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Nellie McKay

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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
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Stations Featuring
Nellie McKay


Albums by
Nellie McKay

Top Songs by
Nellie McKay

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