Nicolle Chirino Is Influenced by More Than Her Last Name

Nicolle Chirino
Nicolle Chirino Photo by Victor Spinelli
click to enlarge Nicolle Chirino - PHOTO BY VICTOR SPINELLI
Nicolle Chirino
Photo by Victor Spinelli
Nicolle Chirino is the daughter of Latin music legends Willie Chirino and Lissette Álvarez and the granddaughter of Cuban music and TV stars Olga y Tony. "My name opened doors, but it's not as easy as you'd think," she says. "Your name also creates expectations, which gets you scrutinized more."

After growing up in Miami around dressing rooms and cameras, Chirino thought it felt natural to follow in her parents' footsteps. Living in the public eye, the family grew especially close and bonded over songs. "My dad had five girls, so instead of teaching us how to play sports, he taught us how to harmonize. He was a huge Beatles fan, so he would always test us on Beatles trivia. But their being so successful made them treat our music a little differently. Normally, if a kid writes a song, parents are like, 'Aw, that's so great.' For us, it was like, 'You could make that song a little better.'"

In her teens, Chirino attended New World School of the Arts, which she describes as "great and intense. It was like going to high school and college at the same time." While there, she formed a band with another daughter of musical royalty. "My best friend was the daughter of one of the Bee Gees. My parents aren't an inch as famous as her parents, but we had that in common."

After spending close to a decade in Los Angeles, Chirino returned to her hometown of Miami a few years ago. Now she's raising a family and making music. "Miami is a melting pot of all different things; that's what my music is."

Miami fans are surprised her music isn't mostly Latin. Her solo sets — one is scheduled January 19 at the Regent Cocktail Club — are a bouillabaisse of influences she calls "indie-pop soul infused with hints of bossa nova and jazz." Chirino sits with her guitar and sings her originals interspersed with covers of her favorite artists, who vary from Nina Simone to Justin Bieber and Amy Winehouse.

She says she has a blast at the Regent, where she has been playing semiregularly. "It's a dark cocktail lounge that has a classy speakeasy, gentlemen's-club vibe that is very intimate." Her last show at the venue, right after the new year, ended up becoming a family affair. "My dad was there, and my niece who is a singer in New York and my sisters were there too, so we all passed around the guitar."

Now with a toddler son, Dash (who has become a social media star due to Abuelo Willie constantly putting pictures of him on-line), Chirino is making sure to pass the family's love for music to the next generation by constantly making music. She stays busy composing scores for commercials, TV shows, and films and also plays, along with drummer Jean Espritusanto, in the modestly titled duo the Pretty Awesome. She's grateful that music is in the Chirino family genes. "It is pretty crazy being in a show-business family, but if that's how you grow up, you don't know anything else."

Nicolle Chirino
10 p.m. Thursday, January 19, at the Regent Cocktail Club, 1690 Collins Ave, Miami Beach;; 786-975-2555. Admission is free.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland