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Summer 2006 - Act•ionLine

by Edita Birnkrant | Summer 2006

Nellie McKay’s Brilliant Voice for the Animals

“Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion,” says Nellie Mckay, a young singer-songwriter with a retro style who brings peace and justice issues to her music. A dedicated animal rights activist and vegan, McKay spoke with me about why she is so devoted to getting her message out to the public.

“If you’re just doing art, you can feel a little useless, or a little self-involved,” she said. “You want to incorporate things that relate to other people and to other beings.” About animal rights, McKay says, “It’s still a movement in the early stages, so when people stand up for the animals, it shows that they’re ahead of the game.”

McKay admits she’s “not the greatest cook,” but reveals that she was very excited to read the recipe for vegan pesto in her copy of Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine. She “loves pesto,” but hasn’t had it for two years, and can’t wait to try out the recipe.

McKay’s mother Robin – who is also her manager – became a vegetarian while McKay was a child. Born in London, and raised in Harlem, New York and the Poconos in Pennsylvania, McKay attended the Manhattan School of Music in 2000, but dropped out before graduation, and tried a short-lived career as a stand-up comic. In early 2003, she started performing her music in small New York City venues. Soon, there was a buzz. McKay signed with Columbia Records.

Her debut CD, ‘Get Away From Me’, released in 2004 on Columbia records, was a hit with music critics, and led to whisperings that Nellie McKay was destined for superstardom. The unique blend of jazz, pop, blues and rap and McKay’s intelligent, often biting lyrics is a powerful channel for many issues, ranging from sexism and male posturing on “It’s a Pose” to the joys of adopting a dog from the pound on “The Dog Song.”

McKay’s second album, “Pretty Little Head,” was to arrive early in 2006; but a split with Columbia records has delayed the release. Included on this album is a song entitled “Columbia is Bleeding” – not about the record label, but Columbia University’s primate laboratory.

Showing yet another facet of her talent, McKay is enjoying a Broadway debut as “Polly Peachum” in Wallace Shawn’s new translation of “The Threepenny Opera,” which opened on Broadway in April 2006, co-starring Cyndi Lauper and Alan Cumming. McKay is excited to be part of a play that has “lots of political bite to it.”

“I Won’t Perform in Canada!”: Nellie McKay Joins Our Tourism Boycott

On March 15th, McKay attended Friends of Animals’ New York protest against Canada’s seal slaughter in front of the Canadian Consulate, taking time out from rehearsing for The Threepenny Opera. After leading creative chants and handing out flyers to passerby at that high-profile vigil, McKay joined Friends of Animals’ international tourism boycott of Canada in April, stating “I give my full support to the tourism boycott of Canada which has been called by Friends of Animals. I urge people to take part in the boycott until the government ends the seal hunt.. I will not perform in Canada, and I will be encouraging other artists to join me.”

It’s clear that Nellie Mckay is devoted to animal rights, and with her star on the rise, that’s good news for the animals.

Edita Birnkrant

Act•ionLine Summer 2006

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