NEW YORK — Nikki Yanofsky has been scatting her way across some of music’s most hallowed stages, including Carnegie Hall, but don’t label her a jazz singer.
At just 16, she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. She loves all genres of music and takes her cues from the likes of jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald as well as from Led Zeppelin, whose classic rock riff from “Fool In the Rain” finds its way onto her first studio CD, “Nikki.”
The new album combines standards and originals that Yanofsky co-wrote with veteran songsmiths Jesse Harris and Ron Sexsmith.
Yanofsky says the three would seclude themselves in the basement of her family’s Montreal home writing.
“An hour goes by, two hours goes by and you forget to eat because you’re so consumed with writing,” she said. “So my mom would just knock on the door and like, bring us cookies and water.”
Yanofsky spoke recently about the new songs and her career, which seems to have taken off after her performance of the Canadian National Anthem at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
AP: What do you think the songs you co-wrote reveal about you as a person?
Yanofsky: Every song kind of opens up a tiny little crack into who I am, like “Never Make It on Time,” because I’m always late. And I was late going into the studio to record it and Jesse texted me, “You never make it on time,” and I’m like, at least we have a song about it. And “For Another Day” is one of my favorites. That reveals just how much of a daydreamer I really am.
AP: Do you remember the moment when you realized singing was what you wanted to do?
Yanofsky: Ever since I could talk I’ve been into music and I’ve always been singing. And I was never like, “I want to be an architect.” It was never, “I want to be a fashion designer.” It was never any of that. It was always just “singer.”
AP: You’ve been known to describe yourself as a strong character. Would you care to elaborate?
Yanofsky: The thing is that some people either get it or they don’t. I find New York actually easier to be in because everybody’s kind of a strong character here. I love it. Everyone’s very forward. I just think it’s the best.
AP: So does that make you an atypical Canadian?
Yanofsky: I don’t know what a typical Canadian would be. Maybe friendly? I’m friendly.
AP: How do you balance your career with being a regular 16-year-old?
Yanofsky: I guess everyone’s definition of regular varies and to me this is pretty much like all I’ve known. I’ve always wanted to be in music, so to me this feels like natural, and it feels regular and I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything. But, I do balance school. I do balance friends. When I’m in town I go to school; I do my work on the road. I video chat with my friends and BBM … I’m always connected. I Twitter too.
AP: What was your last Tweet?
Yanofsky: “Oh no, I have an interview and I’m going to be late!”