Sunny Ozell’s homecomings keep getting better.
The New York recording artist grew up immersed in Reno music and Lake Tahoe ski programs. She frequently returns to visit family and ski on Alpine Meadows’ greatest snowpack in decades. This weekend she will perform at a Truckee jazz restaurant and a 1-year-old midtown Reno music hall.
Ozell, who will be accompanied by a renowned musical quartet, sang praises for Moody’s Bistro and The Saint.
“Music venues are getting more and more rare, and JJ (Morgan), the fella who runs Moody’s, is so old school and so respectful of musicians that he’s just a prince,” Ozell told Tahoe Onstage.
“It is such a pleasure to play on his stage. He really gives a shit. JJ makes it a great experience. He’s keeping the flame alive.”
Ozell will perform at Moody’s on Friday and Saturday, May 26-27, and at The Saint on Monday, May 29, at a show that will open with Reno blues band St. Christopher Project.
“I could not be happier about what’s happening in Reno,” said Ozell, who recalls the old music scene in the Biggest Little City. “The whole casino industry in Reno was so shortsighted. I remember venues coming and going. The casinos had a stranglehold on the entertainment industry in Reno and it was really tough for venues to make it.
“The Little Wal (Little Waldorf) was the only place to see music in Reno. Now there’s The Saint, which is so legit. I am thrilled that there is something like that in Reno. I am trying to spread the word to all my New York friends that there is a great place to play in Reno.”
Ozell began to play classical violin when she was 4 years old, started classical singing lessons at 11 and became the only child member of the Nevada Opera Choir’s chorus. For college, she picked the music school at the University of Colorado.
“I didn’t get into the classical music program and I thought I was a shoe-in,” she said. “They said I had a nice pop voice but not a classical voice, and it’s true. I am not a classical singer. When I didn’t get in, it was a shock, and one of the best things.”
Ozell, who earlier had learned about humility on the ski slopes when she competed against world champion Julia Mancuso and her racing sisters, decided to change her musical direction.
“I transitioned into the blues and it was all downhill from there,” she joked.
It was about 20 years ago when an older group of musicians who played in a blues band, Tommy Dee and the TNT, invited Ozell to sing at their weekly residency at the Dark Horse, a Boulder bar frequented by highway workers.
“It got rowdy there, at times,” said Ozell, who used a fake ID to enter.
She later played in a Boulder-based jam band, Chupacabra, which toured the country. After college, many of those band members moved to New York City.
“I always had the urge to move to a city, and it was either New York or San Francisco,” she said. “Everything people say about New York is true. It’s tough to get started, tough to find your way there, but once you do it’s a great, great city.”
A year ago, Ozell released her debut album, “Take It With Me,” when she last performed in Reno. It was at the St. James Infirmary and St. Christopher Project also opened that show.
“The Moody’s shows will be a little more loose,” she said. “Most of the people there will be on vacation and want to hear songs they’ve heard before. At The Saint, it will be more like the New York shows where it’s tight and cohesive and we play stuff from the record.”
Ozell is not a struggling-to-survive artist who needs to continuously perform.
“My husband is English (actor Patrick Stewart) and I’m in the U.K. quite a bit,” she said. “I’ve got quite a few other things going on in my life. I am studying art history, as well. It’s really a month-by-month situation. This time last year I was doing a month-long tour with Teddy Thompson and I played 22 shows in 28 days. It just depends. It’s kind of a moving target.”
- Sunny Ozell
Band: Ethan Eubanks, drums; Scott Metzger, guitar; Andy Hess, bass; Bryn Roberts, piano
- 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 26-27 at Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats, 10007 Bridge St,, Truckee
- 7 p.m. Monday, May 29, at The Saint, 761 S. Virginia St., Reno, St. Christopher Project opens. $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
- Where else: Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael, California, on Tuesday, May 30