Angie Nussey still has a copy of the first song she wrote, a somewhat concise but prophetic song performed on the family tape recorder. “I’m going to be a famous singer one day. But I can’t right now. Cuz I’m only seven.”
Nussey is all grown up now and well on her way to realizing her dream.
An abbreviated list of her musical achievements over the past six years include the esteemed Toronto Independent Music awards for Best Folk Act (2008), Female Performer of The Year (2006), Best Song of the Year (2006) and Northern Ontario Music And Film awards for Best Song and Best Vocals on a Recording (2008) and awards from the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals for best song of the year in the humour category in 2006 and 2007.
Other noteworthy accomplishments in her musical career include a top 100 finish on Canadian Idol (2003); the licensing of her songs for the documentary (Lesbian Porno Lessons); the independent film (Adam and Eve); and the CBC Television Series (Our Hero). Her song No Choice was selected for the Save The Children Canada advertising campaign.
There have been some lows in Nussey’s career, primarily associated with noise-filled bars with inattentive patrons. Her career worst?
“Aside from the few of not getting paid, the most demeaning was ending up in a bar where they thought I would strip as well as play.”
Nussey’s career took a major shift in direction when she hooked up with Quentin Evans in 2008. Now the love of her life, Evans quit his job as a successful advertising executive to act as her manager and business partner.
Their first step together was a decision for Nussey to completely quit playing in bars. While cutting off her main source of income, this decision allowed her to focus on gigs such as festivals, house concerts and soft-seat theatres.
Playing for attentive, supportive audiences has been the reward for their decision.
The couple has also started up their own recording label, Hope Café Records, with the dream of opening their own music café some day.
Nussey cites her primary musical influences as her father, “who could play anything he touched,” and her mother, who sang constantly around the house. It became apparent during our interview that her mother, Del, has played a supportive and guiding role in her daughter’s career choice.
“I hadn’t yet graduated from university with a bachelor of science. I was having issues deciding what to do.” When asked for direction, Del offered simple advice, “Well, you like to sing. I just want you to be happy.”
With her mother’s blessing, Nussey headed for southern Ontario in 1999 to pursue a music career, a choice she had intuitively sensed was right for her since her teenage years.
She began playing solo shows and hosting open jams in clubs such as Van Gogh’s Ear in Guelph where she played every Monday night for five years.
Like most Canadian musicians, Nussey faced the cold reality of an empty refrigerator, which, in turn, stimulates the appetite to find a more lucrative form of work.
“I started working for an insurance company in Toronto. While working there, I played two or three times a week in various bars. Work at the insurance company went from full time to part time to some times no time. I earned enough to finance my first album and that was it,” she says.
Nussey has recorded several albums: Here’s My Demo (1999); Circumstantial Overload (2002); Paint and Turpentine (2005); and two albums in 2007, Silly Songs, and Little Tragedies.
My first exposure to Nussey was in 2002 when she was performing songs from Circumstantial Overload to a receptive crowd in her hometown of Lively.
I remember enjoying the warm vibes of the July evening at an outdoor concert where Nussey captured my attention with the following lyrics. “Maybe I should have never left town, yeah things would’ve turned out all right. I should’ve stayed in that cover band I was playin’ in, we could’ve played every Friday night. I would’ve never run into the troubles I ran into, I would have never have been let down. Maybe I should have stayed in that nest I had built for me, I would have never had to see the ground. But no mistake will ever be as bad as sayin’ Man I wish I had….man I wish I had.”
Does Nussey regret taking the road less travelled?
“I was never into it to make millions of dollars. I just want to be happy and make a living at music,” she says.
While the word quit has been erased from this feisty woman’s dictionary, an occasional song will surface on her albums to provide insight into the struggles she faces as a singer/songwriter.In particular, the song Don’t Give Up, from Little Tragedies, is riddled with bullets of wisdom and insight. The spotlight that shines on Nussey’s heart in this song is almost blinding in its emotional intensity. Inspired by her mother’s counsel, these lyrics should be compulsory reading for any young singer embarking on a career in music.
The next time Nussey performs in Sudbury, readers are well advised to catch her in action. Otherwise, they will be stuck with Nussey’s words of warning,“Man I wish I had…man I wish I had.”
Nussey will perform with Kevin Closs, Friday, April 3 at the Historica Heritage Fair Night Out at Laurentian University. She will also perform April 25 at the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Sudbury’s Gala Evening.
Bob Bale is a Sudbury concert promoter.