In 2014, seven-time MAC Award winner Natalie Douglas & I sat down to talk about her Dolly Parton show Hello Dolly...The Music of Dolly Parton. Well, two years, later, Natalie is returning to Birdland with a brand new show celebrating the music of Stevie Wonder and Stevie Nicks entitled Stevie Songs (Nicks & Wonder). What a great time I had speaking with Natalie about this show, learning how Stevie Wonder & Nicks influenced her, the meaning behind some of their songs, and working with her good friend & musical director for this show Brian Nash. We also discuss her latest CD, The Human Heart as well as how Natalie hopes to improve her life by one percent better everyday!
Stevie Songs (Nicks & Wonder) will play, Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue), as part of Jim Caruso's Broadway at Birdland series on Monday, September 5 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!
1. On Labor Day night, you will be returning to Birdland with a brand new show called Stevie Songs (Nicks & Wonder). How did you decide you wanted to focus on Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder together in one night? What do you feel their common thread is that links them together in one show? It, like many of my show ideas, was born out of a combination of research & brainstorming. I start with an idea of what I want to communicate with a new show. Then through conversations with my crazy-talented & creative team, I try different approaches till I find the one that makes me giddy. This time I knew I wanted to explore some music of the 70s & 80s, so I started thinking of my favorite moments, songs, happenings and/or people of the era and came up with Stevie Songs.
When it comes to the two Stevies, I was captivated by their brilliant writing & performing, of course, their longevity & their completely unique personas. Even though, each one is different from the other, these characteristics are there in each. And I really love the way they both have a sense of play in their work, whilst still being true artists.
2. How did Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder influence or inspire you? Like everyone else who listens to their work, I’m moved, amused, challenged & ultimately awestruck by their artistry. I’m also in awe of the way each Stevie is totally him or herself, every performance is completely infused with a sense of total "being me-ness."
3. How do you feel the songs you picked for this evening compliment each other? Did you put any together for a mash-up? Well, you know I love to leave a lot of surprises when it comes to our precise setlist, :) Buuuuuuuuuut, I will say we’ve woven a couple of the pieces together in ways that really excite me! I’m never a fan of jamming things together that don’t make sense, but when the two songs serve to illuminate one another, I get all tingly!!! And in this case, we’ve found some tunes that work together quite well! I think the catalogues compliment one another fantastically — they both are truly gifted poets & while they can write complex, deep music, they each know how to write a pop tune with a great hook too!
4. One Stevie Nicks song you are singing is "Gold Dust Woman." The chorus of the song goes "Did she make you cry, Make you break down, Shatter your illusions of love, And is it over now do you know how, Pick up the pieces and go home." When was there a time in your life when you were broken down and had to figure out how to pick up the pieces and go home? Oh Goddess YES!!! How long do you want this article to be? HA! I have had romantic, professional, societal, familial, physical & emotional moments go really truly wrong — fortunately not ALL at the same time, but I have certainly been in pain. When my mother died, for example, I remember feeling as though I was moving through quicksand for weeks!…but I kept moving and then suddenly one day I was moving a bit more easily…not back yet, but on my way. I think it’s the picking up the pieces of your life & getting on with it (which you don’t have to do alone) that helps you heal.
5. You are also going to be performing Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothing" which is about a person who keeps saying they'll do something and never does it. Is there a project that you have been talking about for years that you just haven't done and your friends are tired of hearing about it? If so, what do you think is preventing you from doing that project? Maybe, now that you've recognized the blockade, do you think you'll be able to move forward with the project? Oh that’s so interesting, Adam! Your question has made me think of this song in a whole new way! Stevie wrote it in response to Richard Nixon’s mess of a presidency, as he saw it, so I’ve always thought about it in political terms, but that’s a totally fascinating perspective.
If I had to choose one project, I guess it would be writing my book. I’ve had the idea for ages & have written bits of things forever, but I’ve only talked about it rarely. Somehow though, my closest friends have begun to ask when I’m gonna finally do it whenever I tell one of my stories. (They’re funny/incredible cuz they’re true!)
6. For this show, you are working with your good friend & musical director Brian Nash. How did you and he first come to work together? What does he get about your visions for shows that someone else might not? Brian Nash is ridiculously talented. So there’s that! I’m really delighted I get to work with some of the best musicians in this or any other city & they’re also my friends! My longest musical relationship is with Mark Hartman who’s played tons of my shows at Birdland & elsewhere for almost two decades. Brian & I met at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party in it’s very earliest days (Thanks to Jim’s copious picture taking, we just discovered on which Monday in March 2003 we actually met!) We took an instant liking to each other & were playing & singing together almost immediately. It adds an extra spark of fun & surprisingly, both security & risk to work with your best mate! I feel as if I can take chances, really push myself & none of my guys (or my women, I have exquisite women in my band too) will let me fall!
7. You have been performing at Birdland for over 10 years now. In 2014, after your Dolly Parton tribute show, you were inducted on their wall of fame. What was that moment like for you/what did it mean to you? Quite simply, one of the best moments of my life. Like a lot of musicians & music lovers, I grew up in a household that revered Birdland & its history, so though I dreamt of standing on that stage, I had no idea it would come true. That was source of great joy to me, each & every time I stood onstage, so for the wonderful owner, Gianni Valenti & brilliant Monday night impresario, Jim Caruso to surprise me with this honor was almost too much to take!! Fortunately a great photographer was there shooting our show, so Kevin Alvey got some really vivid pics displaying my shock & joy!
8. In addition to this new show coming up at Birdland, you recently released your latest CD, The Human Heart. What made you want to title this album "The Human Heart" and how do you feel these songs represent the emotions our hearts feel? I’m so very proud of this CD, which was beautifully produced by Brian Nash, by the way. The songs are full of human experiences — love, pain, loss, discovery, grief, anger, injustice, victory, yearning and overall, joy. It’s our experiences that fill our hearts & describe our lives, like leaving snapshots in a treasured picture box.
9. One song you recorded for this album was Cy Coleman's "The Best Is Yet To Come." What is yet to come for Natalie Douglas? What do you want to do that you haven't? Everything! You know that fabulous Rupert Holmes song from the Streisand A Star Is Born? That’s my answer! I’ve done a lot & I’m really grateful for it all, but there’s so much ahead! For example, I’ve sung in over hundred cities in 21 states & 17 countries but I have yet to visit Paris! Singing there has been a dream of mine since my first French class at 6 years old! I want to record more albums (we have the next one in the can right now and just working on backing to finish it), I would love to do more theatre and, last but certainly not least, after two decades in our cozy little one bedroom fourth floor walkup, my husband and I would LOVE to move to a new apartment…preferably in a building with an elevator!
10. 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? Okay, confession time! As a notorious clutter-er, I’d love to improve my space organizing skills one percent better each day — eventually our current apartment would be sooooooooooo neat!
Called "a true force of nature" by The Times (UK),"sensational" by Time Out New York, "a monstrous talent" by Next Magazine and simply "everything" by The Daily News, her recent (and third) CD weaves a tapestry of Jazz ,Standard and Musical Theatre genres with Natalie's emotional force and incomparable vocal stylings. With compositions including "Mr. Bojangles," "Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man," "Sleepy Man," "Wholly Earth" and the title track, "Human Heart" Natalie Douglas lives up to her reputation as a "true, true star" (BBC London Radio).
Natalie Douglas is a Bistro, Nightlife and seven-time MAC Award Winner and has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Rose Theatre and The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and The Town Hall among others and has produced over 30 different concerts at her musical home, Birdland Jazz Club.