Popular northern Michigan singer-songwriter Miriam Pico today reveals the artists and recordings that shaped her own music and career. Listen to the music at Local Spins.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases music that changed the world for northern Michigan singer-songwriter Miriam Pico. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of her picks, along with two tracks from her most recent studio album.
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Miriam Pico has always loved to sing.
“Music has always been my best friend,” she says, dating back to her childhood. She was born in Puerto Rico and was a youngster when her mother moved her and her siblings to the United States.
“I had to learn a new culture and a new language. I sang along with Disney movies, Disney princesses.”
After people continually told her she had a nice voice, Pico began to sing in public, both at church (“My knees were shaking, I was so afraid,” she says) and at karaoke night at Dill’s Olde Towne Saloon in Traverse City at age 11. “Larry Avery (the owner of Dill’s) gave me his card, and said, ‘When you’re 18 I want you to be in the Golden Garter Revue.’ By the time I was 18, Dill’s was no longer there.”
No matter. She began singing around the area, doing weddings and small events and landed a role at the Williamsburg Dinner Theater with Dominic Fortuna. That’s where she met keyboard player David Chown, who’s been a regular performer throughout the region for many years.
“We hit it off,” Pico says, and they have performed together ever since. She did end up working with Avery and Old Town Playhouse. Pico is now married to guitarist Ryan Younce of the Younce Guitar Duo, and says her home is always filled with music.
“My husband has expanded my musical world. Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin – as a singer I wouldn’t normally gravitate to instrumental music.”
Pico plays The Parlor in Traverse City at 8 p.m. April 21, with future performances at the same venue on June 3 and Aug. 25. She also plays The Pub in Traverse City on June 16, Rove Estate and Winery in Traverse City on June 20 and Blustone Vineyards in Lake Leelanau on July 1.
1. Whitney Houston, “The Bodyguard” Soundtrack (1992) – Whitney Houston shook my core. I couldn’t believe her voice, her stage presence. I was mesmerized by her. I listened to the tape over and over. I’d stop it and try her licks until I could sort of feel like (I was doing) what she was doing. “I Will Always Love You” made me want to be a singer.
Listen: “I Will Always Love You”
2. Jorge Drexler, “Eco” (2004) – After graduating from high school, I went to Puerto Rico and lived with an aunt. Jorge used to be a doctor, and realized he loved songwriting. His songs deal with deep things – life and death, astronomy, all into love stories. He’s super creative. My favorites are “Todo Se Transforma” (Everything Transforms), and “Al Otro Lado Dl Rio” (On The Other Side Of The River) from “The Motorcycle Diaries” (film). It won the Academy Award for “Best Song.” Jorge has a nice, gentle normal voice (as compared to Houston). The words have magic in them for those who really get into lyrics. He’s legendary in the Latin music world.
Listen: “Todo Se Transforma”
3. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, “Ella and Louis” (1956) – I was very close to my grandparents. My abuelo (grandfather) would make me mixtapes when I was 12 or 13. One of them was this. First of all, the voice of Ella pierced me. I’d have headphones to have her voice as close to my ears as possible. That contrasts with Louis’s rough, gravelly voice, so opposite of her silky-smooth voice. But they work together. And his trumpet is so joyful.
Listen: “Ella and Louis”
Currently Loving: Queen, “Greatest Hits” (1981) – I have music lovers in my house. My 15-year-old is obsessed with Queen. I loved it as a teen and love it now. Again, it’s that voice and stage presence. When “Bohemian Rhapsody” comes on we have to stop what we’re doing and the whole house sings along. Same with “Somebody to Love” and “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
Listen: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Miriam Pico’s Playlist on Spotify
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