The Austin Chronicle

Three Weeks of Bear(ing) Soul

By Sarah Marloff, January 15, 2014, 1:15pm, The Gay Place

A seven-foot wide piano now sits inside the Belmont. And Austin’s one and only Nakia couldn’t be happier, because tonight marks the first of his three weekly performances inside the venue.

“It’s pretty exciting to see [the piano] in that room,” said the soul singer, and former semi-finalist on NBC’s The Voice.

The Belmont lends itself to this type of intimate show. I want to create something in that room so that people can feel closer to me and the music.”

The piano, on loan from ACL Live is just one piece of Nakia’s residency puzzle. In order to achieve his desired ambiance, he chose three different openers for each performance, all of them local ladies: Lex Land, Emily Bell, and Karla Manzur. “These are the three women in Austin’s music scene right now that I feel like have the three most beautiful voices, and, personally, I feel the world needs to hear more of them,” Nakia explains. “I knew they would help create this vibe to keep people hanging on. So not only is it an opportunity to share them, but to also for me to selfishly enjoy their voices.”

An Austinite since 2002, Nakia’s fan base has grown since he made it to the Top 8 on season one of The Voice, but family is family and his audience never lacks in queers. “The crowd that comes out is definitely all over the map. I’ll see a handful of the old Austin-y scene from the late-Seventies. The ones who experienced what it was like at the Armadillo Headquarters, all the way up to the Cheer Up Charlie’s crowd who’s making their scene today,” laughs the singer. “Any moment could be bears or the cosmic cowboy-types.”

As for his well-earned Voice fame, he admits being on the show was a life-changing event. “I feel very fortunate to have earned the love of my fans and my coach, and I made some great friends on that show. Life afterwards is a lot of what you make of it,” says Nakia. “It’s up to you to use the connections because you can’t expect anyone from NBC or Universal to do it for you. I knew there was enough buzz from the show when I left that I could find managers and a bigger network of people.”

A source of pride for Nakia is his sense that he never stopped being himself during his time on the show. From here on out, Nakia, who released his latest EP last March, wants to return to his roots before he records another album. “Right now it’s more important to understand my craft. I want to play piano more and travel more. I’m committed to the songs. Once I get them, a record will come.”

2014 is already looking bright and busy for Nakia. On February 15, he’ll be one of several performers at “Heart of the City” the SIMS Foundation’s annual benefit concert. Followed by trips to New York and LA, Nakia also has several South By Southwest shows in the works.

Lex Land kicks off tonight’s opening evening; Emily Bell of “Back to the Way I Was” fame will take the stage next week; and Karla Manzur of Nightblooms will close out Nakia’s three weeks at the Belmont.

Nakia promises a fun evening. “Martinis will be sipped, beers will be poured, wine will be drunk.” Doors open at 6pm, music starts at 7pm. Tickets available here.

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