I read that your album Make Someone Happy came from a time where you felt the need to please everyone. How did you overcome this?
I’m still working on putting myself somewhere close to the top of the list. It’s hard. As a woman, as an immigrant, as the daughter of immigrants I’ve always observed selfless behavior and had been forced to grow up quite quickly. It has been a real struggle for me to try and alter my Type A-overachiever personality. The perfectionism extended across all aspects of my life—music, school, relationships, self image. But, with time, I realized that I have to work on being happy, otherwise nothing will ever be good enough. Making the record and focusing on songs that reflect my often contradictory emotions has been helpful. On record and every time I go on stage, I get to tell my story. So, it’s a form of therapy in essence. I’m still working on myself and will probably be working for the rest of my life. But one thing is clear to me: if I don’t learn to be genuinely happy, I won’t be able to make anyone I care about happy. So I try to take it one day at a time, relax and celebrate successes. Some days I am better at it and others, not so much. But, I’m constantly aware of the ultimate goal—inner peace as well as genuine happiness and contentment.
Who is your greatest muse?
My family, my boyfriend, my musicians—they all inspire me. Jazz and non-jazz greats: Stevie Wonder, Carmen McRae, Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, Nancy Wilson, Beatles, Springsteen, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Louis Armstrong, K.D. Lang, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Jaco Pastorius, Oscar Peterson, Rachmaninoff, Leonard Cohen, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Amy Winehouse—there’s so much great music in the world, it’s hard to narrow things down to just one thing or person.
Favourite jazz recording of all time
That’s like asking a parent to pick his or her favourite child! My favourite recording of all time has to be Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” or maybe, “Music of My Mind”. In the realm of jazz, I love everything Carmen has ever done. It would be impossible to choose one record.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully, still touring (but maybe staying in better hotels) [laughs]…and recording. I love what I do and hope to have a long career. I always say that I don’t believe in giant peaks and then steady decline. I believe in gradual growth and improvement, because that’s how you learn. But, along with professional success, I want personal peace/contentment as well. I would like to have a family, and want my career to be part of a healthy domestic life. It’s very easy to lose yourself in what you do, if you’re an artist. It’s a trap many fall into and sometimes the effects are dire. It’s a very precarious balance, but I believe it’s very important
Do you consider yourself wise beyond your years? Why?
Not sure. I’ve been told that I am wise, but I can still be quite childish and immature at times. But, the immigrations and early struggles definitely forced me to mature faster. Also, I am very analytical and really like to understand things, people, and the world. I go deep into things; I don’t like superficiality. If that makes me wise, then maybe I am. But, sometimes people mistake a dark, brooding personality for wisdom. I believe that wisdom is something you learn with real age, gradual maturation and a variety of different experiences. I’m definitely intelligent, but I’m not sure I’m wise. Only time will tell.