Courtney Biondo is bored with the solo singer-songwriter routine.
She has been playing solo at such venues as The Moon & River Café in Schenectady with the typical acoustic guitar and vocals approach, since the age of 13. Last year, she was a top five finalist in Revolution Hall’s first “Capital District’s Got Talent” competition. Despite this success as a solo artist, after the competition wrapped Biondo began thinking about taking a break.
“I was just like, I’m just going to take a break from playing for a little bit, because I just get so bored listening to myself for two or three hours at a time,” Biondo said from a coffee shop in Albany. “So I know if I’m bored, then everyone else must be.”
But music has always been the main driving force in Biondo’s life — in addition to performing, the 27-year-old works with children with developmental disabilities as a music therapist for Capital District Beginnings. So rather than stop altogether, she took a different approach and joined Albany rock band Big Nixon, whose frontman Andrew Elder is also her fiancé. Her addition on vocals has helped add a new dimension to her primarily acoustic songs, and so far has been just the inspiration she needed.
Courtney Biondo and Andrew Elder, with Will Foley
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22
Where: The Bread and Jam Cafe, 130 Remsen St., Cohoes
How Much: Free
More Info: 326-2275, www.breadandjamcafe.com
“There was a point where I was like, I’m so sick of these songs,” Biondo said. “But now, I hear Big Nixon playing them and they’ve just made them into completely different songs, and it just makes it so much more exciting.”
In turn, this reinvention has helped Biondo’s acoustic performances as well — her next gig is Friday night with Elder at The Bread and Jam Cafe, along with Will Foley. She plans to maintain a solo performing and recording presence alongside her new duties in Big Nixon, having recently recorded three songs solo at Josh Herzog’s studio in Voorheesville.
“I’m probably going to do a little bit of both [solo and Big Nixon recordings], all in one,” Biondo said. “Big Nixon is going to be going back into the studio with Josh to record a couple of their songs, so we might do the same for some of mine and put it all together.”
Biondo’s previous band experience, with the duo Of Keeping Secrets, was much different than Big Nixon’s full-on rock attack. At first listen, Biondo’s hushed approach, melding elements of folk and pop to her smooth, sultry vocals, might not seem to fit with Big Nixon’s harder-edged material. But this hasn’t posed a problem for the band.
“I think the first time it happened, everyone just felt like it was so natural,” Biondo said, “and it brought an extra energy to it I think, just to have something different going on.”
Biondo’s influences range from Imogen Heap to Death Cab for Cutie to Jenny Lewis, but her first love was The Beatles. “I’ve always been connected to The Beatles since I was a toddler — I mean, my mom always said that I would dance to it,” she said.
She started off playing drums, but switched to guitar at 13 and began teaching herself to play with a Beatles tablature book. Soon after, she was writing her own songs.
Her first gigs were at Mother Earth’s Cafe in Albany, the venue that Moon & River owner Richard Genest used to own. “Richard, at Mother Earth’s, was very generous and supportive of my terrible songwriting,” Biondo said, laughing.
She took a hiatus from performing while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, gradually building up her performing contacts in the Capital Region once again after graduating.
“I feel like I was so immersed in music that I couldn’t even think about my own music, if that makes any sense,” she said about her college experience. “It was just, it was hard. There were a couple tunes out from college that I did in the studios there that I’m satisfied with, but you know, my style changed and my maturity level changed, obviously.”
Despite the fact that her performing career has been receiving more attention, Biondo is happy with her current level of success. She doesn’t see herself being able to cut it as a professional musician, and prefers to keep it as a release from her day job.
“I’ll not write something for six months, and then all of a sudden I’ll write four songs in two months,” Biondo said.
“And that’s really an indication that I could not do this for a living; I would be terrible at it. Because I really use it when I need it.”