Nucomme: Brooklyn boho channels Betty Davis

Nucomme: Brooklyn boho channels Betty Davis

Nucomme steps onstage with a ferocity and a commitment to her performance that immediately demands attention. A voluptuous vocalist with a larger-than-life stage presence, the Texas-born, Brooklyn-based artist uses stirring visuals and undeniable stage command to move crowds. And some of that energy comes straight from the Lone Star State.

“I’m from Corpus Christi, Texas. And one thing Texas is definitely known for is churches,” she says with a laugh. “I grew up in the Baptist church — a come-at-noon-to-hear-the-choirs-sing type of church. I’m very much inspired by the blues and the soul and the gospel music.” But there’s another side to Nucomme’s artistry and sound. “ I also studied classical music in school as well,” she reveals. “There was always a battle between the two.”

The push-and-pull between the sophisticated and the primal are a big part of Nucomme’s music. That grit born of her Texas roots and the knowledge that her tenure at Hunter College gave her have birthed a uniquely-gifted performer.

“Merging those two concepts together is something I’m about musically,” she explains. And her stage show, which features the fiery soul singer utilizing costumes, body art and conceptualization, reveals just how masterful she is at merging disparate sides of her background. Being that I have a background in classical music and opera, theater was also a big part of it. [I love] the performance styles from the 40s and 50s — when everything was so opulent and grand. I miss that. Maybe because I’m from Texas!  We like everything big, so I have this grandiose idea about being a performer — and why not? If you can create your own world, then create it. Get it all out.”

Part of “creating her own world” has been creating a forum to celebrate one of the most under-appreciated artists in 20th century music. Nucomme pays tribute to funk/rock/soul legend Betty Davis in a remarkable stage show, that acknowledges the complexities and triumphs of the musical pioneer best known to many as jazz icon Miles Davis’ wife.

“Betty and I have a lot of things in common as artists,” Nucomme explains. “We both are Leo women. We both have run little speakeasys. And I just love her sensuality. I’m a big fan of Miles and when I saw the DVD ‘Electric Miles,’ I was just blown away because I’d never heard of Betty Davis. I was like ‘Whoa, who is that?’ And her music is very obscure. When I was researching Betty, she didn’t even really have songs on YouTube. With technology nowadays, you’d think somebody’s got it somewhere. No video footage. Not even a clip of her performing with anyone else. And she influenced some of the baddest people. And there’s no footage? In the 21st century?”

“I think it resonated with me as a woman in the music industry who’s a little different; but who really has something to contribute to the musical world. [I related to] the challenges she faced as an artist, as a wife, and as a woman growing into herself. She has a lot of those elements in her story.  I really gravitated towards her story. “

“We as artists and as black people, we give our gems away. We allow them to fall by the wayside. But what she stood for as a woman? She was saying all kinds of crazy sh-t! Women weren’t talking like that back then. “

And Nucomme is continuing to talk that talk and dare to be different. She does everything from singing and songwriting and bandleading, to making her own drinks (she launched a line of cocktails called “Witches Brew” in 2011) and hosting events at speakeasys. Her entire life and musical approach is a reflection of the spirit that her musical godmother represented.

“I love being on stage performing. [But] that’s actually one of my biggest struggles as a performer–being an extrovert in front of people,” shares Nucomme. “You have to be able to let go of yourself and create this other person—letting that artistic spirit inside of you loose and going free. As a performer, it’s really awesome when you tap into that. There’s still a lot of performance art going on–body painting and very avant garde [aspects]–and there are also quiet, introspective moments. There are a lot of layers.”

photo by Ani Berberian

–          stereo williams

Read more about:

Also read

Watch this video

What's new