I had the distinct pleasure of getting to interview Michael Feinstein this past June after seeing him perform live at Feinstein's in his show "Cool Swing." He was genuine, funny, and excited to answer my questions. Known as one of the greatest preservers and interpreters of The American Song Book, Michael Feinstein is a multi-platinium selling recording artist as well as a five-time Grammy Award nominee. He has performed in some of the most prestigious venues around the world such as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl as well as the White House and Buckingham Palace. Michael is nationally recognized for his commitment to the American popular song, both celebrating its art and preserving its legacy for the next generation.
Michael's most recent recordings include "The Sinatra Project" which earned him his fifth Grammy Award Nomination and "The Power of Two" recorded with Broadway's very own Cheyenne Jackson. His many other recordings include "Remember: Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin," "Isn't It Romantic," "The MGM Album," "Michael Feinstein Sings The Burton Lane Songbook, Vol. 1," "Michael Feinstein Sings The Jule Styne Songbook," "Pure Imagination," "Michael Feinstein Sings The Burton Lane Songbook, Vol. II," "Michael Feinstein Sings The Jerry Herman Songbook," "Forever," "Michael Feinstein Sings The Hugh Martin Songbook," "Such Sweet Sorrow," "Nice Work If You Can Get It: Songs By The Gershwins," "Michael & George: Feinstein Sings Gershwin," "Big City Rhythms," "Romance on Film, Romance on Broadway," "Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra," "The Michael Feinstein Anthology," "Livingston And Evans Songbook Featuring Michael Feinstein," "Only One Life: The Songs of Jimmy Webb," "Hopeless Romantics Michael Feinstein & George Shearing."
In addition to being a successful recording artist, Michael has also lent his talents to Broadway. This past spring he starred in the new Broadway Show "All About Me" with Dame Edna and he has written the score for two upcoming stage musicals: "The Night They Saved Macy's Parade" and "The Gold Room." He is also currently developing "The Thomas Crown Affair" into a Broadway musical with MGM Onstage.
This October be sure to catch Michael's new three-part documentary series on PBS entitled "Michael Feinstein's American Songbook" (October 6, 13, and 20). In 2011, Michael will serve as the Artistic Director of the Carmel Performing Arts Center in Carmel, Indiana. This $160 million, three-theatre performing arts center will host an annual international Great American Songbook festival, along with diverse live programming and a museum to house Michael's rare memorabilia and manuscripts. For much more on Michael, be sure to visit http://www.michaelfeinstein.com.
1. Who inspired you to become a performer? My early inspirations were Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Al Jolson, and watching variety television such as Carol Burnett, the corny Mitch Miller Show, the Lawrence Welk Show. When I was a kid, my parents always had these music shows on so I was indoctrinated with the music, fell in love with it, and it became such a part of my life that I wanted to make a living doing it. I didn't necessarily want to become a performer right off the bat, but I wanted to be involved in music.
2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Well most of the people I would have liked to work with are dead, but of those that are still alive, I would have liked to work with Doris Day. I asked Doris Day to sing with me 20 years ago and she's well retired and was very, very sweet, but resistant and that would be a dream because I think she is one of the greatest living vocalists.
2a. Who dead would you have liked to work with? I would have loved to work and collaborate with many of idols such as Ethel Waters, George Gershwin (and been accompanied by him), Oscar Levant, and Fred Astaire. I knew Peggy Lee, but I never got to work with her which would have been great to have done. She was a funny, funny lady.
3. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? That's a difficult question to answer because early in the morning I'm a basso profundo and I can sing very, very low notes that don't stay with me during the day. In high school chorus, I was a second tenor and I can sing falsetto up to C's & D flats, but my range isn't great. I discovered a lot of singers whose work I admired didn't necessarily have the biggest range, so I take that as some form of solace.
4. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? It's funny because most of the dreams I dream about are dreams about old Hollywood, old performers, the old studios, and being part of that, so maybe I had a past life there. Romantically there are probably many movie stars I could dream about, but no one in particular.
5. What's your proudest moment? I think my proudest moment was buying my parents a house. They had retired and moved to Las Vegas. They had a house and sold it and I persuaded them to come back to California. I was able to buy a house for them near me and that was something that felt wonderful.
6. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I can make my eyes change color at will. I can make them change from shades of green to shades of blue back and forth. I asked a opthamologist once if it was possible and he said it wasn't clinically possible, but he's seen other people do it.
7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Sex would be the favorite, I don't know if it keeps you in shape, but that's my favorite. Seriously though, the way I do mainly stay in shape is the treadmill with listening to music or watching television. That's the primary way, even though when I'm in Los Angeles, I love hiking in the hills of Griffith Park it's very solitary and the air is so crisp.
8. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. I don't think I've ever worn boxers, but now you got me thinking I should try them.
9. Favorite website? I go on IMDB a lot.
10. "Mary" or "Rhoda"? Phyllis.
11. Favorite hobby? I love going to flea markets. I love archiving music. I love taking old '78s and '33s and digitizing them and preserving them.