An Interview with Ioana Vintu of ‘Nuf Said

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NYC is teeming with amazing, young, and hungry Jazz artists right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with many of them. Ioana Vintu is one of those artists, but with a slightly new spin.

Born and raised in Romania, Ioana migrated to NYC in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. Her diverse background has led her to record some incredible and eclectic music with her group ‘Nuf Said.

With a rich musical background, an excellent supporting cast, and a textured blend of Jazz, Funk, Rock, and Soul, ‘Nuf Said is the next big thing to grace your turntable, and once you dive in, you’ll be coming back for more time and time again.

Today, I’ve got Ioana Vintu with us for a chat. We cover her early roots in Romania, her early influences, coming to NYC in 2008, the formation and continuation of ‘Nuf Said, and a whole lot more. If you would like to learn more about Ioana Vintu and ‘Nuf Said, head over to the group’s website and dig in. Enjoy this interview. Cheers.

Andrew:
Ioana, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Ioana:
I’m sure everyone has struggled this year one way or another – I can’t believe we have been quarantining for one full year! I have been busy reading many tales and folktales, and I have been listening to almost every album I have lying around. I am constantly amazed by all the artists in NYC who continue to perform and create from home, despite the craziness we are all dealing with.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. How did you get into music?

Ioana:
I grew up in Romania before I moved to NYC in 2008. My father always played music around the house and often talked to me about different songs and artists he knew growing up. He played a bit of accordion and my grandfather played the violin. I heard them play so rarely, and I was very young when they did pick up instruments to play. Every time I would hear them play it felt like the world stood still and something so special was happening, that I could not .

At home, we most often listened to an old record player because, during the communist era, there were no radio stations in the area playing contemporary music. We lived for many years, pretty much completely cut off from the rest of the world.

In high school, I started singing with my own band of girls (there were 9 of us). We were doing small gigs in and out of town, singing 60s music, dressing up (because we could never agree on complete outfits, we stopped arguing about what shoes to wear and sang barefoot).

Coming from Eastern Europe, I didn’t really understand what being a musician actually meant until I moved to NYC in 2008. Living in a city with so many venues and so many different types of shows playing all night long is still so surreal to me. You get to meet so many different artists and hear music coming from the most diverse cultures and corners of the world. There is so much to take in all the time; it is simply impossible not to feel the urge to write and perform and collaborate with other artists.

Andrew:
As an artist, who were some of your earliest and more important influences?

Ioana:
One of the first artists I found interesting as a child was Romica Puceanu. I remember my dad’s old records of Romica, in which she was backed by a gypsy orchestra. She had a deep and comforting voice. I was too young to understand what she was singing about, but I could always feel the emotion in her voice, and that was fascinating to me.

Growing up, I also loved Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Nina Simone. I know these are those classic answers you get from singers, but as a kid, I had limited access to world music. You could listen to what your parents brought home. There were no music stores and no radios to play until long after the revolution of 1989.

Andrew:
Let’s just right in and talk about ‘Nuf Said. The band is Jazz, it’s Funk, it’s Soul, and even has some Rock sprinkled in there. Tell us how the band got it’s start. What are the origins?

Ioana:
When I moved to NYC, I started sitting in at open mics. I didn’t know any other musicians, and moving here was so overwhelming to me. I was constantly going out and checking out all kinds of shows. I heard music I never even knew existed. Needless to say– it took me a long time to muster up the courage to get on stage. Once I started sitting in, I also started getting to know other artists and soon found people to get together and play sessions with. One session led to another, and soon I tried booking my own little shows in small venues in NYC. I called friends I had met and ended up with a group of people that worked well together. We come from different backgrounds. We all have several projects we are involved with, and we also write and perform together as ‘Nuf Said. I bought a minivan 6 years ago, and we have been touring with our own music out of town as well. You need a solid and fun group to be able to withstand longer outings.

Andrew:
The way I got into ‘Nuf Said was Rise. Great album. Tell us more about that record. How do you feel you progressed from your first record with Rise?

Ioana:
We recorded Rise in one day at Converse Rubbertracks Studio in Brooklyn, and we released it on Ropeadope Records back in 2016. We recorded just with the core band: vocals, alto saxophone, guitar, bass and drums. One of the songs “Sister” was nominated for the American Songwriting Awards right away, so we started experimenting on live shows and started adding more instruments, to see what would happen. We also re-recorded versions of “Rise” and “Sister” later on with different instrumentation, for social media releases and looking back, I think we went through a journey of rediscovering the songs on the album.

“Rise” was originally a tribute song to Amy Winehouse. Her songs were usually my go-to’s when I had to sit in on open mics with house bands I did not know back when I moved to NY. It felt right to include her in this project. We were fortunate to work with Miguel Rueda – an amazing artist from Columbia. He created an animated music video for “Rise,” and he even included a guest appearance from Amy in there too.

Andrew:
How about the production side of things? Do you self-produce, or do you bring in outside voices? Either way, what goes into the decision?

Ioana:
We do all sorts of things; it depends on what is happening in the world and in our lives at the moment. The last album was co-produced. We worked with an engineer from Berlin, Germany, on those songs. It was a very interesting experience, and working with Wolfi Schiefermeyer was super easy and laid back. Although we lived thousands of miles away, we were able to communicate and finalize an album that we toured with for almost 4 years.

The new album will also be co-production. There is a long list of guest performers and artists I am so eager to hear them do their magic on the new songs.

‘Nuf Said – Rise

Andrew:
You’re in the process of recording a new record.
My understanding is you’re halted by COVID, though. Any idea when we will see the completed record? What more can you tell us about it?

Ioana:
We started recording right before we went into lockdown. The COVID crisis and the political climate of the past few years definitely influenced this album. The main message and theme of this upcoming project will support the resistance movement and address the issues of the current political climate with an emphasis on the fight for social justice and the #MeToo movement in an uplifting, positive way.

Now that we have been isolated, many of the songs that we were planning on recording in our next session will probably sound different than initially planned. I think that is a good thing. We are planning on going back into the studio as soon as it is safe to do so, and hopefully, we will be releasing the new album in early 2022.

Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Ioana:
I love painting; although I do my own thing – I have no training and never took any classes to properly learn how to do it. I just find that it is a great way to relax and it helps me think and plot/plan my next move.

I have also been teaching German and literature courses part-time as an adjunct professor at CUNY. There is a lot about teaching that creates a similar connection to other human beings, which relates closely to being on stage and performing.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Ioana:
I have always loved vinyl because I grew up listening to old traditional Romanian music on vinyl. I love scavenging for albums when I’m on tour. There is so much music that you can’t find online or in digital form anywhere. I found some of the most interesting and hilarious music in old record stores in Toronto and NYC, and in Europe sold on the side of the road. Little treasures here and there that I get to bring home and obsess over for a while. I love so many albums, but lately, I have been listening to:

-Leontine Price – Porgy & Bess recorded 1952 – The perfect voice and so much discipline! I will never get bored of listening to her.

-Lisa Fisher & Ledisi with the Metropole Orkest – Tribute to Nina Simone (I am still waiting and hoping BBC will print this live show from 2019. You can stream it from their website right now.) I have seen Lisa’s shows with Grand Baton a few times at the Jazz Standard and The Blue Note here in NYC. She is so incredibly expressive. Her voice just floats!

-Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin (1958) – there is something about this album that I keep coming back to. I think there is so much honesty and truth in those songs. We need more of that today, more than ever it feels like.

Andrew:
Touring is a big part of any artist’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about being on the road?

Ioana:
What I love most about touring is seeing how different audiences react to the songs we play. Our shows are never the same. We don’t try to reproduce the recordings on the album. We feed off the audience, and so we never know where a song can go. It’s so exciting and inspiring to be in the moment and experience that flow.

I also love collaborating with local artists. All of us in the band have friends all around the world. Artists from all over come to spend time in NYC at some point in their careers. When we tour, we get to see these people, and we often invite them to play.

Andrew:
Speaking of COVID, where has it left the music scene? So many indie venues are closing, and people are struggling. Do we recover from this? If so, how?

Ioana;
Yes absolutely. I think New York has been through worse, and the music never stopped. The music hasn’t stopped during COVID either! Yes, maybe many have left the premises, but also many artists have remained. Some venues have had live music during this past year on a regular basis. I have no doubt that the shows will commence as soon as the restrictions are lifted. Maybe some music venues have had to close their doors, but the opportunity to reopen will come back.

Andrew:
There is a huge wave of incredible Jazz, Soul, and Funk artists sweeping over the scene in NYC right now. What are your thoughts on this incredible new age we are in?

Ioana:
I think it is amazing that we can do so much! We can be part of the entire process when it comes to making music. We write and perform. We record and mix. We book our own shows and tours and are completely in charge of the final version of our own music. We get to hear from the audience first hand, not just during and right after the show, but over social media platforms as well. I think we are lucky to get the chance to be in charge of our careers if we choose to. The freedom we have now has helped many artists develop some incredible music, and I am constantly excited to see what comes next.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for other artists looking to take the plunge into the crazy world of music?

Ioana:
It’s very important to listen to other artists and take in as much as you can, but it’s also important to listen to yourself. Play the music you need to hear, not the music you think people want to hear or the music you think will “catch on.” I think it’s most important to stick to the truth and trust yourself.

Interested in learning more about the work of ‘Nuf Said? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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