Slacker Logo


Nellie McKay

Get Away from Me, the title of singer/songwriter Nellie McKay's debut album, was a play on two titles by romantic female vocalists who became popular in the early 2000s: Norah Jones' Come Away with Me and Jane Monheit's Come Dream with Me. But while McKay shares some of Jones' and Monheit's influences -- vocal jazz, cabaret, pre-rock Brill Building pop, torch singing -- and has some things in common with them melodically, it would be a huge mistake to lump her in with Jones, Monheit, and Diana Krall. Those jazz or jazz-influenced pop artists tend to be romantically comforting, whereas McKay's lyrics can be every bit as cutting, edgy, and biting as Alanis Morissette or P!nk -- and to lump McKay in with Jones, Monheit, and Krall ignores the fact that her work is distinctive and impressively unorthodox. McKay, who is also a talented pianist, brings an unlikely combination of influences to her work, which isn't easy to categorize. The New York City resident is relevant to pop/rock, but she is also relevant to cabaret, traditional pop, and vocal jazz. Tin Pan Alley, Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, Annie Ross, Peggy Lee, and Billie Holiday have affected her writing (either directly or indirectly), but so have Dory Previn and Randy Newman (the latter a frequent comparison), the Beatles, and hip-hop. McKay, in fact, shares Newman's penchant for lyrics that are cynical and sarcastic as well as dark-humored; like Newman, McKay knows how to laugh at the world even when she's complaining about how screwed up it is -- and she can be incredibly clever and witty. McKay was born in London, England, on April 13, 1984, but spent most of her early life in the United States. At the age of two, McKay (an only child) moved with her mother (actress Robin Pappas) to New York City -- and the two of them lived in Harlem until 1994, when they moved west to Olympia, Washington. After that, they lived in the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania, but in 2000, they returned to N.Y.C. so that McKay could attend the Manhattan School of Music. After dropping out, McKay briefly flirted with standup comedy but gave it up and made music her primary focus. McKay began performing around Manhattan in the early 2000s, and for a while she was managed by folk-rocker Lach (who often booked her at the Sidewalk Café in the East Village). McKay's gigs at Manhattan clubs like the Sidewalk Café and Fez earned her a small East Coast following, and in 2003, she signed with Columbia. Other labels had expressed interest, including Virgin and Blue Note, but she felt that Columbia had the greatest understanding of her musical vision. Nonetheless, McKay had some creative differences with the label; she wanted to call her debut album either Black America or Penis Envy, and Columbia disliked both. But eventually, McKay and Columbia agreed on the title Get Away from Me. Produced and engineered by Geoff Emerick -- best known for his work with the Beatles -- Get Away from Me was released in February 2004. Although it made the year-end lists of many critics, creative conflict between McKay and Columbia only continued. Sparring over producers and direction for her sophomore album eventually resulted in McKay financing the recordings herself; the result, titled Pretty Little Head, was due to be released in early 2006, but McKay was let go and the album was dropped from Columbia's release schedule. At the same time, McKay was busy rehearsing for a co-starring role in a Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera with Alan Cummings, Ana Gasteyer, and Cyndi Lauper. Pretty Little Head finally surfaced in October of 2006, released on McKay's own Hungry Mouse label and overseen by the indie spinART. Less than one year later, McKay returned with a 30-minute miniature entitled Obligatory Villagers. She also honored Doris Day with the 2009 project Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day. McKay's fifth studio effort, Home Sweet Mobile Home, featuring production from her mother Robin Pappas and creative input from David Byrne, was released in September of 2010. McKay spent the next five years relatively quietly but she returned in 2015 with My Weekly Reader, a collection of covers of songs from the '60s. ~ Alex Henderson
Read More Read Less

Stations Featuring
Nellie McKay

Albums by
Nellie McKay

Top Songs by
Nellie McKay

  1.   Song
  2.   The Big One
  3.   Sari
  4.   It's a Pose
  5.   If I Needed Someone
  6.   No Equality
  7.   Dispossessed
  8.   Crazy Rhythm
  9.   Mean to Me
  10.   Caribbean Time
  11.   Old Enough
  12.   Livin
  13.   Won't U Please B Nice
  14.   Wooden Ships
  15.   Baby Watch Your Back
  16.   Beneath the Underdog
  17.   I Will Be There
  18.   Inner Peace
  19.   The Dog Song
  20.   Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying
  21.   If I Fell
  22.   The Very Thought of You
  23.   I Remember You
  24.   Zombie
  25.   Just One Of Those Things
  26.   Long & Lazy River
  27.   Columbia Is Bleeding
  28.   Mama & Me
  29.   The Dog Song
  30.   Clonie
  31.   Work Song
  32.   We Had It Right by k.d. lang
  33.   Happy Flower
  34.   Bruise on the Sky
  35.   Send Me No Flowers
  36.   Yodel
  37.   Bluebird
  38.   Really
  39.   David
  40.   Hungry Freaks, Daddy
  41.   Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter
  42.   Itchycoo Park
  43.   Bold Marauder
  44.   Murder in My Heart for the Judge
  45.   Quicksilver Girl
  46.   Sunny Afternoon
  47.   ¡Bodega!
  48.   Unknown Reggae
  49.   The Portal
  50.   Please
  51.   Absolute Elsewhere
  52.   Wonderful Guy
  53.   Sentimental Journey
  54.   If I Ever Had a Dream
  55.   Dig It
  56.   Close Your Eyes
  57.   Oversure
  58.   Mother of Pearl
  59.   Gin Rummy
  60.   Identity Theft
  61.   Galleon
  62.   Politan
  63.   Testify
  64.   Baby, You've Got What It Takes by Taj Mahal
  65.   BB Blues
  66.   There You Are in Me
  67.   The Down Low
  68.   Gladd
  69.   Food
  70.   Lali Est Paresseux
  71.   Pounce
  72.   Manhattan Avenue
  73.   Ding Dong
  74.   Waiter
  75.   I Wanna Get Married
  76.   Change the World
  77.   Toto Dies
  78.   Suitcase Song
  79.   Respectable
  80.   Cupcake
  81.   Consada Blues
  82.   Face of a Faith
  83.   Real Life
  84.   Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
  85.   Old Folks
  86.   Wild Romantic Blues
  87.   Black Sheep
  88.   Swept Away
  89.   Pasadena Girl
  90.   I Am Nothing
  91.   Tipperary
  92.   Adios
  93.   Do Do Do
  94.   Black Hills of Dakota
  95.   Red Rubber Ball
  96.   Meditation
  97.   Pink Chandelier
  98.   Beecharmer by Cyndi Lauper
  99.   Poor People/Justice