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Jacqui Naylor

Jacqui Naylor

Jacqui Naylor

How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?

Dead Divas Society is my ninth commercially released recording and it is my thank you to the singers and songwriters who have influenced my music the most throughout the years. It is a very personal album filled with our versions of well-known songs and hidden gems. I hope that new listeners and coveted fans are inspired by this recording and maybe even give some thought to who they would include in their own personal Dead Divas Society.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?

I find song selection the most inviting challenge of recording a new album since I appreciate and sing music from many genres. For this reason, developing a tight concept and parameters for an album really help my creative process.

I usually break it down into sections of how many originals, jazz standards and pop covers, followed by balancing tempos and moods throughout an album. On Dead Divas Society, this process was particularly challenging since I knew I wanted the album to be all covers and pay homage to the departed divas I felt most influenced me. I wanted the song chosen from each artist to represent what I most appreciated and learned from them and also be the best version of that song that I had heard from any artist. It took months of listening to make the selections.

We worked hard as a band to bring these chosen songs from my favorite dead divas to life with fresh arrangements and balance them in a way that would tell a complete story for an album recorded in a live setting.

What in your life outside of your music drives you in a creative sense?

Everything in my life influences my music and creativity. I am fortunate to be able to express myself through my voice, but if I woke up to tomorrow and could not sing, I would find another way to inspire and encourage people. In that way, I would have to say that my daily Buddhist practice has the most profound effect on my life and creativity. I never feel stuck and I always feel hopeful. It is my deepest wish to convey this to others through my life and music to inspire people to feel that they can overcome any obstacle.

Of your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?

I’ve travelled a lot and played a lot of shows but I’d have to say that three in particular stand out. The first happened a few years ago while playing at the Monterey Jazz Festival at sunset. A warm orange glow fell over everything…. the instruments, the band, the crowd. It was magical and I was aware of how music has the power to bring people and the natural world together.

The second happened while touring in Japan. We were playing the Blue Note Clubs and there was such attention to detail that when we were pleased with the stage set-up at the Tokyo location, the dedicated engineering team took photos of everything and emailed it to the other clubs we were to play. Truly, things were exact, right down to the distance of the guitar players amp from his stool and the way my microphone cable was coiled. It was very inspiring.

The third experience happened more recently at the new SFJAZZ Center, just a block from my house. The space and its sound are amazing. It felt at once intimate and grand in that 650 seat theater, which is no easy achievement. It’s a real gift to our community. It made me feel that jazz is alive and well and will continue to spread through the generations.

What would be the most important piece of advice you’d impart to a young musician just starting out in the jazz/smooth jazz arena?

No matter what genre or instrument you decide to play, the important thing is to hone your craft. Take the time to become the best musician you can be and keep studying and learning from others throughout your life. This way you and your music will stay fresh and inspired, regardless of what may happen in the industry or market. It will also keep you from becoming arrogant and unappreciative. Never give up!

When the times arise for you give back for the success and abundance you enjoy, what kinds of opportunities do you look for?

I look for opportunities that encourage the equality and value of all living beings. In particular, I have used my music and live performances in conjunction with organizations that work to end racism and violence.

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