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Five questions with Monica Spears, jazz singer
Monica Spears found her niche singing jazz tunes at local venues. - photo by Photo by Alex Haynes

Monica Spears

When: 6 to 9 p.m. today, The Olive Branch; 7 to 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Scott’s On the Square
Where: The Olive Branch, 4930 Cleveland Highway, Gainesville; Scott’s on the Square, 110 Main St., Gainesville

For years, Monica Spears played with bands at nightspots, restaurants, festivals and fairs and lived the crooner lifestyle.

But now as a mother of three girls in Alto, she has changed the way she expresses her musical talent.

Spears branched out to jazz standards and torch melodies because “jazz is an art,” she said.

Now 37, she performs on the weekends to open the world up to the sound of jazz classics. Locally, Spears plays at nightspots and eateries at the downtown Gainesville square and in downtown Buford.

We caught up with Spears to talk about her musical background and how her love of jazz has kept her singing.

Question: What is your music background?
Answer: I started singing before talking, with records with the radio, my mother was surprised at my voice. She bought me a portable tape recorder and I took it everywhere with me. Then I began performing at family reunions ... I never have been professionally trained.

Q: What is your favorite genre of music?
A: There’s nothing like the classics. The jazz standards have a way of telling a story. In early teens I fell in love with it. Is it more difficult to sing? Well, yes and no. Yes, in a sense that the vocal jazz is all about the vocals. Vocally it can be challenging ... it is very expressive and very heart felt.

Q: What do you like about getting on stage and performing?
I love connecting with the audience. ... It is about taking people back to another time.

Q: What singer/group influences you from the jazz standards and torch genre?
A: That’s like saying what’s my favorite ice cream. There are SO many, but legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Julie London as well as Sinatra and Tony Bennett. As far as current artists go, I am a huge fan of Diana Krall, Michael Buble and Eva Cassidy.

Q: You mentioned you recorded a song a couple of years ago in Nashville, Tenn. What was that experience like?
A: Actually that was an amazing experience — they (Imperial Records of Nashville) actually produced and recorded (“I Can’t Go On”). My style at the time was country ... I never had that, my voice doesn’t fit that genre, but it was a blast; it was a great experience.
It was actually made into a duet, “I Can’t Go On,” performed by Ricky Hendrix.