On July 9, 2021, Toronto-based jazz vocalist and songwriter Caity Gyorgy will release a set of originals titled, “Now Pronouncing." She has been featured in Jazziz and Jazz FM and is serving as the face of four editorial playlists on Spotify and YouTube Music.
We got the chance to ask the 22 year old songwriter, singer, arranger, and bandleader about the album and more!
BB: Caity, you’re a Toronto and Montreal based vocalist. Can you tell us a little about your background and what got you into jazz?
CG: I’m originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada! I first got introduced to Jazz when I joined my high school Jazz choir in grade 11. I was also in the Chamber Choir and the Concert Choir but I joined the Jazz Choir because I was into Motown and R&B music and the Jazz choir repertoire reflected that music far more than the Chamber choir pieces did. Like most high school Jazz choirs, we performed simple 4-part arrangements of standards and Beatles songs. It wasn’t necessarily a Jazz intensive choir but I had a lot of fun and it introduced me to songs that I would end up singing at my first few jam session experiences.
I started to really get into Jazz at the end of my grade 11 year, just after I had turned 17. So I came to music fairly late compared to a lot of my college friends. To be completely honest, the reason I got into Jazz was because I had just started dating a boy who was a drummer, and he was into Jazz. We went to my favorite record store in Calgary: Turn it Up Records and HiFi, (shoutout to Leasa!) and while I was looking at the Otis Redding records, he was looking at the Miles Davis records. He picked up “Birth of The Cool” and told me I should buy it because it’s a great record. So I bought it. I went home and I listened to it and I really didn’t understand it. My ears hadn’t developed yet and there was no singer on the record so I just couldn’t get in to it. But I kept listening to it and the more I listened the more I could pick out and appreciate. Now it’s one of my favorite records, but on that first listen I just didn’t get it. So I started dating this boy and he took me to jam sessions, and I really enjoyed it! I got to sing, and I tried to scat, and it was such a fun environment. The other players at the jam would ask me if I knew certain tunes, and usually I didn’t, so I would learn them during the week and sing them at the next jam. Those sessions pushed me to learn tunes and practice, and they gave me a great understanding of jam etiquette. I’m still dating the drummer by the way haha!
BB: Your upcoming record, Now Pronouncing, is due out July 9th. Serving as the songwriter, singer, and bandleader, you mentioned it’s a collection of deeply personal songs. Can you delve into what was the inspirations behind the album?
CG: A lot of the inspiration behind this record comes from my own personal experiences. Usually when I write, the lyrics and music come from a place of inspiration and imagination, but certain songs on this record like “There By The Door”, “12th Avenue” and “The B” are songs I wrote about my life. They’re a reflection of past events. “Secret Safe” and “Why’d You Gotta” are very me songs, and I LOVE to sing them, but the lyrics in those aren’t as directly correlated to situations I’ve lived through. There By The Door is written about my childhood home which my family had to sell after my parents got divorced. I unpacked a lot of emotions when I wrote that one, it’s one of the only songs I’ve ever cried while writing. 12th Avenue is about the first time I went out with that drummer I mentioned before. This one is very personal to me because the lyrics talk about falling in love and I get uncomfortable with PDA! It’s funny because he plays on the recording and almost all of my gigs, so introducing this one to a crowd while he’s right there makes me feel like I’m oversharing. The B is a personal song, so personal in fact that I can’t disclose what/who it is about. But I will say that it was fun to write and it helped me get through a tricky situation. The lyrics can be a lot, so I added triangle, and a fun groove to make it more humorous. Secret Safe and Why’d You Gotta are a reflection of my imagination and love for story-telling. The whole record comes together to create insight into my life and how I react to what is around me.
BB: We open with the lively tempo of Secret Safe, which feels like a great throwback to the great jazz era. How were you able to capture that feeling so well?
CG: I’m so excited that you think I captured the feeling! I listen to a lot of swing and big band music, so the arrangement and the idea behind the song is inspired by the feelings of records like “Ella and Basie!” and “Sassy Swings Again.” Those records swing so hard and the horn parts are so tasty! My goal with Secret Safe was to write a song that’s not necessarily about a specific event, but rather to try and capture the idea and feel of a Jazz standard that Ella Fitzgerald might have sang, and I listen to so much Ella that I had a lot of recorded inspiration to draw from!
BB: How did you pick and choose the songs on the album? Were there any struggles you had to overcome?
CG: I chose the songs for this record based on what I had recently been writing. I wanted this project to be all original material and the tunes I chose were the tunes I had spent the most time polishing and performing. I think the biggest struggle was arranging the songs in a way that reflects the sentiment of each piece. The arrangement of Secret Safe basically wrote itself based around the melody, but the arrangement for There By The Door required a lot more thought to capture the feeling of nostalgia and it took me a few tries to bring that feeling out in the horn parts. Throughout the process I learned that I had to trust my ears and sometimes ask the other musicians if what I was writing was okay for them.
BB:What would you say is your favorite song from the album?
CG: I think Why’d You Gotta is my favorite! It has nothing to do with my life, it’s heavily inspired by movies, so it was fun to dive in to the storytelling of this one. The lyric of seeing a couple dancing around a fountain blends scenes from the movies West Side Story and Rear Window. The lyric about driving is inspired by the movie Monkey Business. I loved getting the chance to story-tell and add humor into my writing with this song. Releasing this as a single with La Reserve was especially fun because we created a playing challenge and musicians from all over the world were adding their own solo over a chorus of the song.
BB: You have some great musicians backing you, what goes into picking the right people? You had months of intensive rehearsal; how did the creative process elevate the music? Was anything improvised or was the music all written out?
CG: The musicians are all absolutely fantastic and I’m so lucky to have gotten to work with them. I’m also lucky to call them my friends! I hire musicians based on their playing ability and their professionalism. All of the people that I hire show up on time and with the music learned. Most of the horn section had already played together in a big band that I sang in so I knew they were great at blending and reading. The rhythm section; Thomas Hainbuch, Felix Fox-Pappas and Jacob Wutzke, play together all the time and have played my music for years and they’re all exceptionally strong and professional players so I never have to worry with them.
We had quite a few rehearsals for this project in the months leading up to the recording session. I only had 5 hours in the studio and that included set up and take down. I knew we could only do a couple takes of each piece so they needed to be polished. This wasn’t the sort of project I wanted to go into the studio unprepared with, and I couldn’t afford to waste any time. Having the rehearsals was a great way to improve the arrangements and get the bands feedback. It was also a good way to make sure everything was in good shape before the session.
All of the solos of the project are improvised. Secret Safe features solos from me, Daniel Barta on alto sax, Felix Fox-Pappas and Jacob Wutzke. There By The Door features solos from Kyle Pogline on flugelhorn and Eric Wong on flute. 12th Avenue features a solo from Lucas Dubovik. Why’d You Gotta features solos from Virginia MacDonald on clarinet and Kyle Tarder-Stoll on baritone sax. I also don’t give specific voicing's to the rhythm section, so they’ll see the chord symbol but they’re free to react how they’d like to it. For example, the verse of 12th Avenue is just Felix and I, but I didn’t write out his voicing's, I just gave him the chord symbols and the melody and we went from there. And Thomas Hainbuch came up with the bassline in Why’d You Gotta which is one of my favorite parts of the song. The band is made up of such incredible and creative musicians, and I love when they add their own ideas to my music.
BB: Do you feel Jazz can become mainstream again? What advice would you give to inspiring artist?
CG: I don’t know if it will be mainstream like top 40 music, but there’s definitely a swing revival happening. I think for a while, at least in Canada, a lot of the music that I would hear in school or have recommended to me by teachers was pretty modern, and very ECM. It’s still like that in the Jazz schools, but there are so many musicians making new swing recordings. In Canada, that’s musicians like Laura Anglade and Jocelyn Gould (who I am lucky to call my friends). In the USA it’s people like Benny Benack III, Samara Joy, Veronica Swift and Lucy Yeghiazaryan. I think the generation that’s making their way on the scene right now is really putting an emphasis on swing, and I love it.
My biggest piece of advice is to listen and learn and play as much music as you can! Learn standards, transcribe solos, go to jams, go out and PLAY. In my opinion, the best learning comes from the bandstand. And if you don’t have a scene in your hometown, make one. If you really want to play this music, sometimes you have to make it happen yourself.
BB: You have a great Instagram, “@Liftaday,” that has tons of transcription videos. How do you pick the songs that you post?
Thank you! Well, these days I don’t have as much time as I would like to lift, but when I do have the time, I transcribe whatever I like! If I’m learning a specific song, I’ll lift a solo or two on the tune to help me internalize the harmony. But sometimes I just lift what makes me smile, and most of the time that’s Bird or Stitt.
BB: With Covid restrictions being lifted, do you have any upcoming shows?
Yes! I’m SO excited! On June 20th I’ll be playing at La Marche À Côté in Montréal, Quebec at 7:00pm Eastern time. On June 23rd I’m playing a virtual double bill with Carol Welsman for The Medicine Hat Jazz Festival at 7:30pm Mountain time, this one is virtual. July 20th I’m streaming from The Jazz Bistro in Toronto, Ontario with my quartet for the JazzinToronto LIVE Community Celebration, and on August 8th I’ll be at Frankie’s Jazz in Vancouver, British Columbia at 7:30pm Pacific time. I’m hoping to book more shows as the restrictions lessen in Canada. Our patios just opened at the end of May so it’s been a slow start.
BB: Lastly, we always end by asking what is your favorite album of all time? Saving the hardest question for last, haha! I automatically thought of Ella and Basie! so I think that’s my answer!
Pre Order the new album here: https://orcd.co/presavenowpronouncing