It wasn’t that long ago that JAZZ.FM91 put together a list of eight Canadian women in jazz you need to know. One of those names was a new but obvious choice at the time: Caity Gyorgy.
From the moment that audiences began to experience her approach, tone, songwriting and overall musicianship, they could clearly see that Gyorgy is an exceptional talent.
The Juno-winning vocalist and composer has just released her latest recording, Featuring. Gyorgy joined us to talk about the album.
You described the new recording as “a 100 per cent dream project.” What is it in particular that makes you call it that?
Almost every single track has a special guest artist on it, and that’s not an easy feat. There were a lot of different people involved. I had 11 guests altogether. So many people came together to make this happen, and I’m so grateful for all of the musicians, the production team, and of course the Canada Council for the Arts for helping to fund the project.
You’ve got Christine Jensen, Allison Au, Jocelyn Gould, Virginia MacDonald… I couldn’t help but notice how many of the guests are women. How did this particular guest list come together?
I honestly didn’t really think about choosing women, men or non-binary folks. I just chose people that I really admire, and a lot of those people are women. There are also some incredible guests like Kyle Tarder-Stoll, Pat LaBarbera and Tymish Koznarsky, and those are all people whose playing I love as well. But I looked at the project after I completed it and I was like you know what, this is pretty awesome that I chose people because I love their playing and I love what they bring to the music, and there’s a variety of people in it.
You and I probably first met when you were a guest on Jazzology. I remember at the time, you already had so many things in place for a successful career. You were already writing, you were already recording, people were already talking about your voice, and you already had a savvy social media presence. Then you decided to continue doing all that while also pursuing a master’s degree. Why did you decide to keep all those balls in the air and continue your studies as well?
To be completely honest, I wanted to do my master’s degree so that I could experience living in a new city. I had always wanted to go to Montreal and be a part of the music scene there, so I chose McGill not only because of its reputation as a school, but also because there are wonderful professors there. I was really interested in studying with and getting to know Ranee Lee and Christine Jensen, which I had the opportunity to do while I was there. That was incredible. I was really interested in being part of a new scene. I found over the last two years that Canada is a very, very big country, but it has a very, very small jazz scene. Everybody knows each other, no matter where you go.
You’ve put your stamp on some classics from the Great American Songbook, but you concentrate on your own compositions. When did you start songwriting? And is that where you feel you want to focus your efforts?
I try to focus my efforts on a lot of different things, but with songwriting, I’ve always really enjoyed sharing lyrics and melodies. My harmonic approach has gotten a lot better over the years, especially as I’ve picked up a lot of functional piano along the way. The first song I remember writing was when I entered a contest back home in Calgary as a child. It was a song about Alberta. I still have the little recording that I made with my music teacher. That was the first time I’d written a song. I was writing pop songs throughout high school, and then I started learning hundreds and hundreds of standards, and my writing changed a lot because I was so influenced by the melodies, the lyrical content and the harmony of those tunes. So I really started focusing on that style of writing, which is my favourite style of writing. I just really enjoy being able to sing about my experiences and what’s going on in my imagination. I absolutely love to share my music with other people.
This interview has been edited and condensed.