Occupation Singer, Songwriter
Hometown Park Slope, Brooklyn
Current Residence Tribeca, NYC
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY BE?
Confessions of a Retired Teenager.
WHAT CAN’T YOU TRAVEL WITHOUT AND WHY?
My 1957 acoustic Gibson. I like to be able to write wherever I go.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY?
I love Paris. I speak it pretty well, so I enjoy flexing my linguistic skills when I’m over there and seeing my friends. The food, art, and wine aren’t half bad either.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON IN NYC?
In the summertime, I love to walk down to the West Side Highway and to picnic in the park.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ONE PERSON TO SHOW YOU “THEIR NEW YORK,” WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Henry James and James Baldwin because I would be seeing two different New York’s both in terms of time and perspective.
WHO OR WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU RECENTLY AND WHY?
Bessie Smith’s story has been incredibly inspiring to me recently. She was a woman knocked down by racism, the music industry, and a brutal spouse. Yet, she always fought back. One of my favorite stories of Bessie Smith was when the Ku Klux Klan came to her show, on the night of July 1927 in Concord, North Carolina, and she chased them out with a hatchet.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE NYC RESTAURANTS? WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE?
I love the Waverley Inn. I also like their advertisement at the top of their menu: “‘Worst food in New York.’ – Donald Trump.” Their Mac and Cheese is killer. I also really love Al Di La in Park Slope. I think it’s the best food in the neighborhood.
WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO SPOT IN NYC FOR DRINKS?
I go to the Ear Inn a lot. It’s the oldest bar in New York and my parents actually both gave poetry readings there in the ’80s. I live around the corner and my fiance and I are regular customers. Unfortunately, one of our favorite bartenders, Barry Foley, was recently in a terrible fire that broke out in his building in Long Island City. The locals have helped make a donation page. You can donate here.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOTS?
Tiny’s in Tribeca is really good. They have the best kale salad I’ve ever had with apples and cheddar cheese. My best friend Alex and I always look forward to our brunches there. I also like Cafe Mogador in Williamsburg or on St. Marks. I order the Israeli Breakfast and it never disappoints.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR ART FIX IN NYC? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ARTIST?
Some of my frequented spots to see art are Carriage Trade, The new ICP on Bowery, The Frick Museum, PS1, 92nd Street Y, Dia, The Armory, The Whitney, MoMA, and The Met Breuer. It’s very hard to choose a favorite artist, but my uncle, Jon Kessler, is brilliant and I think everyone should check out his work.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE LATE-NIGHT HANGOUTS IN NYC AND WHY?
Fig. 19 on Chrystie Street can be a fun late-night place to hang out. You walk through a brightly lit gallery into a small and dark baroque bar. It’s better to go during the week, however, so it doesn’t get too crowded.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNDER THE RADAR MUST-DO RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NYC VISITORS?
I recently celebrated my birthday at Dreamland Roller Disco in Brooklyn. The theme of the evening was Justin vs. Britney, so I dressed up à la the “Baby One More Time” video and roller skated around with a bunch of my friends. There’s also a bar, so you can drink and fall down once you get back in the rink.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE NYC STORES AND WHY?
Edith Machinist is a really nice women’s vintage clothing store on Rivington Street. Everything is in great condition and they have beautiful pieces from the 1920s to the 1990s. I also really like McNally Jackson books, The Strand [Book Store], and Dashwood Books.
WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO THESE DAYS? WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIANS?
I’ve been listening to Lee Hazlewood, Nina Simone, Brahms String Sextet No. 1, Op 18, Miles Davis, Three Dog Night, The Notations, Tom Waits, Harry Nilsson, Leon Bridges, Lake Street Dive, King Missile, and Curtis Mayfield to name a few. I listed a bunch favorites just now, but some I left out are old standards like The Beatles, of course, Leonard Cohen, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, and also Talking Heads would be up there for me.
WHAT ALBUM OR SONG WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR PERSONAL SOUNDTRACK TO NYC?
The first song that springs to mind is “Summer in the City” by Lovin’ Spoonful.
WHEN YOU THINK OF NYC, ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR EMOTIONS OR MEMORIES THAT IMMEDIATELY COME TO MIND?
I think of my dad walking me to school in Park Slope, sitting on the wall of Riverside Park during high school, and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge after a trip. The only way to survive New York is to leave it and miss it so much, you have to come back.
PHOTOGRAPHY Aaron Stern