Jazz Artist Nicole Henry Takes Us Backstage at Badgley Mischka

Mark Badgley, Nicole Henry and James Mischka hang out backstage before the show | Photo courtesy of Julie Pereira …Naturally beautiful and freakishly talented, jazz chanteuse Nicole Henry has a lot going for her. In addition to her burgeoning music career and the release of her latest live album, "So Good, So Right," she's close friends with two of fashion's brightest stars: Mark Badgley and James Mischka of their eponymous line, red carpet staple Badgley Mischka. We caught up with the singer and her designer friends backstage before the moody and Hitchcockian Badgley Mischka Fall/Winter 2013 show.

The Thread: We know that you're fans of Nicole's, but are you fans of jazz in general? Does it influence your design process?
James Mischka: Well first of all, Nicole is influencing jazz right now--not the other way around! But, actually I'm not usually a fan of jazz. I love Nicole's version of it, though.
Mark Badgley: We've seen her in concert twice now and both times were such amazing experiences--once downtown and once at Lincoln Center--and her spin on it and her song selection are completely up our alley.
Nicole Henry: In 2002 when I started listening to jazz, when I discovered it, I had only heard it live. I had heard CDs before but just didn't "get it." When I started seeing it live, I heard the lyrics and the melodies and was like "Oh, OK!" I want to do this my way and bring it to my audience so that they can enjoy it, too--bringing jazz to people like James who don't necessarily love it.

TT: What drew you three together?
MB: We met through a mutual friend. We had previously heard about her talents and her beauty and we're always looking for a muse. The rest is history

TT: Nicole, how would you describe your style?
NH: I try not to define my own style, but I'd say it's very classic and very feminine. I love working out, so I like to show off what I've worked for--my small waist and my arms, specifically. But it changes a lot.
Some of our favorite looks from the show | Photos courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/ Edward James/Getty …
TT: Mark and James, what do you keep in mind when you're dressing her?
JM: [laughs] When we first went to see her perform, afterwards we were like "Did you see her arms?! Did you see them?!" So we love showing them off as much as she does.
MB: But, she's worn dresses of ours where she's completely covered, and pieces from us that are more bare--it just really depends on the personality of the dress and the song that she's singing. And she makes it all work!

TT: You cite 70s soul as musical influence, how did it become such an influence in your life? Is it a style influence as well?
NH: What I love doing is finding songs that I love, finding songs that I find to be classic, finding songs that lyrically I connect to. Style-wise it's not so important because you can always just make it your style. I thought that the 70s was one of the last time periods where there was live, real music. You heard strings, you heard horn sections, you heard background vocals--people were not faking the funk because there was no electric whatever. Not that the synthing was bad, but it was different. [With live music] there is nothing to hide behind. So artists like Gladys Knight and The Commodores and James Taylor--those are the songs that are represented on my album. And Aretha Franklin! I love her, I love her. So that music is what I grew up on and it t was a natural fit for me. [Making "So Good, So Right"] was a lot of fun--really I did the album to have a good time! I had been doing jazz since 2002, and I always believe that jazz will be a part of my life, but I really wanted to expand my repertoire and make it more contemporary. I do that with original songs at my shows--I have about 6 to 8 original songs that I kind of sprinkle in to the shows and I'm really looking forward to heading more in that direction going forward.

TT: With your tour going on right now we have to know--how do you keep looking this good?
NH: I just smile. Just keep smiling! You know how they say "if you build it, they will come?" If you just keep smiling and say "Everything's fine," good things will come. The other day I was watching a special for Black History month, and they were discussing the importance of music in the black community throughout different struggles--the Civil Rights movement, etc.--and they talked about that song "This Little Light of Mine." It reminds me of what's at my core--my spirituality and my purpose, which is to entertain people! I love entertaining people--to make my audience feel welcomed and relaxed and to do that through music. And sometimes you just have to realize, certain things will fall through the cracks--you have to realize you can't do everything--but [my staff and I] just try to keep our focus on the show. We make sure we build it properly, make sure our friends and fans and supporters know where we're going to be in whatever city we're in, and then we simply work on the music. Honestly, when you worry about the product and audience, everything else will fall in to place. I have a great team, [I have Mark and James dressing me] so there's not SO much that I need to be worried over.

TT: Do you have a favorite tour look?
JM: I love the outfit she wore when we saw her at Lincoln Center.
MB: Yes, it was a blush, gossamer, butterfly gown. But, then there was another gown--equally beautiful, but very different--it was a gold ottoman and it was all laced up and very body conscious.

TT:
The Grammys were this past weekend, did you have a favorite on the red carpet? Any favorite performances?
NH: Kelly Rowland's dress was fierce. And I loved that green gown that Katy Perry wore--I love the fit and the color. As far as music: I think Bruno Mars is a wonderful, wonderful artist and Sting is tops. To see Prince come out, too, was incredible. Gotye's reaction was perfect, how he was just like "Yeah, I won a Grammy but PRINCE gave it to me!" I thought that was funny. I have to say, she disappoints me in her social, personal life with the Chris Brown thing--it's not so much losing respect for someone but you just feel for them--but Ms. Rihanna did a wonderful job [performing]. Mumford and Sons--it's good to see people loving their music. And seeing fun., after 12 years of hard work (which you can relate to in any industry but in particular the music world--you have to have faith that what you're doing is what you're supposed to be doing), it was great to see them get rewarded. I loved how they kept saying "We are NOT young!"

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