Chicago-born jazz/punk/barrelhouse musician Stephanie Nilles has been doin’ Kesey proud one bar at a time since 2008, hustling around the United States, Europe, and Canada (except from 2009-2010 for legal reasons), averaging 150 gigs a year, and captivating unsuspecting listeners with a voice that would make Jelly Roll Morton look orthodox and Ma Rainey look sober.
Having studied piano and cello since the age of six, she was a finalist at the Young Concert Artists’ International Competition, a gold medalist at the Fischoff Competition, and had performed on NPR on three occasions by the age of seventeen. At twenty-two, she had graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music with a degree in classical piano performance and temporarily relocated to New York City, where she began writing songs and performed regularly on the east village anti-folk scene while making a living working odd jobs as a dog walker, valet parking attendant, Italian coffee bar barista, ghostwriter, and research assistant to a blind bioethicist at an all boys’ Jewish university.
She has since sung with Bobby McFerrin in Carnegie Hall, directed the musical program of a Brooklyn burlesque series, covered Busta Rhymes’ “Break Ya Neck” in the skeletal remains of a bombed-out cathedral in Nuremberg, been invited to perform official showcases at SXSW and International Folk Alliance, and self-released 5 full-length albums, three of which were picked up for European release by German roots/blues label Tradition und Moderne (Taj Mahal, John Fahey).
When Stephanie’s not sleeping in her car, she lives in New Orleans, which might not be the best idea.