Take Five with... Nikki Yanofsky: My Greatest Musical Influences

On songs like the swinging ‘60s-inspired “Something New” from Nikki Yanofsky’s third album, Little Secret, it’s clear that the 21-year-old performer has wise-beyond-her-years taste in music. The Montreal-based singer-songwriter began her career reviving jazz standards, but has since put her own soulful stamp on the genre.

Before Nikki hits the stage at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Jan. 24, she reveals the five artists who have influenced her music the most.

Photo: fiesta-quebec.com

I discovered jazz after hearing her voice, and her youthful tone stuck with me. No matter how old I was when I first heard her music, I related to what she was saying because of how happy she sounded. I always try to keep an element of that in my own songs.

I started listening to The Beatles when I was 4 years old. I was off lullabies and on “She Loves You.” Now that I’m older, their versatility is what I appreciate most. They went through many phases and experimented with different sounds, but you still always knew it was them. They changed music forever and have influenced almost every artist in one way or another, myself included. There will never be another band like that!

She sang the first songs I ever performed for an audience. I was 11 and I sang "Respect" and "Chain Of Fools.” Her effortlessness is what caught my attention. She hits high notes like it’s no big deal. She can also make you cry on her slow ballads. She bares her soul in every song.

In terms of songwriting, Rod Temperton has been my biggest influence to date. His ability to tell stories is a gift. His lyrics melt into the melodies he writes so seamlessly. I keep that in mind whenever I write a song. My favorite example is from his Heatwave days. It’s a song he wrote and produced called, “Star of a Story.” It never gets old. Neither does “Burn This Disco Out” and, of course, “Thriller”!

Quincy Jones has worked on everything from jazz and big band to songs by the King of Pop [Michael Jackson]! Quincy is all about de-categorizing music. I am so lucky to have been able to work with him and learn from him. Before I even met Quincy, he was one of my biggest influences. His musical arrangements are incredible and incomprehensible. He is the sweetest man, he’s achieved so much in his career, and he never stops!

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