Up-and-coming songwriter, bandleader, and vocalist Nicole Hart is one of the young lionesses in the blues world. Just as the jazz world has its share of "young lions" playing traditional jazz and making the music accessible again to younger audiences, Hart is doing much the same in the blues world, only she freely throws elements of gospel, funk, and roots rock into her live shows. The Atlanta-raised Hart's father was an opera singer and her mother a painter, so she was brought up in an artistic environment. By the time she was in second grade, she was singing in her church youth choir, and she carried on her singing career in non-religious settings through high school and into college. In college, she learned to phonate properly, which later paid dividends when she began her blues singing career and had a string of one-nighters to play in Florida and Georgia.
Prior to beginning her recording career, Hart worked with the Shirelles, handpicked to do so by the Shirley Alston after Hart answered an ad for a backup singer in the Village Voice newspaper. The fact that Hart isn't black didn't matter and she soon found herself on tour with the Shirelles, spending a year on the road with the group. Hart records for the Blues Leaf Records label, a blues label based on the New Jersey Shore. Her debut, Treasure, which featured a Wanda Jackson song, "Heart Trouble," was released in April 2009. The recording was very well received on college and public radio stations across the U.S. and Canada; Hart and her band followed up, as best they could, touring in places where the record was getting airplay. Sadly, just a few months after the release of the recording, Hart lost her husband, keyboardist Lance Ong, to cancer.
Before making her first recording for Blues Leaf, Hart was based in northern New Jersey and would make frequent Southern tours. In addition to the Shirelles, she has shared stages with Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Michael Bolton, among others. She cites Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Chaka Khan, Bonnie Raitt, and Linda Ronstadt as influences, but also has been inspired by the likes of James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway.
Aside from Treasure, Hart has a self-released album she made with Ong, The NRG Band, Live!, which was released in 2006, and she accompanies Gina Sicilia on her 2007 SwingNation release, Allow Me to Confess. She can also be heard on several recordings with labelmate Albert Castiglia, a Florida-based guitarist and singer. As of late 2010, Hart was working on a follow-up album for Blues Leaf to be released in the next year or two.