Singer-educator-arts advocate Valerie Day has a continental, savoir-faire command of American Popular Song, an assured honey-alto delivery, a fierce sense of activism, and an alluring next-door gravitas that has echoes of another Day gone by. With her balance of authenticity, emotional immediacy and here-and-now intimacy, Valerie is more than a little bit of a 21st-century Doris Day. A gifted vocalist, skilled percussionist, and passionate advocate for arts education, she is a generous artist of uncommon talent and dedication.
Born into the fourth generation of a musical Northwestern family, Valerie was blessed to be raised amidst a supportive, arts-rich home life. A supportive musical mother paved the way for a fantastic journey—from the ground-zero trajectory of ‘80s Pop /R&B chartdom with Nu Shooz, to jazz, big-band and orchestral performances with the Oregon Symphony, Woody Hite, and Tom Grant, to a dynamic career as a celebrated voice-talent, educator and inspiration to aspiring young artists.
Whether singing of love or impatience (“I Can’t Wait), mediating the fine line between pop/dance prophecy and the poetry of Tin Pan Alley, navigating through a vibraphone and cello-thick forest of spy-film suspension and Pan-Am Noir, or losing herself in the depth of a lyric or a melody’s hook—Valerie has the ability (like a great painter or a seasoned jazz artist) to distill and nurture from music essential tensions, create sympathetic magic.
Beginning early with piano lessons, Valerie discovered an affinity for percussion by the age of 16—through Felicidades, a local Calypso band. Music studies at Portland State University and the Cornish Institute for Allied Arts in Seattle in the early 1980s gave her the drive to immerse herself in Portland’s thriving club scene. In 1984, Valerie and husband, John Smith, recorded a self-produced five-song EP as the group Nu Shooz. Their infectious dance track “I Can’t Wait” caught fire in dance clubs and with steady airplay, the album, Poolside, was certified gold in 1986. “I Can’t Wait” reached #3 on the pop charts in the U.S., was in the top 10 in Europe and Britain, and Nu Shooz was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1987.
Nu Shooz 80s success was followed by work as a singer and session artist, performing or recording with artists ranging from the Oregon Symphony Pops to pianist Darrell Grant, eclectic klezmer, tango chamber musicians 3 Leg Torso, jazz pianist Tom Grant and many others. ; a new role as a music-educator, and a mother (she and John Smith have a son named Malcolm).
Some of Valerie’s projects and recordings include: “Beginning to See the Light” (2003), a collection of Great American Songbook standards backed by the all-star Knights of Swing, and “Side By Side” (2005), a collection of vocal/piano duets with pianist Tom Grant, a seminal figure in West Coast contemporary jazz, “Pandora’s Box” (2010), a recording of jazz/pop/cinema compositions written by Valerie’s husband John and recorded as the NU SHOOZ Orchestra, and “KUNG PAO KITCHEN” (2012), a collection of unreleased NU SHOOZ studio recordings made during the late 80's and early 90's. The album features guest appearances by James Brown's legendary sax man Maceo Parker, and Jazz Fusion star Jeff Lorber.
In 2009 a show that Valerie created in collaboration with Darrell Grant, filmmaker Jim Blashfield, arranger/orchestrator John Smith, and neuroscientist Dr. Larry Sherman Ph.D., debuted with the Portland Chamber Orchestra. Brain Chemistry For Lovers combines the artistic perspective with the scientific, engaging,entertaining, and captivating audiences with a fresh new look at one of the most universal of all human experiences - Romantic Love.
In 2013 NU SHOOZ was invited to be a part of the FREESTYLE EXPLOSION TOUR, along with other hit 80s acts LISA LISA, EXPOSÉ, STACEY Q, and PRETTY POISON. The tour was a tremendous success and brought the sounds of the 80s to a whole new audience. This led to the reforming of the NU SHOOZ live band in 2014 and the beginning of a new era.
In 2015, the band went into the studio to record their first album of nu material since the 90s. “Bagtown” turns back the clock to an earlier era of funk, the Mid-70's sounds of Philly Soul, Steely Dan, and jazzy vocal groups like Manhattan Transfer. The result is a fun, swinging set of technicolor tunes aimed straight at the dance floor. The album was released to critical acclaim in 2016.
Valerie currently tours with Nu Shooz around the globe.