stint to the city, this time she came married, settled and ready to realize herself as a performer. Before that singing was more of a hobby and less of a general direction.

“When I was younger I didn’t validate myself as a singer-songwriter,” she says. But as it turns out, “I’m just not suited for the corporate world.”

Turns out she arrived just in time, as independent female songwriting law, which used to say ladies can only sing soft, sad whispy tunes, stretches its flux. Now artists like the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer churn out pit-of-their-gut vocals and bang on piano keys, and deep seated vocals like Capra’s fit in perfectly with rock minded up-and-comers.

Capra is ready to extend the law into Chicago. Her “singer-songwriter rock alternative” has made its way into indie city clubs in Chicago and will work its way out to Naperville in July. Her newest EP is set for release near July 1.

As these mile markers come and go, Capra isn’t asking much from her fans. Just a revolution in the name of fed up stars.

“Ani Difranco took a big step. You know ‘I’ll be that million you’ll never make’. She made herself her own label; she made her own way. She made her own voice, and people will always need that voice.”

The game is on. - Beep Central -- Daily Herald's Entertainment Newspaper


"Finalist - International Song of the Year Contest"

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your recent
success in the February 2006 round of the Song of the Year song and lyric
competition.

Please paste the following URL into your browser to view Nikki's Web Award showing her placement in the contest.

http://www.songoftheyear.com/webawards/n/nikkicapra.htm

- Song of the Year


"Nikki Capra's "Astronaut" Soars"

The Astronaut
by Nikki Capra
Independent


Half way through The Astronaut, Nikki Capra’s debut EP, and two words keep swirling through my mind – Carol King.

It’s not that Capra sounds particularly like Ms. King, either vocally or instrumentally. The connect is more ephemeral than that; more like the ghost of a memory resurrected by a whiff of perfume, a fleeting image, or the scrap of a melody that evokes long forgotten emotions. It is Capra’s dark and dusky lyrical imagery that refuses to compromise with the bright and poppie siren call of pop radio pablum. It is Capra’s deft touch on the piano keys that eschews pre-programmed perfection for the exhilaration of the unpredictable. It is the passion and the playfulness; the precision of language and the universal appeal of the music that is two parts pop mixed with a healthy does of classical sensibilities.

Nowhere does the paradigm appear more forcefully than on “Beethoven’s Butterfly,” Capra’s ode to the inconstancies of love and sex. “When you say you love me/Do you mean you want me?/ Will you say you love me in the morning, Baby?” She croons. It is a sentiment that isn’t far from Carol King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

Capra’s potent vocals perfectly compliment the weighty lyrics, endowing each song with a rare mixture of passion and gravitas. Listening to the six songs of The Astronaut feels a touch voyeuristic, as if you’ve just passed Capra’s bedroom, where she is reading her diary out loud. You may feel it's too intimate, that perhaps you should turn away, but you won’t be able to. The music is simply too captivating.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 November 2006 ) - BuddyHollywood.com


Discography

Demo (Spring 2005)
The Astronaut (EP 2006) (August 2006)

Photos

Bio

Nikki Capra is a singer, songwriter and poet who stands for new possibilities in the relationship between music, lyrics and poetry. Her songs are imbued with passion and intensity and signify the ambition for listeners to step outside of themselves and into a world created by her songs. Her debut EP, The Astronaut, announces her arrival as an artist synthesizing modern and classical sensibilities in an effort to go beyond conventional songwriting.

Born in Denver, Nikki began playing classical piano as a young girl, quickly creating her own relationship with the instrument. “I have a soft spot for old pianos,” she explains, “They seem to hold the stories and triumphs of those who have played them. Mine was a faded upright built in 1898 by Steger and Sons. I would close the basement door and play for hours, pretending not to hear my mother when she called.”

Nikki’s eclecticism and inventiveness are a product of her musical studies and her various influences, authors and musicians such as James Joyce, Nick Cave, Tori Amos and Oscar Wilde. What she shares with those artists is the desire to use language in new and inventive ways.

After graduating with a degree in English literature from the University of Northern Colorado and a published book of poetry and prose entitled, “Under The Willow Tree,” Nikki headed to Chicago where she furthered her relationship with music. She says, “Music has been a constant companion. Through all that I’ve seen - addiction, abuse, salvation, resurrection, a light at the end of the hall - music has been there to help me make sense of it all.”

Her desire to “make sense of it all” has fueled her new EP, The Astronaut. Recorded at Chicago Recording Company and produced and engineered by Mat Lejeune. The Astronaut is both lush and elegant, mixing Nikki’s classical and rock influences and featuring an ethereal ambient tone, which creates the unique sonic and emotional perspective imbued in the songs. Violin, bass, and percussive drumming provide both solid support and formidable counterpart to Capra's swirling piano lines and powerful vocals. Vulnerable yet strong and passionate, Nikki’s voice has the rare ability of conveying exactly what she’s singing about.

Nikki uses the type of unique imagery and metaphor (rocket ships, battered butterflies, astronauts) that befits her background as a poet, and she mixes genres and arranges melodies to suit the stories she is telling. Beethoven’s Butterfly mixes techno pop with classical for a danceable track laden with foreboding sarcasm. Her poignant description of lost innocence on Snow Angels is supported by lyrical piano and bittersweet violin harmonies. And “Astronaut” takes the listener on a sensual journey into the unknown, where the boundaries of “normal” are questioned and a universe of possibility is hypothesized.

These are songs with a lot at stake, but they are differentiated greatly from most of what we see and hear in today’s world. Nikki declares, “Sometimes when I’m writing I think this is too dark – it’s good as a metaphor in poetry, but it’s not literal like a pop song should be. Sometimes I have to work through my fear as I write my lyrics and poetry, and I realize I can’t be afraid to take chances.”

That willingness to take chances has already borne fruit. In February 2006, the judges at the international Song of the Year songwriting contest selected Nikki as one of five finalists in the pop category for "Snow Angels." That recognition solidifies that The Astronaut is a courageous first release by an artist who is willing to work beyond her fears to share a unique perspective on life, love, language and who we are being.