Singer-songwriter. Mentor to at-risk youth. Wailin’ Jenny. Mental health advocate. Canadian. JUNO winner. Mother of twins. International touring artist. Biracial. Children's book author. Mental illness survivor. Life-partner. Speaker. Composer for contemporary dance. Poet. Band manager. University graduate. Former dancer. Winnipegger. Influenced by Jane Siberry, Lloyd Cole, The Smiths, and Sharon Olds. Product of British and East Indian ancestry. Nature lover. Realist. Idealist. Dreamer.
It's been a full 22 years since Nicky Mehta took a year off from pursuing graduate studies to try some backup singing and inadvertently became a career musician. Coming to this unexpected vocation of singer-songwriter at a later age than most, Nicky has nonetheless carved out a full life of music, writing, and activism that has been both significantly successful and influential.
After graduating with an honours degree in Media Theory/Cultural Studies from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and with every intention on following this up with master's work, Nicky took the proverbial year off to do some backup singing. She moved to Toronto and with baby steps began singing other's original music in subways, bars and music venues.
Eventually, she left Toronto and returned to her home of Winnipeg, Manitoba where she started to immerse herself in the esteemed local music community. She picked up the guitar at the age of 24, began writing songs, singing backup for local singer-songwriters, and formed her first band. Over the next five years she developed a reputation as a singer-songwriter to watch, and recorded a well-received solo album, Weather Vane. She toured in Canada and the United States, was given official showcases at several industry conferences, was nominated for a 2002 Indie Award for Weather Vane, and continued to garner the praise and admiration of many established musicians and critics. Sing Out! magazine claimed she "has the potential to become a major figure among contemporary singer-songwriters."
In 2001, she played the venerable Winnipeg Folk Festival shortly after the release of Weather Vane. At the festival she was approached by another local singer-songwriter, Ruth Moody, who expressed interest in singing with her and fellow musician Cara Luft with the intention of putting on a show. The one show, at a small guitar store in Winnipeg - where the three women jokingly performed under the moniker "The Wailin' Jennys" - demanded a second sold out show and unleashed a whirlwind of festival and concert offers. In a few short months, the Jennys were the toast of the Canadian folk scene.
Nicky has spent much of the last sixteen years touring and recording with the now internationally-renowned folk-roots band. As a founding and current member of the harmony trio, Mehta has toured from Ireland to Australia, Halifax to Los Angeles and beyond. The band has released five acclaimed albums which have won JUNOS and numerous other awards, charted at number one on the Billboard bluegrass chart (even though the Jennys aren't bluegrass!) where it remained in the top 100 for 50+ weeks.
The group has spawned legions of fans who to this day pack sold out theatres. Mehta's powerful voice and songwriting and witty, commanding stage presence has been an integral part of this success. She has been called a "world class vocalist" (Vintage Guitar Magazine), an "acerbic wit" (Huffington Post), "a truly impressive new writing talent" (Penguin Eggs). Her songs have been described as "beautiful...universal...well-crafted" (World Folk Music Association), "near perfect" (The Music Critic. UK), "first rate" (CBC Music matters), and "grounded and effortless" (AllMusic). Her masterful song "Arlington" was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition.
It has always been important for the Jennys to allow for its members to have lives outside of the group and as such, they have taken the odd hiatus to engage in their own pursuits, be those solo careers, other artistic endeavours or babies! In 2009 Nicky and her partner, Grant Johnson (also the band's sound person for many years) welcomed twin boys, Beck and Finn, to the world and toured as a family with the Jennys for the first two years of the boys' lives. During that time, Nicky also continued working with at-risk youth in various capacities, taught songwriting to teens through a Winnipeg Folk Festival program, and acted as a mentor to younger musicians through Manitoba Music, a non-profit resource centre for music industry professionals in Winnipeg. Nicky and Grant also began composing for contemporary dance together.
Now, while she continues to tour with the Jennys, she is also busy coordinating the band's partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the U.S. where the Jennys now spend most of their time. Nicky's and the group's work with NAMI and the Canadian Mental Health Association has raised both funds and awareness for a largely underfunded and disadvantaged population.
Two decades after Nicky devoted herself to a life of music, she continues to stretch her creative wings. In early February, 2018, she published a children's book based on her lullaby Away But Never Gone which will be released officially in March to stores across Canada and the U.S. She will begin work in May 2018 with Grant on a new contemporary dance piece by esteemed Winnipeg choreographer and dancer Treasure Waddell. She will also resume work on her upcoming sophomore solo CD with a tentative release date in fall 2019 as well as a book of poetry due out at the beginning of 2020.