Sound Advice: Regina Spektor (Nov. 5)

Popular and acclaimed singer/songwriter plays a solo show at Taft Theatre

click to enlarge Regina Spektor - Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez
Regina Spektor

Somewhere between Tori Amos' conversion of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" into a piano Pop torch song and the rise of keyboard balladeers like Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, Russian émigré Regina Spektor created a hybrid of traditional, Classical and contemporary music and turned the Pop scene on its proverbial ear.

Spektor (whose current tour is a purely solo venture, featuring no backing musicians) learned piano at age 6 on an upright that her grandfather gifted to her mother, a college music professor. Spektor's father, a photographer and hobby violinist, introduced her to The Beatles, Moody Blues and Queen, in addition to Russian classicists and the standard complement of Classical composers. At age 9, Spektor and her family left the Soviet Union due to pervasive discrimination against Jews. Although initially interested solely in Classical music, Spektor's teenage focus turned to Hip Hop, Rock and Punk, and then, after hearing Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco, writing her own songs. Her varied education included piano studies at the Manhattan School of Music during high school and a music composition degree from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College.

While in college, Spektor self-released a trio of albums — 2001's 11:11, 2002's Songs and 2003's Soviet Kitsch — and opened for The Strokes, Kings of Leon and Keane, among others. In 2004, Spektor signed with Sire Records, which reissued Soviet Kitsch. Her fourth album and major label debut, 2006's Begin to Hope, hit Billboard's Top 20 and was eventually certified gold, clearly assisted by Spektor’s road work at numerous festival appearances and on headlining tours. Her fifth album, 2009's Far, was even more successful, nearly topping the U.S. charts and leading to Spektor’s debut appearance as musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

That success continued with 2012's What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, which was promoted with a world tour that took her to Moscow for the first time since she and her family left in 1989. In 2013, Spektor wrote and recorded "You've Got Time," the theme song for Orange is the New Black, which received a Grammy nod for Best Song Written for Visual Media. Last year saw the release of album No. 7, Remember Us to Life. Spektor has also made a name for herself as a dedicated philanthropist, raising funds for causes like Darfur relief, human rights in Tibet, Planned Parenthood and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, among many others.

Regina Spektor is one of those rare artists whose multicultural background and truly broad range of influences have legitimately resulted in a beautiful and compelling style that defies mere genre tags.


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