Q&A: Baby Grand's Raylene Gorum
Raylene Gorum mixes up a cocktail at tiny karaoke spot Baby Grand. (Photos: Marie Claire Andrea)
The un-joys of karaoke bars include overcrowding, waiting for hours to belt out your tune and overpaying for a private room.
Enter Baby Grand (161 Lafayette St., 212-219-8110): a teensy-tiny karaoke joint in Nolita that only fits 25 people.
Other karaoke bars can be really hectic where you have eight girls on the microphone, said Raylene Gorum, who opened Baby Grand this spring with her husband, Michael Uy. Were small so it keeps it intimate.
But dont let the size fool you when it comes to song choice the bar boasts an impressive 18,000-strong repertoire, with everything from Broadway show tunes to hip-hop hits. Plus, each song only costs $1.A self-proclaimed artitexturalist, Gorum drew inspiration from various surfaces and textures to create the functional and minimalist look of the bar. The hole-dotted walls create great acoustics for singers, and a gallery of 24 tiny photo frames tops off the bars artsy atmosphere.
Gorum gave us the low-down on Baby Grand.
What did you do before opening the bar?
I worked in residential architecture and my husband worked in finance. We would go out to karaoke bars after work and would always say what we would do differently if we owned the places. At some point, you have to put your money where your mouth is, so we packed up and headed to New York [from San Jose, Calif.].
What are the best nights?
Thursday nights are best for New Yorkers. A lot of tourists come in to the city on the weekends, so it gets crowded and its harder to pull everyone together. Monday is drama night, so its for our musical lovers, divas and unofficial stage stars. Sunday is Rock Band night. Tuesday is starting up as our open mic night. Weve had musicians, poets and even a guy who did this monologue. Theres a lot of hidden talent out there.
What type of crowd do you get?
Most are over 25, and we have a lot of singers. Weve gotten a number of first-timers, too, that we have sign our book of cherry-okes.
What makes a good performance?
Its really all about how much heart someone puts into the performance and how much of their personality comes through. Some of the best-sounding or best technical singers don't always get all the love. Then people who aren't the best singers can give the best performances. Picking the right song is important. The song you love to sing in the shower or jam out to in the car on a road trip that's your song. If a singer gives more, the crowd will give more.
Do people perform better when tipsy?
I'd say tipsy is the perfect amount. The alcohol gets people up on stage, so it definitely helps.
How do you tune out the bad performances?
I'm pretty good at that, actually. We can change the pitch and speed of a song if needed. If someone is having trouble, I'll sing along or mouth the words to help where I can. I try to encourage the crowd to sing along, too, when someone is having a rough time. If that all fails, we just turn down the volume.
Raylene's recipe pick: The Xanadu (bubble tea)
8 oz. sweetened green tea
1 ½ oz. Malibu rum
¾ oz Midori melon liqueur
2 tbsp. tapioca pearls
1 extra-thick straw
1. Prepare tapioca pearls (boil, rinse, sweeten).
2. Mix green tea, Malibu and Midori and ice in shaker.
3. Spoon tapioca balls into a 12 oz. glass and strain chilled cocktail over them.
4. Add a few fresh ice cubes and an extra-thick straw (for bubbles).