Interview: Vocalist Arianna Neikrug discusses her inspiring debut album, ‘Changes’

Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff

Following her win at the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition and subsequent performance at Montreal’s International Jazz Festival, singer/songwriter Arianna Neikrug will introduce audiences to her eclectically cool, groove-ridden sound with the release of her debut album, Changes.

Produced by Grammy Award-winning pianist and arranger, Laurence Hobgood, Changes features Neikrug’s inspired interpretation of songs from The Great American Songbook, as well as classic pop and R&B.

Tracks like Al Green’s R&B staple, “Let’s Stay Together” and the fusion of Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” and “Be Cool” are instant stand-outs. Each revealing a depth of artistry well beyond Neikrug’s twenty-five years. The new album also contains two original tracks that take listeners on an even deeper dive into the beautiful songstress’ inner soul.

AXS recently spoke with Arianna Neikrug about Changes [which will be released on Concord Records on Friday, Aug. 24] and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: In your opinion, what do you think makes jazz so timeless and special?

Arianna Neikrug: I think it’s the delicate balance between something being complex and letting yourself go. The technical brain has to know so much about musical theory, but then you’ve got your natural voice (or instrument) to use as a vessel to convey it. Jazz to me is a platform for creativity. It’s about innovative thinking and improvisation, but it’s also about singing the most beautiful melodies and timeless lyrics.

AXS: How would you describe the sound of your new album, Changes?

AN: It’s definitely a groove-based album with reimagined style. It’s the fusion of singer/songwriter, pop and jazz moving in a modern, progressive direction.

AXS: How did you determine which songs from other artists to cover and include?

AN: It started by simply brainstorming. My influences are broad, and there are so many singers and instrumentalists I admire. But the thing that actually gave the most insight into what this album would become were the originals. Those songs were already there, so it was just a matter of finding and adapting the standards and other classics to make it a little more cohesive. The arranging part was the solidifier for the entire record. Finding things I love had an impact, but using the arrangement is what glued everything together.

AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from Changes. What can you tell me about your version of “Let’s Stay Together”?

AN: That was a Laurence pick. I remember we were working at his place and then decided to take a look at Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Hits of All Time. We took a stab at coming up with some harmonic ideas for some of the songs. Then he saw “Let’s Stay Together” and a lightbulb went off inside his head. It was magic. It’s a song that’s very close to my heart. From that point on, it was an exploration of the vibe.

You can read the rest of my
Interview with Arianna Neikrug by Clicking Here!

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