If you've lived in Denver for any length of time and follow local music, you've heard of Nina Storey. How could you not? The hype machine went into overdrive minutes after she dropped her debut album, Guilt and Honey, in 1993, and she's been on the verge of becoming the next big thing ever since.
But it's been ten years now, folks. At some point, an artist either is the next big thing or she should get the hell out of the way -- and I don't care how many Broncos' games she's sung at or how many magazine covers she's graced. Back in February 2000, the Rocky Mountain News slapped Storey's mug on the cover of its Sunday Spotlight section alongside the headline "The Next Big Thing?" To ask that question -- seven years after her debut -- wasn't just ridiculous, it was pathetic. Don't you think that if an artist was really about to break out, those words would at least end with a period?
Look at Stacie Orrico. She skipped the semantics, not to mention the paltry lip service from local fish wraps, and today her name is followed by a big fat exclamation point. This homegrown chanteuse actually became the next big thing while most of us were sleeping. By the time Cowtown even knew who Orrico was, she was already getting play on MTV.
So, yeah, I'd heard of Nina Storey, all right. I'd heard of her, but I'd never really listened to her. Not until last week, after her very persistent manager/mom, Jan, convinced me to talk with Storey about her new album.
In preparation for our little chat, I read every single line written about her over the past few years -- and scoffed. But I also threw on the only album of Storey's that I could find in the vast expanse of my audio library: Shades, her 2000 release. And as her seductive and lucid vocals poured out of the speakers, they warmed the room like a down-filled parka on a bitterly cold January morning. By track three, she'd vaporized any assumptions I'd made about her musical ability. Not only did she have a gigantic set of pipes, but she knew her away around a tune. Even so, I was fully prepared to introduce Storey to the business end of a straight-up, old-school, hockey-style beatdown. You see, I was anticipating a pampered little princess who felt like the world owed her something because of who she was and what she'd done.
I finally caught up with Storey at her Uncle Randy's place in rural Georgia, where she was visiting. And I came out swinging. "Just so you know," I said, defiantly, "I don't do fluff pieces."
She chuckled, catching me a little off-guard, and said very simply in her soft, gentle voice, "Oh, okay."
For the record, Storey never claimed to be the next big thing; that was something the overexcitable ink-slingers saddled her with. And she doesn't care what people think, not unless those people are her fans. All that matters to her is the music -- her music.
We started off talking about her new record, 24 Off the Board, a double disc recorded live at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, California. At this stage of her career, I asked, why another live album? Her second CD, Bootleg, was also live. Wasn't one enough?
"I've been writing a lot of music," she explained, "and I've been doing quite a bit of touring. I'm still working on the next studio project, and I just kind of spontaneously decided this summer to put out this record because I had so much music. I just didn't want to wait until the next studio piece was done."
Okay, but 24 tracks and two discs? Isn't that a little self-indulgent?
"It's really a disc for the fans," she answered. "I've gotten so many requests for a lot of the songs that I'd done on this past tour. I've just been adding new music to my show constantly, and there's been a demand for it. This is all new music. Usually with live records, it's music off of other CDs. The purpose of me doing my music is to share it. Half of the fun is creating it, and the other half is sharing it."
And it sounds like she has plenty more to share. Since 24 Off the Board was committed to tape, Storey's written even more material, and there's a good chance that not all nineteen of those cuts will make it onto her next studio effort, an as-yet-untitled record that's a followup to last year's Nina Storey. That platter did fairly well regionally, although not quite as well as Shades, and for good reason. Thanks to a licensing deal her label had reached with Navarre, Shades was distributed nationally, earned praise from Performing Songwriter and People magazines, garnered airplay on some mainstream stations and went on to sell 20,000 copies. If ever Storey was going to truly be the next big thing, to break through on a massive scale, that was the time.