Call Redialed: NEW Melissa Errico Interview: "Sondheim Sublime" CD + Feinstein's/54 Below Concert
I always love getting to interview Melissa Errico! Her interpretation of music has the angels singing loud. Melissa knows how to make a song her own and that is clearly demonstrated on her newest recording Sondheim Sublime.
Melissa has taken Sondheim’s music catalog to new heights with this 15-song CD due out November 2 on Ghostlight Records. Click here to pre-order Sondheim Sublime!
To celebrate Sondheim Sublime, Melissa will be returning to Feinstein’s/54 Below from November 1-3 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!
1. This November you are releasing an album of all Sondheim music called Sondheim Sublime. What made now the right time to record an album of all Sondheim music? It was for two reasons—my feelings about the broader world, and my personal life.
Firstly…we are living in a world in which everything is uncertain—everything we count on from our democracy itself, to our jobs, our roles, our lives, are totally in turmoil and in doubt. I believe Stephen Sondheim, though he writes so specifically for particular characters in highly specific circumstances, has some mysterious power that he sews into his songs…that enable them to speak to universal emotions, and to ask the largest questions there are. And on a personal level, I needed his music this year, right now. The meanings of his music hold the meanings of my life, and capture so much of what I have learned in my life as an actor, and a person. His songs hold it all for me.
This recording actually came out of a series of live concerts done in New York, London, New Orleans, Chicago and more…and in those, I wanted to use Sondheim’s words and his music to speak for me….I wanted to highlight the wisdoms that flow out of his music and right into the deepest corners of my mind. My loves, my losses, my life caring for children, even my love for my dog, my awareness of my parents and what lessons and hurts they leave behind and within me…all of this is, for me, in his songs. Memories of nature and of youth in the reminiscent poetry of a song like “I Remember,” or the desperate fight for stability in “Losing My Mind.” Falling in love and falling out of love, falling too hard, feeling too much, sometimes, as in “Loving You”—all this, in his songs.
I wanted to offer words like those of the aged “Dot” in Sunday In the Park saying “It’s not so much do as you like/ as it is that you like what you do,” or from Into The Woods, “running away, let’s do it/free from the ties that bind/ have to take care unless there’s a where/you’ll only be wandering blind/Just more questions, different kind.” What do we leave behind when we depart this world? How much pleasure have we squeezed out of our time here?
2. How did you come up with the album's title? Sublime is about beauty but not beauty that is pretty. Beauty that is terrifying because there is so much ambivalence in it, so many tears in the joy. It is a common word in the history of art, often used to describe high mountains or scary things that were both beautiful but spine-tingling. Beauty with an edge. That’s how I feel about Sondheim’s beauty.
3. In recording Sondheim Sublime, what did you learn about Sondheim's music that you didn't know beforehand? I didn’t know about his relationship with Steve Reich, for one.
4. Press notes state this album “shows us a side of Stephen Sondheim’s music that no singer has explored so completely before.” Can you expand on this explanation? That’s marketing talk. I can’t take credit for that. No one for sure has explored his music, ummm, as me. (For better or for worse!) But Stephen Sondheim does say to make it new by making it you. That’s possibly what the young advertising exec was trying to say.
5. How did you decide which songs you wanted to record? In the live show I sing some upbeat, satiric numbers, but for the album I decided not to attempt all of Sondheim’s palette but instead to tap into a special vein of sympathy, tenderness and passion that he offers -- a certain sort of river of emotion. I included flirtation and mischief in this river, with “Sooner or Later” and “Miller’s Son” and the vibrant “Isn’t He Something?” from Roadshow, a favorite of Mr. Sondheim’s, in part about a mother’s over-identification with a child’s seeming success. But most of it, I hope, is unified...songs that are intense and even spiritual and well, sublime.
6. Were there any songs you wanted to include on the album, but didn't get to? Yes. I almost printed them here, but I decided against it. For Volume 2.
For these last few questions, let's play with some of the song titles on this album.
7. Of course my first choice is "Sooner or Later," which Madonna did a cover of in 1990 for her I'm Breathless album. What is something in your life that this line, "Sooner or later you're gonna be mine" would apply to? As much as I like you, why on earth would I tell you the truth?
8. When have you needed someone to "Send in the Clowns" to cheer you up? This morning.
9. With "Children Will Listen," what is something you've tried to instill in your kids? I’ve tried to instill in them that they can listen to themselves, that they are excellent at knowing what is good for them.
From day one, if you make yourself a God at home, then your children will always reference Mom for “the Answer.” I’m trying to show them that they have the wisdom to make excellent decisions. That’s what they ought to see in me: not the answer, but that I trust them.
10. “With so little to be sure of" seems like a fitting song to record in these troubling times we live in. But my question is how do you stay positive during these dark days? Sondheim is a river, I said, didn’t I? Yes in him I see…a river of empathy….a brilliant guide. The incomparable richness of his music approaches a spiritual level for me, a sanctity, a call to care for other human beings, to share in jubilation with people we love, to love, to touch, to vote, to marry, to empathize with struggles and most of all, to move forward. To move on. I chose the songs on this album to take you, I hope, down one river where the water is sometimes incredibly clear and lucid, and other times beautifully, complexly muddy.
I guess I want to shed light—Sondheim’s light—on that river. Maybe to capture the way the light touches the water.
More on Melissa:
Melissa is best known for her starring roles on Broadway in the musicals My Fair Lady, Anna Karenina, High Society, Dracula, White Christmas and Amour which won her a Tony nomination for “Best Actress” and began a longtime association with its composer Michel Legrand. She has also been a recording artist and concert singer, releasing several solo albums and working with some of the world’s best symphonies and in jazz and cabaret spaces.
More recently, she has been establishing a reputation as a writer, publishing essays in The New York Times and beyond. Television roles include the series Central Park West by Darren Star, recurring roles on Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick and Showtime’s Billions. Melissa has also recently finished shooting a role in The Magnificent Meyersons, an Eric Oppenheimer film with Kate Mulgrew.