Our special guest Sean McDermott has had the privilege of singing to the President of the United States at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on three separate occasions. He made his solo debut garnering glowing reviews at New York’s prestigious Joe’s Pub, at the Public Theater and he has performed at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall.
Ladies and gentlemen, our special guest is Sean McDermott. First of all, thanks so much for joining us.
Good to be here.
My first question: who is Sean McDermott?
Oh gosh…well, I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado…come from a family of cattle ranchers…my dad’s from back East and both my folks were in the entertainment business. My mom studied to be a concert pianist so music was always in my life and I started studying voice and music around thirteen and went to college for music and decided I wanted to pursue musical theater so I moved to New York and started in my career there. A couple years after living in New York, out of college, I got my first Broadway show and the rest is history (laughs). Sean McDermott is someone who loves music and loves the entertainment business and, uh, this CD is a little different from the previous CDs that I’ve done that are big Broadway production CDs.
What singers have influenced you the most?
Well, you know, in the beginning my folks were very much into classical music so I listened to a lot of opera….Maria Callas, obviously Pavarotti…but as far as my genre of singing, Johnny Mathis would have been one of the singers that I saw live. My folks took us to see him. I must have been ten years old. Certainly Barbra Streisand, who I ended up then years later performing with on her European tour, was a big influence just cause she’s an amazing singer and had the ability to communicate not only through, uh, you know, sounds and tones but, uh, emotion. Early on, Mario Lanza, Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson…all of those movie musical singers…certainly Shirley Jones, who I ended up working with later as well…Robert Goulet, who I worked with as well…you know, these people influenced me and that’s why I did choose to go into musical theater because it was that combination of opera and not really pop, but it, you know, it was operetta op…you know, it was the American musical theater form of opera…how that began. So I was really drawn to that. It moved me and that’s who I listen to, of course, and was inspired to, you know, sing like. But of course, you know, I love James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, the Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, I mean, that was all my time, you know…the 70’s were a huge influence too. That’s why this album has some of that on it, which I’d never been able to record before…some of those 70’s tunes; ‘Whiter Shade of Pale,’ uh, Journey with ‘Open Arms,’ not so much in the heavy rock but, you know, classical rock.
You mentioned there a lot of people…
And a lot of them you’ve actually shared the stage with. You’ve shared the stage with Bernadette Peters, Johnny Mathis and you mentioned Robert Goulet. Could you pick one that has been the most thrilling?
Well, I don’t know if it’s obvious…but Barbra Streisand certainly was the most thrilling to stand next to and, you know, sing the high note at the end of ‘Somewhere’ from ‘Westside Story’ or, you know, ‘Evergreen,’ singing a duet and, you know, part of a song with her. That was magnificent. But, you know, at the same time, Bernadette is such an incredible musician and, uh, thrilling to work withas well so….and Robert Goulet was…I did a show with him so we did ‘South Pacific’ together so to sit on the stage as Lt. Cable, you know, kind of sickly and ridden with malaria and look over and watch this legend…sort of icon of his time…sing ‘This Nearly was Mine’ is something I’ll never forget but I would say Barbra Streisand was the most thrilling to work with.
I want to talk about your new album, ‘You’re Not Alone.’ What do you think of the new album?
I love it! You know, I’m very much like Streisand that I’m a perfectionist. I will always find things that I wanted to do different and perhaps better, but I am very satisfied with and, uh, think it’s honestly great material and not only covers the old songs that I’m re-doing, but also the new material is great. I love the new material. I love the writers that I worked with. I think you did mention, uh, that you love the Charlie Midnight songs. He was my first producer that I worked with on this album so…and is just an amazing writer. His credits go back…you know, he started writing for Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers in the 70’s. He produced Joe Cocker for years. Later on, Christina Aguilera’s Christmas album. He was one of the producers on the ‘Body Guard’ with, uh, Whitney Houston. So when I chose to come to LA, or choose a producer in LA, he was the obvious choice and I met him through the composer on a lot of my tunes, uh, who worked on the arrangements, Mark Chate, who is an accomplished pianist and scorer, a film score writer. You know, we started working on the material and he had him on his phone so I wanted to do something different from the Broadway albums that I had done, which I love. I produced them in London with a producer named John Yap who is on Jay Records and we performed all of the material at Abbey Road Studios with the National Symphony Orchestra so it was thrilling to be doing the original scores from these songs, Broadway tunes, that we did an I wanted to do something different. I’m not a pop singer but I wanted to go, to go in that vein of pop opera or pop Broadway such as Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli.
The thing about Charlie Midnight is I think a lot of people wouldn’t recognize his name but they would recognize a lot of his songs.
Yeah….like I said, he sort of has been in the background writing for a lot of these people. He’s a guy from Brooklyn who…he’s got that real kind of Billy Joel feel to him and, uh, you know, when he started writing I think, uh, that was a big influence, that whole era of music early on, but he was always behind scenes, you know, writing for people but then, sort of producing so…and he loves being kind of behind the scenes in the studio and is an incredible producer.
Do you have a favorite song from this album?
Well, ‘You’re not Alone’ is the title track. I think it speaks to…well, it spoke to me. I, um, was actually wanting more for the album so I actually went with, after we finished with Charlie, I went with another producer and wanted, you know, to add things to it and this producer actually wrote ‘You’re not Alone.’ I found out later that Ivan ended up writing ‘You’re not Alone’ with Charlie Midnight so it was quite interesting that, you know, there are no mistakes and I really wanted to record this song and it kind of speaks…it spoke to me and I think everybody that listens to it, you know, over a few times says “Wow, this sort works really for what’s going on right now. We’re going through some really challenging times and we’re not alone in all this.” Everybody’s kind of feeling stuff, you know, the sort of shift in consciousness and whatever you want to call it and everybody’s kind of in this together so that sort of worked. I love that one. It’s based on the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ so it…that kind of brought me back my classical roots and, but also, ‘Ordinary Man’ is one of my favorites. I kept it on there. It’s a Charlie Midnight song. You know, those two would be two of my favorites. Of course, ‘Walking in Memphis’ was a great Mark Cohn tune that I, you know, performed several times so I would say those would be my three. What’s yours?
Well, that’s a good question. I thought your rendition of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was really, really interesting. Getting to discover those Charlie Midnight songs, I thought all of those songs were exceptional. There’s a lot of good choices. On that note, when someone listens to this album, what do you want the listener to get from the experience of listening?
Well, I want them to enjoy what they’re listening to….maybe be uplifted by it. I know I do get a reaction a lot of times that thereare tones in my voice that make people feel things…that makes them feel something physical so, whether it’s being moved by it or…and I find that in a lot of singers that I listen to and it’s sort of unconscious…it’s really kind of who I am and what I do so I always love it when I hear after a performance, “My god, you really moved me. You know, I felt something physically,” so I guess that would be…I always think we kind of can, you know, get to people…communicating that ultimate joy… when you’re listening to a piece of music that just makes you…gives you chills…or takes you to another place and that’s what I hope that people get by listening to this CD and certain songs from it…you know, the messages in some of the songs are really good….you know, really powerful…and also, the older tunes, you know, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, ‘Open Arms’, ‘Walking in Memphis’, you know, kind of taking them back. That’s why I chose covers or, uh, you know, tunes that had been recorded before so it’s not just all original. I do have three other albums. The first one that I did was all original material and some great songs and Paul I’ll send you that one as well but the response that I got was, “We love these songs but we don’t recognize any of them,” so that was sort of my point to choosing songs that were some of my favorites and that everybody knows.
As a singer, would you say that you’re more moved by the lyrics or the melody of a song?
That’s a good question and it’s different with the different songs. You know, I’ll listen to Rachmaninof’s ‘Concerto in D Minor’ and it is just…there are certain parts of that melody that really move me to real emotions yet, a Carly Simon song or, like, you know, a Carole King…there are lyrics that just really make you feel things and think things and I think it was a song recently that I was listening to that was a 2008 Grammy nominee by Vince Gill called ‘What You Give Away’ and if I…if you listen to the words it almost kind of…you know…I get moved to tears because it is about not what we have…it’s about what a man really is at the end of the day is what he, what we give away in love, or monetary or whatever…it’s whatever it is. Vince Gill is an incredible singer, but those lyrics are just amazing so it depends on the song, you know, and obviously with classical music or just instrumental it’s going to be the melody…kind of a mix of both.
What is the best thing about being Sean McDermott?
Oh…what is the best thing? That’s a, you’ve got some good questions…that I have the opportunity to have great experiences on the stage with some incredible performers…some amazing, talented people. Um…I’m very, very grateful I guess that I’ve been able to do what I do in an art from that is just so joyous and fun and wonderful…being musical theater, of course, and performing because I do a lot of concert work with symphony orchestras and being able to be in front of an audience and make people happy.
One of the amazing things about music is that a song can be in any language and there’re going to be people all around the world who identify with it. We have a lot of listeners from different countries who listen to this show so my last question for you: for anyone who hears this interview and for anyone who’s listening to your music as we play it, what do you want to say to all the people who are listening
Certainly for me, singing is an expression of the soul. It opens us up and lets us express just ultimate joy so for, uh…listening to a piece of music is a similar experience when you’re moved by it. Music is the answer. Music never stops. Having music in your life and searching for new music…there’s so much out there. It really does help us to evolve, I think. Tones are extremely healing in my beliefs so find a piece of music…several pieces of music to listen to that will make you feel things…make you feel…whether it’s chills, whether it’s tears, whether it’s happy, whether it’s sad…it’s making you feel and that, I think, opens up the soul and lets us…allows us to feel that ultimate joy which we need to have on this planet right now. We need to, uh, all be feeling joy and bring that consciousness up, up, up in sort of an esoteric way. Just be happy, you know. Listen to music. It’s an expression of the soul and moves you, I think, more than anything. Dancing is good too and so dance to the music. (Laughs) Find music you can dance to as well.
You know, you’re the second guest who has said to dance. The other one was, believe it or not, Adam Carolla. (Laughs) I don’t know why…Adam Carolla said that.
(Laughs) Oh did he?
That surprised me. I just didn’t see him as a dancing kind of guy, but he…that’s what he said.
Well sometimes you find something that not only you can sing to, but you dance around like a fool…maybe in your underwear…you know. There’s not a better feeling in life than dancing with people but you know, there is that, you know…just let it all out, you know…it’s who you truly are…just be…you become who you really are, I think, is what I feel sometimes and if somebody were video-taping it, I’d probably be really sorry.
Slip it on YouTube and it’d go viral or, who knows, maybe it would help a lot of people but…
Well, thanks so much for this interview. I appreciate it.
Sure Paul. Thank you.
TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO
DAVID BURNHAM. My goodness! What a voice! That was the thought when we first had the opportunity to hear his record “One Day.” Along with some new original songs, Burnham tackles “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “Unchained Melody,” and let me tell you the results are pretty spectacular!
Then there is this interview. David Burnham is a Broadway singer and joins us to talk about his background and this album, which is a follow-up to his debut recording “David Burnham.” Burnham sings with symphonies all over the country and his solo concerts have reached Europe in addition to the United States and Canada. We hope you enjoy this interview with this singer.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s our pleasure is with great pleasure, to welcome a singer, a song writer, a recording artist, a performer, Broadway’s David Burnham. Thank you so much for joining us, it’s a great pleasure to welcome you.
It’s really my pleasure to be here Paul.
My first question. I’ve affixed a lot of labels to you (David laughs) but who is David Burnham at heart?
Who is David Burnham at heart? Well I guess at heart, I’m an artist, basically I am happiest when I am creating my music and performing and just being creative in any different venue or whether it’s a record or whether it’s on stage, as long as I get to do what I love, which is to perform, then I’m happy.
Well take us back a little bit, what was life like growing up?
Well, I grew up on a farm, about an hour outside of Los Angeles, in a small town called Fontana, which we lovingly call ‘Fontucky’, didn’t know I could sing until I was a junior in High School, I was trying to get into wood shop class and that class was full, so the only class they had available was choir, went into choir and opened my mouth and I could sing, found out I really loved it and luckily I had a great choir director and he kind of took me under his wing and encouraged me to pursue music and I ended up getting a scholarship to college on a music scholarship and went from there and just started performing and I’ll just sing for anything I can find and just started working in musical theatre.
What was your favourite music growing up?
My favourite music growing up, well I had a lot of different influences, my Dad loved Gospel music, and he also loved like, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, so I was exposed to a lot of really great crooners when I grew up and also, I enjoy some of the classic musical theatre performers such as John Ray in Carousel, and some of those guys really belted out tunes, I really enjoyed that growing up.
Tell me about the first time you dreamed of Broadway?
I had always been a fan of musicals since I was a kid, I would watch them on TV and stuff, but probably not until High School did I start getting the bug when I realised I could sing, I thought ‘well maybe I could actually be in a musical,’ that’s when it all happened for me as far as I started getting the bug, and then when I went to college and studied more, the more I studied the more I loved it, and then eventually I got my big break.
You mentioned some of the song writers that you heard growing up, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, what about now, what singers have caught your ear?
You know who I’m listening to now a lot? Is Adele, she’s got her new album, it’s just so fantastic and I really love what she’s doing musically, she really sings and her writing is just beautiful, ‘Rolling In The Deep’ is a terrific song, so I’m really into her right now, like I said, I have a lot of… very eclectic taste, I’ve always listened to a lot of different things, I listen to classical music even, and a lot of my influences comes from the past as well as what is current right now.
What is it you like about performing?
Well, performing live is a rush like nothing else, it’s that real exchange of energy between you and an audience, it’s immediate, it’s thrilling, you know, if you’re singing a song and you know that the audience is really on board with you and they’re really into it, then there’s this really great exchange of energy that happens that is just so much fun, and when you do a recording, you know, it’s great in the studio and you do the songs, but you don’t know how people are reacting or responding to it, so that’s the difference between doing a record and performing live, I think it’s that audience response.
Well speaking of the record, the new record from David Burnham is ‘One Day,’ what do you think about your new album?
Well, I’m thrilled with it, it took over a year to make, we weren’t doing it every day for a year, you know, I would go in and I’d do a show here and there and I’d come back and work really hard for a couple of months and then go do something else, but it’s everything I hoped it would be, it’s combining my song writing, my singing and music that I love, some classic standards and I got to work with.. I have a camp for kids called ‘Camp Sing’ that I do and three of the tracks actually feature the kids from my camp singing a big choir thing and was really fun to work with those kids and be able to put them on the album, turned out really beautiful and really inspirational and really proud of that.
This record is dedicated to your Mom, tell us about that.
Well, my mom was always my biggest supporter in life, when I was 8 years old growing up on the farm I would go out and I would kind of serenade the pigs, sing to the cattle and the pigs and I came in one day after singing something to the pigs and as an 8 year old boy and told my mom “Mom, you have to write to MGM because I’m now good enough to be in a musical I think,” she looked down at me and said “David, whatever you do with your life makes you happy, you do what makes you happy,” she has always been so supportive of me and I lost her to cancer a few years ago and so this album really expresses the love and appreciation I have for my mom and everything she did to me and everything she was for me.
Tell us about Mark Vogel who produced this record and he wrote a few of the songs.
Yes, Mark Vogel is a brilliant composer and pianist, we actually met a little over a year ago, we were working on a… a workshop of a new musical, new Broadway musical, we hit it off really well, he was actually starting to work on Camp Sing, he had an idea about camp and approached me about that, and so we started working on that and realised musically we are very similar in our style and how we work, and he writes a lot of music for Fox television and scores for movies and stuff like that, we just instantly hit it off and started recording and trying, you know, just one or two songs and that worked and so we ended up doing the whole album together and I’m just thrilled, now he goes on tour with me anyway, when I do my concerts he’s my Music Director and I’m really thankful that I found him cause he’s terrific.
Could you pick a favorite song from the album?
Wow, it’s like they’re all my children (David laughs) it’s hard to pick one, I have favourites for different reasons, you know I really love the way ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ turned out, I told Mark I really wanted to do a different take on it, not just the same kind of gospel take that everyone does, so I had this idea for a kind of Celtic feel and I think he really nailed it and gave us this really unique sound and then, you know, some of the new tunes that we wrote are kind of bubblegum pop if you will, they’re kind of really catchy and fun and they just put me in a good mood every time I listen to them and then the other ones like ‘Unchained Melody’, the string lines on it are so gorgeous, every time I listen to them it’s like wow, you made it sound like a movie, they soar and it’s beautiful, then of course the song I dedicated to my mom called ‘Fly Again’ is very personal to me because that particular song is… I think about her every time I hear it.
Tell us about this song ‘Three Little Words’.
‘Three Little Words’, that was a song that I wrote with Mark Vogel, it was interesting, any new song takes a journey and that one was no different, it started out as actually… we were going to call it ‘One Little Word’ based on the idea that, you know, “just go out with me, say ‘yes’ and give me that one word and I’ll, you know, I’ll be right there”, but aswe started writing one thing leads to another and you just make different choices and it ended up being ‘Three Little Words’, which means, you know, “just say I love you” and so once we got that then it all kind of fell into place. It’s kind of my nod to the 60s a little bit, it’s got a little retro feel to it, I’ve got like, lots of backup vocals on it, got tight harmonies and we took a little retro flare with it and then tried to add… make it modern, so I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
Another song on the album ‘One Day’ is a song ‘Beautiful,’ tell us about that track.
Well, “Beautiful,” it’s.. I co wrote that one also with Mark Vogel and my engineer, Luke Tozer, it was his idea to start writing that song, he was just nominated for a Grammy for Katy Perry’s album this year, and he was fresh off that and he was like “I have this idea for a song”, it actually started with a rhythm he had in his head, the drum track, this drum rhythm he had, so he played us that and then Mark sat around the piano and said “what if we put this kind of a melody with it” and then I came on and said “I have an idea for a lyric” and so the three of us kind of combined together and came up with ‘Beautiful,’ which is probably the most pop, maybe one of the most pop tracks on the album. It’s a different color and I think it turned out really cool and it was a lot of fun to record and the processes is really collaborative and interesting.
What is the best part about being David Burnham?
(David laughs) Well, I am blessed that I get to do what I love to do and that’s perform and write music and sing songs, I’m just so thrilled that I don’t have to, you know, have a nine to five job, I get to perform and for me that is the greatest gift, I can’t imagine doing anything else and I’m so lucky that I get to sing for my supper (David and Paul laugh).
Well, is there anything on the horizon?
You know, the new album just came out so we’re starting to promote it, so we’re going to be doing lots of concerts, and putting a tour together and going to take this record on the road, and the eventual goal is to go overseas and play Europe and whoever will have us and listen to our music.
Any desire to sing in Atlanta?
Yeah, I love Atlanta, Georgia. I actually did “Light in the Piazza there, and that’s a great town, great town. I would come to Atlanta in a heartbeat.
Alright, well, just putting that out there. (Paul and David laugh)
And that’s where the Paul Leslie Show is based from, is Atlanta?
That’s right, but we have listeners all over. It’s kind of interesting, we actually have more listeners in New York City than any other place.
Oh wow, that’s so cool.
I don’t know why that is but…
(David and Paul laugh) Well that’s great. Well I love Atlanta, it’s a beautiful city and the people are really nice, I had a good time there.
I know that this one’s just come out and you’re promoting this one, but are you already thinking in the back of your mind, does it ever pop up like…the next record?
Yes, we’re already starting and it’s going to be the Christmas album.
Hopefully ready a year from now. It won’t be ready this Christmas, but the following Christmas. I’m crazy for Christmas. I’ve always loved it and I think my voice suits it pretty well, cause you can do some big singing for Christmas stuff. (David laughs)
Well, I have one final question. No matter where somebody is when they’re listening to this interview, what would you like to say to all the people who are listening in?
I would just say pursue your dreams, pursue your dreams, if.. it can happen if you make it happen. I’m living proof, I got out there and I made this album and it’s a lot of work, but boy, the payoffs are great, just inside you feel so great if you actually get to do what you love to do and so keep pursuing your dreams.
And everybody out there that wants to find out more about you, they can visit lmlmusic.com they can also visit your website for more information and what would that be?
That’s it, they can find out touring information, information on my records and where I’ll be next and all that stuff.
Well Mr. Burnham, I appreciate this interview very much.
Well thank you Mr. Leslie, it’s my pleasure.
All right, well you have a fantastic day.
You too and thanks for listening to my music.
TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.
I have sung for presidents, I have sung for the troops, I have sung in some of the finest halls and opera houses in this country. Yet, I remember being a little girl in Brooklyn, singing from stoop to stoop, dreaming of these days. It is so unbelievable to me, and it is so wonderful to be lucky enough to live your dream.
Our special guest is Julie Budd. Thank you so much for joining us.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
I think most stories are best from the beginning. Tell us, what was life like growing up?
Well, life was pretty good. I mean, I lived in Brooklyn. I have two sisters. We lived with our parents and our grandparents, and we had a very traditional home and lots of friends in Brooklyn. And I went to school with all my friends and I had a pretty – I can say I had a pretty normal life but I was always pulled toward music so I don’t really think my parents were surprised when I went into music, although my mother wanted me to be a doctor and my father wanted me to be a lawyer.
The pull to music early on, was it a specific style of music?
You know, I liked everything. I just, I just heard the magic in everything, whether it was Elvis or the Beatles or, you know, whoever it was. I mean, you know, Simon and Garfunkel and, you know, Neil Diamond – like, whoever it was, I was pulled. But I loved show music. I loved big bands. I loved big bands. I loved all the original Broadway cast albums. My mother and father, every Saturday night would go out to a Broadway show and my mother always brought me back the original cast album and I got hooked. And it’s really because of my mother.
Were there cast albums that you liked in particular?
Yeah. There was one that I thought was the most perfect musical ever written – ever written! And I think it was My Fair Lady. And I thought Julie Andrews, I thought Julie Andrews was like over the top magnificent. And I wanted to be her in the worst way, I wanted to be Julie Andrews.
Tell us about some of the singers that influenced you the most.
Well, the first singer was Julie Andrews because my voice, when I was a little girl – I really, I mean, I don’t think I had much of a belt voice in those days. I mean, I think it was something that I developed, a chest voice. I really had a very high, almost a coloratura. It could have been. I know I was a high soprano but I could have been a coloratura. And I was able to sing with Julie Andrews as a child. And I remember when my father used to come home from work at 7 o’clock every night, uh, while he ate his dinner I did a concert for him (laughs). Isn’t that funny how I remember that? And, um, I was able to sing in anything that, in any key that Julie Andrews sang in. So she was like my favorite singer in the world. And then, of course, my mother had the Judy Garland albums. I remember when I was like eight or nine years old there was an album, Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall, and that was played, like, over and over and over in my house. And I loved that album, not because I liked Garland but because I loved that the audience was going crazy. You know, it was a live album. So I was always used to hearing studio albums and when I heard something with a live audience – I swear that’s was when I knew this was going to be my world.
What about the first show you ever saw, can you remember that?
The first Broadway show? The first Broadway show I ever saw was Fiddler on the Roof. And I went with my sister, Jill, and we took the subway into Manhattan. And she’s my older sister so they entrusted her with me on the subway. And I was, like, 10 years old and my sister, Jill, was about – I don’t know, going on 14. Maybe she was 14 already and so, you know, she was like the grown-up sister. She took me into Manhattan and we got off on 42nd Street, and we walked to the West side and over toward the theater district and we saw Herschel Bernardi in Fiddler on the Roof. And I – the opening. I’ll never forget the opening! I don’t know if you know the show that well but the opening, the bottle dance – you know, the bottle dance, the Russian kick bottle dance? When I saw that, I swear I thought I was going to levitate (laughs). I thought that was the greatest thing I ever saw (laughs).
Tell us about Herb Bernstein.
Herb Bernstein? In fact, I’m waiting for Herbie, I’m waiting for Herbie now. He’s on his way over here to rehearse with me. I met Herbie Bernstein when I was 12 and I was staying at a hotel up in the Catskill Mountains called Tamarack Lodge. And Herbie – there were two sides of Tamarack. There was the hotel side and that’s where me and my family were staying and I was in camp, day camp, there. And then there was another side of Tamarack called Homestead, and that was the bungalow colonies, and Herbie’s family was in Homestead. And that was a good distance from the hotel. I mean, you had to walk on this sort of trail in a very woodsy, in order to get to Homestead. And Herbie was at Homestead. And I cut camp – renegade that I was, I was 12 years old – and I found out that there was a talent show. And I put my name on a list and they said that in the afternoon you had to audition. So I go down to the nightclub – and everybody thinks I’m in camp – and I auditioned and they accepted me. And that night, I was in the talent show and I won. And the MC was a guy by the name of Vic Minnow. And he was a great guy. He was a great guy. He was, like, the social directed and the MC. You know, those guys did everything. And the musical directed was a very, very well-known musician, very, very gifted musician by the name of Milton Lear. He was a wonderful musician and he accompanied me. I had no music, you know, and he just pulled it off the top, you know? And I sang Moon River and Who Can I Turn To? I was not your ordinary 12-year old (laughs) and I won. And I won. And when I, when I went backstage, Vic Minnow told me there was this man by the name of Herb Bernstein who was staying at Homestead on the weekends – he used to come up on the weekends; all the men came up on the weekends – that he had produced Laura Nero and the Four Seasons and Dusty Springfield and John Denver and Tina Turner, and he was working with this new singer. I said ‘Who is the new singer?’ He said ‘A new singer. She’s sort of a Broadway singer. Her name is Lainie Kazan.’ And I said ‘Oh, cool. That’s great.’ So he said ‘Well, why don’t you come and sing next week, um, in the finals and get Herb Bernstein to come down and listen to you?’ I said ‘OK.’ So I tracked Herbie down. Don’t ask me how I did this at 12 years old. I went all the way to Homestead by myself the next day. It was a weekend on a Sunday. And I went to Homestead on that trail all by myself and I knocked on Herbie’s door and I told him he had to come listen to me sing the next week. And then the next week I did it again to make sure he was there. And I sang and I won the contest again. And I went backstage and Herbie was standing right there in the wings. And from that day on, we’ve been working together. It’s a crazy story, I know, but it’s true. Believe me, it’s a true one.
Tell us about the different ways you and Herb Bernstein have worked together.
Well, in the beginning it was very different because I was a little girl. I only, I was only surviving on my instincts. Herbie had experience. He was a well-known orchestrator and producer, and he knew what he was doing. And he had to educate me on how to work professionally in this industry. He was recording Merv Griffin at the time and he brought me down to the studio and – where they were recording Merv – and on the break he brought me up to Merv Griffin and he said ‘Merv, I want you to hear this little girl sing.’ And Merv said ‘Oh, Herbie please. Another kid that sings at weddings and bar mitzvahs? Please, Herbie, let’s just do the session.’ Herbie said ‘No, no, no’ (laughs). Herbie said to Merv, he said ‘Merv, you really have to hear this kid sing.’ So I – Merv started playing and I sang Chasing Rainbows. Now what’s kind of interesting about that is I was 12 and I knew the song (laughs). You know what I mean? (Laughs) It was that I was very musically sophisticated and I really owe that to my mom. Merv just looked. He just played a few bars and he looked at Herbie and Herbie looked at Merv, and then Herbie said ‘Go ahead, sweetie. Go, go. Go sit in the control room and I’ll see you in a little bit.’ And Herbie and Merv started to talk. Well, two days later – two days, two days later! – now, keep in mind, I had never done anything professionally before – two days later, I wound up on Merv’s show. Right? It was, it was like a whirlwind. My life, my life changed overnight. Television can change your life overnight. I mean, more than anything in the world, television can change your life. And it was amazing. I mean, they got, they got me into shape in 48 hours (laughs). And I, and I wound up doing his show. And, you know, in the old days everything was live. When I did the Ed Sullivan shows, they were live. Everything was live in the old days. Sometimes they would tape them live and show them later but you were live. There I was, my life was beginning. Merv started me. Herbie and Merv. And that’s, and that’s kind of how Herbie, that’s kind of how Herbie and I always worked. Your question was how do you and Herbie work. Herbie and I work very, very simply. We get together, if it feels right we do it and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. At this point we’ve just done so many shows over the years, that we have a kind of shorthand. I mean, we’ve written shows on the phone. We’re very in sync. But in the beginning, to answer your question, in the beginning I was the student and I – I like to think of myself as the perpetual student. I like to think of myself as someone who always remains the student. But in those days I was the first grade student and I was taking my cues from Herb. And I was very fortunate that I was with someone who was very smart, musically, and had a very, very good ear for what I needed.
What does it mean to be an eternal student?
I think that people who think they know it all or think they have it all covered – those people – or think ‘hey, I don’t have to vocalize’ and ‘hey’ you know, ‘ I got this down.’ I don’t know, people like that, I think they just become hacks. I think that you have to always be on top of your game. I think you always have to be the student. I think you always have to be studying. I think you always have to be listening. I think you always have to question yourself. I think it’s a, it’s a funny balance between you have to question yourself and you have to trust yourself. It’s a very strange balance but you have to find that balance. And I think that you have to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, watch and learn and listen at all stages, at all stages of your career. And I teach now as well, you know. I, I do master classes. I go all over and I teach master classes, and I also have a few private students here in New York. And I find that if you’re not listening you cannot be a good teacher. And if you’re not a good student yourself, and if you’re not curious, and if you’re not a person who is, um, detail-oriented, I just don’t think you can be a good teacher. You have to have that sensitivity and that kind of discipline and devotion to be a good teacher. That’s just, you know, my feeling. I, I just don’t think that people that think they have it all covered remain very good artists. I think you always have to be listening and studying.
Tell us about the first time you headlined. What was going through your head?
It was a very small engagement and it was actually before I came to New York. My first big headlining engagement – headlining, you know, big, big-time headlining engagement – was here in New York at the Copacabana. As a matter of fact, when I was 16 Jules Podell, who was the owner of the Copa, threw me my Sweet 16 party and he and his wife were very, very sweet to me. And they gave me a beautiful – if you can believe this (laughs) – they gave me a beautiful diamond pin when I was 16 years old. It was 24 karat gold encrusted, two-carat perfectly white diamond. I mean, geez (laughs), I was 16, you know? I still have this pin and every time I look at it, I can’t believe they were kind enough to give it to me for my Sweet 16. There was a big cake and they had the press there and – you know, it was my Sweet 16. And he made me promise him that on my 18th birthday, that I would open at the Copa, and I certainly did. That was my first really, really, really, really big public engagement. And there I was. But you know, it was hard to really enjoy it as ‘Oooh!’ you know, ‘My first engagement, let’s go out and have fun!’ There was a tremendous amount of responsibility attached to that. It was the #1 venue, maybe in the country – maybe in the United States – and there I was. And, actually, I wasn’t quite 18. I was still 17. It was, it was a couple of weeks before my 18th birthday, actually. And somehow, I don’t know how he did it but Mr. Podell got the powers that be to allow me to open up in New York, because there’s child labor laws. You can’t be performing in a venue that sells alcohol openly like that if you’re under 18. And somehow, he pulled strings and there I was. It really wasn’t my 18th birthday the day that I opened there and, yet, I was told it was perfectly legal. I’m allowed to do it. I have some sort of waiver. It was close enough to my 18th birthday and they let me do it. And so I’m on record, actually, as being the youngest performer to ever premier an engagement in an adult nightclub in New York City. I was the youngest performer to ever debut in New York. But, like I said, it was exciting but it was very, very hard. You know, I was a pretty serious kid and I was very aware that the, the perks that I was getting for being discovered so young. But they drew out a lot of responsibility and I was, I was up to the challenge. But I was a very steady…and that along with this privilege came a lot of responsibility. And I had to take care of my voice and I had to learn the show and I had to speak to the press and I had to deal with audiences and I had to do two and three shows a night. A lot of people don’t realize that at the Copa on Friday and Saturday night you had three shows and you had to do complete shows. There were no days off. You really had to take careof your voice. You had two shows on Sunday night. It was, it was a grueling first experience, I have to tell you. But it was exciting but it was grueling.
You’ve worked with so many artists.
Yeah, I was lucky.
You opened and worked with Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, George Burns, Liberace – just to name a few. Could you pick a favorite?
It’s, it’s tough to say. I could say right off the top of my head the four favorite people that I loved personally – personally – who I really loved. The first person was Liberace. He became a dear, dear, dear, dear friend of mine for 17 years. In fact, I’m still very dear friends with his choreographer and director. The second person that I loved, loved, loved – I loved Jim Nabors a lot. I loved him. He was really great to me. I loved him. Jim Nabors and Danny Thomas. Danny Thomas was like the best friend you could ever have in the world. He was the most loyal, true, best friend, bar none, that you could ever, ever have in the world. And I learned more from Danny Thomas in one day than people could learn in a hundred years. He was a great, great person. And then I loved Carol Burnett. She was, really taught me a lot about how to be on top, how to be a pro and how to be a real person when you’re on top – how to conduct yourself. She was always a real lady, a real lady. And she knew how to run her business. She knew how to get things done but she always knew how to do it like a real lady and I always admired that. And she’s a real example of how to be the eternal student. You know, every day, before we went to work, she did a yoga class, a stretch yoga class. And she was always a very finely tuned instrument. I really loved that about her. I loved that about her. And, you know, I really liked Frank. I liked Frank a lot but I didn’t have the relationship with him that I had with Liberace or Danny Thomas, and I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know him as well. I did the Jim Nabors show a lot and I got to know Jim. And I spent a lot of time with him and had a great affection for him, a real affection for him. I admired Frank a lot but, you know, Frank was kind of a complicated person and, although he was amazing to me – he was fantastic to me – and I really did like him. And if I had spent more time with him, you know, over the years, maybe I would have had better affection for him than I have for, you know, some of these other guys. But Frank was really terrific to me. You know when I think about it, I have to say – I mean, God, he could have used anybody in the world and he chose to use me. And I had some really great moments with him and wonderful times with him, very, very meaningful times with him, too. But I don’t think I had the relationship with anybody the way I did with Liberace. I was really close to him.
Someone we have to mention is the late, great Marvin Hamlisch. He’s no longer with us but his music lives on.
Oh God, do you know – I have to tell you something. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Marvin. It’s almost spooky. I mean, he’s, like, always here with me. It was a little bit over a year ago. Marvin died in the month of August. I would say August, September, October – yeah, it’s about a year and two months. It feels like yesterday. Ahh, I cannot tell you how … how hurt I was when he died. I cannot tell you how it just pained me so. I still walk around with it. I still can’t believe it even happened, you know?
Tell us about the song, Roses and Rainbows.
Well, Marvin wrote that for me and he wrote it with Carole Bayer Sager. He had another song – it was from a film called The Devil and Max Devlin and I co-starred along with Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould. And I had the lead in the movie and it was me – there were other people in the film but I happened to have the biggest lead part along with Elliot and Bill. It was about a girl singer. You know, she ran away from home, she wants to become famous, she goes to California, she’s from New York, blah, blah, blah. And Marvin was chosen to do the compositions for this film. And, uh, he had another song in the film – he had Roses and Rainbows that he wrote with Carole – and then he had another song called Any Fool Can See and he wrote that with Allee Willis. And that was a great song, too. But Roses and Rainbows, they used that as the big closing credit song for the film. And Marvin wrote that for me. We recorded here it New York and it just turned out to be one of those great moments in the film. It was a really great song. It sort of got lost because the film was sort of an OK film. You know, it was cute and everything but it never broke out as, you know, like a major film. But the song, it was interesting, the song had kind of a cult following. And I re-recorded it. In the old days, when I did it with Marvin, we did it on A&M Records. I think we first did it for Disney Records and then we re-recorded it for A&M. I don’t know. And then, years later, because it had such a cult following, my fans kept saying, you know, Roses and Rainbows, Roses and Rainbows and they couldn’t track down where the masters were after all those years so I re-recorded it and I put it on my CD called The New Classics. So it’s available on The New Classics on Amazon. But it was just one of those great songs. And it was funny because all roads kind of went back to Marvin, you know? Then I wound up doing a play called They’re Playing Our Song and that was Marvin (laughs), you know? And then I wound up working with a lot of symphonies and then Marvin called me years later, and asked me to go on tour with him to do a “few” symphonies. I said ‘OK, I’ll do a few symphonies with you.’ And then we wound up working together for seven years (laughs) you know? He called me over a weekend, ‘You want to work with me?’ ‘Oh, yeah, alright’ you know? So we went and did some of these symphonies together. We wound up doing the Kennedy Center and the Baltimore Symphony and the Dallas Symphony and, you know, the National Symphony Orchestra, which we did at the Kennedy Center. And, I don’t know – Marvin and I were kind of like peanut butter and jelly. We knew how to do it together, you know? We kind of had a very – we knew how to fall into it kind of the way that I know how to fall into it with Herb, you know? Sometimes that just happens with people. We wound up working together for seven more years. So, I mean, I must have known Marvin for, like, 30 years. And then, when I got that phone call that he passed … I gotta tell you something. I still can’t believe it. I still think ‘Oh, Marvin’s going to call and we’re going to do another show together.’ you know? When people leave your life so untimely. You know, Marvin was not an old man. He was 67, 68 years old, you know? So, it’s kind of a shocking thing to hear.
Moving to the present, you’re performing at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City. Have you performed there before?
Actually, I did a tribute there years and years ago when Anthony Newley had passed. His lovely lady made a beautiful tribute to him there and his mother, God bless her, she was there, too. And I performed there, at the Laurie Beechman for the Anthony Newley tribute. But it’s the Laurie Beechman Theatre and she was a magnificent artist, you know that. So I’m sort of very proud that there’s going to be a tribute in my honor there. And Richard Skipper, who is so brilliant, my God, he’s going to host the event. It’s kind of an Inside the Actor’s Studio kind of an afternoon. And I’ll also sing a few songs. We’ll take questions and answers from the audience. People will be able to ask me anything they want to ask me. There’ll be film clips. We’ll talk about what it’s like to grow up in the industry and how to hang on in this industry for all these years. There will be a raffle. All of the proceeds are going to go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. And I chose that because of my love for Danny Thomas. You know, he was the founder of that hospital. And then we’ll go upstairs and we’ll have a meet-and-greet with all of the people in the audience, you know? We’ll sign some CDs and spend some time with people. It’s going to be a really lovely afternoon and an opportunity for people who show up to really talk to me in person, ask me questions, get to know me, speak to me on a one-on-one basis, and I think that’s what we’re really trying to do there, you know? Let me just say it, please. I’m sorry – let me just say the event is October 20th at 1 in the afternoon. It’s an early start. It’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon. You can go there and have brunch, you can be part of the event. It could really be a nice afternoon for you – and it’s on a Sunday and that’s always nice.
Very nice. You’re definitely a woman who has lived her dreams. What’s the best thing about being Julie Budd?
Oh my goodness. I think the best thing about Julie Budd was her parents (laughs). I had the most wonderful parents. That’s sort of the backbone of everything in my life. It’s my family, my parents. Unfortunately, inthe last five years I lost both my parents and that’s just (sighs) devastating. But I carry them with me wherever I go, and whenever I don’t know what to do, I close my eyes and hear their voice and I pray it guides me – and it does. And then I have two wonderful sisters. I’m one of three girls, so I have two wonderful sisters. They’re just the most fantastic girls in the world and they have great kids, so … And I have a wonderful man in my life and he has a wonderful family, so I’m blessed. I think the best thing about Julie Budd is that she comes from good folks and whatever she ever wanted to do with her life, or in her life, she had the confidence and the wherewithal to go forward and do it, but with all the good stuff that goes with you in life – that you need to take with you to have that strength and to know what to do. I knew right from wrong. And I was in a crazy business at a young age but, because I came from really good folks, I always knew how to survive and what to do. And I pray that I did it right and that I continue to.
For my last question – who is Julie Budd?
I’m a person just like anybody else in this world. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have an extraordinary and beautiful life. And I pray that we’ll all be well and that the country will function well, and that everybody will have a peaceful life. And who is Julie Budd? I think Julie Budd is somebody that just wishes the best for everybody, and hopes for the best, and works as hard as she can, and thinks of herself as being just like everybody else. And I don’t like show people that think that they’re so special. I don’t like anybody that thinks that they’re so special. I think everybody is special. You just have to love people, stay close to your family, and that’s who Julie Budd is.
Well, I can tell you this interview has been areal pleasure.
Oh, that’s so nice of you. Thank you! You’ve been a pleasure to talk to. I wish you all the best, too. I hope all is well and thanks for having me on your show.
It’s my pleasure.
TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA.
ADRIENNE ANDERSON is the very talented lyricist who was introduced to us by lyricist Marty Panzer. She is most known for the songs she co-wrote with composer Barry Manilow. Some of the most beloved songs recorded and performed by Barry Manilow feature the lyrics of Adrienne Anderson, including Daybreak and Could It Be Magic.
Songs Adrienne Anderson wrote have been recorded by many great artists including Melissa Manchester, Bette Midler, Donna Summer and Isaac Hayes. The late great Frank Sinatra sang a televised performance of the song “See the Show Again” on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Fans of Dionne Warwick may know Anderson’s work from the song “Deja Vu” which she co-wrote with Isaac Hayes. With Peter Allen, Adrienne Anderson co-wrote “I Go to Rio” which became a signature song for Allen. The song was later covered by the band Pablo Cruise as well as the late Peggy Lee.
Who is Adrienne Anderson?
Wow, well combination of things of course and evolving. I am uh much more of a family person now than I was when I started my career. I’ve got a daughter who is 25 years old and has a huge future of her own, a husband who I’m devoted to that I’ve been married to for almost 30 years. As far as my definition of myself as a careerist; that’s never really got away. I love the creative process. I’ve always loved the creative process and while my projects vary I hope to be involved one way or another in something having to do with music for the rest of my life.
So speaking of life, let’s go back to the beginning. What was life like growing up and where are you from?
I grew up in Manhattan and it was fantastic. I was very, very lucky. Child of privilege, I got exposed to the golden age of Broadway. When I was just old enough to have any idea of what I was watching. And I mean the Golden Age I mean South Pacific, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, etc. all the original stage productions. When I was in the eighth grade West Side Story opened, changed my life. I went to see it four times. Studied theatre, studied dance, studied boys and was just very, very blessed to be in the cultural center of the western world and it had a life altering effect on me and I; I just loved growing up there.
Can you remember perhaps specific records or specific songs you heard around the house or on the radio?
When I was the youngest it was the Broadway stuff that had the most immediate impact on me because it was the height of Rodgers and Hammerstein and I was; just as I say; barely old enough to understand how great that stuff was. Also seeing it all on the stage, in real time, had a tremendous impact on me that I think lasted me all the way through. I mean to this day it’s scary how I can recall all those lyrics. I also had a Father who was very sophisticated musically who exposed me to jazz very early in life. So that I was very aware of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Bix Beiderbecke and Art Tatum and people like that so that I was not your typical kid growing up where when I was in college and everyone was listening to those early Beatles records. I was a Charlie Mingus fan a Miles Davis fan, a Horace Silver fan. I owe a lot of that early exposure and sophistication to my father.
Did you always write?
No, no, not at all. Originally I wanted to be on the stage. I did summer stock, I had some potential I went to Carnegie Mellon which is a very renowned theatre department and then I studied in New York, and was quite serious about all that but then it was the sixties you know and theatre got really boring and the real theatrics and entertainment had switched over to music and I had great taste; I didn’t have a great voice but I had great taste so I put together a little act and that’s actually how I met Barry. It’s a cute story I actually hired him as my accompanist to help me put an act together for ten dollars an hour and that’s how we met.
What was your first impression of Barry Manilow when you met him?
Well he was just the sweetest, geekiest guy that I had ever met, ya know, with a great, great ability to play piano and accompany. Everybody used him. He and I found each other to be kindred spirits almost immediately because he had this passion towards jazz and so did I. And he thought I was the cat’s meow and for some reason he loved my voice and I loved his playing and we just hit it off from the first time that we did a song together; it was instantaneous. So what we did was we spent about eight or nine months putting this act that was so unique that the people who were managing me; when we presented the act to them; said they couldn’t book me because nobody would understand or recognize any of the songs that I was attempting to sing. So they fired Barry and put me with somebody else. But Barry and I continued on and he was just starting to write a little bit and he said well since I’m trying to write songs why don’t we write songs together. I said sure ok so we started writing songs together and it was the tail end of the brill era I mean really the tail end of the brill era. But we would write a batch of songs and I wrote the lyrics because I wasn’t going to play like him; I couldn’t play like him. But we did a lot of duets too, two part harmonies and just thought it was great, great and we would just go from floor to floor and knock on publishers doors and Barry would play and I would sing and we would play songs for a hundred dollars and that’s how it got started. And eventually I lost more interest in the performing end of it and gained more interest in the writing of it and that was pretty much because of what he and I were doing together.
Can you remember the first song that you and Barry Manilow wrote that you’d say “this one’s a keeper”?
“Our Love Will Still Be There” was the name of the song. It was good; we wrote a lot of good stuff. I mean I don’t think anybody actually published that one but I think that was the first song. He was always a great keyboard player and he always had even from back in those days the same kind of charm and personality that he’s got now. Of course his ambition in those days was to be the next Nelson Riddle. He wanted to be an arranger. He never ever thought of himself as a vocalist but the fact is he had the same voice then that he has now. Who knew?
I remember hearing him one time in concert, he was at Philips Arena in Atlanta and he was telling a little story on stage and he started out and he said “I have never been much of a singer,” and I thought “yeah right.” But, I have heard that story from a couple people that they never thought of him as a singer, it was more like what Bette Midler said to him, “But, Barry, you don’t sing.”
Well the thing about Barry which I guess you could say similar was that and one of the reasons that I stopped pursuing that was because the key I think to being a success as a vocalist is getting that personality across. He was always, always able to do that and that’s why I don’t think he thought of himself seriously as a singer because he didn’t necessarily have the technique or the pipes but what he did have right from the beginning was his personality; which was his own that came through and had a charm and a warmth, and a humor that never really changed and a tremendous (technicality)
What was the first song that he recorded of yours that was a co-write?
That he recorded of ours?
Well there’s actually an interesting story to this one because what happened was I was in New York. I was moving to the West Coast because I was marrying somebody who wanted to move to the West Coast and I sorta figured oh well, let’s give it a go but I was very apprehensive about breaking up the relationship with Barry and being on my own because I thought well if I don’t have him writing and playing what am I going to do; just gonna be on my own; so I determined to try to figure out how to do it by myself I rented this rehearsal space on 57th street for whatever twelve dollars an hour and this was in the midst of the Paul McCartney Era. I came up with this little tune called “Amy” that for what it was; was actually quite good and quite charming and my soon to be husband in those days was a big shot music publisher at CBS and he had a production company and everyone agreed that this thing should be recorded. So full production, so we went into the studio to record this song and of course Barry was around, at the last minute they said we need a scratch vocal Barry would you mind. So he went in and he did the vocal on it and that record Amy is what landed him his first record deal at Bell records. So it’s ironic because he didn’t even write that song. I wrote that song.
Yeah, a little bit of trivia there.
You worked with so many people. I don’t know if this is true, but I read something about you working with Frank Sinatra.
Oh I never worked with Frank Sinatra, but Barry and I have a song called “Why Don’t You See the Show Again” which he actually performed on the tonight show when Johnny Carson was the host and nobody knew he was gonna do it and I was on the West Coast and Barry was in New York and he called me screaming hysterical and said “You’re not gonna believe this” and it’s a three hour delay so I had to wait three hours to see it but sure enough he sang the song and he sang it really, really well. And it was definitely a high light of my career without a doubt.
Well tell us about the song “Could It Be Magic” that Barry Manilow recorded.
Well I was already on the west Coast when he came up with the idea based on the Chopin prelude and he had come up with the chorus and was terribly excited played what he had over the phone to me and I became terribly excited because it was obvious that there was something really special that was starting to happen. I think I was staying at a hotel down in LA when I wrote the lyric to the verses. I still have the copy on Hotel stationery of what I wrote. It was one of those things that I just nailed it right from the get go. Needless to say it was time well spent.
Is it possible to pick a favorite song of yours?
You mean with Barry?
Just in general, any song.
Ah geez, not really, I mean I have maybe my half dozen favorites. I’ve just written so many songs, most of which have not been top ten hits. You know that’s the way it goes sometimes is that some of your favorites tend to be more obscure but certainly “Could It Be Magic” is right up there and with Barry we had a great time on the 2am Paradise Café project which was a highlight for all of us. A great experience ya know Marty and I were present during the recording of that record and I don’t know if you’ve heard the story but that was a one take and wrote. I don’t know if you know the musicians who were playing on that record?
Yeah. Fantastic record!
They were well rehearsed and Barry had written beautiful arrangements to link all of the songs, you’ve listened to it I guess so.
It’s all just continuous and that’s Barry’s music. They just did the whole thing without any interruption when they were over, finished everybody kinda looked at each other and said “is this possible” but it was. Ya know it’s very unusual.
What about “Daybreak.” What inspired the lyrics for that song?
Uh it’s kind of a funny story because when I wrote that lyric I really wasn’t thinking about Barry at all I didn’t think; I was thinking more in terms of a gospel R&B group I didn’t even show him the lyrics he was at my house and it was just sitting on a pile and he said what’s this; I said oh it’s just a lyric ya know and he said give me a couple minutes with this. I swear I remember I went down downstairs and made us lunch and by the time I had finished making us lunch he had come up with the music and ya know little could I have imagined that that little lyric was going to get the kind of mileage that it did but again it was one of the. A lot of lyrics that I wrote for Barry over the years were custom customized for him and that’s a great luxury when you can write for an artist. Especially when you can write for an artist that you know as well as I know him because I could kind of get under his skin and really, really personalize. Whereas if your just writing a lyric just to music that’s going out there to try to find and artist its very different but with “Daybreak” I certainly, I certainly didn’t have him in mind for that one at all.
It’s a fantastic song. I don’t think anybody could ever listen to that song, the words and the music and be in a bad mood.
I can’t imagine that.
Well ya know, its, it’s great, ya know, it’s given us both a great deal of pleasure. Ya know I try to make my lyrics as personal as I can in terms of my own point of view. Uh, I am by nature an optimistic so I guess that definitely came across in that lyric.
What is it like to have someone like Dionne Warwick record one of your songs, that song “Déjà vu,” it has to be incredible. She’s such a legend.
We were pinching ourselves. Barry produced that record and that was surreal because I was, uh we both were huge Dionne Warwick fans and that whole Bacharach/David catalog was just up there with the best of the ya know what was written in pop music in the mid-20th century and such a unique and perfect talent. I remember going into the studio while she was recording “Déjà Vu” her nonchalance was just astonishing ya know she was painting her nails while she was recording and puffing on cigarettes and then she would ya know just sing and she was just perfect and I remember Barry and I looking at each other in the control room and saying is this actually happening (laughing) we were both stunned and fans ya know like we were of a ya know younger generation growing up listening to all of the body of her work we were just in such awe.
What about your work with Peter Allen? Tell us about how that came to be.
Well Peter had a publisher in LA that I had a, a nice relationship with and so we were actually put together. We knew each other very casually just from knowing people in common and so it wasn’t we had never met but we weren’t friends we just kind of knew each other. So it was set up for us to write together. I had come up with some ideas, let’s see I don’t remember exactly it was some idea that was rejected immediately and the next think I know he’s saying well why don’t we write this and he started to launch into this music for “Rio” and the story as it goes is that we were just in an office publishers everyone had gone to lunch it was just him and me and the piano and we wrote the entire song in one hour with not a word ever changed and not a note ever changed and um when everybody returned from lunch we were terribly excited and we sat everybody down and said woah listen to this. Peter played and I don’t know if we both sang or just Peter sang but we just kind of knew we had nailed it. I don’t think anybody knew that that copyright was going to end up having the ledge that it’s had. This has just been astonishing ya know on a worldwide level. It’s been an amazingly successful copyright. But you can it’s just a crazy business because ya know you can write great stuff that never sees the light of day or you can write great stuff that takes you an hour like “Daybreak” took me twenty minutes to write. Then you feel almost guilty like this isn’t right. Ya know how can I be making this kind of money on something that took twenty minutes to write. I guess a lot of it is just circumstantial and I was very lucky I was very, very lucky. If you look at I don’t know what it is the percentage of people even in those days who earned a living writing lyrics I’m sure it was miniscule then and probably non-existent now.
You also have worked with someone who is an upcoming guest of ours: Melissa Manchester. What is your impression of her?
I adored her and we wrote a lot together and in those days in those days it was kind of different there were no restrictions her producer at the time just loved everything that we did and there was never anything held back in terms of we would just write stuff and it would just go right into the recording studio but Melissa and I were very, very close and we were very, very young. She was younger than I was and still is but there was a creativity and a free spiritedness to our work that was just; just delicious we didn’t feel any kind of commercial restrictions and I think there was an innocence in terms of being creative in a way that once you become more seasoned you tend not to be quite as because you tend to play it more safe and be a little bit more structured. But we had wonderful; wonderful times sharing the creative process together.
Kind of working our way to the present, not too long ago you worked on “City Kid,” the musical and you’re working on something now. I was wondering if you could tell us about these projects you’ve been working on lately.
Well you know instead of taking a day, a week or a month these projects take years. City Kid was kinda my brain child and I recruited two great, great guys to collaborate with me Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff who are the producers and quite successful. And I came up with this concept to turn what I thought initially was going to be a concept album into a stage production. I sort of undertook this myself in terms of developing the story and urging them along because they thought I was crazy and uh it wasn’t there thing at all. They had never thought in terms of wanting to do Theatre. I actually found a great group outside of Seattle who fell in love with wanting to help develop the project and so they did and we had a workshop and a full stage production up there some of the best experiences of my life. You can’t compare being involved with a group of theater kids with making a record because theater is such a community experience, a collaborative experience so ya know where as if you’re writing a song for a record you write it with somebody or alone, then you’re in a recording studio, ya know, it’s pretty quiet there’s not that many people there. Whereas here it was all about people and so my endeavor was to try and contemporize Broadway what has proven to be a very, very difficult thing to do. Even if you saw the Tony’s this year you could see that some of the stuff that was written a year ago sounds like It could have been written forty years ago so it’s very, very tough. Broadway is very, very tough. We ended up finally after having a substantial run up in Seattle uh coming down to LA and having an eight week run down here which actually proved quite successful. However we were in a 99 seat equity waver with a cast of 17 and six band members all union so the costs were unrealistic and we were forced to shut down before we found what we needed to move on so as of now “City Kid” is in limbo. It’s been very hard for me but in the meantime I’m pursuing this Pawnbroker project which is really, really a horse of a different color and isn’t pop at all, is very serious. I’m collaborating with a fellow by the name of Eduardo Del Barrio who is a very serious composer. I’ve adapted the book which you know I think I’ve gotten pretty good at. It’s a wonderful story there was a film that was made of the novel in the mid-sixties that Sid Lumet directed that starred Rod Steiger that won an Oscar, Quincy Jones did a superb score. It was a very much heralded property in its day and there’s still a generation or two that certainly know “The Pawn Broker” Your probably just too young oh but these are very, very long range projects ya know so that kinda suits me in this stage of my life.
What is the best thing about being Adrienne Anderson?
The best thing about being Adrienne Anderson?
Oh, well I guess the best thing about being Adrienne Anderson is that I’m a person who’s always been pretty comfortable in her own skin. I believe what I believe and I feel what I feel and I don’t tend to hide those feelings. I’ve been a very good Mother and a Very good Wife and a very good friend. People love me, I love them. There’s just not too much of a gap between my inner life and my outer life and I think that’s probably the best part of being me and the fact that I’ve been able to live out a lot of my fantasies. I’ve been Very, very, very lucky to have had the opportunity to do that.
I have two final questions. One is kind of light-hearted and then the other is a little more serious. The light hearted one first: Your all time favorite meal.
(Adrienne laughs) Oh…. a good steak and a piece of Chocolate cake
Oh yeah? How do you have the steak?
My last question: what would you like to say to all the people listening?
Oh, I would say find you passion and live it and be good to each other along the way.
Thank you so much for this interview. It’s been a great pleasure.
Well thank You I’ve enjoyed it.
TRANSCRIBED BY LISA MARIE BOHLAND-LUNDGREN
Talent? Creighton has it in spades. It all started with those black and white films…
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s with great pleasure we announce our special guest, Robert Creighton, Robert Creighton is an actor, singer, dancer, composer and author, thank you so much for joining us.
Paul, it’s my pleasure.
I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?
Well, that is the beginning and you know what? I grew up in a little town north of Toronto in Ontario Canada and as most lads in the town I grew up in, dreamed of a career in the N.H.L being a goldl tenor on the drama ‘Make Believe,’ but that dream was rivalled by my dream to be Fred Astaire, I was… at a very young age being introduced to the old movie musicals and for some reason, I just had an infinity for them right off the bat, those were the things… when people ask me about the cartoons and the things you remember from childhood, I remember my parents letting me stay up late to watch the black and white films, you know, and then carrying me to bed half way through when I fell asleep. That’s sort of how the dream of being in New York and on Broadway, my love for music of that era, that’s how that all began and then I was in a boys choir for many years, which was really a musical foundation for me, for eight years I sang from the age of seven I sang in a boys choir and got great training in that way. Then, by fifteen I went away to a school, a boys school where they had really great arts programme and all the sports, so I could do everything at once, and then I did a degree in music, in Ontario, then I moved to New York, which was always the plan from a very young age and studied acting for three years, and sort of carried on from there.
Of the various things that you do; acting, singing, dancing, composing, writing, would you say that one is more your master than the other?
Yes, I think that my foundation is probably my sensibility is as an actor first, my training was both musical and in acting but I think acting is my first… although singing is the biggest part of my life that’s for sure but I would say there’s… I’ve been very lucky I work a lot.. I mean my… currently my sixth Broadway show and I’m loving it, and I’d say there’s much better singers, better dancers and all that sort of thing, but I have a package that sort of suits me, I love to.. you know, I love to do all of it and luckily I’ve been getting to do all of it, so I feel very fortunate.
You mentioned earlier Fred Astaire, what are some of the other artists that have influenced you in the path of becoming an artist yourself?
Well, certainly from a young age it was Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and all those greats from that era, then, when I got to New York, I tried to imitate them as a kid, had a lot of fun doing that and then when I moved to New York I was in acting school and the teacher said “you remind me of Jimmy Cagney”, and I’m sort of built…I’m built just like Jimmy Cagney and looked quite a bit like him and you know, tap dance and do all those sort of things and I didn’t know much about him, I knew sort of, Yankee Doodle Dandy and maybe a couple others, but wasn’t really on my radar in a big way, I started watching his films and instantly became mesmerised with who he was as an actor first of all, just.. you… just his… he’s so dynamic on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him and at that point when I was really studying the craft of acting, really felt like he was someone who was ahead of his time in terms of his craft and all that, and then as I started reading about the man and who he was as a person how he worked and what his philosophy was on life and on his work, I just fell in love with who he was and I think he’s been.. James Cagney I would say has been the biggest influence in that way and that was currently dreamed of writing a show about his life, which, thanks to some collaborators who know a lot more about doing musicals than I do, we put a musical together, we’ve had three successful runs and we’re plugging away at that..so…
What was the experience of working on and co-authoring and conceiving this Cagney show?
First of all when I got out of acting school, his estate, Cagney’s estate run by a woman named Marg Zimmerman was… they had a play that had been written by sort of, by a friend of theirs, of Margie’s and it… they held massive auditions around New York and everywhere, and I was just coming out of acting school, I guess it was about a year and a half out of acting school, it got down to me and one other guy and, it’s actually a vivid memory and in fact I have the audition on video tape, because it was the first time I’ve ever been picked up in a car, they sent a car for me and went up to this restaurant in Stanfordville that this woman Marg Zimmerman owned and all of Cagney’s old friends were there, this is in ninety four, and all of Cagney’s friends were there, Harrison the boxer and different people and I had to do a fifteen minute, sort of, act and that’s how I got the part, but it turns out the play, as I know more about creating a show now, was, really there was nothing theatrical about it, it was just sort of a biographical telling and we work shopped it in New York and it just fizzled out, the man who wrote it wasn’t really a writer, he was a marketing guy, he passed away and it sort of fell apart. But that put a spark in me that someday I’m going to do a show about James Cagney, and then in the late nineties I really started putting pen to paper for a one man show about his life and sort of conceiving how that would, you know, the story I wanted to tell about who this person was, then in two thousand and two I was playing Tamone in Los Angeles in a production of Lion King there and a gentleman who I’d done a play of his up in Canada, who lived in Los Angeles, I invited him up to see the show, I met him when he came to see our production in Canada and we got chatting afterwards, his name’s Peter Coley, very successful playwright and I got chatting with him about my ideas about Cagney and he said “well, I love that era of Hollywood and I love James Cagney and let’s have lunch and we should talk more about it”, so we started talking. He really brought… well, I brought all this passion about Cagney and wanting to do the show and he really brought this knowledge of how to craft the piece and make something theatrical and we sort of hashed out a story together and he began writing it and I would sort of take it and be sort of the eyes and be the Cagney officinal, let’s call it that and sort of using my instincts as an actor and we sort of crafted the piece together and I started writing music and lyrics and we sort of tried to put in songs of the era but when we found they couldn’t completely tell the story, I started writing music and lyrics myself which I’d done some of before, it started to fit pretty well, so we kept going on that route and finished one draft of my music and lyrics and his book and a couple of the old time songs Cohan songs which you can’t tell a story about Cagney and leave those out. We did that, and for a year for the stage, a reading of it in New York and they agreed to produce it and they introduced us to a guy named Christopher McGovern who helped me flesh out the score and ended up really writing more than half the score and he’s a tremendous, just an amazing composer and smart about putting a musical together and the last piece with the Director named Bill Castellino who really started to help to break this all down and then build it all up in a much better way and he sort of served as dramaturgy and we… so we’ve got a piece now that we were still working on but, really, we found an audience that really respond to, we won the Carbonell award in Florida for the best new work when we produced it down there and we set two box office records in Florida, it’s been a very exciting journey, probably for me the most.. even as much as this new album that’s coming out, it’s been like a baby to me, those are the two things that have really sort of been a dream in my head and then have come to fruition and that are so, so satisfying on every level, and I’m starring in it of course, so you know, satisfying on that level too.
I wanted to talk about the album, the new album coming out ‘Aint We Got Fun,’ what do you think of your new album?
‘Aint We Got Fun’ was one of the first.. I had two titles that I was sort of playing with it in the beginning, the other was old school, Robert Creighton old school and ‘Aint We Got Fun’ because I love that song and I knew I wanted it on the album, it really was right from the beginning what I thought would be the title of the album because I wanted that to be the nature of the album, I wanted it to be really fun and really something that people could… you know, most of the songs on there, even if you don’t know you know them, you know them, you’ve heard the melodies before, they’re so engrained in the fabric of our culture here and I have two original songs on it that I wrote for Cagney, but the rest… and I’m told they blend in well, some people who don’t know that those are the ones that are literally from the twenties and thirties, so, I really wanted it to be fun and I put on there songs that I love, that get stuck in my head and that I find myself walking down the street singing and like Cagney, it was sort of a project that I conceived and really was passionate about doing it because I just love that music so much, and I thought it would be a great thing to have when I go do my Cagney show to have in the lobby so people who love this music can take it with them, and then I was interested in a part and got in touch with Georgia Stitt and did a work shop of her musical called ‘My Baby’ that she was writing and it had some of this old music in it, and her arrangements were so great and she is so talented and such a great person I started talking to her, I said “hey, this is my idea, would you maybe like to get involved?” Then she jumped in with both feet and produced and arranged most of my album and she gave it this fresh take to the songs and I would sort of.. some, she would just say “why don’t we do it like this” and other times I would say “I want to do it like this” and then she would put these two songs together and she would figure out the puzzle of how to do that, it was a great collaboration, and it grew into something that I didn’t expect, I thought it would be this little thing that people would take with them and it grew into a really legitimate album that I’m very proud of with horn sections and band all the way through and motion and a lot of fun, so that’s what I wanted, it started out I wanted it to be fun and that’s where the title came from and I feel like we’ve accomplished that, so I’m excited for people to hear it.
Do you have a favorite song from the album?
Whooooo, that is a tough one, that’s a tough question. Do I have a favorite song? Well my favorite song, which is a song that’s been… looking it up on the internet, it’s been recorded fourteen hundred times by six hundred artists, so it’s not like anyone was scrambling for the next version of ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ but it is truly, since I was twenty one, in my early twenties I did a review right after singing that song, it’s one of my favourite songs and in our treatment of it a guy named Joe Burgsoller played flugel horn and his playing on there, the thing on that song and when he added flugel horn, I just can’t get enough of listening to that part of it, him playing flugel horn, it’s so beautiful and romantic and passionate, so, I like that one, I really enjoyed singing it and putting together ‘Accentuate The Positive’ and ‘Look For The Silver Lining’ with my friend Tyse Bergis who sang with me on it there, that’s the real highlight of the album, it’s a big arrangement, lots of.. you know, the horn section and all that, I loved doing that one, and then of course getting to sing with Joe Grey, who recorded ‘Give My Regards To Broadway’ with me, we’re working together in ‘Anything Goes’ right now, we became good friends and he agreed to sing with me, that’s just a moment in time that was a gift to me that I’ll have forever, I mean he’s such a legend and just a great man and we got to go into the studio and do that together and that has great sentimental value to me.
How did you go about selecting which songs that you were going to record?
That was a bit of a process because, of course, there was a long list of great things from that era to choose from and one that I loved to do and who knows, maybe there’s another one coming, someday because there’s a lot that I wanted to do that we didn’t do. I knew I wanted to put my… these two of my original songs ‘Crazy About You’ and ‘Falling In Love’ on there because they are songs that I had, recorded … we have a demo for the musical of course, but I wanted to record them in a really full way, because I really enjoyed writing them, I loved singing them and I knew they were going to be on there, and then, I knew I needed to have some George M. Cohan and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ has sort of been my signature song for years and years and that first review where I sang ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, I did a big version of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ and I’ve done.. you know.. that’s been my party song for years, so I knew that was going to be on there, and then when George agreed to sing with me, you know, I wanted it to be a Cohan song, which of course, he originated the role of George on Broadway and that was just a great connection that we have, cause the Cagney thing, and then the other ones, it just came down to artist’s songs that I just can’t get out of my head. ‘My Buddy’ is one of the most beautiful melodies ever I think, and I used to just walk around humming it, I thought “well, I’d better do that and get it out of my head”, the first track on the album is ‘Dad’s Medley’ and those were two songs that I remember singing when I was three and four years old, ‘Aint She Sweet’ and ‘Five Foot Two’, my Dad used to sing them, my Dad… he would tell you this, I’m not speaking out of turn, he’s not much of a singer, but he loves to sing and dance and he used to sing it all the time and I remember singing them with him in the living room when I was three and four years old, so, I wanted to have a little dedication to him and put those songs together. Yeah, they were just, basically my favourites, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is on there, which I got to sing with one of my best friends Heidi Bookinstaff, which is just one of the most remarkable voices, it came down to a lot of my favourites really, to be honest with you, and there’s more to be mined from that, ‘I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl’ was one of my other favorite tunes of the era and it was Georgia’s idea to do that one, a male quartet, and so I had.. that turned out to be a really neat track because I got four of my buddies, great Broadway singers to do this Barber Shop quartet backing me up on that one, that was fun, it was a tough collection though. I’ll tell you one song called ‘Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,’ did you know that song before?
I did not know that song before.
Yeah and neither did I. Turns out it’s been recorded a tonne of times, but I didn’t.. and I know the music of this era pretty well, I had for some reason not heard of that song, and neither had Georgia and she was doing a show called ???? and I was going through that old music Tin Pan Alley and I was going through a thick book, just sort of reading lyrics and I had most of the songs I wanted to do and I was just looking to see what I was missing and I read the lyrics and then I sort of pumped it out on the piano, I was like ‘oh my gosh’.. I loved this song and I just walked around for days singing it and as soon as I introduced it to Georgia and she sort of played it out one time when we were together on the piano, and we were like ‘oh yeah, got to do this one’, and that turned out to be a really fun track to do with brass and the whole deal, but it’s such an up song and sort of reflects my philosophy on life and I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to do it,’ so, that’s probably a longer answer than you wanted but that was the process for choosing the material.
Well, the album, your album is entitled ‘Aint We Got Fun’, the new album from Robert Creighton, debut album, introduced by Georgia Stiff, she is a person that’s name comes up a lot on this show.
What was the experience of working with her like?
I can’t say enough good things about Georgia, I mean, she is.. I think her name’s coming up a lot because I think she is a really rising presence in the musical theatre world and in the composition world, she is first of all.. I mean, basically she is super talented and super smart, and then she has a really great ear for arrangements and how to flesh things out, take just a simple song and then… and make it something that’s going to be really fun to listen to, and she’s really smart about putting that all together, I feel like… I said this to her just the other day, she lives in LA now, but was visiting New York and I said ‘I really couldn’t have done this without you’ and I feel that way, I mean, she just.. she took my idea of doing this album and some of the songs and things and just came up with.. you know.. just made it all better, which was great, we had a very easy collaboration in that way, some of the songs she said ‘hey, what do you think of this, ‘My Buddy’ it was her idea to do just guitar and the ??? and I think it’s just a nice ‘breath’ in the album, you know, amongst all the other ?? songs and then, for example, all the medleys were my idea and then she just figure out, you know, the math of putting those together, for example the Barber Shop quartet, that was her idea, on the opening track there’s a kazoo, which turns out was her husband’s idea, you know, we would figure it out and she played what we had for her husband and he said ‘what about a kazoo’ and we all wentsaid ‘yep’, so.. it was a great collaboration, I feel very fortunate to have worked with her and I’m sure we’re going to do lots more together as we go along.
Everyone can visit your web site it’s robercreightonnyc.com what is the best thing about being Robert Creighton?
Well, that’s an easy question right now, I have a twelve week old son, also named Robert Creighton, Robert James Creighton III, and a phenomenal wife who is his Mother, so, I mean, yeah as to right now, it’s no contest, it’s the best thing about being me right now, I get to wake up with them every day, and that aside, there’s the ?? Foundation ?? and then, I’ve just been really lucky, I was a little kid living North of.. you know, a little town North of Toronto and the novelty has not worn off, I’m constantly aware of how lucky I am to get to do what I dreamed of doing, and this album is sort of another manifestation of a dream coming true right now, so I feel very, very lucky.
I have a final question for you. We have listeners all over the place, so what would you like to say to the people who are listening in?
I would like to say that I don’t think there’s anyone who buys this album that didn’t have fun listening to it, even if you think ‘oh this is maybe not my kind of music’ or, you know, even young people I’ve played it for, I have a lot of nieces and nephews who are between the ages of eighteen and twenty three, who, ‘Five Feet Two’ and ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ is on top of their iPod list, of course they’re bias, but they’ve all got the album now and I’ve gotten great reviews even from that demographic, so I think I’d love people to hear this music, to be an album you can play, put in the car and just when you’re…. you need a ‘pick me up’, it’s something you can put in and it will accomplish that and I hope people have a chance to hear it.
So, Mr. Creighton, I thank you very much for this interview, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
Thanks Paul, it’s been great talking to you, thanks very much.
TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.