The room was packed last Friday as Leslie DiNicola took the stage opening for Howie Day at The Soiled Dove Underground in Denver. The venue itself is a small, yet classy archetype living up to its name, as it is located under another establishment. Lights surround the top of a small, well placed stage in the middle of the room, promising intimate shows.
DiNicola, accompanied by pianist Patrick Furth, proved to be at the top of her game during her very personal set, using an extensive vocal range and a ton of emotion. Playing a collection of originals, and even adding a risky Demi Lovato cover of the song “Sky Scraper,” DiNicola showcased a performance of raw talent. It was no surprise then when the iconic Howie Day stepped out that fans were ready for more. Day, who was also at his best, played his own medley of originals and covers. Blending the old with the new, Day quipped that everyone would “get mad” if he only played the new stuff (it’s likely you know him best for “Collide”). His blend of nostalgic classics and new work saw him accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and a few pedals.
Prior to the show, I was lucky enough to sit down with Leslie and find out what it's like coming up in NYC where everyone is chasing fame, who her ultimate collaboration would be with, and of course, what’s coming up next after her most recent EP, 'Love + Destruction.' Keep reading:
So, you’ve been on the road with Howie Day. What's it like touring with someone with that type of experience?
Well, it's amazing. Every artist is different, and you learn something different from each one, and when you're an independent artist out on the road with these veterans who have been doing this for so long, there’s just so much to be gained from the way they perform, to the way they keep it fresh for themselves. And it's a lot of fun- usually (laughs).
You do a lot of covers. This can be a huge breakthrough for certain artists if they choose them correctly. What would you say your biggest hurdle is going through that process?
Yeah, you know for me, I love doing covers. I don't know anyone who doesn't; it’s what makes karaoke so possible. There really is a bit of an art form to it. We’re all familiar with that sensation of hearing a song and just having to sing it. And when that strikes me, usually I sit down with it using what I call a kind of ‘Campfire Test.’ It's this to test to see if a song can stand alone with just the vocals and a guitar. If it does, that's what you want to cover.
Watch Leslie's new music video for her song "Boy + Girl":
What's it like coming up in a city like NYC where essentially everyone is looking for fame?
It's easy to get lost in the shuffle; to be overwhelmed. But to be honest, you have to be real with yourself and find who you are. You have to find your community. There is no lonelier day than the first day you show up to New York City, but if you work hard and take it day by day, you'll get there.
October Project’s, Julie Flanders has been quoted as saying, “DiNicola pours her full soul and tremendous heart into songs you will recognize for their mysterious way of telling your secret story with her powerful voice.” How do you respond to feedback like this?
Um, usually I turn bright red, and giggle like a little school girl (laughs). No really- I have been an admirer of Julie Flanders since I was a kid and I got to open for October Project around five years ago. It's just such an honor really to hear things like that. It's truly an emotion that just can't be described.
Is there anyone particular you hope to work with in the future?
Oh, um there are so many artists that I would love to work with. People that are really moving me right now are Sara Bareilles, Birdy, Ingrid Michaelson. But as far as a dream collaboration, I would freak out if I ever got to work with Sia. She's just one of the most talented people of our generation.
Your most recent work includes your fifth EP 'Love + Destruction,' released this past December. What was the inspiration behind this project?
So this EP is, for lack of a better term, a ‘breakup album.’ I was in a relationship and when that ended it allowed me to take this to an emotional level. The honesty and the vulnerability that I was able to put into this [EP] was rare for me. It was a very cathartic experience to not have to hold anything back.
Care to share any new or upcoming projects with us?
There have been whispers of October Project and myself maybe collaborating in the future. I guess we’ll have to see what the fall brings…
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.