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Entries in Songwriter (48)

Wednesday
May102017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Austin Pendleton & Barbara Bleier: "Beautiful Mistake" at Pangea

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at PangeaWhen I found out that Austin Pendleton & Barbara Bleier were doing a new cabaret show together, entitled Beautiful Mistake: The Songs of John Bucchino and Amanda McBroom, I was delighted they answered my call! 

Beautiful Mistake is an evening of story songs including unpublished work from McBroom and Bucchino, as well as some known songs including McBroom/Hunt/McBroom’s "Errol Flynn" (an NPR feature pick for Songs We Love), and Bucchino’s "If I Ever Say I’m Over You" recorded by Art Garfunkel on Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino.

Beautiful Mistake has two shows left, May 18 &  May 23 at 7pm at Pangea (178 2nd Avenue). Click here for tickets!

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz1. Who or what inspired you to be a performer?

Austin Pendleton: When I was a kid my mother got involved with a community theatre that was being developed in Warren, Ohio, our hometown. The early rehearsals were in our living room, evenings, after dinner. My brother Alec and I would sneak down, after we were supposed to be in bed and watch these rehearsals. I was hooked.

Barbara Bleier: I can’t even remember far enough back! I’ve always been a performer. I learned to read music before I learned to read words, and I was reading words at four years old. My mother was a pianist, and there was always music in my house…music of all kinds; classical, show tunes, popular songs. My mother played, and my sister and I sang. My father was our audience. I started picking out tunes on the piano, and began piano lessons before I was four. I loved playing the piano, and played concerts from the time I was four, but I loved singing even more. I was always the vocal soloist for the assemblies and programs in my grade school, PS89, and was the singer for the jazz band at the High School of Music & Art (now LaGuardia).

2. How did you two first come to meet? How long after you met did you go, "We should do cabaret together"?

Austin Pendleton: Barbara wanted me to coach her on some acting material. Then Barbara joined my acting class at HB Studio, here in New York. Then Barbara asked me to do a cabaret with her, in, like, 2000.  The rest is what I like to think of as history.

Barbara Bleier: That wasn’t exactly how it happened. It was kind of, "I proposed to him!" I was studying acting with Austin at HB Studio. I was also doing cabaret…in fact, I had been a Fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Cabaret Symposium in 1992…and had been doing cabaret before and after that. I had started studying acting, because the songs that I preferred singing were story songs, and I thought that studying acting would help me get the most out of them. (I also, at that time, started performing as an actor). So, I was taking a class in the late 90’s with Austin, and had a cabaret gig coming up. There was a duet by Dick Maltby and David Shire called "There" that I was aching to sing, and I needed a male partner. I knew, of course, that Austin was a singer, and I asked him if he’d like to do that song with me in the show. His answer was, "You’re offering me one song?" I said, "Would you like half a show?," and the rest is history. We performed our first cabaret, Undecided in New York and Chicago, and had a great time with it! We also got some really good notices. "There" has been in every show we’ve done since, except the present one.

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz3. What do you love about working with each other?

Austin Pendleton: Barbara actually listens to me. This leads me to actually listen to her.

Barbara Bleier: Well, first of all, I LOVE Austin, so that’s a good beginning. He’s not a "straight line" thinker; he kind of comes in from the side, and I love that! We always seem to be on the same page, or following one another’s crazy thoughts, or awakening one another to something. There is, honestly, no one I’d rather work with.

4. Has there ever been a time when you both were really excited to duet on a song, but then disagree on how it should be executed, and, if so, who won?

Austin Pendleton: I have a sneaking suspicion that Barbara always wins these.

Barbara Bleier: I know it sounds crazy, but that’s never really happened. At least, I don’t think it’s happened. Austin may feel differently! It’s more of a "free association" process. We start singing the song, then one of us gets an idea, and we try it, and that leads to another idea that we try. It kind of evolves.

5. What excites you about your new show Beautiful Mistake?

Austin Pendleton: To enter the world of John Bucchino and Amanda McBroom is precisely as exciting as falling down the rabbit hole.

Barbara Bleier: My idea of heaven would be to spend eternity singing John’s and Amanda’s music! And, there are trunks full of it!!! Their lyrics always seem to say what I want to be saying, and their music is so incredible, in such different ways. John’s has a baroque quality, to me…I fell in love with him for his chords. Amanda’s is more romantic, and both of them often play against the lyric, which is wonderful to perform as an actor and musician. Both can be ironic and humorous, in just the ways I Iove. I guess this also answers your question.

6. This new show is called "Beautiful Mistake." What is one "Beautiful Mistake" you have made? (meaning, you made a mistake with something, but it turned out to be a good thing). 

Austin Pendleton: Many things in my life have been beautiful mistakes that turned into a good thing. Then there are the mistakes that are not beautiful and do not turn out to be a good thing. Then there are the mistakes that are not beautiful but still turn out to be a good thing. On such occasions I confess to a certain confusion.

Barbara Bleier:  Oh, so many. It’s not the mistakes you make, it’s what you do with them, what you learn, how they take your life in a different direction. One example I can think of, as a divorced mother whose children were quite young at the time…the marriage was a mistake, but my two wonderful sons sure weren’t!

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton performing at Pangea, Photo Credit: Theater Pizzazz7. What is a story about one of John or Amanda’s songs that is not in the show that really hit you hard?

Austin Pendleton: The songs of Amanda's and John's that hit me the hardest are in the show. The other songs of Amanda's and John's that hit me the hardest will be in the next show.

Barbara Bleier: John’s song, "Not A Cloud In The Sky," which deals with someone trying to handle the death of a loved one by dissociating the possibility of their death; taking control by being obsessive compulsive about little things, because if they let any emotion through they would crumble. I lost my sister (also a musician) five years ago, and that was my way of trying to keep control and be strong for her, and for myself.

8. If you could sing a quartet with John and Amanda, which song of theirs would you pick?

Austin Pendleton: "That Smile." I defy Mozart to top "That Smile."

Barbara Bleier: Well, the only one that they wrote together was "Beautiful Mistake," which I can’t quite wrap my mind around as a quartet, so I'll pick one for each? It would be "Coney Island" (A Catered Affair) for John, and Amanda’s song "Old Love," which Amanda wrote with the wonderful Michele Brourman.

Austin PendletonMore on Austin:

Austin Pendleton is an actor, director, playwright and teacher of acting, whose most recent stage appearance was as the "King" in Lear at The Secret Theatre, a critically lauded run that just ended in early April. Austin's first Broadway appearance was as "Motel the Tailor" in the original production of Fiddler on the Roof directed by Jerome Robbins and starring Zero Mostel. He has since appeared frequently on, off and off-off Broadway, and can be seen in approximately 200 films. His many TV appearances include roles on Oz, Homicide, Law and Order and Billions. In New York, he has directed Between Riverside and Crazy and four shows at CSC (Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, Ivanov and Hamlet) featuring such players as Peter Sarsgaard (Hamlet), Maggie Gyllenhall and Ethan Hawke. Austin is the author of three plays (Orson's Shadow, Uncle Bob, Booth) all produced in New York, and, in the case of Uncle Bob and Orson's Shadow, internationally. He has most recently directed Luft Gangster for Nylon Fusion Theatre Company & Cloverleaf Collective, A Day at the Beach for the Mint Theatre Company, and A Taste of Honey for the Pearl Theatre. He teaches acting in New York at HB Studio, where he studied with Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof. He also studied acting with Robert Lewis.

Barbara BleierMore on Barbara:

Barbara Bleier is a singer, actor and playwright who has appeared on stage, in film, and on TV, as well as in solo shows and revues in national and international cabaret. She played the mother of a psychopathic killer in the cult classic, Swoon, and appeared in the film This is Where I Leave You, with Jane Fonda and Tina Fey, and in They Came Together, with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. Her solo show, Who’s Your Mama? was selected for production in the NYC Women at Work Festival, and her two-person revues with Austin Pendleton, Late Nights in Smoky Bars (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia) and ‘Tis the Season to Be Morbid, received critical praise in the press. She has studied acting with Austin Pendleton, singing with Barbara Maier, and musical performance with the late Julie Wilson at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Call Redialed: Facetime Interview: Bobby Cronin: Concerts, Theme Songs, & Winning New York

Call Me Adam and Bobby Cronin at The Algonquin Hotel's "New Yorker Suite"From inside The Algonquin Hotel's New Yorker Suite, what an absolute joy it was to catch-up with Bobby Cronin, award winning composer/lyricist (and creator/singer of the "Call Me Adam Theme Song")! It's been a few years since Bobby & I have sat down for an interview so needless to say, we had lots to talk about: from his upcoming concerts to creating the "Call Me Adam Theme Song" to Winning New York, we reveal it all!

Bobby has two upcoming concerts. One is Sunday 3/26 at 7pm at The W Hotel in Times Square, NYC (47th & Broadway) called #Love Is Love as part of the W's Broadway at The W series. Featuring Bobby's music, #Love Is Love will welcome Anne Brummel (Wicked), Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton & Motown), Lauren Elder (Hair & Side Show), Lora Lee Gayer (Holiday Inn & Follies), LaQuet Sharnell (Memphis & Lion King), Adam Kaplan (Kinky Boots & Newsies), Kyle Scatliffe (The Color Purple & Les Miserables), Marty Thomas (Grammy Nominee), Michael Williams (Charllie & The Chocolate Factory & On The Town), and Cortney Wolfson (Kinky Boots & The Addams Family). Click here for tickets!

Bobby's second concert, Bobby Cronin & Friends will be April 19 at 8pm at The Yotel's Green Room in NYC (42nd & 10th Ave). This will be a benefit for the Humane Society and feature a host of Bobby's New York friends and International talents. Click here for tickets!

For more on Bobby be sure to visit http://bobbycronin.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

"Call Me Adam's" Facetime video interview with Bobby Cronin:

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.

Saturday
Feb042017

Call Answered: Facetime Interview with Michael Cerveris: Fun Home, Sheen Center, Piety

Michael Cerveris"Call Me Adam" chats with two-time Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris about his Tony Award winning turn in Broadway's Tony Award winning musical Fun Home, his latest recording Piety + his upcoming concert on March 16 at NYC's Sheen Center as part of their Convergences – Indie Artist Series, featuring New York artists who split their time between music and theatre. Showtime is 7:30pm. Click here for tickets!

In this video interview, Michael gives some great insight into the audiences who visited him on Maple Avenue during the run of Fun Home and some behind-the-scenes stories about a few of the songs off his latest album Piety. We also discuss why some musical theatre artists have a tough time crossing over into mainstream recording artists.

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://www.cerverismusic.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, and iTunes!

"Call Me Adam" interview with Michael Cerveris:

Wednesday
Jan252017

Call Redialed: NEW Facetime interview with Luba Mason, Broadway Star & Recording Artist

Luba MasonLive from the Algonquin Hotel in NYC's theatre district, "Call Me Adam" catches up with Luba Mason, Recording Artist and Drama Desk/Lucille Lortel nominated actress! We talk about her nominated turn in last year's Off-Broadway hit show Pretty Filthy, an inside look at the adult film industry, plus the upcoming cast reunion concert at Feinstein's/54 Below on 2/21 at 9:30pm to celebrate Pretty Filthy's album release.

We also discuss Luba's latest recording Mixtura, Chicago: The Musical's 20th Anniversary on Broadway, as well as her participation in BroadwayCon 2017 panel discussion: "Stepping Into The Spotlight: Replacing on Broadway" on 1/29 at 2pm!

For more on Luba be sure to visit http://lubamason.com and follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube!

"Call Me Adam's" interview with Luba Mason: