It's a long and true story : ) Enjoy a Cathy Grier original 'Good Thing' and then read on...
Cathy's Journey to the Blues... A 40 Year Journey Home
This bio is about the eclectic world of a singer & songwriter, producer, film maker, social activist, NYC Busker and classic female blues guitarist Cathy Grier [aka NYCSubwayGirl].
Some intense and multi-layered snapshots that inform her music and her life: Cathy grew up in Connecticut, played the subways of New York from 1999-2015 and now lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin enjoying everything the midwest and beautiful Door County has to offer.
Her music has pervaded the walls of Key West and France, where a French/Swedish pop star sang her lyrics for a French dance hit. With a 14-piece band, she sang in the Paris Opera at the Hermes/Rostropovich wedding, and even a live performance in Morocco.
She rode in an almost-sinking gondola in Venice, weighed down by amps and drums, while writing for an award-winning French recording artist. She has had solo performances in Brazil, England, and Wales.
Despite many attempts, she cannot forget performing at the Holiday Inn in Paladka, Florida... a New Years Eve gig in Yapoon, Australia… dancing on a table at a bar mitzvah in Paris... and a Donald Trump Atlantic City gig, if you can believe that. My have times changed in a weird way, certainly.
She toured Germany with a French girl band, Parallel Vif, as lead guitarist. She has opened for Joan Armatrading, Laura Nyro and Dave Mason. She recorded her first demo at Paul Leka’s studio (he wrote 'Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye'), and later, with her hit group Troia/Grier, she performed at Folk City, Lone Star Cafe (opened for The Band) and the original Bitter End, where she was curious but cautious of the soon-to-be-murdered Roy Radin.
She sings in small empty churches for their amazing acoustics and pure spirituality. She sings for friends at family special occasions and sad events. Great Aunt Molly believes I sing a mean La Vie En Rose (especially while cooking omelets), not to mention a heartfelt Amazing Grace.
Music is life to her and it comes in many sounds, shapes and sizes.
Early Years To Key West To France
When she was just 17 in 1976, using photography to gain backstage passes, she met John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt, an invaluable look at life as a career musician. In 1980, with partner Lenore Troia, she formed Synergy Records as an independent label, back when there was only vinyl and hardly any women heading companies. Numerous recordings as Troia/Grier, and later as Students Of Life, Cathy’s early career highlight was being awarded an MTV basement tape victory in 1986.
She lived and performed for many years in Key West, where she released live recordings on cassettes: ‘Moonlighting In Key West’ (1988), followed by ‘Community’ (’89). In NYC, 1990, she recorded “New York Sessions,” a self-produced album (remember DAT’s?), then took a chance and flew off to Paris. Becoming fluent in French, and wrote English lyrics for many artists, including World Music guitarist Pierre Bensusan, Carrere artist Indra, whose 1991 single “Misery” hit number one on the French dance charts, and Sony’s Maryanna Matisse. She performed and released her first CD entitled ‘Solo’,
Enjoy another original Cathy Grier song before reading on... this story keeps getting better and crazier ; )".
The New York Years
Back in NY in '98: she recorded ‘Retracing’ in a Key West studio, co-wrote songs for Sony artist Anggun and fell in love with producing and engineering. During this time, she met and worked with Alicia Keys as a live sound engineer in 2001.
From 1999-2015, she participated in New York City’s MTA program, Music Under New York where she was affectionally known as NYC Subway Girl to all. Playing all her years of original music to millions of passing commuters.
In the early 2000’s she mused ”The connection with the audience = commuters on their way to their destination, is a very different experience than performing on a stage. It's a deconstructed approach to music. Most of us are living in a multi-tasking, low fidelity, and ear-bud listening digitized and photoshopped world. Street performing is authentic in the pure fact that it is live-sometimes challenging, certainly spontaneous, which makes it exciting to me. My style is what I call folked-up blues. It's funky, it's groovy, and it fits in with the chaos of the underground. Underground, commuters and I are collaborators in a musical, rhythmic, spontaneous soundtrack.”
But you can’t get the whole picture of Cathy’s life without the chance attending of Eve Ensler's presentation of The Vagina Monologues at the Hammerstein Ballroom in 1998. That's where she met her partner Michele Steckler (like many good things that evolve, they separated in 2013). In 2003, She released ‘Comin’ Back To Me,’ a solo recording (Magic Shop, NYC).
She fought hepatitis C and won, lost friends and a cousin to AIDS, got political, wrote songs from her heart and believes that all is possible, even though world events occasionally suck but also produce amazing possibilities like President Barack Obama, Eve Ensler and Malala Yousafzai.
As a career-long DIY artist, she is involved in handling all aspects of her career (although most days she could use some help). She’s performed at Joe's Pub, Studio 54, Arlene's Grocery and the Brooklyn Academy Of Music as a recipient of a 5 Continents Annual Award. Cathy has appeared at The New Museum, Avery Fisher Hall and on CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, and NBC’s Today Show, all as a result of her subway performances.
The idea of NYCsubwaygirl came to her after waking up on a cold February 2009 morning to find herself on the cover of AM New York, a free daily newspaper distributed throughout the city:
"The headline got it exactly wrong - playing in the subway is about my art, not the pay - but as they say, "never let the truth get in the way of a good story." None of that seemed to matter anyway -- suddenly "subway girl" seemed to describe what I am to commuters: that girl who plays in the subway. Yet I have so much more to say and express. Thus, NYCsubwaygirl was born."
In late 2000’s Cathy Grier said "Whether it's a blues song or inspired jazzy melody I love to sing and play guitar. Some say I have that Bonnie Raitt sound, or Concrete Blonde edge. I live in NYC, sing in the subway because I love performing in public spaces."
Although her life has changed dramatically since this statement, her attitude and her grit have not.
On To The Beautiful Midwest and Door County, Wisconsin
Her life is fun, full, and adventurous. She is blessed with vocal talent, a funky-rhythmic guitar style and an innate fearlessness, mixed with a fierce desire to entertain and maybe make a difference in the world. Equally important is the love and support of her family and friends. Ultimately, she believes music is a powerful tool that counteracts ignorance and hate. While her songs are sometimes political, sometimes analytical, they are always infused with love, optimism and hope.