Soul, Spirit, Storey
By Holly J. Seiver
There is a moment we all have when we first hear the voice of a singer for the first time. It either ricochets off the ear or it connects. Imagine a "C.S.I" visual if you will of the sound of a voice entering the human ear. The voice enters the outer ear as vibrations and then travels through an intricately amazing mechanism called the cochlea. The sound causes microscopic hairs on the cells to move, creating nerve signals that the brain translates. If the sound your brain translates is the voice of Nina Storey, then you can expect the heart to take over from there as her music splashes into your soul and digs in.

Celestial, innocent, adorable - just a few words that come to mind upon meeting Nina Storey. You want to wrap her up and protect her, but you soon learn her vulnerability is her strength. As her song "Looks Can Be Deceiving" off her self-titled CD illustrates, she is like a butterfly as her voice flits and flutters over the notes with delicacy, then in a blink of an eye, morphs into a raptor and plucks up a note and takes it and you for a ride. Storey’s voice can be described as nothing less than clear, powerful and agile.

With 5 independently produced and released records under her belt and one on the way, listeners can look forward to classic Nina with some new surprises. "Hopefully you'll hear songs that reflect an evolution in my music and in me. Fun, funky, probably painful, and maybe a little telling, like a lot of my music is," Storey says. But you need not wait till the disc drops to hear the latest music to come from this talented artist, Storey performs newly written material as soon as she's written it. "I'm always talking about that on stage, 'I just wrote this, I might not remember it because it's so new', but it's really important for me because that's the fun of it."

Storey's music blends blues, rock, r&b, funk, and pop into a style that is distinctly her own. "She found a common ground between her soulful-ness and catchy pop; great music without letting go of what people really, really love about her which is being really soulful and honest," says Jan Storey, multi-talented singer/songwriter/producer and Nina's mother and manager. "Maybe too honest," adds Nina with a laugh as she slinks down in her seat. Lyrically honest with room to breathe, Storey's music is smart and in some cases leaves you guessing. "With songs that aren't necessarily stories I'm going to be alluding to a lot of different things on a couple different levels with the intent of people getting one thing out of it and maybe listening again, getting another thing out of it and then having my own secret meaning as well," Nina explains. "And like with some of the new stuff it's more narrative, more linear. Not quite so much stream of consciousness. It's a little bit more tangible."

Once Storey has written a piece of music and put it out there, she relinquishes interpretation of that song, because then it becomes totally about what people get from it. "It doesn't have to have the same meaning for me as it does for anyone else. In fact, if they get anything from it it's totally rad!" Besides the faded blue Roxy t-shirt and sandals, this is the first indication of a hobby one would think not many girls from Boulder, Colorado have - she surfs. "I went on a family vacation to Hawaii. My dad surfs and he was like, 'you gotta know how to surf.' It's so fun! Hawaii is the best place to learn because the waves are really slow. Catching the wave is the hardest part and paddling out is exhausting, but standing up is easy." In addition to surfing, she keeps her busy life balanced with yoga and swimming. "I've taken up swimming which is actually kind of funny since I had a near drowning experience as a little kid."

With music that can be witty, humorous and dramatic simultaneously, (check out "Up My Sleeve" and "When I'm Gone" from her self titled CD), it is no surprise that her flair for dramatics has roots in a childhood rite of passage, the traumatic first haircut. "When I was a little girl", Storey explains, "I had long hair down to my bum and I decided to cut it. I was at The Yellow Balloon, this place in Studio City, CA that caters to children and they had this huge window and I remember they were cutting off my hair and I was sobbing and bawling when this woman walked by, 'Are you an actor? I'm an agent', that totally cliché thing." That spontaneous performance spawned commercials for Toyota, McDonalds, and Universal Studios. "I was 11 or 12 at the time - it was fun. If it ever happened again it would be great, but I haven't actively sought it out."

Storey truly relishes performing and has toured extensively in the United States and Europe, including such notable gigs as Lilith Fair, Woodstock '99, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Monterey Blues Festival and the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival. "You know what's funny, I'm kind of a guarded person. I'm often shy, depending on the situation. I'm just as insecure as the next person if not ten million times more. I'm closed a little more than I should be, but yet on stage all bets are off," she reveals. "There are probably a lot of performers who are like this. It gives you this license to go and be whoever you want to be. It's a really freeing thing if you buy into that. You can go on a stage and do anything if you're enjoying it and the byproduct of having this fabulous fun party when you're sharing this stuff you've created is that maybe the people in the room are digging it too."

If she isn't feeling a crowd, she refocuses and remembers that it's about enjoying what you're doing regardless. She battles self criticism and the risks of vulnerability, but encourages everybody to get up and try to do things that involve performing and being creative. "People are always going to be judging you in some form. If you can stop judging yourself and not worry about anything else, it's totally freeing." This is a lesson Storey continues to teach herself. Recently there was talk of her doing a part in a film so she enlisted the help of a cousin who is a professional actor. "I think I had much fewer inhibitions in terms of that medium when I was little. I wasn't so critical of myself. I'm reading these lines and I'm like, 'You are such a dork! God you're bad. Shut up!' All these things are going through my head and I realized how easy it is to judge yourself when you're trying to be vulnerable". A lesson taught by Storey herself: no matter what you choose to do, the secret lies in coming from a totally loving place with your intentions.

Storey speaks thoughtfully, using her hands to provide visual punctuation. Bangles in shades of pink, lavender and blue jingle and share space with a watch on this southpaw's right wrist. With a big, sweet smile she'll talk enthusiastically about her music and what's going on in the tunes and what inspires her, but will gently steer a conversation away from herself and will humbly dismiss the mildest adulation as if she doesn't deserve it. Humble and socially aware as she is, Storey was uncomfortable performing when devastation gripped Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In response to her heartbreak, Storey donated a portion of the proceeds of CD sales to the Red Cross relief effort and participated in benefits to aid victims of the hurricane. In the past she has also lent her indomitable spirit and talent to causes such as juvenile diabetes, cystic fibrosis and breast cancer research.

There seems to be no challenge capable of silencing or stopping her. A mid-90's auto accident that caused a neck injury and muscle damage threatened to end her singing career. "It was a blessing in disguise because it took me down a path of taking care of my throat and becoming educated about the mechanism I was using to make my living." An old gymnastics injury put Storey in a leg brace following double knee surgery to repair the ACL in her right knee and damage to her left kneecap. Through it all she continued to perform, knee brace and all. And again, this last August, the once Olympic hopeful had additional surgery to repair torn cartilage. Regarding her Olympic dream, Storey says she had the will and determination, just didn't have the talent to go all the way. "I loved it, but as I grew older the fear factor increased and I started to rationalize it, 'Why am I on this little narrow piece of wood jeopardizing my safety so someone can judge me and how I look in a leotard?'" she recalls laughing.


Her electrifying live performance has been captured on her latest release, "24 Off the Board", a 2 disc set recorded at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, CA.
Look for Nina Storey who will be hitting Boston as part of her east coast tour this fall. For concert dates in your area and more information, go to www.ninastorey.com

Discography: “24 Off the Board”, 2003
“Nina Storey”, 2001
“Shades”, 1997 *Critically lauded and a fan favorite*
“Bootleg”, 1996
“Guilt and Honey”, Nina Storey and Lost Generation, 1993