Erin Dickins

After a decade plus hiatus from the music business, jazz vocalist Erin Dickins is back with a new album and a new attitude. A founding member of the original jazz vocal group Manhattan Transfer, Dickins’ latest CD Nice Girls is a collection of beautifully recorded and exquisitely performed gems - from cool sultry ballads to swinging arrangements.  The release is a perfect soundtrack to Dickins’ engaging personality.

Though she began recording Nice Girls in 2009, one could say that the opus has been in the making for the better part of the last two decades.

Having recorded with a virtual who’s who of musical geniuses— from James Brown and James Taylor to Leonard Cohen and Talking Heads—Dickins quit the music business cold turkey. “I had not found my authentic voice as an artist, and it was time.  I moved to Honolulu, as far away from New York as I could get,” she says. “It was there that I finally learned that what matters is the gift of music I have been given, and my willingness to share that gift.”

The highly accomplished singer/performer was lured back into making music after producing a show for Habitat for Humanity, a favored charitable organization. Working with 200 amateur performers on the show sparked Dickins’ creative juices for the first time in a long time.

Soon thereafter, Dickins was invited to perform again and the ball began rolling from there.  “It was meant to be. Everyone and everything I needed—musicians, writers, producers, songs and support team—all arrived, as if on cue.  I couldn’t have stopped this if I wanted to.”

As the child of artistic parents—Dickins’ mother was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall and her father an amateur jazz pianist—she was bound to return to her first love. Anchored by the single and video "Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast"—a remake of 1950’s starlet Julie London’s song—Dickins’ first solo album on Champagne Records was carefully crafted over a two-year process by a stellar group of renowned musicians including producer Jesse Frederick, pianist/arranger Rob Mounsey (Natalie Cole, Elton John, Tony Bennett) and bassist David Finck (Harry Connick Jr., Rod Stewart).

Having returned to her passion, Dickins now views herself as a "messenger of joy."

"I consider it my honor and my responsibility to spread the joy that I experience every time I open my mouth to sing.  Music is an instrument of transformation, and I am wholly transformed when I sing.  We all listen to music and attend concerts for that very purpose.  I think that as musicians we have a really unique gift," says Dickins. "When I perform I give 200 percent.  If I can be an instrument for joy, just for one instant, then I have done what is asked of me.  That’s how you heal the planet, right?  One song, one person, one joyful encounter at a time - it’s nice work if you can get it."

Seeing Dickins perform with her live band is an experience you do not want to miss. Riding off of the success of her recent show at Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD, Dickins will be performing several spot dates throughout the U.S in 2011.

Thankfully for fans of good music, Dickins’ return to jazz will not be short lived. She is currently in the early stages of writing and pre-production for the follow-up to Nice Girls with Frederick. And the pair is even tinkering with the idea of a live album.

How do you describe your music to people, Erin?
Sexy, sultry, swingin', sophisticated, sassy, classy and totally fun!  Jazz with a smile is what I do, and I consider it my great good fortune to act as vehicle for creating joy through my music whenever the opportunity arises. People compare me to Diana Krall, Jane Monheit and Melody Gardot, and I think that's cool!

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.

I started singing and playing music with my father at a very early age...maybe six years old. He was a fabulous musician - he played piano, guitar and banjo by ear and was wonderful at jazz improvisation. Passion just oozed from the core of his being. Thankfully, I inherited his love for music, and on a good day, some of his talent! What a gift.

Dad took me into Manhattan to buy me my first guitar at age ten, and I went everywhere with it and sang and played whenever I could from that moment on.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Do I have to pick? There are so many things....well, performing for sure. There is no more powerful feeling than connecting with people through music.

Galloping a horse FAST across a big meadow is a huge rush. Nothing like it!

I am a big foodie and love to create intimate dinners with interesting cuisine and wines to share with close friends.

Working with kids in the performing arts. I am juiced seeing the way the arts can absolutely transform a kid right before my eyes. It is brilliant to witness.

Spending a winter Sunday morning curled up before a roaring fire, with my husband and dog, drinking great coffee and reading the Philadelphia Inquirer. this a dating site?

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Time. Time, and Time. I am a perfectionist and find it hard to delegate. It matters to me that I communicate clearly and personally with my fans. They care about me and my music, and I care about them. Trying to stay connected and present is hugely time consuming, and I find myself struggling to balance that while still putting in the hours needed for my craft - practicing, learning new material, writing, thinking and dreaming up new ideas.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I was very interested in the law....I used to watch Perry Mason and picture my self as a trial lawyer...well, I guess that is just like being on stage, isn't it?

I also thought I might become a professional equestrienne. I spent much of my early youth riding and showing horses and would have been very happy and fulfilled spending a lifetime working with such magnificent creatures.

I dreamed about music, but never thought it was really possible to be a singer. Funny.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Music is life and life is music. I think we draw on all our life experiences when creating music. The hurt, the exhilaration, the fear, the love. Music is a pastiche that represents who we are as individuals - whether created consciously or not.

I grew up in New York. It was (and is) an incubator for the arts and for the artist. It is an environment where anything is possible, and not much is easy. I learned there to take risks, and to get pretty scrappy - I don't give up on my dreams.

What other artists out there do you love?
So many......but off the top of my head: Sting, Melody Gardot, Tony Bennett, Leonard Cohen, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Ella Fitzgerald, Pink Martini, Dajavan, Charlie Parker, Manhattan Transfer, Dixie Chicks, Jack Johnson, Miles, Dam and Dave, Crosby Stills and Nash, Bill Evans, Harry Connick, Jr, Dr. John, Eartha Kitt, Eric Clapton, did I say Sting?

What does your future hold?
I am following my heart and dreams in this lifetime and I believe that what lies ahead will be determined and created largely in my own mind.

Sure, both good things and bad things can happen, but is entirely my decision to choose how I will live and experience my life. I plan to choose joy, passion and love. I am not a spiritual master, so I imagine that things will not always go exactly as planned. But I am working on it.