"Call Me Adam" chats with multiplatinum artist and Tony nominee Ann Hampton Callaway about her brand new show at 54 Below entitled On My Way To You, an evening of love songs about the ups and downs of finding everlasting love. We also discuss her many career highlights including writing for Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Cole Porter, and the theme song to one television's biggest hit shows The Nanny!
Ann's show On My Way To You will play at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) from June 18-20 and June 25 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!
1. From June 18-20 and on June 25, you will be returning to 54 Below with a brand new show entitled On My Way To You, an evening of love songs about the ups and downs of finding everlasting love. What made you want to do an evening of love songs? It’s amazing to me that I finally found someone I wanted to marry and who I love being married to. I never want to take that for granted. I wanted to take a fresh look at love from this perspective and find new ways of embracing the good with the bad, the highs and the lows, and the "mistakes" that lead us to where we need to be, which actually turn out to be blessings.
2. What are you looking forward to most about performing this show? I am excited to be singing a show I am still in the process of creating. I might be as surprised as my audience at some of my song selections. I know singers choose songs but I am asking my songs to choose me.
3. In addition to your own compositions, On My Way To You will feature songs by Cyndi Lauper, Cole Porter, Gershwin, and Rodgers. Why did you choose to mix in other composers instead of doing an evening of your own music? Out of all the composers out there, how did you decide which ones you wanted to include? These composers will be anchors in the show. Some for sentimental reasons and others because of the depth of their timeless creativity. I will do be doing my own songs, too. I am what I call a hopeful romantic and in this day and age it’s hard to find writers with my sensibility. Is it old fashioned? I don’t think so. I will be balancing many aspects of love and myself in hopes of creating something as luminous and multifaceted as a diamond.
4. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see On My Way To You, what would that reason be? Love is the most important thing there is and music is one of the most sublime ways of experiencing it.
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after coming to see On My Way To You? If they came in with a heart that was a little closed from the daily toils of life, I hope they walk out with more open hearts. If they walked in with someone they love, I hope they walk out, feeling a bit closer to that person, even if it’s their own self. I hope everyone feels inspired to take more chances in life and trust in the beauty of it all.
6. You have performed numerous times at 54 Below. What makes you want to performing there? It has a sort of chic intimacy. Its become a place where the family of this music reunites. And it is a family that keeps growing stronger.
7. From your own road of love, what advice would you give someone looking for love? I would say, instead of looking for love, realize love is already there. The important thing is to be love. To love, in all the ways your heart can love. If you can do this, you will find your true love - one perhaps, many in time, or different forms of lovers - an art form, nature, the world. Each person has many seasons of the heart. Embrace them all. Be alive and risk being who you really are in this world. Only then, will you find the fellowship to share the highest joys and sorrows with.
8. As a songwriter, you have written music for several other artists including Barbra Streisand, Carole King, and Cole Porter. Do you remember the first time you were asked to write a song for someone else? No, I don’t! I remember wanting to write a wedding song for a friend in college. I remember wanting to write a song for a baby I hoped to someday have. I don’t remember people asking me to write songs. Maybe Fran Drescher was the first! When Fran asked me to write for her, I thought, how fun! She wasn’t the big star then that she is now. She was totally endearing and I knew it would be delightful working with her.
9. How did you get to write for Barbra Streisand, Carole King, and Cole Porter? With Barbra it began as an inspired song about world peace that I knew she was meant to sing. Ten years to the date I wrote it, she recorded it, thanks to Amanda McBroom bringing it to the attention of Jay Landers, Barbra’s A & R man. Later on, she asked me to write for her. With Carole King, I audaciously invited her to write a song with me for my CD Slow and she said yes! We didn’t write it till the day I was to record it. I couldn’t believe she sang back up vocals on it - what a thrill. And as for Cole Porter, my friend Bradshaw Smith found a lyric in the Complete Book of Cole Porter Lyrics that had apparently never been set to music in his lifetime. I did my best to channel Cole and composed the music which I never dreamed would be published by The Cole Porter estate.
9a. What did you learn from collaborating with them? From Barbra I learned to try to make a lyric "Simple but profound" - her exact words to me when I was revising "At the Same Time" for her. From Carole, I learned to write from the heart, not the head. From Cole, I learned that music is the bridge between heaven and earth.
10. You also wrote and sang the theme song to one of TV's biggest hit shows, The Nanny. How did this come to be? It was destiny! But really, as I mentioned, Fran came to a show of my original music at Don’t Tell Mama and afterwards asked me to write songs for her pilots. Years later, The Nanny pilot came along and she invited me to try write the theme - but this time the top Hollywood writers were also in competition. So I wrote two songs to have an edge.
10a. Was your process for writing the theme song different for you than when you write other music? I guess it was unique. I interviewed Fran about who "The Nanny" was in a nutshell. At one point she said, "She’s the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan." I knew that had to be in the song. Listening is how a good song gets written. Listening to what people say, how people feel, how you feel. There are so many nuggets in daily life that are just dropped down like gifts. You have to notice them.
11. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? It might sound trite but "never give up on your dreams" has been pivotal. Like for so many of us, there have been so many obstacles to my dreams and there still are. But I no longer feel they have to happen in a certain time or way. I now trust that each dream has its own mysterious life and plot and now I simply focus on the day to day of fulfilling each step of them and have faith. If an olive tree knew it might take 15 years to bear olives would it still want to be an olive tree? I now embrace the olive tree within!
12. What have you learned about yourself from being an entertainer? I have learned how good it feels to share honestly who I am - to allow people to connect with me and allow myself to connect with them. As Sondheim says, "No one is alone." I have also learned what a goof ball I can be one minute and what a spiritual seeker I can be at the next. And I have learned how glorious music is - what an honor it is to work every single day to be a vessel of its quirky and awe inspiring beauty.
13. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? What do you still want to do that you haven’t? Oh come on, why haven’t I done a show with Tony Bennett? Wouldn’t that be nice? I’d like to get in the studio and record something with Barbra Streisand - will you call her up and suggest that? I’d love to do a CD with Yo Yo Ma - that would be crazy beautiful. I’d like to write a Broadway musical and I think I’m actually in the beginning stages of doing that. I’d like to have a radio show about great singers that becomes so successful it turns into a TV show. I’d like to do a Broadway run with my sister Liz. I’d like to publish a book or two of my poems. I MUST do a CD of my original songs produced by someone brilliant. I’d like to get thinner and healthier and have fun doing it. I’d like to write a children’s book about our hilarious and wise cat we now call "Angel Muffin." And I’d like to be a real ambassador with my music and go around the world doing concerts, improvisations and songwriting that helps to bring people of differing beliefs together. And I’d like to sleep better and have more time to just have fun.
14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to awaken people’s hearts to their divine loving spirit.
15. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? Wow, what a fun question! I call club soda and cranberry nectar a "Hampton Fizz." But I guess I might concoct a two drink "experience" called "Hampton the Callaway" where it starts cool like a minted, icy martini and then spins into part two of a cognac in a big round snifter warmed with a whisper of Frangelico, lit up for just an instant with blue flames.
16. How do you want to be remembered? Lovingly.
Ann Hampton Callaway is one of the leading champions of the great American Songbook, having made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host and producer. A born entertainer, her unique singing style blends jazz and traditional pop, making her a mainstay in concert halls, theaters and jazz clubs as well as in the recording studio, on television, and in film. She is best known for Tony-nominated performance in the hit Broadway musical Swing! and for writing and singing the theme song to the hit TV series The Nanny. Ann is a Platinum Award winning writer whose songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand's recent CD's. The only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, she has also written songs with Carole King, Rolf Lovland and Barbara Carroll to name a few.
Ann's live performances showcase her warmth, spontaneous wit and passionate delivery of standards, jazz classics and originals. She is one of America's most gifted improvisers, taking words and phrases from her audiences and creating songs on the spot, whether alone at a piano or with a symphony orchestra. Ann has been a special guest performer with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood and is featured at many of the Carnegie Hall tributes. She has sung with more than thirty of the world's top orchestras and big bands, and has performed for President Clinton in Washington, D.C. and at President Gorbachev's Youth Peace Summit in Moscow. Ann performed with her sister, Broadway star Liz Callaway, in their award-winning show Sibling Revelry at London's Donmar Warehouse. Their newest act Boom!, a critically acclaimed celebration of the babyboomer hits of the 60's and 70's, was recorded on PS Classics which debuted in the top 25 on Billboard Jazz. Ann was featured in the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade telecast watched by 6 million people singing Emmy Award winning song "Yes, Virginia." Recently Ann debuted her latest symphony show The Streisand Songbook with The Boston Pops and continues to tour the show with top orchestras across the country into 2015. Said Randall Fleischer after conducting the show with The San Francisco Symphony, "Ann's tribute to Streisand is a glorious evening of great songs, brilliantly orchestrated and sung magnificently." After performing the show at 54 Below, she garnered two Broadwayworld.com Awards and the 2013 MAC Award for Show of the Year.
Ann's new recording The Sarah Vaughan Project: Live at Dizzy's was released on September 16th. She is featured on her sister Liz Callaway's holiday EP Merry and Bright as well as Arbor's Records CD Johnny Mandel: The Man and His Music. Her recent solo CD's At Last, Blues in the Night, Slow and Signature have received high critical acclaim. She has recorded two popular holiday CD's - Holiday Pops! With Peter Nero and The Philly Pops, and her solo CD, This Christmas. Ann's other recordings include Easy Living, To Ella with Love, After Ours, Bring Back Romance, Ann Hampton Callaway, and the award-winning live recording Sibling Revelry. Ann has also been a guest performer on more than forty-five CD's including Kenny Barron's CD The Traveler.
Ann's dream of working in film, TV and radio has been realized in several recent projects. She made her feature film debut opposite Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon in the Robert De Niro film The Good Shepherd, performing the standard "Come Rain or Come Shine". She recorded "Isn't It Romantic?" and "The Nearness of You" in Wayne Wong's Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah. Ann recently wrote songs for the upcoming movie musical State of Affairs, to be directed by Philip McKinley. And, as a part of her mission to keep the American Songbook thriving, she has produced and hosted two TV specials called Singer's Spotlight With Ann Hampton Callaway with guests Liza Minnelli and Christine Ebersole for WTTW National which will dovetail into her radio series for NPR in development.
Ann devotes much of her time to philanthropic causes, both as a singer performing in numerous benefits, and as a songwriter composing songs in times of need. In September 2005, Ann performed her original composition "Let the Saints Come Marching", written to honor Hurricane Katrina victims, on a national TV broadcast on the Fox News Channel. Her song "Who Can See the Blue the Same Again?" was released earlier in 2005 as a single, paying tribute to the tsunami survivors and raising much needed money for The Tsunami Fund of The PRASAD Project. In the aftermath of September 11th, Ann composed the stirring anthem, "I Believe in America", which she performed on Larry King Live and released as a CD single. Just days after the tragedy, Ann heard an 8,000 year old prayer from the Rig Veda and composed the world renowned "Let Us Be United." Ann recorded the song with Kenny Werner, The Siddha Yoga International Choir and five-year-old Sonali Beaven, who sang in honor of her father who lost his life on Flight 93. It was released on CD and DVD and its proceeds continue to benefit Save the Children and The PRASAD Project.
Ann's father was Chicago's legendary TV and radio journalist, John Callaway. Her mother, Shirley Callaway, a superb singer, pianist and one of New York's most in-demand vocal coaches, was recently featured at New York's Town Hall, singing with Ann and her sister, Liz.
Ann resides in New York. She lives by the creed best expressed in the Andre Gide quote: "Art is the collaboration between God and the artist and the less the artist does, the better."