Edmonton’s Jenie Thai mixes contemporary and traditional blues piano to create a hybrid sound
With a combination of contemporary and traditional blues piano, and a fiery passionate voice, Jenie “Thai” Nolan has been making a name for herself across the country and the world.
The locally established musician, born in Chiang Mai, Thailand, got her roots in blues at a very young age while taking classical piano lessons in Edmonton.
“At the end of the lesson I would get to play like, a fun song,” Nolan says. “I really loved the old jazz and blues arrangements of songs and I discovered I could make those same kind of sounds. It kind of got my ear going.”
Nolan also took delight in imitating whatever music her dad was listening to, like blues juggernaut BB King.
“I would get so excited when I heard the piano in a BB King song,” Nolan says. “I was drawn to the blues piano when I would hear that sound.”
After graduating from MacEwan’s music program, Nolan was accepted into the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, a music school started by the infamous Paul McCartney.
“It was pretty crazy ‘cause I heard there was like a thousand applicants and only 45 made it,” Nolan says.
Still, she wanted to focus on playing her on music live without being a student so she declined the offer.
“I remember the first month out I looked up every single live music place in Edmonton,” she says. “There were like hundreds of places like this seafood shop. My first gig I got like a $50 gift card.”
Since then, Nolan has come along way, releasing two full-length albums and representing Edmonton twice in the Memphis Blues Challenge, a world renowned blues competition that sees a diverse mix of famous blues musicians from all around the world.
“The first time I went was in 2014 and it felt reassuring that there are so many musicians who love the same kind of music as me out in the world,” Nolan says. “So, to be amongst all these people from all around the world was really inspiring and encouraging. I felt like I belonged.”
Jenie Thai is in the process of putting the final touches open her upcoming third album that, right now, remains untitled. She got help funding the album from PledgeMusic, a platform that allows fans to be part of the album making process.
It’s safe to say that she is ecstatic to release her new sound into the world.
“My old album doesn’t represent what I sound like anymore, so It’s time to release something new,” Nolan says. “On this new album, it’s definitely more R&B. The last albums were piano, bass, drums, but this new one has the guitar on every track, horns, backup singers. It’s a way fuller sound.”
Fri., Aug. 25 – Tue., Aug. 29
Blue Chair Cafe, Edmonton International Blues Festival, Blues on Whyte
Prices vary depending on venue