Nancy Wilson enters the stage, graciously walks towards the microphone stand and starts the first lines of The Very Thought of You…: “I don’t need your photograph” – then, almost immediately – she captures me with her sigh… that glorious sigh at the end of her sentence.
I could just press replay, replay, replay!
To me, Nancy is a master of suspense and an impeccable storyteller. Her colorful voice is mesmerizing, her sense of drama sensational. From sultry soft tones to speech like conversation, from crystal clear clarity to metallic ‘twang’, her dynamic contrasts are so to the point and always in tune with the story she tells.
And then her timing. At first accurately short and almost staccato, then suddenly those long, sustained lines. I just love her artistry! She’s a true song stylist.
Nancy Wilson, born in Ohio, was the oldest of six and always knew she wanted to sing. She moved to New York in the late fifties, sat in at a few sessions in The Bronx, and made quite an impression. Then Irene Reid, one of the house singers, broke her leg and Nancy got a call to replace her at the Blue Morocco. She got herself a steady gig.
Due to that, she could invite people from record labels to her set, and the rest is history… She recorded more than 70 albums to date, ranging from jazz to R&B, to smooth pop. One of my favorite albums is the one where she teams up with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley – there’s a hauntingly beautiful version of “Save your love for me” on it.
She also had her own TV Show: The Nancy Wilson Show (you’d have never guessed that name, would you?)
Now – what can YOU learn from Nancy Wilson? It’s hard to focus on just one thing when there are so many outstanding qualities, but how about trying to enlarge your dynamic contrasts?
Start your next song in a very low volume and slowly build towards a climax. Let the meaning of the words in your song be your guide. Singing in low volumes can attract your audience’s ear, it creates an intimate atmosphere, a “between you and me” setting, as you pull them into your world.
But if you only sing in low volumes, it can get predictable, so therefor you can try out larger volumes at times, and then go back to low volumes. See it as a wave.
Have fun working with adjusting your volumes and remember, always record yourself so you’ll know what it sounds like to others. Don’t just say: Ilse made me do it, it should be all right then.
Oh, by the way. If by any chance you get the opportunity to see her live: run!!! This beautiful legend is alive and kicking.
With love, Ilse Huizinga
Nancy Wilson on Wikipedia:
My album tip for you:
Nancy Wilson / Cannonball Adderley (1961, Capitol)