Nadira Farid: ‘It’s OK to dream big!’


One of the hardest parts about this interview has been editing out exclamation marks – nearly half of them had to go. But take out too many, and then it is not Nadira anymore. Because Nadira Farid is this unstoppable person, full of energy and enthusiasm. Anyone who has been to her shows knows that; petite, yet commanding, with a punk-ish attitude and an onstage banter that could be a comedy act on its own, Nadira sings with the kind of pure joy that is totally contagious. Now the Hobart-based vocalist has another reason to be excited, having just recorded an album, paying tribute to the iconic Nancy Wilson/ Cannonball Adderley album, with two of the country’s best musicians: James Sherlock and Nick Haywood. Here is what she had to say about it.

How did you decide to do a tribute to Nancy Wilson?

Nancy has always been one of my favourites, along with Carmen McRae and Billie Holiday. She has influenced me in a lot of ways, especially her wonderful way of telling the stories of all the songs she sang – and her technique with a touch of R&B feel… amazing! I also love how she did well in other areas of performance in addition to her singing, where she won a Grammy award. She was a successful TV personality, running her own TV show, won an Emmy award, won many, many awards for her performances and later on she was also a social justice activist. To me, she was a complete package! She set an example that one can be awesome in many areas if one works hard for it. She’s a role model in my eyes, as I am aspired to be a great performer, not just a great singer.

Why did you specifically choose her album with Cannonball Adderley?

I’ve always had this thought that ‘one day’ I’m going to do a tribute to an iconic jazz album recording. Although there are many, many, many iconic jazz albums out there,Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley has always been right up there on the list of my favourite jazz albums of all times. I love everything about this album! Nancy’s soulful vocals, her amazing pitch and tone and the big, big high notes, the amazing songs with different feels, the stories behind the songs, the melodies, Cannonball’s arrangements – it’s all just magical!

The songs in this album have different stories, different moods, which pretty much cover all my moods, haha – people who know me well, would understand this. I can be pretty moody, ha! I’m mostly happy though.

James Sherlock, Nadira Farid and Nick Haywood

How did you pick the musicians for this project?

Choosing the musicians for this project was the EASIEST thing during the process. To be honest, this project was a bit of a surprise project to me. I did not plan it to happen this soon, but there was an opportunity and I just had to grab it. As I mentioned, I have always had a thought that ‘one day’ I’m going to do a tribute recording, but I did not know when exactly, I did not really plan it, I was just waiting for the right moment. On the other hand, in the last couple of years, I have always hoped that one day I’d get to play with James Sherlock, after I saw him play a couple of years back, but I really didn’t do too much about that. I thought to just wait for the right moment. Until one night in early November 2018, I bumped into James after one of his gigs in Melbourne and in the shameless Nadira style, after we chatted about other things, I just asked him straight up if he wanted to play with me – haha!

James then asked me when I wanted to do the recording and I told him maybe in six months or so; he said “six months is too long, let’s do it in two months.” I was happily surprised! From then on I started planning about financing this album; I picked up lots of extra shifts (I work as a registered nurse at the emergency department) to save up money, so we could do the recording in January.

Nadira Farid, James Sherlock and Nick Haywood in the studio.

Choosing Nick Haywood was also a super easy decision. Nick had helped me in the past with my promo recording and I’ve always felt super comfortable playing with him. I also think the world of his playing, obviously! Luckily, timing lined up and everyone was available on the date that was proposed as a recording date.

James was the arranger for this album. In my opinion, he also picked up the producer role, but didn’t get paid for it, haha – thanks James! James was super easy to work with and super generous with his time, too. He always asked for my opinion on his arrangements prior to finalising it. I gave him my inputs and he incorporated them. Nick was also super chill about everything! He also offered some suggestions during recording and everything just worked well, really. I know I am very lucky that I get to work with these guys. The whole time I felt well-supported and loved, really. Also, don’t forget about Niko Schauble, the best sound engineer one can ever ask for! His attention to detail is second to none. He’s also another super generous human, with his time, advice and support. I’m a lucky, lucky girl!

Nadira Farid, James Sherlock and Nick Haywood in the studio.

How does the sound of Nancy Wilson/ Cannonball Adderley translate into a vocal/ guitar/ bass arrangement?

I wanted to do a tribute album, but I was very clear that it is not going to be just another cover of the original album. I have always wanted to record a sweet, clean, simplified but yet intricate rendition of this album. I must say that James had convinced me to stick with a trio format; initially I was tossing between trio or quartet format.

Why did you decide to name the album Dare to Dream?

Well, it was a dream to record a tribute album and it was also a dream to play with James Sherlock… so, you know, dreams do come true, if you work hard – and in my case, if you’re shameless, haha!

Overall, what is your aspiration for this project?

I’d like to contribute something meaningful to Australian jazz and to put my name out there. I want to let people know that this is only the beginning. I intend to get better and better and continue my contribution to Australian jazz for years to come. I also wanted to make a bold statement that with hard work, persistence and a touch of thick skin, anything is possible! It’s okay to dream big!

Why did you decide to do a crowdfunding campaign?

I was initially very reluctant about running a crowdfunding campaign; I would’ve liked to fund everything from my own pocket, but there’s only so much extra shifts I can pick up without getting sick, haha.

Some of my good friends convinced me and luckily it is going very well. As of 12 March, we are 78 percent funded, only $630 to go to reach the target with seven days left! Fingers crossed, well get it, as it is an ‘all or nothing’ campaign.

How would you describe your musical journey so far?

It’s been going great, considering I don’t do it full time. I’ve only started gigging for over four years now and I’ve done over 100 gigs. I’ve played with some really awesome players – I call them my jazz brothers and sisters. I’ve also shared the stage with seasoned musicians that I highly respect, such as Bob Sedergreen, Sharny Russell, James Sherlock and Nick Haywood. The greatest challenge is time management; trying to fit in shift work, gigs, practice, rehearsals, study, make enough money to pay the bills – you know, the usual life stuff. I am hoping that eventually I can do less of my ‘day/night job’ as a nurse and do music as my main job.

How did you get into jazz?

I’ve been listening to show tunes and jazz standards since I was a tiny little girl! I was born and grew up in Jakarta in Indonesia, in a music loving family. None of my immediate family can sing nor play any instruments though. One of my uncles was a jazz buff, so I started listening to all those ‘heavy’ jazz tunes since I was pretty young. My other uncle was also a well-known jazz vocalist in Indonesia in the 80s.

What does jazz mean to you?

Jazz is the BEEZ-NEEZ, haha! The stories behind the songs are the ones I pay the most attention to. When I sing, it’s all about me telling the stories with my heart and soul, my everything… that’s jazz!

Which tune best describes your current state of mind?

Two songs from Dare to Dream definitely describe my current state of mind:

  • ‘Happy Talk’

You gotta have a dream; if you don’t have a dream, how are you gonna have a dream come true?

  • ‘Never Will I Marry’

No explanations needed on this one I think, hahahaha! I personally think marriage is over-rated, hahaha!

Help Nadira’s kickstarter campaign to fund Dare to Dream

See Nadira and Friends perform Dare to Dream in Hobart and Melbourne