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Ten Minutes With – A Bossa Nova Singer

Chrissy Armstrong now croons Portugese lyrics as the lead singer in the Bossa Nova band A Lua Alicia. Growing up in a musical family, Armstrong joined a
cappella group in college and was the song leader at her sorority, Music, however, naturally fell by the wayside once Armstrong began her career and then took time to focus on raising a family. Many years later, after her father’s debilitating accident, Armstrong began to sing again with her brother’s support.

How did you end up as the lead singer in a Bossa Nova band?  After college I got very wrapped up in my non-music career. I quit working on Wall Street when my daughter was born, and became a full-time mom—which I loved. About 18 years ago, my father had a severe brain injury, which left him incapacitated. My siblings and I almost always played music and sang when we were with Dad. My brother Paul, who has been a professional musician since he was a teenager, suggested we work on some music together. The first song we tried was a bossa nova tune “Desafinado”—and it really clicked. If it weren’t for my brother, I wouldn’t be doing this. It has opened up a whole new world for me.

How did your childhood influence you musically? Both my parents loved all kinds of music, and my father was a talented musician. He had a beautiful basso profundo voice. At home, he was often playing the piano or guitar and at bedtime would sing me to sleep.

You sing the lyrics in “Portugese.” Do you understand them? I always make sure I know what the lyrics mean. I don’t speak a lot of Portuguese, but I’m fluent in Spanish, which helps a lot. When I was starting out, I hired a Brazilian speech therapist who is married to a bossa nova guitarist to coach me on my accent.

Who inspires you most in the genre?  I have many bossa nova idols. João Gilberto, husband of Astrud, sings many of my favorite renditions of bossa tunes. His smooth, low-key singing was profoundly influential on the bossa nova style. Céu is one of my favorite contemporary Brazilian singers. She sings a wide variety of pop styles, but her albums almost always include some fantastic traditional Brazilian and bossa nova-style songs. Rosa Passos has, I think, my very favorite voice. But probably the person I find most personally inspiring is Lani Hall, an American originally from Chicago, who became the lead singer of Brazil ’66, one of my all-time favorite bands.

Tell us a bit about your band. My brother Paul and I are the permanent members of the band. Paul is the bandleader and always plays guitar when we perform, though he is also a fantastic keyboardist. We have a core of about eight musicians whom we’ve played with many times. All—besides me and Paul—are Latin American, and many are Brazilian. I’m very lucky to work with such talented people including Ray Martinez who plays upright bass and is a legend on the New York Latin music scene, Brazilian Gustavo Amarante on electric bass guitar who is steady like a metronome, and Nestor Villar, a very talented and versatile Venezuelan who plays cajon. Those are just a few examples of how talented everyone is. 

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