While most musicians are just hoping to gain some traction for their careers from the launch of their first album, singer/songwriter Cristina Perez is aiming just a bit higher.
She’s trying to start a movement.
Using the title track off her first album, “The Sweetest Thing”, as well as social media and fashion, Perez wants to spread the love of New Orleans with the world.
“It’s a very light, fun movement,” said Perez, a native New Orleanian, at a launch party Tuesday night at the NOLA Brewing tap room. “It’s just a fun way to connect with people through music and to get them to talk about why this city is so amazing to each and every person.”
The party featured a screening of the new music video for “The Sweetest Thing”, where Perez sings “a love song to New Orleans”, interspersed with people telling what they believe to be the sweetest thing about the city.
“It was easy to get people to talk about why they love New Orleans, that’s for sure,” said Perez, whose singing style has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall and Norah Jones.
Perez, who is also a leading cast member in many of the shows at the National World War II Museum, got help developing the concept from local PR firm Bats On Strings. “I knew that I wanted to do a music video, I knew that I wanted to use ‘The Sweetest Thing’, and I knew that I wanted to connect it with the city, and they just kind of helped me streamline it into a social media campaign.”
Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to share their own New Orleans love stories on social media, accompanied by #NolaSweetestThing.
But if you don’t want to share your Nola love via the internet, you can wear it. Perez, who studied music therapy at Loyola, has partnered with Fleurty Girl to create a line of NolaSweetestThing t-shirts, with all of the proceeds going to support The Roots of Music, an after-school music education program for underserved youth.
“I used to teach band, and with the music therapy background, I’ve always been a really big believer in the importance of teaching music to children,” Perez said. “Music to me is a universal language, and sometimes we just don’t have the words or vocabulary to describe what we’re going through or what we’re feeling or what needs to be said, and so by teaching kids music, we’re giving them this tool, this outlet for creativity.”
The students in the program come from families without the means to put their kids in private lessons, Perez said. “Maybe both the mom and dad are working — whatever their situation is, it gives them a chance to do something that they love after school in a safe, controlled environment, and then they give them transportation to go back home at night when it’s done, which is incredible.”
But the Roots program does more than teach music or provide a safe haven. “It puts kids in the band, and the band actually gets hired to do events,” said Perez. “When I grew up taking piano lessons, I had basically two opportunities a year to perform in front of people and that was my recitals and juries or competitions and that kind of thing. The fact that these kids are put in professional settings at such a young age is so valuable.”
And just out of curiosity, what does Perez consider to be the sweetest thing about New Orleans?
“In the video itself I talk about how I love that we have the best food and the best music and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet,” she said, “and I’ll stand by that. They’ll just talk to you no matter where you are. You can be on a streetcar talking to somebody, or at a bar talking to somebody or at a restaurant or waiting in line to mail off some packages, you can talk to anybody and everybody and they’re willing to talk to you.
“I just absolutely love that.”
To learn more about the #NolaSweetestThing movement, including links to Fleurty Girl, visit www.cristinaperezmusic.com.