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Nina grows up

Tamara Miller
Nina Storey plays at 8 p.m. at Loaded Joe's on Saturday, Dec. 23. Storey hasn't put out a new album in two years, but a new album is in the works right now. She plans to unveil some new songs during Saturday's performance. The cover is $15 and the show is open to all age. Call (970) 748-1480.
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Writers have been predicting Nina Storey’s big break for about as long as they’ve written about her. In 1999, she hit the road with Sarah McLachlan’s Lillith Fair tour and was named the best music act without a major label record contract by The Denver Post’s entertainment guide, Peaks.

Almost eight years later and Storey still doesn’t have a major label contract – she publishes her own music, has her dad behind the mixing table and her mom managing her career. But the Boulder resident moved to California about a year-and-a-half ago. It seems to be paying off. Storey was recently tapped to perform on the TV sitcom “Girlfriends,” has been recruited to do original songs for films and just completed a video for her soulful ballad, “This Naked Woman.”

And that’s just fine with Storey, who sounded perfectly happy, calm and relaxed when reached by phone in California.

“I feel that I have achieved an amazing amount of success,” she said. “I’ve been able to make a living touring, and just in terms of basic record sales and stuff like that.”

Storey elicits comparisons to those most iconic female vocalists – Janis Joplin, Tori Amos, Billie Holiday. She started recording music when she was 15 years old and has no formal voice training – she earned her expressive pipes by listening to the likes of Billie Holiday and Sly and the Family Stone when she was growing up.

The result is a voice, full, sensuous and soulful, and a fitting compliment to the soft, stripped-down sound of “This Naked Woman.” Consider her moxie, like that in the bluesy “Coffee and Margaritas,” where you can almost envision the young singer shaking her finger as she croons, “You can’t train me to show off to your friends. You see I got my own agenda, baby, I got a life that you’re not welcome in.”

Ask Storey to name her most kindred spirit, and she’s likely to offer up names you may not recognize – Martin Sexton, for example, whose tunes Storey described as “intense, intimate, a bluesy, rocky ass-kicking sound.” Her own rock and blues sensibility makes her stand out. It makes her seem older and wise beyond her years – it’s probably also why she continues to be an independent artist.

“I’ve just always come from the place of not wanting to wait around for someone to make things happen,” she said. “Almost by default, I’m an independent artist. It’s not as much about being a control freak – that’s really never been my concern. I just want to be able to sing and tour and have fun.”

And the D.I.Y. way has worked for her. Since her early years, Storey said she’s become a stronger, healthier vocalist with more versatility as an artist. She recently picked up the guitar and started performing with it – “that’s just opened up a whole new realm in terms of writing,” she said.

Despite growing older and more seasoned, there is an artistic core that has persisted since she was 12 years old. She paused when asked to explain what that core is.

“I just think maybe an intuitive compassion and conviction and soufulness that has been there since I first began to sing.”

E-mail comments about this story to tmiller@vailtrail.com.


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