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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 30, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 26
Nellie McKay brings show devoted to transgender artist Billy Tipton to the Jazz Alley
Arts & Entertainment
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Nellie McKay brings show devoted to transgender artist Billy Tipton to the Jazz Alley

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

NELLIE MCKAY
JAZZ ALLEY
July 11 & 12


You won't mistake Nellie McKay for anyone else; trust me. She has a wonderful, sometimes quirky, musical style all her own and the talent to pull it off. The Big Apple-based singer-songwriter drew praise from critics and fans alike when she released her eclectic debut Get Away from Me (a fun spin on Norah Jones' Come Away with Me) in 2004, a cleverly written and impressively composed album that featured two infectious singles, 'David' and 'Sari.' Get Away from Me was a finalist for the Shortlist Music Prize. A former Olympia resident, McKay has released six studio albums in total, earned a Theatre World Award for her performance in the Broadway musical The Threepenny Opera and has been a contributing writer of The Onion, Interview and The New York Times Book Review. She's also been a firm animal rights activist, currently participating in a campaign to eliminate horse-drawn carriages from New York City streets.

McKay will soon appear at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in a show called 'A GIRL NAMED BILL - The Life and Times of Billy Tipton,' centering on the well-known jazz musician and bandleader who lived as a transgender man in his adult years. She'll perform at the intimate venue on July 11 and 12, one concert per night at 7:30pm (doors at 6:30pm) and will be supported by a full band that includes Alexi David (electric/upright bass/vocals), Cary Park (guitar/vocals) and Kenneth Salters (drums/vocals). For reservations, visit www.jazzalley.com, or call (206) 441-9729.

Via email, I checked in with Nellie McKay before she headed to Seattle. Here's what she had to say:

Albert Rodriguez: What comes to mind when you hear the word 'Seattle'?

Nellie McKay: Green, clean & anything but mean. I love it here & had a great time living in Olympia for a spell as a child - friends, teachers & family - before i alienated everyone and got hooked on phonics.

Rodriguez: For anyone not familiar with Billy Tipton, can you tell us about him and what inspired you to create a show around him?

McKay: Billy began as a woman who decided she wanted to be a man & it worked out to everyone's satisfaction. He was a very brave person, a kind of visionary, who followed his dream regardless of the danger.. & it was very real danger, involved in the lifestyle he chose back then.

Rodriguez: Can you tell us about the band that will be performing with you at the Jazz Alley?

McKay: They're just a bunch of jerks - but what a bunch!

Rodriguez: Will you have time to explore Seattle a bit during your two days here?

McKay: Maybe a little, my Auntie Chrissie took us up in the Seattle tower once when I was little - that was fun. The wharf is colorful. I love trees.

Rodriguez: I discovered your music when I listened to 'Sari' back in 2004. What was the idea behind this unique song?

McKay: I was trying to write a rap song - it was one of the hardest I ever wrote. It was kind of like vomiting to music.

Rodriguez: Will you be recording any new original music this year, or next?

McKay: Perhaps one or two - the upcoming album is going in a jazz direction, regrettably.

Rodriguez: Might we see you return to Broadway in the near future?

McKay: As a stage manager, perhaps.

Rodriguez: How do you cool off during the summer when it's super hot in New York?

McKay: I love to sit on an open fire hydrant while my dog laps at puddles.

Rodriguez: Are you a strong coffee or strong cocktail kind of girl?

McKay: Definitely booze - coffee makes me nervous, with alcohol I'm home.

Rodriguez: I really like your fashion sense; you always seem to wear fabulous, colorful dresses and coats. Where you do get your clothes - vintage shops, do you make them, does someone make them for you?

McKay: All of the above - it's not always the stuff that costs the most that works the best - my mother is an absolute genius & an angel who works hard to make me look & feel beautiful. I owe her everything.

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