30/10/2012 | Interview de l’artiste new-yorkaise, Cathy Grier

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Je vous ai parlé il y a quelques jours sur la page fan Facebook de We Love New York, de l’artiste Cathy Grier, une chanteuse guitariste compositrice new-yorkaise que l’on peut croiser dans les souterrains du métro de New York. J’ai choisi d’écrire un article avec l’interview de l’artiste new-yorkaise Cathy Grier  pour son talent et sa générosité. Il suffit de visionner la vidéo de l’une de ses performances pour mieux comprendre (plus bas dans l’article). Vous découvrirez le concept de NYC Subway Girl, la vie d’une chanteuse dans le métro de New York mais aussi ses bons plans à New York, ceux d’une vraie new-yorkaise, née à New York.

Pour ceux et celles, ne comprenant pas l’anglais, n’hésitez pas à faire appel à Google Translate ou à me poser vos questions dans les commentaires. Si vous avez d’autres requêtes à faire à l’artiste, vous pouvez laisser un commentaire.

NYC-Subway-Girl Interview de l'artiste new-yorkaise, Cathy Grier

Photographe : Nousha Salimi

Interview de l’artiste new-yorkaise

Question 1 : I immediately hooked up with your blog and the title, can we explain in detail the concept Inspiration Project ? Why NYC Subway Girl ? Can you introduce yourself please for We Love New York ? 

Great question. My name is Cathy Grier also known as NYCSubwayGirl, I’ve been performing in the NYC subway system since 1999.  My music I call an urban folked-up blues soundtrack to the daily commute.

Every day thousands of people pass by me as I sing and play guitar.  I’m stationary for at least 3 hours, yet everyone and everything is moving past quickly, I get to witness a lot of interesting things. There’s something about a professional musician performing in public spaces that interests others and so I’ve found often people come over and talk with me between songs.  Or sometimes they stop me in the middle of a song to chat.  I don’t mind, this type of performing is casual, it’s not precious in a way that a concert performance would be.  In hearing the response to my music, I decided it would be fun to share what people were saying to me that I find so inspirational.  That’s how my Inspiration Project was created. I have a small video camera and I film people while asking one simple yet intriguing question, « What inspires you? »   I’ve discovered it’s a lovely way of looking at an urban environment through the lens of the underground. Peoples identities are unknown, they are trying to get from one place to another on public transportation, so we don’t have the labels that our jobs, our homes, our possessions typically define.  In the US we are sadly fond of asking 2 very revealing questions when we meet someone for the first time. What do you do? and Where are you from? These immediately create an inner reaction based on social economic reasons not personal heart reasons.  My question « what inspires you? » levels the field to the possibility of humanity.  It’s a very exciting project and I am happy to share it on youtube channel Cathy Grier NYCSubwayGirl and on my website nycsubwaygirl.com.

I came up with the idea of NYCSubwayGirl when I discovered myself on the cover of a newspaper called AMNY which is a free paper handed out in subway stations. I was on the cover but without my name.  I have been a professional musician since the age of 17 and always used my name Cathy Grier.  Seeing the cover, I had an epiphany that what I am as a performer in public spaces is more universal, less personal.  I thought of the obvious that I’m less Cathy Grier and more Subway Girl. So NYCSubwayGirl was born. Recently someone asked me how I deal with calling myself a girl when I am clearly a woman not to mention a feminist.  My response is simple, within every one of us is a « girl.” There was a study asking young girls around the age of 4 to say what they wanted to be when they grew up, and their responses showed possibilities were endless. Asked again when girls are 12 or 14 and the response is dramatically less open to possibility, because they see the world from a hasher world view.  I chose NYC Subway Girl to emphasize the inner possibility we all possess.

Question 2 : Have you always lived in New York ? What does New York mean to you ? 

I was born in New York, my parents were born in NYC, I was raised in Connecticut within am easy train ride to visit my grandparents, cousins and family.  In my childhood I developed a love for the countryside but also learned to be equally comfortable in an urban environment.  New York has always been a place of possibility, of artistic expression and international diversity not found in the small town I grew up in.  I first performed in New York when I was 20, then went touring. I’ve lived in NYC since 1997 after returning from living in Paris for 6 years. (which I loved).

NYC-Subway-Girl1 Interview de l'artiste new-yorkaise, Cathy Grier


Photographe : Nousha Salimi

Question 3 : How long do you perform in the subway of New York ? What relationship does this create in the underground?  (Travelers for example)

I perform 2-3 times per week in the subway and main train stations of NYC. My performances are usually 3 hours without breaks.  I am a soloist and I sing a lot, so I find if I stop and start I get more tired than to just perform the entire 3 hours.  The relationship I create is unique to the fact that coming across live music in a subway station is unexpected.  Some people might never see a live performance in their life.  Others used to hearing pristine sound stage conditions get a chance to experience music in a raw form.  It’s very tribal in a way. The subway singer singing to people passing by is very troubadouresque.

Question 4 : Can you perform in the same place everyday? Or do you also book other places? 

I perform as part of a program called Music Under New York (MUNY) sponsored by the transit authority (MTA).  I auditioned for the opportunity to be scheduled to perform in various locations throughout the city.  In this capacity I cannot request the same location every day.  The organizers do their best to program the diverse types of music so commuters always get something new. If you’re ever in NYC during the month of May that is when they hold the annual auditions and it’s a wonderful experience held in the main hall of Grand Central Station.

NYC-Subway-Girl2 Interview de l'artiste new-yorkaise, Cathy Grier

Photographe : Lilian Haider

Question 5 : Your favorite subway station for a performance ? And why ?

I do have favorite stations and all for different reasons.  I do like the main stations like Grand Central Station and Pennsylvania Station (LIRR) because it’s where commuters from outside of NY merge with those living in the city. There’s always a crowd waiting for a train.  There are 3 locations to perform in Grand Central and each one has it’s own sound identity.  The Graybar corridor street level is like singing in a concert hall.  The acoustics are superb, I barely have to sing out for my voice to be heard. On the level just above the subway is a spot where the acoustics are sharp and edgy and make me sing more like in a rock hall. And The Shuttle location to Times Square literally has a train come up right behind me (I’ll send a picture) and there the sound is more or a mix of warm and edgy.

I also like to perform in the Staten Island Ferry terminals because people have to wait sometimes up to 30 minutes for the next ferry. I call them my « captive audience » and laugh while saying it.  I know they don’t have a choice, I’m going to sing whether they like my kind of music or not.  What I do try to do is sing from my heart and the response is always positive.  I also like the ferry terminals because they are above ground, I can see light through windows and it’s heated and cooled unlike the subway stations, and a good place to perform during the heat of summer and cold of winter.

I rarely perform directly on a platform near where a train stops because of the noise, and unhealthy dust I breathe in, but I do really like Columbus Circle at 59th street because the people are interesting. I perform on the uptown 1 platform, and there are benches for people to sit and wait.  The setting is conducive to connecting with people on many levels through song and conversation, or just by witnessing the people that walk by.

NYC-Subway-Girl3 Interview de l'artiste new-yorkaise, Cathy Grier

Photographe : Mattias Lundblad

Question 6 : A good address in New York ….

– For shopping : For shopping, I like to walk Orchard Street and other streets in LES Lower East Side for cool little shops

– To eat :  NYC is filled with restaurants.  How to choose? I like a Chinese Restaurant on 37th st @ Madison called China Cafe, the decor is Shanghai in the 1920’s and the food is traditional and delicious. A wonderful vegan restaurant called Blossom in Chelsea on 9th ave @ 21st st. Another fun little restaurant in Soho is called Snack on Thompson St it serves lovely Greek food.

– Amazing places : My most recent amazing NY place is walking the Highline, it is a perfect example of what a modern city should be, and something rare in Manhattan where it seems everyday a new skyscraper is being constructed to block off any light that does manage to get in.  The Highline was created on land where the Highline train tracks were abandoned for decades. The mix of landscape architecture and design creates amazing energy.  People walk it, the Hudson River is in view, there is public art, and little food carts.  It’s a great place to people watch.  It’s near the meatpacking district filled with many shops and restaurants, so it’s a worthwhile visit.

The Museum of The City of New York is worth the trip it’s at 104th st @ 5th ave and is right along a beautiful part of Central Park.  The museum is a gem and has wonderful exhibits about what else? New York!

A picnic lunch in Central Park is another fun thing to do. I’d go to The Whole Foods Market at Columbus Circle @ 59th street, in the basement of the Time Warner Center, just for the scene and people watching. The take out food choices are like NY filled with international flavor.  It has the craziest amount of prepared food you’ll ever see in NYC.  Walking around the shops is also a fun thing to do. The 2nd level has a nice view of Columbus Circle and watching yellow taxis, cars and buses enter and leave the circle is a kind of urban art.

– Beautiful views : For a great view and a concert hall,  Rose Theatre at Lincoln Center in Time Warner has amazing concerts and a view too.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Once in Brooklyn go to the water and look back at NYC.  This area is called DUMBO (down under Manhattan Bridge overpass), worth the visit for restaurants, shops, bars and performance spaces.

Go to the memorial for September 11th at World Trade Center. Morgan Library, small and lovely museum.

Take the Staten Island Ferry, it’s free and the ride in NY harbor takes you past the Statue of Liberty. When you return, the view of lower Manhattan with Brooklyn to the west and New Jersey to the east is a great way to see that Manhattan is indeed an island.

Question 7 : About you, you think the New Yorker are …  (For example, the parisians are grumpy).

New Yorkers are loud and cranky depending on the situation, but for the most part willing to go out of their way to helpful.  New Yorkers are fearless and tireless.  Do look out for cell phone users on the sidewalk who don’t look where they are going!

Question 8 : A word to the readers of We Love New York ? 

New York is an iconic place, it conjures up different feelings in each of us.  Even though it’s a noisy bustling metropolis it has community and rich history and a lot of heart.  I love New York, I hope maybe you’ll discover me singing in a station and you’ll come by and say Hi.

Thank you Cathy Grier, we love your songs !


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