Walking for Pennies are LIC- based duo, Neeley Bridges and Andy Jobe. They released their first album “Forget About Wonderland” in October last year after years of making their way as actors and musicians around New York. Credits include: Les Miserables in Vermont, A Christmas Carol at MSG Paramount Theater, The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, the Living Room in Lower East Side and LIC Bar (www.licbar.com). Their name refers to the times when they have been literally walking for pennies as dog walkers in order to get money together to pay rent; a thankless, poop-scooping task recalled in a song, “Who am I Supposed to Be”, penned by Bridges, on the album.
Next week the duo expand to a band, with Neil Nunziato on drums, Pauline Pisano on piano and harmonies and Craig Akin on bass, to appear in their first show at the famous Rockwood Music Hall at 4pm on Sunday 17th February.
Neeley Bridges, like her partner, studied musical theater at NYU and has been on the local music scene since then, with involvement in musicals, writing, performing solo and with bands. She is a talented multi-instrumentalist: guitar, mandolin, flute, oboe, piano and clarinet. These days she most often sticks to guitar and mandolin, which shines on the album, prefering mandolin: saying “guitar is really a guy’s intrument, it’s big!” Her voice is clear and accurate, offering strong interweaving harmonies with Andy’s distinctive higher-register vocal offerings. In 2008 she released a solo album “Devil on my Shoulder” and has written four of the songs on the Wonderland album.
Neeley describes herself as always having been a singer; able to remember melodies and lyrics since she was a small child. She remembers singing along with music on the radio and then reproducing the songs by her herself, including mimicking the vocal styles of singers like Cindy Lauper and Elvis.
Although her parents were not musicians they recognised her abilities and enthusiasms, allowing her to study opera enrol her in a “Magnet” school for “gifted and talented children” in their home town in Northern Carolina, a school which concentrated on teaching the performing arts and in which she was able to develop her voice and acting abilities, as well as her instrumental skills.
An immersion in music has allowed Neeley to develop her song writing using both traditional and original structures She finds, however, that simple structures are often more memorable, commenting that “People like to know where a song is going”. She usually writes using a guitar, but is finding that she will often develop melodies in her head and will know how they should be accompanied. Her memory for music means that she doesn’t need to sing or play into a recording device and can just hold it in her mind and develop it later.
Unlike her partner Andy she prefers to write whilst moving; whether walking or just around her LIC home. Andy prefers to sit, concentrate and just work it out. They don’t write together, suggesting that their contrasting writing styles militate against that; but they do contribute to each others’ arrangements both in vocal harmonies and instrumental parts.
Vocally the couple have contrasting voices. Ohio-born Andy has a distinctive high register and tone, with Neeley offering a range of vocal tones for which her formal vocal training, and her childhood mimicking talent, has been excellent preparation. The addition of Pauline Pisano (http://www.paulinepisano.com)as a regular contributor to Walking for Pennies band shows offers a richer, lower register contrast which allows for some beautiful harmonisation. Neil Nunziato, an unstintingly loyal drummer, well known to LIC Bar musicians is also a regular supporter of Neeley and Andy.
Craig Akin (http://www.slapfiddle.com/), too is regularly seen on the New York music scene. in demand for both upright and electric bass.
A background in the theatre has given Walking For Pennies a gift for presentation, which makes for polished and well prepared shows.
Andy and Neeley, like most musicians in New York, have to mix a range of employments in order pay the rent. They are fortunate in that they can offer themselves as a duo, not just in performance but also in children’s educational programs such as LIC Kids (http://lickids.com/), at a local yoga studio, Pranavah Yoga (www.pranavahyoga.com), and, soon, at the gym at the powerhouse, a local condominium. Together they offer musical enrichment programs for young children in the LIC area as well as providing instrumental and vocal tuition to budding musicians of all ages.
Whilst less involved with musical theatre these days, their training comes to good use with a commitment to “A Christmas Carol’ performances in Denver, Colorado – a semi-regular holiday employment that means that they don’t have to spend long periods apart, often a burden that couples have to bear when they are both entertainers.
Andy Jobe wrote the title track to their album: “Forget about Wonderland”, an album that demonstrates the talent and real attention to detail of these two musicians. It is a carefully crafted selection of music of different genres, with a country/folk – pop/R&B thread; a mix of guest musicians make for a satisfying mix that sustains repeated listening, both as an album and picking tracks to match a mood. As solo singers they contrast; with Neeley offering sound which mixes soul with country, whilst Andy pays his respects to a big influence, James Taylor, supported by some nice guitar picking. His voice can be compared to Michael Jackson in its high range and flexibility. As duettists their voices have a combined strength and consistency which shows well in live performance, no auto-tune here!
Check out a perfromance of their song “Nashville”:
In December 2012 Walking for Pennies played at LIC Bar, in a benefit performance for victims of Hurricane Sandy, debuting their single “Hurricane”; the proceeds of which go to Sandy relief.
Check out their website www.walkingforpennies.com for downloads, and take a trip down to Rockwood for their show on 17th.