An original member of the Canadian Tenors, many of us already know Joey Niceforo’s voice. The Sudbury-born Singer is priming the release of his debut Solo Disc, PRICELESS showcasing in true cinematic beauty his emotion and range on the collection of original work and covers. We chat with Niceforo about his process, the nerve-wrecking experience of recording at historic Abbey Road Studios in London, working with songwriting legend Dianne Warren and what we can expect on the Disc.
Q) Your cover of ABBA‘s “Winner Takes It All” has a cinematic beauty to it. Is this the type of sound we can expect on your album and what other surprises will you have in-store?
Thank you! Yes, you will definitely a few of the other songs with the same treatment. When we decided to record the full album with a full orchestral treatment we wanted to utilize every dynamic that would possibly could. Some songs like ‘Take It With Me’ and ‘Solitaire’ didn’t need the full ‘cinematic treatment’ so the results were a beautiful simple, yet, lush treatment.
Q) Tell us about your experience recording at historic Abbey Road!
In October of 2015 we flew to London to record. I didn’t sleep the night before at ALL! I was so nervous…hundreds of people counting on me. Self-doubt flooding my mind saying that I was crazy for thinking I could ever do this at this amazing studio. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I got up at about 4am the day of the recording when I realized/decided I wasn’t going to sleep. Had a shower then went for a walk to calm down and waited for the first coffee shop to open!
Nerves still getting the best of me, we were ready to go, grabbed a taxi (the ride itself is still a blur) and we pulled up to the studio and walked in. Abbey is more of a museum for people on the outside. Dozens of people outside taking pictures and you have to go through pretty heavy security before they’ll let you in. We walked into the lobby were hundreds of pictures of famous people who had recorded there from Maria Callas to Adele and Sam Smith, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Queen, The Beatles hung over my head as if to say ‘welcome and good luck’. I took out my phone to take pictures but was told to put it away by security. That didn’t help the nerves much.
When I finally walked into the studio, and heard the orchestra warming up, my fear turned to excitement. Tears filled my eyes, and I thought about HOW lucky I was to be there… most people in my industry would die for this experience. I thought of my dad who always wanted to hear me sing with an orchestra (he would never have believed I was with one of the best in the world).
The recording was a dream! Two full days at the most famous recording studio in the world. With the best orchestra I’ve ever sang with and the arrangements were incredible. I had to sing about 7-8 takes for each track (there were 11…it was a LOT of singing). With most tracks I got to go into the BIG room (Studio 1) with the orchestra and sing it LIVE off the floor, once or twice for each take. AMAZING!! But for the rest of the takes I was in an insulated/isolated room off to the side so that the orchestra sound was pure and so that I could perfect my vocals later. Everyone we met in studio were incredibly professional, the orchestra members being able to walk into the studio, sit down, take out their instrument having never heard or seen the music before and then play it PERFECTLY!!!
Q) How did you narrow down which songs you would cover on Priceless?
We spent around a year in the studio listening and trying out songs. I’m not the best songwriter in the world but I didn’t want to do an album of all popular covers.
There were a few of the pieces like ‘Winner Takes It All’ and ‘Solitaire’ hat I absolutely wanted to record because I knew we would try and make them our own.
One of the Producers, John Jones, was incredible. He came to the studio with loads of relatively obscure, but beautiful covers. If I liked them I would try them out right away and we would record them to see if it fit my voice and if I related to the piece. If it sounded right, we then made a mockup of the song and came up with a list of around 16 then picked the best 11.
Q) And your experience working with THE LEGEND Dianne Warren??
We floated around the idea of possibly getting a song from Dianne Warren (which would be INCREDIBLE) so John Jones had reached out to her office to see if it would be possible to do so. I was THRILLED when JJ (as we call him) called me and said they had some song suggestions and that we could go to her offices in LA and have a listen, also meet her. She was AMAZING! So nice, down to earth and interested in the project. A dream come true for me for sure! We have three of her songs on the album.
Q) Tell us about your love for horses. We see a gorgeous photoshoot you did with a white one.
I was lucky enough to meet some incredible friends. It was towards the end of my time with Destino (a crossover group I created) and I was planning on possibly returning to school to maybe be a teacher. I had always wanted to go ‘solo’ but having been in the business for years I knew how difficult it would be to start over. It was at around this time that I met some incredible people who owned horses and they quickly became my ‘family’ in Toronto. (I have an incredible family in Sudbury, ON). They knew I was thinking about quitting and decided to help me fulfill my dream of a solo career. But their one stipulation was that we record the best album with the best team and orchestra in the world. My love for horses grew and the first song I recorded in the pre-production process was ‘Live Like Horses’. An homage to Sonja Ucci the executive Producer. By chance, her and horses changed my life.
Q) What was your biggest challenge crafting this solo disc?
I would say building up the confidence to try singing on my own. My whole professional career from the ‘Canadian Tenors’ to ‘Destino’, I got to rely on other performers sharing the stage with me. Now I was alone and that was a VERY scary thing. But I’m so lucky to have amazing people in my life who lift me up through words and action. I couldn’t have done any of this alone.
Check-out Joey‘s latest Single, NOTE TO GOD, penned by Dianne Warren:
PRICELESS is in stores Friday, April 13, 2018.
More on Joey here: