Interview with Monica Chapman

Monica Chapman: Jazz Vocalist

Small World finds Chapman once again backed by a stellar cast of some of the country’s finest musicians, putting an individual spin on tunes that first came to light in classic Hollywood films. While Chapman can hold her own with any singer who has come before, where pipes are concerned, it’s just that slight and delightful hint of an accent in her voice that gives her something every vocalist wants (and should have): a sound unmistakably her own. Traditional jazz is alive-and very well-in her hands.” Mark Rheaume, CBC Radio.

Romanian-born Monica Chapman is an exciting jazz vocalist whose music is heard internationally. She released two critically acclaimed albums, But Beautiful (2013) and P.S. I Love You ( 2015) to very enthusiastic reviews, featured on major radio shows worldwide such as BBC, CBC’s “Tonic,” Jazz.FM 91 to name just a few.

Monica released her newest album, Small World on May 1st, 2017 to rave reviews, featured once again on BBC, CBC’s “Saturday Night Jazz,” “The Sunday Edition,” and on rotation at Jazz.FM 91 and other radio shows wordwide. She recorded with the finest renowned Canadian musicians. Her newest CD features Mike Murley, Reg Schwager and Kevin Turcotte. All three albums were produced by Bill King. She also released a video on  youtube to one of the songs called “Piel Canela,” filmed in Kensington Market.

Monica performs with her band of all-stars in top venues in Toronto and the G.T.A. to full houses! She made her debut at “Birdland” and “The Salon” in New York, and was received with great enthusiasm.

(Courtesy of Monica Chapman)

TSM: Monica, it’s so great to have you back in the magazine.

MC: Thank you, it’s really a pleasure always. Thanks for having me.

TSM: After you moved to Canada with your family from Romania at age nine you began to study piano. What inspired you to start playing the piano? And when did you get into singing?

MC: That’s a good question Jess. When my family and I took the boat over to Canada, my parents bought me a melodica on the boat to keep me occupied. I was nine and a half years old at the time. A melodica has a keyboard consisting of black and white keys, similar to that of a piano. My parents quickly realized that I had a gift for music when in minutes I picked up a tune and figured out how to play it on that melodica by ear, and played it with both hands in harmony. As soon as we settled in Montreal, Canada my parents enrolled me in piano lessons. As for singing, my Father discovered me at the early age of two when he heard me singing songs that I picked up from the radio by ear! I have fond memories of my late Father accompanying me on mandolin as I sang for family and friends growing up in Romania.

TSM: You’ve released three critically acclaimed albums (But Beautiful, P.S. I Love You and latest release, Small World) that all received air play on major radio shows such as: BBC, CBC, Jazz FM 91 to name a few. Tell us a bit about Small World. What is the inspiration behind the title? And how did you go about song selection for the album?

MC: Small World comes from one of my all-time favourite songs called “Small World” from the musical Gypsy. This CD compiles many genres from the 1930’s up to the 1970’s, some of them are from musical theatre, some Broadway, some bluesy, ballads, movie themes, Spanish songs, etc. I thought Small World would be a cool title because it is a small world after all. Music brings us altogether and makes us all one. I choose songs that make me excited, happy and speak to me. So much so, that when I sing them, it makes other people happy.

TSM: What inspired you to transition from musical theatre recordings to jazz?

MC: I come from a musical theatre background as you know from previous interviews we’ve had. The first two albums were the songs selected from Broadway shows and movies. I’m classically trained in piano and voice, and musical theatre has always been my passion. The transition came about by the time I recorded the third album, it was more jazz.

It was my husband, Larry that got me more into jazz. He comes from a musical family and was exposed to jazz from a very early age. His uncle, Saul Chapman, was a jazz musician; he played with the Tommy Dorsey Band and was a composer featured on CBC. Larry has a very musical ear and he recognized something in my voice that he felt would lend itself well to jazz. I also have a natural ability to swing. A lot of classically trained singers can’t swing, they find it difficult. When I worked with Bill King, as you know, he produced all my albums and helped me make the transition from musical theatre to jazz. He, as well, observed that I had a natural ability to swing the songs and a good ear, so with a lot of listening I developed my jazz sound. I really enjoy it and it’s so much fun.

TSM: How would you say you’ve progressed as an artist from your very first jazz album until your latest one?

MC: I’ve grown with every album, and my vocal style got more and more refined. The more I sang in the recording studio, the easier it got. By the third album, it was effortless.

TSM: I know you’ve performed at some top venues. Do you have a memorable one that you particularly enjoyed performing at the most and why?

MC: Birdland Jazz Club in New York was a highlight in my career. I was invited by Jim Caruso. I contacted him on Facebook to introduce myself and make myself known to him, and he wanted me to send him my music. He doesn’t invite anybody because he wants to know that you’re a certain standard. I was so honoured and thrilled when he contacted me, and he invited me to his cast party to sing. It was such an experience, and I sang “I love A Piano,” and brought the house down.

In Toronto, I love performing at Jazz Bistro; It’s a top venue that is fun. Also Homesmith Bar; I enjoyed it for the intimacy. It’s more of an intimate venue where you can interact with the audience more close-up and personal. Also Manhattan’s as well. These are the three venues I enjoy singing at the most around here.

TSM: Who are some musicians you admire and look up to?

MC: Some musicians I admire and look up to are the ones that play for me, as well as legendary ones, like David Foster, Esperanza Spalding and Phil Ramone to name a few.

TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?

MC: I have always been idealistic from a very early age, and wished I had the power to encourage everyone to love and respect one another, and have peace in the world!

TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?

MC: “Hello Gorgeous!” by my idol Barbara Streisand from my favourite movie of all time, Funny Girl. Being a perfectionist, it took me a long time to really like and believe in myself because I expected so much from myself, just as others expected of me. This famous line from my favourite movie taught me that we are all gorgeous in our own way!

TSM: Anything else you’d like to share?

MC: All my albums, including the latest are all available on the digital platforms.Here is a link to Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5KCVZ01vJS9l4sUdxX6v4q. I’m all over the internet, if you google my name, you’ll find me everywhere. I have a website https://monicachapman.net, that is being updated and will be coming soon.

Please also check out my video for the song “Piel Canela.” Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-KYMjnJhU4.

TSM: Thank you so much again for doing another interview for the magazine. It’s always great to have you.

MC: Thank you so much for having me.

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