School of Communication graduate Nicole Henry has captivated audiences across the globe, most recently with latest studio album, Embraceable. Yet Henry, now a noted jazz singer, says it’s her work as a University of Miami student that has helped her get to where she is today.
“My studies helped me to understand the playing field and get a grip on the different professions and surrounding markets in communications,” Henry said. “It also gave me a good idea of how to run my own business and record label.”
Henry graduated in 2000 with a double major in advertising and theater. Though her musical roots run deep – she grew up listening to the powerful female voices of Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin – her professional career kicked off in Miami where she was noticed and asked to tour nationwide with a blues-rock band.
“When I got back to Miami after being on the road, I was singing ’80s and ’90s songs with a guitarist, figuring out what type of artist I wanted to be,” she recalled. “I heard jazz in 2002 and fell in love with its song writing and the freedom jazz gives you.”
Henry took her love for jazz and built a career, recording three albums and racking up a long performance resume. She has taken the stage at legendary venues like Lincoln Center and The Cotton Club in New York City and completed five tours in Japan, which she calls one of her favorite destinations. She also performed at the Orange Bowl in 2010 and has taken part in globally renowned jazz festivals in Italy, France, Spain and Russia.
Henry, a Philadelphia native, may have used famous female vocalists as inspiration early on, but she says she never tried to emulate them. Her love for her craft and the audience is what she says gets her the most inspired.
Julian Lage, a guitarist based out of New York City, recently worked with Henry on her latest project, Embraceable.
“She knows what she has to offer and how to take inspiration, but apply it to her,” Lage says. “She’ll take the power of great drummer and apply it to her lyricism. As a younger person, to see someone acting young-spirited like that its like ‘Wow, there is hope.’”
Henry’s key to success seems to stem not only from her ability to impress vocally, but also her unique business savvy. She says she has never underestimated the business element of an industry that, from an outsiders’ perspective, looks as if it were completely based on talent.
“It’s not luck,” Henry says. “It’s all the time you put into being in the right place at the right time. For 10 years, I’ve been doing this full-time and successes never come easy. It’s about being focused and loving this and working hard non-stop for the right reasons, because I love what I do.”
Lage calls Henry the “constant professional,” saying she has a knack for surrounding herself with the perfect team that knows her well and compliments her even better.
Henry’s success has allowed her the opportunity to round out and expand her career even further with Embraceable, an album that explores more fully the pop, R&B and soul roots that helped start her career as a backup singer.
According to Henry, Embraceable was meant to be a breakthrough CD, one that allowed her to step out of her comfort zone, tap into other forms of music and find a way to combine them with the jazz vocals that she is known for.
“She’s so incredibly sincere. These are the songs that move her,” Lage says. “It’s that incredible sincerity, honesty and heartfelt [music] that make you feel like you have never heard it before.”
In Miami, Henry’s favorite performance spots include Van Dyke’s on Lincoln Road and most notably, the Jazz in the Gardens festival.
“I was there the very first year it opened and it has been six years now,” Henry says. “I’m just proud to be a part of something that is homegrown.”