Nancy Tucker is a gifted musician who “inhabits an offbeat alternative universe that inspires music to tumble into riotous abandon” says the Los Angeles Times. She approaches the guitar as if it were a miniature playground, exploring every sound from the strings and the wood to the pegs and the strap. Whether she is playing her heart-felt melodic finger-style compositions or her inventive percussion-isms, her engaging approach to acoustic guitar shines with personality. In addition, she is a lyricist, humorist, and performer. Her music centers around a passion for life and laughter. From rural schools to urban theaters, she captures each audience’s imagination and heart with gentle invitation and contagious lunacy. Her pieces Escape of the Slinkys and Grasshopper’s Holiday provide a lighthearted close to the compilation album SPECTRA VOL. 2.
Today, Nancy is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to learn what other paths Nancy was considering before music took over…
Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?
As a young child, I was lucky enough to be exposed to music every day. My parents and brothers all played instruments and I would drum along on my tiny cardboard stove. When they were not playing, there would be records of orchestras, show tunes, or The New Christie Minstrels. Music filled the house as far back as I can remember.
Then, one day, something magical caught my ear. It was The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson. The idea of using an object as the centerpiece of a musical composition captured my imagination like no music I had ever heard. Sound effects!
Right around the same time, Victor Borge was making frequent appearances on television. He was funny, he played beautifully, and his music was full of surprises. These two people had the greatest impact on my approach to writing and performing. They taught me that adding humor and surprises into a piece of music was captivating for audiences of all ages.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
My pathway to music was a long and winding road (apologies to the Beatles). My interests were many and varied. I was enthralled with wood sculpture, guitar music, veterinary medicine, and insects. At one point I decided to put my whole heart and soul into art. I went off to art school and about halfway through, Biology began calling me, and then music. I was able to add biology to my class load, but the music department wouldn’t allow me to take classes because I was working entirely by ear. So I graduated with a degree in biology and art. I taught biology and sculpted on the side, and at night I performed. Needless to say, it was exhausting and I had to make a choice. It seemed music would be the best choice for a while……and that was decades ago. I never looked back. Music was it. The ever-changing, consistently-challenging nature of music continues to fascinate me and capture my heart to this day.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
Several years ago I wrote and performed a one-woman show called Everything Reminds Me of my Therapist. It was the first time I stepped from behind the guitar to perform comedy and theater skits. The ability to use the whole stage was so liberating! This was an opportunity to explore props, costumes, voices, taped interludes, and acting. I have always used humor in my performances, but this went beyond what I had previously done. I’m in the process of writing another one entitled You Can’t Be Serious.
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
Well, I’m going to give you a list. Perhaps all of these could fit together into one job. I have an insatiable curiosity about everything and find it hard to rein it in. So if I could make a living as a Researcher/Inventor/Writer/Composer/Idea Generator/Sculptor, that might cover enough of what sets me on fire to keep me happy for the next several years. I do all of these things already as much as time allows, but to be paid to do all of it? That would be phenomenal.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
I have to admit it, I have been a fan of the acoustic guitar since I was eleven years old. To me, the guitar is a miniature playground. I love finding every possible sound it can make from the strings to the body, the pegs, the frets, and even the strap. The exploration is as thrilling as the achievement, so being able to instantly play with expertise would take most of the fun out of it. Nothing lights me up like the acoustic guitar.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
The feeling I would like to convey to the audience with these two pieces is summed up into one word: playfulness. As adults, we just don’t play enough. And yet, play is the basis of all invention! This music was written as a sound track for movies that don’t yet exist. So for the audience, the movies they see in their own minds will be as unique as each individual’s imagination. That is amazing to me.
Escape of the Slinkys and Grasshopper’s Holiday are now available through Navona Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.