Leslie DiNicola hints at new album, gets candid about working with Julian Coryell and dreams of singing with Sia and Eminem
The NYC-based singer-songwriter discusses her upcoming project, her musical camaraderie with producer Julian Coryell, influences, dream collaborations and more
Since her debut EP 'It Resembles Fiction' in 2010, New York City-based singer-songwriter Leslie DiNicola has come a long way. With her powerful vocals, smoldering stage presence and on-point songwriting sensibilities, DiNicola is a name to watch out for in the NYC circuit.
When Leslie's not selling out shows around the city or performing with the likes of Lee DeWyze, Brian Wilson, John Waite, Javier Colon, Howie Day, Tyler Hilton or Anna Nalick, she is a highly in-demand artiste singing the National Anthem at major league sporting events across the country. Along her musical journey that spans five EPs to date, DiNicola has constantly one-upped herself with her original compositions, and also threw in a few chart-topping Journey and U2 covers along the way.
Her last release was the EP 'Love + Destruction' — a six-track meditation on the symbiotic relationship between love and loss. Leslie teamed up with longtime producer Julian Coryell on the EP, and even brought in a string quartet for an alternate take of the opening number 'Boy + Girl'.
Leslie recently wrapped up a tour with John Waite and will be hitting the Loft in Soho, NYC, on Friday and Saturday (November 2 and 3) along with local pop-rock heroes October Project. Ahead of her performance, Leslie chats with Meaww for an exclusive interview where she discusses her recent shows, her latest EP, influences, and a new album that she hints will drop in 2019. Read the full interview below:
You just wrapped up a few dates with John Waite. How was the trek and was there any one particular gig that you fondly remember?
We had a great time out on the road with John Waite and his band. I have been lucky enough to tour pretty regularly with him these last couple of years and this was one of my favorite runs. It was October, we were playing throughout the northeast, the leaves were changing, we hit up apple orchards and hayrides, all of the shows were sold out, the audiences were fantastic, and few of those venues were super haunted. We just couldn’t have had more fun. The one show that stood out the most was at Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, or more commonly known as Woodstock. Being on those grounds and walking through the museum there was such an incredible gift. All that history and magic still feels very much alive when you are on that stage.
Good luck for your upcoming gigs with October Project. Do you have a routine before hitting the stage? What’s the last thing that usually goes through your head before stepping on?
Thank you! I’m really looking forward to them. Shows at home are always different from shows out on the road. And this one is particularly special. I’ve worked so closely with Julie Flanders and Emil Adler of October Project over the years that coming together to perform at their events feels overwhelmingly supportive and exciting. There’s going to be a lot of love in the room. But, like all shows, the last thing that will run through my head before I step out on stage will inevitably be: 'Don’t fall, DiNicola!'
It’s been a couple of years since your last EP 'Love + destruction'. Can we expect a follow up soon? Perhaps an LP?
I can tell you that there will be a follow up very soon. I can tell you that it will be an LP. I can tell you that it will be extremely exciting. But, I cannot tell you any more than that. Big surprises coming in 2019.
You’ve been working very closely with Julian Coryell, with whom you’ve put out four EPs. How would you explain the musical relationship between you two?
Julian Coryell is one of the most gifted musicians, producers, singers, and songwriters alive today and I count my blessings that I have had the opportunity to work with him. I knew immediately while making that first EP together, 'Draw Back Your Bow', that we had great musical chemistry. We appreciate and value the same aspects of work and that is a super special quality to share. I have returned to LA time and time again to record more EPs at his studio and each time the work we create just gets deeper and deeper. The more you work with the same person, the more seamless and enjoyable the process becomes. Our sessions are always insanely long, incredibly productive, emotional, exhausting, inspiring, hilarious, filled with Paul McCartney impressions and long dragged out debates over where to get the best cookies in town.
Your last EP seemed to make a point about love and loss being two sides of the same coin. Did I get that right?
Yeah, you pretty much nailed that one on the head. I was in a very special relationship for a long time and when that ended, one of the many things I learned was that you can only love as deeply as you are willing to be wounded. You can’t have the light without the shadows. 'Love + Destruction' was a very healing project for me as it allowed me to explore and express all the various terrains of falling in love and struggling to stop that love from falling apart.
Even the album art uses the '+' and '-' signs to great artistic effect. Was that your idea?
I wish I could take credit for that. But, my graphic designer is brilliant and one of my closest friends from college. His studio designed everything from the first 'Leslie DiNicola' 2007 Demo (which no one will ever hear) to every album cover, show poster, t-shirt, and tote bag since. I gave him the finished EP and told him that I wanted the word 'and' in the title to be a '+' sign because I wanted this EP to be a symbol of hope against life's sorrow. When he came back to me with the plus and '+' and '-' signs to symbolize the giving and the taking in relationships. I thought to myself: damn, he’s good.
Tell us a little about the opening track 'Boy + Girl'. Where does that come from?
'Boy + Girl' is a song about someone who has lost themselves and feels very lonely and invisible. But, something has suddenly become awake in this person and they are longing to connect to each other and feel alive.
The alternate version with the string quartet was beautiful. How’d that come about?
We had finished all the recording for 'Love + Destruction'. I had gone back home to NYC, and the tracks were in mastering when Julian Coryell and I both had this idea about releasing a bonus acoustic track for 'Boy + Girl'. We talked about it but nothing felt super exciting about recording it with just an acoustic guitar and the usual set up. We got sidetracked and started chatting about other things when Julian mentioned how much he loved the way those old crooners like Frank Sinatra used to just roll in with a string quartet and belt out a number in one take and that was that. At that moment we both stopped and realized: that’s it! Julian wrote the string arrangement, I flew back to LA, we rehearsed it with the quartet a couple of times and rolled the tape. To add a little extra pressure on all of us, we also brought in a film crew to get it all on black and white film. It’s still my favorite music video I have released on YouTube and is available as a bonus feature on the CD copies of the EP.
Who would you say are some of your obvious influences?
I’ve learned a lot from artistes like Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Sara Bareilles, and Ingrid Michaelson.
And who would be one influence that would surprise us?
When I was a kid I taught myself how to sing by stealing my dad’s Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Roy Orbison records and singing along with them on my Snoopy Record Player.
Since when have you been singing and when did you know that this is what you want to do for good?
I have been singing since before I can remember. I have always had this thing inside of me that wants to be expressed through voice. I started training classically and in opera when I was nine, but I knew from the time I could walk that singing and writing songs was what I wanted to do with my life. There was nothing else.
If you could pick a dream collaboration, who would it be?
I would lose my @&%$ if I ever got the chance to collaborate with Sia. Or Eminem. Yes. Two wildly different experiences. But, it would be awesome!
What’s coming up next?
Something truly exciting. And it will also come on vinyl.