Jana Nyberg Brings Back Jazz, Pop and Soul

Door County jazz staple Jana Nyberg is performing at Stabbur and The Garage at Husby’s this weekend. Andrew Kleidon talked to Nyberg ahead of her performances to learn about her musical history, influences and Door County ties.

Andrew Kleidon (AK): How did you begin performing?

Jana Nyberg (JN): As a kid, I started playing piano at four years old. From there, I played violin, flute, guitar, was in church choirs and then every school music group I could possibly join, from jazz and band to orchestra and choir. In college, I was asked to sing a number with the big band, in which I normally played piano, tenor sax and flute. I said, “Sure”; sang Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss”; and the rest is history. I loved singing with a band!

AK: How would you describe your music?

JN: My music is 100% influenced by Black American music: jazz, neo soul and R&B. We play anything we’re drawn to, blurring the lines of genre all in the name of a love for music. 

AK: Who has influenced your music the most?

JN: In my personal life, definitely my husband, Adam Meckler. He’s a fountain of never-ending creativity and support. He’s also the most driven and hard-working musician I’ve ever met. In the general music world, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Lauryn Hill, Chance the Rapper and Anderson .Paak.

Nyberg performs at Crooner’s main stage in Minneapolis on May 9, 2021. Submitted.

AK: What are your Door County ties, and what do you enjoy about performing here?

JN: Door County runs deep in my family history. My great-great-great grandfather, Anders Seaquist – “Sjoquist” in Swedish (yes, related to Seaquist’s Orchard) – helped to found Sister Bay. My mom’s side of the family are all from Door County. As a child, my family lived in Sister Bay for a couple years. There was nothing more fun than being in a second-grade class with my cousin, Rachel Willems! 

Fast forward, my first iteration of The Jana Nyberg Group got our professional gigging start with a Wednesday-night residency at Gordon Lodge beginning in the summer of 2006. We also played regularly on Friday nights at The Mission. Door County helped us cut our teeth as young musicians, stretching out over four-hour-long gigs all summer long – priceless experience. And, of course, getting in touch with my Swedish roots, I worked at Al Johnson’s for four summers, donning the dirndl with a smile. 

The incredible beauty of the Door County landscape brings great happiness to my soul. I get out on the trails as often as I can, running, skiing or hiking. And now with kiddos of our own, it’s been a joy to raise them knowing the beauties and rich family history of Door County. 

AK: What are your upcoming performances?

JN: In Door County, we play Husby’s Garage Thursday the 15th and Saturday the 17th from 8 to 11 pm, and Stabbur on Sunday the 18th from 2 to 5 pm. Additional performances this month include Houghton, Michigan’s Downtown Music Series on Tuesday, July 20, from 5 to 7 pm; and Voice Box Session’s Singer-Songwriter Series on July 26 at 7 pm in Calumet, Michigan (Keweenaw Storytelling Center), with Mike Irish.