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Entries in Music (172)

Thursday
May112017

Call Answered: Haley Swindal: "Golden Girl" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Lance RaeI'm so glad Will Nunziata introduced me to Broadway powerhouse Haley Swindal. Her vocals are unreal and I can already tell she's going to blow the roof off of Feinstein's/54 Below when she returns with her new show Golden Girl.

Golden Girl is a brand-new concert event celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. With influences ranging from Rosemary Clooney to Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Haley puts her own stamp on songs that made these great dames stars. Haley will knock-out-of-the-park standards such as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River," all with fresh arrangements by musical director to the stars Tedd Firth (Michael Feinstein, Ana Gasteyer, Brian Stokes Mitchell). Conceived and directed by Will Nunziata (concert director for Tony Award winner Lillias White), this is an evening that will have you laughing, crying, and tapping your feet all within a matter of minutes, and a true showbiz event where a brand-new star is born.

Golden Girl plays Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) on Tuesday, May 30 at 7pm and Tuesday, June 6 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets! 

For more on Haley be sure to follow her on Twitter!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below be sure to visit http://54below.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Takako Suki Harkness1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer (other than Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand)? Singing was always in me. From the time I could walk, I was singing down the halls and driving my parents crazy. It was never a choice for me - it was in my blood, which is very funny because no one else in my immediate family is in the arts at all! I used to stand at the top of the stairs in our house and pretend to be "Eva Peron." My brother thought I was nuts (he still does). When I was about eight years old, I remember my mom took me to see a production of Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, and I remember thinking, WOW, I want to do that!

2. This May/June you return to Feinstein's/54 Below with your brand-new show Golden Girl, celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. What are you looking forward to about coming back to Feinstein's/54 Below? I always said I only want to come back with these shows when I have something to add, something to share, a story to tell. The two times I have played here have marked major events in my life: my Broadway debut for the first one, and getting married the second one. Those first shows were similar, but were both kind of about where I came from and what its taught me.

This show is something entirely different. First of all, not only have I done a lot more great roles, I have more importantly lived a lot more of life. I am married to an amazing guy, and I'm a stepmom to two awesome teenagers. I also have a new boss, who is eleven months old, my amazing daughter - Lily George Tantleff.

This show is really a concert meets one-woman show. I do everything from singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" as Judy, Liza, Patti, Billie Burke, and Bernadette Peters to stripping down to the bottom of my soul with some amazing torch songs.

I am thrilled to be back because this is a whole new side of me, a whole new journey, and I hope one that might surprise and excite people.

Director Will Nunziata3. Golden Girl is directed by Will Nunziata. Will, primarily known as a singer with his brother Anthony Nunziata, has been making quite a name for himself as a director over the past several years. What was it about Will's style/vision that made you say, "He is whom I want to direct my show."? Will has been on my radar for a very long time. We first met in Michael Feinstein's apartment about four years ago, where Michael had a bunch of young folks over to talk about the future of the Great American Songbook and how the torch would be passed to our generation.

I followed him as he created amazing shows for Cady Huffman, Lillias White, and other incredible divas. It was Will that came up with the vision for this show. His concepts and his ideas are brilliant. The way he is able to bring out things in me and get me to burst out of my comfort zone is unreal. He gravitates I think towards strong women - women who can't really be put in any particular kind of stereotypical, run of the mill box. He takes their strength and what makes them unique and turns it into something brilliant. His concepts, his vision, and his ability to communicate, nurture, and bring out the best in those he directs is incredible. He is and will continue to be one of the greatest directors of our generation.

Haley Swindal4. What is about this time in music that makes your heart a flutter? I often sit around and wonder, what will our generation be listening to when they are eighty? The generation ahead of us has the Beatles, Carole King, Carly Simon. When we were younger, we had Whitney, Celine. But will this generation be turning on Britney Spears? Eminem? Single Ladies? 

What I love about the Great American Songbook is so many songs are literally transcendent of time. How many of us have been madly in love and connected to the lyrics of "Night and Day," "Whether near to me or far, it's no matter darling where you, are I think of you." How many of us have been heartbroken and can relate to Frank Sinatra alone in a bar at 3AM singing "One for My Baby," "It's quarter to three, There's no one in the place 'cept you and me, So set 'em' up Joe."

I fell in love with my husband when he sang, "I only have eyes for you" badly (but endearingly) in my ear. These songs are masterpieces that capture the complexity of love and what it is to be human. As I grow older, I connect with them even more.

5. According to press notes, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand were some of your influences. What was it about these entertainers that made you go, "Yes! I want to be like them."? Judy Garland always said "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else." What I think I loved - and continue to love - about these women besides their other-wordly vocals is that they were/are originals. They were unabashedly and unapologetically themselves. Their sound was distinctive, the way they approached their art was distinctive, and what they have given us is something no one else can ever come to close to because it is so uniquely them.

Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, Cady Huffman, and Bernadette Peters are some of these women on the Broadway stage. 

The women I admire can transform themselves into incredible roles onstage, but, as human beings, they are unapologetically strong, which isn't always easy as a woman in this business. Onstage, they can be heartbreakingly vulnerable. It's an amazing duality, to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, and one that I admire. I think, so much of this business is how we fit. Fit someone else's vision, fit someone else's vocal styles, even fit someone else's costume. These women somehow transcend that. As for me, I guess I've just grown tired of trying to fit into a box. I'm a brassy blonde broad who has packed a lot of life into my first thirty years. That's my truth.

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff6. What songs that you are performing do you think will surprise people to hear from you? There's one where I'm lying on a piano....

7. A few songs you will be performing are "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River." Let's play with these song titles. When have you said to yourself, "Come Rain or Come Shine," I'm going to do this? HA! For better or for worse, all the time! "Come Rain or Come Shine," I guess probably in my love life in the past. Wanting so desperately to be loved, perhaps by someone incapable of loving...but trying to convince them.

"Cry Me a River" is realizing I'm going to be okay whether or not this person loves me. That the only person I need to live and be fulfilled is me.

"Don't Rain On My Parade" is a celebration of what it means to spill out everything you have, no matter what the cost might be, because you don't want to spend the rest of your life wondering "what if?" To me, this applies to choosing to creae solo shows, and challenging myself, and also following my heart in other ways.

8. When did you think, oh please, "Don't Rain on My Parade"? HA that was Will. I was thrilled. At first, I thought, really? But, then I realized why not, it's my truth? It's part of a medley, which I think has a really neat arc.

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: The New York Times9. What event has caused you to cry like a river? I think the sadness of that song is realizing that sometimes love is not enough. The tragedy of still being madly in love with someone but the strength to put your well-being first and not allow that person to destroy you. I was there once. It took a long while, but I figured it out, and my life is richer for it. And I can sing one hell of a torch song!

10. Since this show is celebrating The Golden Age, what, age or age bracket has been your "Golden Age" so far? Why has it been so rich? Oh my goodness, NOW! I am just entering my thirties, young enough to still know what's fun, and old enough to know better. Just kidding! Undoubtedly though, meeting and marrying my husband and becoming a mother changed everything for me. I remember leaving my first Broadway performance and crying when I got home because I had been so tunnel-visioned that I had no one to share it with. Any part of my life other than work was completely absent. That changed. My daughter is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me and has put everything else in perspective. If I don't get anything else right in this life, I somehow built a perfect little human, and, to me, that alone is enough! 

11. I know the show's title, "Golden Girl," is for the Golden Age of music, but we are going to take this to the Golden Girls themselves. If you had to describe yourself as one of the Golden Girls who would you be? I'm still obsessed with that show! My best friend and I used to spend all weekend watching Golden Girls marathons (she's "Sophia" re-incarnated!) As for me, I look at the world through "Rose"-colored glasses for sure, but I definitely am flirty and fun like "Blanche."

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Takako Suki HarknessMore on Haley:

Haley has appeared on Broadway and on tour with Jekyll and HydeWhite ChristmasJesus Christ Superstar opposite Ted Neeley, and at Lincoln Center in The Secret Garden. She has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall alongside the great standards vocalist Steve Tyrell, acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, and under the baton of Steven Reineke with the New York Pops. She won a New York Emmy for her appearance on Kids on Deck and recently appeared in the film Walt Before Mickey.

Thursday
Apr062017

Call Redialed: NEW Facetime interview: Sheri Sanders is LEGIT! An Evening of Legit Musical Theatre + Rock The Audition Online

"Call Me Adam" catches up with Sheri Sanders, the pioneer trailblazer who started Rock The Audition, where Sheri teaches how to audition for rock musicals even cutting & arranging music for your personal needs. Now, Sheri has brought this program online, making it possible to study directly with Sheri from every corner of the world.

After dipping her toe back into performing two years ago, Sheri is taking the stage once again, this time at Subculture NYC (45 Bleecker Street, in the basement of the Lynn Redgrave Theatre) to perform a concert of legit musical theatre "Sheri style!" On April 17 at 8pm, Sheri will present Sheri Sanders is LEGIT! An Evening of Legit Musical Theatre, directed by Joe Barros. Click here for tickets!

For more on Sheri & Rock The Audition be sure to visit https://www.rock-the-audition.com and follow Sheri on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

"Call Me Adam's" NEW interview with Sheri Sanders:

Friday
Mar032017

Call Redialed: Mrs. Smith: While My Guitar Gently Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge

Mrs. Smith and The RageI first came to know Mrs. Smith when her Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! decended upon New York City. It was that show that made me fall in love with Mrs. Smith. I'm so excited that we have now had the chance to reunite to talk about her new concert, starring in a GUCCI Eyewear ad, and being crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life."

Mrs. Smith & her band The Rage will be presenting their show While My Guitar Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street) on Tuesday, March 7 at 7pm. While My Guitar Gently Shrieks will sonically delve into the traumatic life events that have made Mrs. Smith the guitar virtuoso she is today. From her Little House on the Prairie-style childhood to her kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band, Mrs. Smith will leave no stone unturned and no note unplayed. Featuring the music of ABBA, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Sia, and Metallica, among others. Click here for tickets!

For more on Mrs. Smith be sure to visit http://www.worldofsmith.com and follow her on Facebook, Instgram, and YouTube!

1. It's so great to catch up! Last time we spoke, you were premiering your Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! Now, you have switched gears, formed a band, and started doing concerts. What made you want to go this route? When it comes to the guitar, no other instrument gives such clear voice to the Grief and Rage. I never planned on becoming a guitar goddess! Last summer in Provincetown I started performing with my guitar on the sidewalk and it changed my life. The initial impulse behind this "sidewalk guitar show" was survival. I'd lost my entire fortune because of Brexit—my accountant couldn't explain why that was exactly but I was destitute. I found myself living in a mule shed behind the house of a local comedian named Ryan Landry. (A new low). The rent was due on this mule shed and so I took to the street! I was shocked at how the people gathered, huge crowds of them, clogging the streets and blocking traffic to see me "shred" on my guitar. I thought, "we might have something here..."

2. You recently were crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life" at Webster Hall. What did it mean to you to win this contest? How did this help validate your path of music? The winning of this contest was coming off of my "sidewalk guitar shred" concerts in Provincetown so my "chops" were sharp. Even so, I was terrified. I almost left before the concert even began! There were so many tremendous players in a variety of styles and tones and all so much younger than me. I did make use of Geritol XL for some added energy and the judges determined that was not a performance-enhancing drug (it's b-vitamins). I battled it out over three excruciating rounds and just when I felt like my fingers were going to fall off I emerged the "Queen of Shred." It was definitely validating and helped me have the confidence to start this band and put this new show together. Around the same time a video of me playing in the East Village went viral on Guitar World and got 1.2 million views and then guitar companies started sending me equipment to review and I eventually wound up in this ad for GUCCI.

3. How did it come about for you to be featured in the GUCCI eyewear ad? I was playing guitar in Tomkins Square Park in the East Village this Fall and was spotted by fashion "it girl" Petra Collins. We were inspired by one another. She asked if I would be willing to wander into a GUCCI dreamscape with her and of course I said yes. I was whisked away to Budapest, Hungary, dressed up in gorgeous GUCCI clothes and sunglasses it was ultra-glamorous. You can look at stills from the shoot and read about Petra's inspiration here and here and here.

Mrs. Smith4. What do you like about performing in a band as opposed to a theatrical show? I love both, but for me right now, the band brings something raw and immediate to the live experience that feels relevant. People are raw right now, they're an exposed nerve because of what's happening in the world. (I've always felt like an exposed nerve so I'm used to it.) Along with my stage productions, I have done appearances at stand-up comedy venues where I perform impromptu stories, tone poems, and guitar solos. These appearances were stripped down and unfiltered and thrilling to me. I wanted to take that experience and elevate it a bit and that's what this new show is about, for now anyway. At first I was insecure about not having lots of costume changes and props and puppets. But when the show premiered to a sold-out crowd at Joe's Pub several audience members said they enjoyed the focused simplicity of the piece. I will also say, theatrical productions are a thrill to do but they are expensive and logistically complex. I like being able to book this show almost anywhere very easily and doing it in rock clubs and cabaret spaces means I can keep ticket prices accessible. And finally, it's just really really fun being a rock star!

5. For fans of your theatrical endeavors, what will surprise them about seeing you perform in concert? It's unfiltered Smith. I don't leave the stage, I don't change costumes, I don't relent from the top of the show until the finale. I go on a complete journey from my traumatic childhood in upstate New York to my life in high society to my kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band and emergence as a guitar goddess. All of these realities are reflected through sound, music, storytelling and, of course, dumb show. The audience uses their imagination to draw the pictures. One song takes place in complete darkness with just the band playing and haunting voices from my past intruding on the loudspeaker! At first, I hired a video designer (who lives in Bushwick) to make elaborate video projections out of these voices but then realized how much more powerful to let the audience dream what the faces of these tormentors look like! That Bushwick videographer spent 10,000 hours working on those projections but we never used them--of course I still paid him! The surprise and delight is re-living these trauma's and triumph's with me. Isn't that what all entertainment is all about?

Mrs. Smith in an ad for GUCCI6. What was the hardest part about learning guitar? How do you feel learning to play guitar helped you grow as an artist? My father had taught me a few chords on a folk guitar when I was a little girl. Everyone could see I showed great promise but his alcoholic dissolution got in the way of my lessons. Then in the '90s I was kidnapped and held for ransom by a Norwegian Death Metal band. This was barely covered in the press because Patty Hearst completely stole my moment. I was kept in a closet for 90 days and there was a guitar in there. I had to learn to play it to survive. I ended up taking over the band and we won the Eurovision contest. I played the guitar when I appeared on America's Got Talent many years ago and it has been featured in my stage shows but I've never given myself so fully to the instrument until now and it's catapulted me into a new adventure.

7. You will be playing songs from quite a range of musical influences: ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Sia, and Metallica. How did these artists inspire your musical taste? What is the common thread of all these artists that make them fit into your concert? I have a passion for all of these songs because they reflect some element of my story. I've become known as a "shred guitar goddess" and the show definitely includes that but the guitar is such a diverse instrument! You can have an acoustic song that is so soulful and tender and then an electric guitar solo that soars like a valkyrie! And this band is so talented and skilled they can play literally anything so we zig-zag from rock and roll to country to pop to disco to jazz. It's like turning the knob on an old radio through all the styles of music.

Mrs. Smith8. Let's take this contest in a different direction. What is something you want to shred from your life? I insist on less fear. I know that seems radical, everyone is fearful of everything right now, especially in our little artistic corners of the world. But I want to create art and a life for myself without fear as the engine! That might mean finally taking the plunge and creating a Senior-Match.com profile and trying an internet coffee date. (I'd sworn off human love but is that just fear ruling me?) It might mean finding a way to finally tour Japan with my one-woman shred guitar opera. Of course, I don't want to strip out the terror, I need that, I think we all do. But fear and terror are two totally different energies as everybody knows.

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Can I work to make it .0001% better? 1% seems like setting the bar really high. (I'm so exhausted from self-improvement.) Your readers should look into The Miracle Morning, I just started it myself and I'm committing to try it for 30 days and see if it works.

Mrs. SmithMore on Mrs. Smith:

Mrs. Smith is an electric guitar virtuoso, philanthropist, and cat lover who has captured the public imagination with her unbridled creative expression in the face of a life filled with grief and rage. With an improbable life-tale that includes a lonesome childhood of privilege, 14 marriages, and show biz stardom and obscurity, Mrs. Smith is a 20th Century creature who has burst through to the internet age to become a sensation.

Mrs. Smith is the 2016 winner of the "Shred for Your Life" contest held at Webster Hall and was a featured performer at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami opening up for guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. A video of her shredding on the streets of the East Village was shared by Guitar World Magazine and garnered 1.2 million views. Her unique blend of musical performance comedy has been featured on NBC's America's Got Talent, PBS Television as well as Joe's Pub, American Repertory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater. She has also been seen at Feinstein's/54 Below, First Avenue, Webster Hall, Ars Nova, The Laurie Beechman Theater, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Bell House, Union Hall, and the legendary Bushwig Festival, among many others.

Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-tacular! wow'ed audiences Off-Broadway and was hailed by the New York Post as "Purrfect!" Mrs. Smith's performance described as "Off its meds" by the Boston Globe, "Luminous" by Gay City News and "Oddly poignant..." by the New York Times

Wednesday
Mar012017

Call Redialed: Karen Mason: It's About Time CD + Birdland Concert

Karen Mason, Photo Credit: Bill WestmorelandIt's About Time Karen Mason & I did a new interview. It's been two years, almost to the day, since our last interview together. At that time we spoke about Karen's month-long residency at Don't Tell Mama doing her show Mason at Mama's. In that interview we went back in time with Karen. Now, we are looking to the future while staying in the present, and using the past to show how Karen became the woman and singer she is!

Karen's newest CD, It's About Time is a mixture of timeless standards ("I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," "Just in Time"), theatre classics ("Everything’s Coming Up Roses," "Somewhere/The Impossible Dream"), and a few original tunes ("It's About Time"), along with a homage to Judy Garland ("The Man That Got Away," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and the iconic "Over the Rainbow"). Click to purchase Karen's album on iTunes and Amazon!

Karen will celebrate the release of It's About Time with a return to Birdland Jazz NYC (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Monday, March 6 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Karen be sure to visit http://karenmason.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. I'm so excited we are doing this new interview, especially since it’s about something you do BEST...and that's sing and make beautiful music. You are about to release your latest album It’s About Time. What made now the right time to release this album? Thanks, Adam! You have been so good to me…and I do love making music! Well, it is about time to release this new CD because it has been nine years since my last CD. I said to Paul (my husband and producer, Paul Rolnick) that we need to take advantage of the time we have….and keep making music! Music speaks to my soul. And honestly, I love recording!

2. The title song on the album, "It’s About Time,"  written by your husband, Paul Rolnick, as an honor to the passing of marriage equality and then as a celebration of your friend’s marriage. What are some things in your life you feel "It’s About Time" for? Standing up for what I truly believe is more important than ever! I am a middle child…and not much of a trouble maker, always the pacifier. And then I get older…and suddenly I am becoming more fearless! I feel that we must stand up for our brothers and sisters who need our support and well, it is about time I spoke up! The song, "It’s About Time," distills the subject of marriage equality down to its truth…which is love! We cannot deny love…not now, not ever!

Karen Mason and her husband Paul Rolnick3. One song you sing on It’s About Time is "Just In Time," with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden/Adolph Green. What is something that happened "Just in Time" to you, either in your personal life or career? I met my husband, Paul, a year after I found out I was losing my best friend and music director, Brian Lasser to AIDS. Brian died two years later, and those years were really difficult….on Brian and on all of us and Paul stayed with me through it. We just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary (and have been together 26 years). Ah…the universe!

4. You also sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. When did "Everything Come Up Roses" for you? The first night I went on in Sunset Boulevard, I was scared to death!! Also, very, very excited to be going onstage with this herculean role!! I made it through the show without missing a beat or line or entrance! With the help of that extraordinary cast, I think everything did come up roses for me that night!

5. You also perform "The Impossible Dream." What is one dream you had you thought would never come true? What is one dream you are still hoping comes true? Hmmm, dreams are so private! I can tell you the one that did come true….but I can’t tell you the one that I am still hoping for. Cuz I am a little superstitious about that! One dream I had that I wondered if would ever come true would be singing at Carnegie Hall. And it came true when I was asked to sing with The New York Pops! I have a picture of me on that stage with Skitch Henderson…and a HUGE grin on my face! Of course, wearing a beaded gown for the show! I sang "This Nearly Was Mine." It was so much fun! And so special to sing in a hall that heard the voices of so many talents I admired.

Karen Mason as "Ma" in "Chasing Rainbows"6. You were recently in the Broadway-bound musical Chasing Rainbows and you are including a few selections to honor Judy Garland. How did Judy Garland influence you/your music style? What rainbows are you chasing these days? I was thrilled to include a few Garland songs on the CD! A few years ago I got a chance to do a symphony concert of Garland music…and it was perfect joy for me! All those amazing arrangements…God, I loved every minute!! I am a Garland fan. Judy Garland sang and told stories that speak to my heart. Something about the timbre of her voice, and her ability to sound like she was speaking just to my soul……perfect! And if you are going to steal…steal from the very very best, right? What rainbows am I still chasing? I am not sure if they are all rainbows…but I still have a lot to say and sing! And many more stories to tell!

7. One of the Judy Garland songs you included on this album was "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." What are a few happy moments in your life when you heart went Zing!? When Paul told me he loved me. On the phone, cuz we are both shy…and my heart was about to explode!! So I told him too..and I think his heart went "Zing" too. You would have to ask him….but I think it would be safe to say that it probably did.

Karen Mason in Broadway's "Wonderland"8. You also record "Finding Wonderland" from the Broadway show Wonderland, a song about finding ourselves and finding our truths? What is something you recently found out about yourself and what is one truth you have not revealed about yourself in a previous interview? I recently found out I am stronger than I have always thought. One truth that I have not revealed is that I hate being called "Dear" by someone I don’t know. If it is someone I know and love, it is good. But someone who doesn’t know me at all? Goes right up my back!

9. Finally, you close the album with a very special song, Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay," but it's using the track your first musical director/friend Brian Lasser recorded. Sadly Brian passed away in 1992, but how great that you get to "sing" with him again. What was this experience like for you? What do you miss most about Brian? Oh Adam, this was such a beautiful gift Paul gave me! To be able to sing with Brian again? Amazing! And because I knew it was going to be so amazing, I kept putting it off for years. Paul asked me about it about 10 years ago….and I kept deflecting. As I got older, I got more fearless (always a struggle for me!)…and finally said YES! And it was amazing and natural and…..home.

Karen Mason and her longtime friend/collaborator Brian Lasser10. This album is a mixture of timeless standards, theatre classics, and a few original tunes. What songs didn't make the cut for this CD, hence saying, it wasn't time to share these songs? We have enough cuts for a few CDs….so that is the plan! We will be releasing a new CD within a year….and then keep ‘em coming! Some of the songs on the next one may be: "He Touched Me," "Time" by Barry Kleinbort….and I would love to do a new Christmas CD (and this time IN the studio!).

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I would love to improve my relationship with the gym! Once I am there, I am fine, but getting there??? Seems like miles! And honestly, Adam, a way to improve my own life every day is to continue to try to find ways to be better to others.

Karen MasonMore on Karen:

Karen Mason has starred on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Television, and in the recording studio. She’s been praised for her "fierce emotion" by The New York Times, her "innate comic ability" by Playbill and her "delightful instrument" by the Daily News. Karen has been called "immensely appealing" by The Chicago Tribune, "a towering talent" by TheaterMania and "a dynamic performer" by Time Out New York. According to the Indianapolis Star, "Mason has a powerful voice and rich resonance you associate with Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. She can sing slow and smoky or fast and punchy with an innate sense of humor. Mason is a poet of the vocal chords."

Karen is a twelve-time MAC Award winner – most recently "Show of the Year" and "Celebrity Artist" in 2016 – and has won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. She has also won the 2006 Nightlife Award for Major Female Vocalist and has three Bistro Awards.

Karen Mason as "Norma Desmond" in Sunset "Boulevard"Karen most recently garnered rave reviews starring as "The Queen of Hearts" in Wonderland on Broadway. She originated the role of "Tanya" on Broadway in ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and was awarded a 2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress. Her other leading roles include "Norma Desmond" in Sunset Boulevard, which she performed to critical acclaim and standing ovations on Broadway and in Los Angeles for three years; "Velma von Tussel" in the final Broadway company of Hairspray; "Monotony" singer, "Mazeppa" in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway; "Rosalie" in Carnival (another Drama Desk nomination); plus featured roles in Broadway’s Torch Song Trilogy; and Play Me A Country Song.

She won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes ‘Round, and starred Off-Broadway in her own show Karen Mason Sings Broadway, Beatles and Brian. Her television appearances include the hit dramas Ed and Law & Order: SVU while film credits include Sleeping Dogs Lie and A Chorus Line.

Karen MasonIn regional theatre, she starred in the 1st National Tour of A Christmas Story as "Miss Shields," in the world premiere of the stage production of White Christmas (playing the Rosemary Clooney role at St. Louis Muni Opera), Side by Side by Sondheim (Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida), Gypsy (Sundance Theatre in California), the world premiere of One Tough Cookie (Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago), Heartbeats (Goodspeed Opera House) and Company (Huntington Theatre in Boston). Karen starred in the one-woman musical about Dorothy Parker You Might As Well Live.

Karen has headlined Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Feinstein's at the Regency, Rainbow & Stars, the Algonquin, Arci' Place, The Supper Club and The Ballroom in NYC; The Cinegrill and the UCLA/ASCAP Concert Series in Los Angeles; The Plush Room in San Francisco; and Davenport’s in Chicago.

Karen MasonShe has shared concert stages with Michael Feinstein, Jerry Herman, Chita Rivera, Luciano Pavarotti, Rosemary Clooney, Liza Minnelli, and John Kander & Fred Ebb, among others. Karen has given concerts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil, Scotland, Tokyo and Osaka. Her starring symphonic performances include The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Michael Berkowitz, the Philly Pops with Peter Nero, The New York Pops with Skitch Henderson, the Oklahoma Philharmonic with Joel Levine, the premier performance of The Chicagoland Pops, the Indianapolis Philharmonic, and the St. Louis Symphony with John McDaniel.

Her highly acclaimed recordings include her 2009 MAC Award-winning Right Here/Right Now, 2005’s The Sweetest of Nights, the MAC Award-winning When The Sun Comes Out, as well as three other CDs: Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!, recorded live at the West Bank Café; Better Days, featuring songs by her longtime composer/arranger Brian Lasser (including the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song "Hold Me"); and Not So Simply Broadway. Karen has been featured on the original cast CD of Wonderland; Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande), the studio cast recording of Wonderful Town (JAY Records), the original cast album of And The World Goes Round (RCA Victor), The Child In Me, Vol. 1 (Harbinger Records), and Lost in Boston II (Varese Sarabande).

Friday
Feb172017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Steven "Blue's Clues" Burns & Steven "Flaming Lips" Drozd: Foreverywhere

Steven Drozd and Steven BurnsNot long ago, I had read an article about Steve Burns, the original host of the children's hit show Blue's Clues. I remember thinking to myself, gosh I would love to have the opportunity to interview him. Fast forward to now when I get an e-mail asking me if I'd like to interview not only Steve Burns, but Steven Drozd from The Flaming Lips as well. I grew up with both these entities, so needless to say I was doubly excited by this opportunity.

After collaborating on Steven Burns' album Songs for Dustmites, Steven Burns and Steven Drozd are teaming up for their new album Foreverywhere, part concept album, part legend, all play, fun and filled to the brim with immediate music that will be enjoyed by kids, parents, fans of The Flaming Lips and grownup fans of Blue’s Clues alike.

Foreverywhere will be available on February 24 with a release concert at Brooklyn Bowl on February 26 at 1pm! Click here for tickets! Click to purchase Foreverywhere on iTunes and Amazon!

For more on StevenSteven be sure to visit https://www.stevensteven.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

1. This February you are releasing your debut album Foreverywhere. How did you come to join forces?

Steven Burns: I met Captain Drozd when we collaborated on Songs For Dustmites, a record I made just after leaving Blue's Clues. He and I got along instantly and have been great friends ever since. I still fan-girl out every now and then because he truly has written most of my favorite music and I can't believe I get to work with him.

Steven Drozd: Burns and I met in 2001 and worked together on his LP Songs For Dustmites- we became fast friends and were always kind of involved in each other’s projects. In 2006 he was contacted by Jack’s Big Music Show to write a song about groundhogs, haha. He called me up and asked if I wanted to help. Of course I did! We had a blast with that experience and I think it just stayed in our minds that we could make that kind of music together and it kind of unfolded from there.

2. How long have you been working on the album? What made now the right time to release it?

Steven Burns: Drozd? You always know the timeline better than I do. It feels like 140 years. Basically, we had to do it in spare time - no small task as Steven lives in Oklahoma and I live in NYC. Drozd is raising kids and touring the world in a giant enormous rock band and I was busy out here so basically it took forever. I'd fly to Oklahoma when there was time and we'd hole up in Trent Bell's studio (Bell Labs) and just bang it out. It was so much fun.

Steven Drozd: Honestly, the LP has been finished since 2009 - It’s just been a long process for both of us, having the time to commit to its release and us giving it our full attention.

3. You are celebrating the album's premiere with a concert at Brooklyn Bowl on February 26. What are you looking forward to most about this concert?

Steven Burns: I’m excited to perform for kids again!

Steven Drozd: I do look forward to the challenge of performing for children - that is as potentially nerve wracking as playing Carnegie Hall; but, also I just look forward to playing music with Steve Burns. We naturally have fun together.

4. Though it's targeted for children, the album is described as music that will be enjoyed by kids, parents, fans of The Flaming Lips and grownup fans of Blue’s Clues alike, with the hopes of it having the life/longevity of "Puff The Magic Dragon." What do you think kids will enjoy about this album? What will adults like? How do you feel it could have the greatness of "Puff The Magic Dragon"?

Steven Burns: My hope is that the things kids enjoy about the album are the SAME things that adults enjoy about the album. I truly believe there's tons of overlap in what makes music great for kids and what makes music great for adults. There are sad moments on the record, hopeful moments, funny moments, face melting rock moments. I hope kids and parents enjoy them all equally. As for "Puff the Magic Dragon," I have no idea if we'd ever reach such great heights as that, but we did try to incorporate some strong story elements, especially in "The Unicorn And Princess Rainbow" which takes what almost feels like standard kid- themed cliches and tries to re-cast them in a more Ziggy Stardust sort of light.

Steven Drozd: There are some classic songs like "Puff The Magic Dragon" to aspire to. I think we’ve done a pretty good job on some of them! I have two kids, now ages 11 and 9, so we were able to try them out on a target audience. My own kids regard Foreverywhere in the same way they regard the Peanuts Christmas LP; it’s just music they love and grew up with. I think some adults will hear things from their own childhood, which is what I was hoping to do with a lot of the music, sounds and melodies. "OK, Toilet Bowl" reminds me of an orange juice commercial from the 1970’s, "Space Rock Rock" reminds me of an Electric Company segment, "The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow" reminds me of so many things from my childhood….So, we are hoping that the adults will make that connection that we tried to create, if that makes sense.

5. The album's first song "Unicorn and Princess Rainbow," is described as a three song narrative detailing the story of a unicorn who falls in love with a Rainbow Princess with incredible guitar chops, joins her band, and then loses her to cosmic forces beyond his control. What is something each of you have lost to "cosmic forces beyond your control"?

Steven Burns: My hair. I lost my hair to cosmic forces beyond my control. We all experience loss in our lives. Loved ones, failed hopes, etc. Children experience those feelings too.

Steven Drozd: Well, loss of loved ones, moving away from friends…those are the things I think of.

6. There's another great line in "Unicorn and Princess Rainbow" that goes "He just read the news and he doesn't know what to feel." Was that line written as a political statement to the world we are living in? If not, let's go there for a moment. Since the album is marketed towards kids, how do you feel it's best to explain these troubling times to children? 

Steven Burns: That particular lyric wasn't written with a political statement in mind, but I certainly don't mind if it's read that way. I think the most politically relevant song on the record is "A Fact Is A Gift That You Give Your Brain". We are seeing a perplexing erosion of Fact, and it would make me very proud indeed if we could get kids excited about...verity.

Steven Drozd: This is an example of the genius of Steven Michael Burns! Seriously, he knows how to communicate emotions and potentially complex concerns to children to make them feel okay with not being sure about something. In truth, the song was written and recorded in 2008, so it was a different time. But I agree with the analysis of the political statement.

7. Another song on the album that I think is great for children (and adults) to hear is "The Lonely Unicorn Is Never Giving Up." The song is all about "The Unicorn" who lost his love, but some how finds a ways to carry on, while holding on to the good memories. So many of us feel lonely at times and and wonder how to keep going. How do you keep moving forward during troubled times?

Steven Burns: Well...it's a struggle, isn't it? It's sort of THE struggle. I have lots of things I do when I'm down and feel like quitting but music is huge part of what keeps me moving forward! That and family. Friends. Gene Wilder films.

Steven Drozd: That is the question, yes? You have to find something in yourself to keep moving forward. There’s no way around it. Maybe it’s a combination of looking forward to the future while focusing on positive things from the past. I think most of us do that anyway, even when the current times are great; we don’t live in the moment, we think of the past and the future. Maybe that is what makes getting through tough times more tolerable??

Steven Burns and Steven Drozd8. One other song I love is "I Won't Let You Change Who I Am," a terrific song about being proud of you who are despite what other people think. When has there been a time in your life when someone tried to change you, but you stood your ground?

Steven Burns: As I child I was bullied. This song is about my experience being bullied on the school bus in first grade. I did stand my ground, eventually. My bully and I actually became friends.

Steven Drozd: I could say I was bullied at a certain age, and I always tried to deflect it with humor - but I was lucky enough to be encouraged to do what I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be from a pretty early age. I know that is not the case for everyone, unfortunately.

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day?

Steven Burns: Wait, so if I did this for a year, I'd be 365% better than I am at the end! Or do you stop at 100%? I'd like to become 1% more compassionate every day. I actually do try to do that, in my way. That's a great practice you have there!

Steven Drozd: This sounds potentially hokey, but yoga changed my life. It really did. And when I stick with it and try to expand on it, it always rewards me. So, that is something I could say. My other thought is this: everyday I make at least one note of a thought into my notes on my cell phone. Whether it’s a fleeting thought, or a fake band name, or song title, or just an absurd joke, I try to have an original thought every day. I’ve got some doozies in my notes!

Steven Burns on "Blue's Clues"10. For Steven Burns: I can't do an interview with you and not ask about Blue's Clues. You were the host of the hit children's show from 1996 to 2002. What is something about your time on the show you have not talked about in a previous interview? Let's just play with the show's title for a moment. If you had to give a list of 5 clues to things that you love that are blue, what would those clue's be?

Okay. One thing most people don't know is that I didn't draw the clues. That's someone else's hand you see. There's no way I could draw that well.

Five blue things I love? That's hard! Do you have five blue things you love? I'll try:

  •  This thing contains the troposphere, mesosphere and thermosphere and is not ALWAYS blue it is mostly blue.
  • This thing is from 1969 and it's completely adorable and it sits in my garage and there's no way you could know the answer, so I'll just tell you, it's my blue 69 VW fastback.
  • This Off-Broadway show has been around forever and stars three aliens who play tubes like instruments.
  • This character is sometimes near, sometimes far. He's been a waiter and has a super hero alter ego. He was my main influence when creating the character for "Steve" on Blue's Clues.
  • This my favorite of Gershwin's music and is strongly associated with the city I live in.

Steven Drozd, Photo Credit: EJ DeCoske11. For Steven Drozd: You have been in The Flaming Lips since 1991. What are some of the funniest moments to happen to you during either a recording session or on stage with The Flaming Lips? What question have you not been asked in an interview that you wish you had been (please provide the answer to that said question as well)?

Well, that is a tough question as there are so many stories over the years. I’ll give you one of my favorites that sounds like something from a movie: The Flaming Lips were in Milan, Italy in 1995, opening for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The audience was interested in ONLY seeing The Chili Peppers. I was playing drums live back then. The audience disliked us so much that they were throwing stuff at us. My floor tom got hit with a tomato and my cymbal got pelted with a slice of pizza. True story!

I always wonder why no one ever asks if I like bananas. I love them!

Steven Burns and Steven DrozdMore on StevenSteven:

StevenSteven is Steve Burns, former host of beloved children's televsion show Blue's Clues, and Steven Drozd, grammy award winning musical mastermind behind The Flaming Lips. They began writing music together in the early aughts when Burns was recording his first solo effort Songs for Dustmites in the upstate NY studio owned by The Flaming Lips’ producer -- where Drozd was staying. Drozd was impressed with what he heard and the two began their first collaboration within thirty minutes of meeting. The duo wrote "I Hog The Ground" for a Groundhog’s Day episode of Nickelodeon’s Jack’s Big Music Show.