Blending R&B with disco isn’t something typically seen on the music charts, but then again, Jessica 6 frontwoman Nomi Ruiz has always done the unexpected. After leaving Hercules and Love Affair and forming Jessica 6 in 2011, the Brooklyn-based artist started getting attention in both electronica and hip-hop circles. We talk with Ruiz about being a woman of transgender origin and using music as therapy.
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More than “trans”
The media often labels Ruiz as a “trans musician,” which she says is a double-edged sword. “There are issues I think should be addressed and I don’t mind addressing them, but sometimes I feel like I’m being put in a box,” the 29-year-old tells us.
“For me, the trans part is something in my past that I’ve been through. It’s something I hold and carry with me always. I know it puts me in a category where I identify with other people in the world who are going through their issues.”
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Turning anguish into art
While listeners of all genders and sexual orientation can connect to Jessica 6’s latest album, “The Capricorn,” Ruiz says she wrote it specifically with women of trans experience in mind. “I never had a record to go to where I felt, wow, that’s exactly what I’m going through,” she says. “I wanted to reach these women who have been in the shadows or darkness.”
Ruiz says the lyrics express her pain from being ostracized by past lovers, revealing that when she wrote the songs, she was in a dark place and used songwriting as a way to figure out what exactly was pushing her over the edge. The act of turning her anguish into art saved her.
“I feel like my purpose [in life] is to really deliver these songs. Whenever something beautiful comes out of a dark moment, I feel, OK, this is the reason [that bad thing happened]. So I can deliver this message."
Going all out
Ruiz is gearing up for her New York City concert, which is especially meaningful to her as a lifelong New Yorker. She grew up in Sunset Park and says always hearing music in the streets truly inspired her sound. She still lives in Brooklyn, only now in Bushwick.
“We’re going to put on a fabulous full dynasty,” she says of the upcoming New Year's Eve performance at the Reflections Gala, one of New York City's buzziest LGBT parties of the year. “I love to work with dancing and lighting and using whatever resources I have to put on a beautiful show for everyone.”
If you go:
Jessica 6 at New Year's Eve Reflections Gala
Dec. 31, 9 p.m.
Lotte New York Palace Hotel
455 Madison Ave.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence