Buzz

Interview with Vegan Songstress Nellie McKay

With the release of her fourth album, Normal as Blueberry Pie, sugary-sweet Nellie McKay is back and better than ever.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting the 27-year-old singer/songwriter can attest that Nellie McKay may be from a different decade. Since the time-travel theory is out of the question, fans will simply have to welcome this old soul as a breathe of fresh, optimistic air, stumbling over innocent sentences punctuated with just the right amount of self-deprecation to keep her honest and human. Hidden between every "Oh, gee" and "just lovely" is an extremely talented young woman, dedicated to not only her art, but to a crucial cause—animal rights. An animal activist since the age of seven, McKay weaves her vegan ethics into her work, putting more soul behind her genre-busting brand of music than the majority of today's acts. Her latest album, Normal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day, pays homage to her longtime musical and personal idol. This 13-track masterpiece is bursting with Day's timeless tunes and infused with McKay's contagious spirit. VN recently sat down with the New York-based artist, currently touring the US, for a sneak peek behind the scenes.

VegNews: You're a long-time fan of Doris Day. When and how did you decide you were going to record this album?
Nellie McKay: It was suggested to me by my A&R [Ed. note: A&R scouts new talent and develops current artists]. It isn't something I would've had the chutzpah to do myself, but it's just been such a delight—so much more fun than recording my own songs. I would think that this is an album that grandmothers could enjoy.

VN: What do you hope your fans and listeners take away from the album?
NM: You want it to make people interested in the canon of Doris Day. I would like it to lead people to discovering her music. Otherwise, music is so personal. People can take it in the car with them, or listen to it as they're going to sleep, so maybe to help someone personally.

VN: What about Doris Day's music do you think is so beneficial for people to rediscover?
NM: It's reassuring. In addition to being such a retro figure, she was involved with a cause [animal rights] that is still so far ahead of its time. She works for people moving forward, and for looking backwards. I think she helps put a little pep in your step.

VN: How does veganism impact your music?
NM: It is nice to be able to make music that reflects what you care about. Like "If I Ever Had a Dream," on the album—that's about the animals. We're hoping to make a video that incorporates Doris Day's activism, me at home with my doggies, shots of animals in exploited circumstances, and animals being treated well, and juxtapose them and come up with a video that reflects that it's a dream of a world without all this human-imposed suffering. People can call it sentimental, but it's just that basic thing—it's not nice to see some body or being that is in pain, and people have that gut reaction. They want to ignore it because they like the taste of their burger, or their chicken, but most people do have empathy. I think that's what scares them so much.

VN: When did you start performing, and when did you know you wanted to be a singer and songwriter?
NM: When my grades got so bad, everything was pretty much ruled out! I don't know, I was just reading all of those biographies, alienated from my peers, and I always loved a pretty picture. When you're in showbiz, it's kind of like eternal childhood. The play never stops, and who wouldn't want to be in show biz?

VN: if you had to sum up your life philosophy in a sentence, what would it be?
NM: Just try to be more like a dog.

VN: Anything else?
NM: If people can keep on going vegan, and we can get health care, I'm going to be set for the next 10 years.

 Comments

More Buzz

VegNews Exclusive: An Interview with John Joseph

The Meat is for Pussies author and Cro-Mags front man talks meat, men, and meditation in this exclusive VegNews interview.
Read More »

3 Cheap Ways to Stock Your Vegan Bar

Bring on the booze without breaking your bank with these easy tips to make your cocktails refreshingly frugal.
Read More »

3 Rules for Stellar Homemade Vegan Cheese

Vegan cheesemaking pro Miyoko Schinner shares essential tips for making life-changing vegan cheeses.
Read More »

How to Host a Summery Vegan Cocktail Party on the Cheap

Don't let limited funds get in the way of your urge to throw a swanky soirée—just think thrifty with these tips.
Read More »

10 Essentials for the Ultimate Fourth of July

Celebrate our stars and stripes in style with these must-haves for a killer Independence Day.
Read More »

This Week on VegNews TV: The secret to these delightful sweet treats is white beans! Aylin Erman shows you how to make these simple blondies.

More Videos »