Meet the new face of Queens’ jazz scene
Aug 12, 2015 | 19179 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gracie Terzian is an emerging jazz star who is known for her poetic lyrics and intense yet iridescent music. Originally from Northern Virginia, she made her way to New York City, specifically Astoria, and hasn’t looked back. On May 5, she released her debut album, 'Saints and Poets,' which charted at #23 on the Billboard jazz charts and became the #3 jazz album on iTunes. Terzian also currently has a weekly residence at Bar Hugo, at 525 Greenwich Street in Manhattan, on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

If you cannot make it to one of her shows at Bar Hugo, you can catch her performing with a number of other musicians at the soft opening of Club Bonafide, a new jazz and blues club at 212 East 52nd Street in Midtown East. The concert takes places on August 26 from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Find out more information here.

I spoke to the artist about her weekly residence, her latest show at LIC Flea and her interest in hop hop and r&b.

Have you performed in Queens before?

Yeah, I actually performed last weekend at the Long Island City Flea & Food Festival. It was my first time performing there. It’s an outdoor market that happens every weekend. There’s a little stage area with grass in front of it so kids could run around and there were seats behind that.

We played from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. so it was a really long day but I invited a bunch of other musicians to come and play with us throughout the day. It was really fun and beautiful. Long Island City has some amazing views and we were right on the water.

It was really windy though, and it was kind of funny that some musicians brought sheet music and it was nearly impossible to keep them from flying away. We had to play songs that we all had memorized, sheet music was not going down that day. But it was a lot of fun.

Tell me about your weekly residence.

It’s normally every Monday and has been going on for a few months now. It’s a brand new rooftop bar called Bar Hugo. It’s a really beautiful spot with a duplex rooftop. The first floor has a roof over it and the second floor is like an open deck. The first floor has like floor-to-ceiling glass walls that you can open and close and you could walk along the promenade.

It’s still a brand new spot which is also exciting because you get to help this new venue open up.

You can see the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower and you can watch the sunset over the Hudson River while we are playing. It’s been really fun so far, especially because you get to try new music out.

We do a mix of songs. I usually prefer to play original stuff but since we’re playing for a bar, I always try to do covers since people appreciate that.

What’s been your favorite song to perform in general?

I don’t know, it changes a lot. Recently I’ve been doing a cover of 'Crave You' by Flight Facilities, which is pretty fun to perform. I also recorded a version of it and put it on SoundCloud. It’s more of a pop recording than a jazz recording, but when doing it live, we do it in a jazz/swing form.

Do you consider yourself more as a jazz singer or a jazz-pop singer?

I don’t like putting a box on myself per say. I think I am more of a jazz singer than a pop singer definitely. But I want to make jazz music that is both accessible to hardcore jazz lovers as well as younger audiences who might not listen to jazz. When I write music, it tends to have lots of jazz chords in it.

I don’t really think about the genre too much when I’m writing music. The two cross over. Once upon a time jazz music was pop music. 'Saints and Poets' was definitely meant to be a contemporary jazz album.

Is there a genre of music that you like which people would find surprising? Who are some of your favorite artists?

Most people who know me closely know that I really love hip hop and r&b, although I don’t make those hip hop or r&b music. There are so many rap and r&b artists that I love listening to, like Young Thug and Musiq Soulchild. I’m a big fan of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West.

Kendrick Lamar’s most recent album was totally like a jazz album. It’s a hip hop album but it’s like what we were talking about with genre crossing. I think jazz and hip hop are very related to one another. They sound good together but they also both have a lot of space in the rhythm.

Walk me through your songwriting process.

For 'Saints and Poets,' I co-wrote the music with a man named Wells Hanley, who is a talented pianist, composer and singer. I wrote the lyrics for it all. I tend to prefer to write music first and then put music to the lyrics.

Sometimes when I write the music first, I can’t come up with lyrics that perfectly embody the music. It feels like nothing really fits it. But if I come up with lyrics first, then I can come up with music that matches the words better. I tend to write poetry and the lyrics first, but it’s different with each song. Each song has a different story.

I like co-writing though, because it’s fun to work with people who you agree with musically and who you have similar tastes with. They can get you out of your typical songwriting habits.
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