Nina de Vitry reached a turning point two years ago.
She watched as her closest high school friends entered college with plans of careers in medicine. De Vitry had been an intense student herself in high school, and wondered if she should be pursuing the same path.
In her early semesters at Temple University, she felt overwhelmed trying to decide a path. The only thing that she really enjoyed was her Spanish immersion semester.
So, she followed her love of language and took a gap year in Canada to learn French. In her free time, she found herself playing music and writing songs. She was reminded of an experience she had at a music camp the summer before, and felt more sure than ever that recording an album was what she needed to do.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, de Vitry will celebrate her debut album, “Trust a Dream,” at an album release show at Tellus360 Wednesday.
De Vitry comes from a musical family. All of her immediate family members play music, including her eldest sister Maya de Vitry, who is a member of the internationally recognized folk trio the Stray Birds.
Like her siblings, de Vitry’s roots are in classical music. She started violin at age 5, quit, and then picked it back up in the third grade. She also played piano as a child, and later learned guitar.
She began experimenting with songwriting as a teenager. She was nervous to share her songs with others, worried she’d be compared to her older sister’s success.
“I would do a lot of like poppy stuff on piano, and I wouldn’t show anyone … I was like, how does anything I write compare?,” de Vitry says. “So I was really secretive about what I was doing.”
At the Miles of Music summer camp in 2016, she was inspired by a session called “Band in a Box” to expand her songwriting to a full-band sound.
Students in “Band in a Box” take an original song, learn how to chart the different instrumental parts, and then bring it to a band of professional musicians. After a brief rehearsal, they would record the song with the student.
Hearing her music with a full band enlightened de Vitry on the possibilities of what her music could sound like.
“They were like, we didn’t know you played groovy R&B stuff,” de Vitry says. “And I was like, I didn’t really know that either. This is just how it sounds when a band plays along. Then I got really excited. I was like, I need to write more stuff that a band can play with.”
After the Miles of Music Camp, de Vitry took her gap year, during which she wrote a lot of original music. At the suggestion of her friend Tuck Ryan, she raised money on Kickstarter and reached out to Mike Newman from the Lancaster recording studio the SugarTank to discuss recording an album.
“Nina was very professional from the very beginning,” Newman says. “She knew what she wanted, she had a vision, and she wasn’t going to mess around about not getting it, which I appreciate.”
In addition to being an organized person, de Vitry felt a responsibility to take the recording process seriously since more than 100 people had donated money to support the project.
While Newman and de Vitry say the songs could have easily gone in a ’90s singer-songwriter direction a la Fiona Apple, de Vitry didn’t feel that was true to her biggest inspirations, Norah Jones and Amy Winehouse.
“I realized I really wanted it to be a jazz infused collection of songs,” de Vitry says.
Some musicians on the album, including Charlie Muench of the Stray Birds, were working on a very limited time frame. To make the most of their presence in the studio, de Vitry made sure the musicians were prepared with charts of her music so they arrived already feeling familiar with the material.
While working on the last song during the recording process, de Vitry grew frustrated that she wasn’t playing a guitar part like she hoped. Her fingers were sore from all of the playing, and something just didn’t feel right.
So, Newman suggested simply trying a different guitar. Ryan had left his vintage guitar at the studio, and previously told de Vitry she should use it to record if she wanted.
She nailed the part with Ryan’s guitar.
“During the take that was going to be the one, I knew it was going to be the one. … I felt like it was because of the guitar that the take was happening,” de Vitry says. “I feel like instruments are the people who have played them and where they’ve been.”
While not everyone who played on the record is available for the album release show, de Vitry has arranged a band she’s confident will respresent “Trust a Dream’s” smooth full-band sound.
She wants the evening to be a big “thank you” to those who supported the album before it even began.
“My hope is that it’s just a really fun community night, that’s giving back to them what they’ve given me these past couple months,” de Vitry says.