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Posts Tagged ‘James Taylor’

On Saturday, November 27, 2010, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf, direct from the pit of “A Little Night Music.” What makes this interview so special to me is that I’ve known Mairi since I was 15, when we met at Buck’s Rock Camp in New Milford, CT, at which time her kindness and friendship meant a lot to a boy trying to find his way. It was quite exciting for me when we reconnected in 2002 as I saw her exit the stage door at “The Boy From Oz.” And now to be able add this kind of dynamic to our friendship is a real treat for me. Mairi has been a fixture in Broadway orchestra pits since her debut in “The Boy From Oz.” She has played in the orchestra pits of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “LoveMusik,” “Sunday In The Park With George,” “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and currently “A Little Night Music” which is running through January 9 at the Walter Kerr Theatre (219 West 48th Street, between Broadway & 8th Ave).

On Sunday, December 19 at 8:30pm at Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Corneila Street, Greenwich Village, NYC) you can catch Mairi playing cello in “Joni and Johannes” (the music of Joni Mitchell and Johannes Brahms) along with Simon Mulligan on piano, and Randy Landau on bass with special guest vocalists Jessica Molaskey (“A Man of No Importance,” “Parade,” “Tommy,” “Crazy For You,” “Les Miserables,” “Cats,” “Sunday In The Park With George,” etc) and Mary Beth Peil (“The Good Wife,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Nine,” “Sunday In The Park With George,” “Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”). For just $15 + one drink minimum, you will get a real opportunity to see accomplished musicians and performers live up close and personal! For reservations call 212-989-9319.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a cellist? It was my cello teacher in high school, Nancy Green, who I also went on to study with in college. I went to a music boarding high school, so I was away from home and lonely, and her style of teaching was so expressive. She taught us about the connection to every note, the vibrato, the tone, what you were trying to say, what the emotion was, what part of your body the note came from – were you trying to sound like an alto voice or a tenor? With all the different types of tones and voices, I often came up with a storyline to go with what I was playing. Discovering what I could do by holding one note on the cello was exciting, and cathartic. I often think about that time in my life when I play “Miller’s Son” here at “A Little Night Music” because that first “B” that you hold for a long time is like yeah, this is what I dug about cello when I was fifteen. I moved to the US for graduate school and had another phenomenal teacher, Judith Glyde, who gave me the confidence to go out and actually work. Then I started playing shows and it all made sense…that emotional story telling feel.

There’s a masterclass of Sondheim teaching “Later” that was filmed at my undergraduate school (some time in the 80s, I think). It’s odd to know that so many years after being there, I’d be trying to express the quality he’s talking to the singer about in “Later” and I’d be trying to bring that to “A Little Night Music.”

1a. What was your first Broadway show that you played here in NYC? “The Boy From Oz” although I moved here to play “The Last Five Years,” which I had played first in Chicago. Me: I had no idea that you played that show, I saw it quite a few times, but it was “Boy From Oz” that I saw you at the stage door and we reconnected. Mairi: Yeah, it’s an amazing community that we are in because we see each other again and again, even though it’s nerve-racking when the shows keep closing… but the energy keeps going!

2. Who’s the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Joni Mitchell, although even saying her name makes me a little breathless so I couldn’t imagine working with her! But that would be incredible. Me: You never know…whenever I ask this question I always put the person’s name in the tag so you never know who from Joni’s team might see this. Mairi: During that time in undergrad it was the music of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Sting that I listened to when I wasn’t practicing. It was such an aggressively competitive classical environment, that I spent my downtime listening to their music. I actually worked with Sting recently and got to tell him that without “Soul Cages” I don’t know that I would be a musician.

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? That’s hard because I really like this. I guess I’ve thought about law every now and then. I was in graduate school for a really, really, really long time and at some point in that process I realized I could have gotten a law degree…hahaha.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? So much…There was a line in “Cast Away,” which I thought was in the movie, “You never know what the tide is going to wash up tomorrow,” although I’m not sure he ever actually said that! The idea is that you’ve just got to have faith that something good is going to wash up tomorrow. This gig, “A Little Night Music” is a spectacular job and it’s hard not to get depressed that we have only 6 more weeks – to believe that there will be something just as great. You see where we are and how much space we have. It’s such an incredible environment, not to mention playing for Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch every day. I have a little TV screen on my stand so that I can follow Hunter (Ryan Herdlicka) when he’s playing the cello on stage. Plus it’s run for over a year and I’ve never had a show run that long. You just gotta hope that there will be something else!

5. What’s your proudest moment? Anytime I get to play with my husband. He’s a saxophone doubler. Me: Have you ever played a job together? Mairi: Yeah, he’s played here at “Night Music”. We haven’t had a show together, but we’ve played shows together when one of us has been subbing. Outside of shows, we’ve done various gigs together. It’s fun, ’cause he works in the ‘other side’ of the orchestra (reeds/brass), so I’ve gotten to know a lot of those guys through him.

6. Favorite place to rehearse on your own? Somewhere that is cushiony with carpeting and tons of pillows. Anything that soaks up the sounds so I can hear everything, so when I go and play, I won’t be surprised by any little sound. To be honest I don’t like to practice. It’s a necessary evil. There are some people who want to practice every day, but I never felt that way.

7. Favorite way to spend your day off? At home, sleeping, watching TV, knitting, eating, and hanging with my husband.

8. Favorite skin care product? Cetaphil and Shea Butter (in the winter). I sadly don’t use any of those fancy skin care items.

9. Favorite website? Facebook. I’m hooked on it. At this point I have friends all over the world and it’s pretty cool to be able to keep in touch with them so easily and see what they are up to.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman of course!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I can be an archer (you know with a bow and arrow). Me: Like Geena Davis. Mairi: Sure, but I don’t know that I have her strength. Those bows are heavy and super tension-filled, and my elbow sticks out a bit so it’s tricky when the string comes back after you release the arrow…

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Dreaming at all would be great. Last night I watched the PBS Sondheim Gala before I went to sleep and oh my gosh, they had those six incredible women come on stage in those stunning bright red gowns: Elaine Stritch, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, etc. One after another they stood up and sang and after watching that special I was wide awake until 5:30am. I’m looking at 2 shows today on 4 hours of sleep…haha

13. When one of the cast members are out during a show, how does that affect you as a musician in the show? It depends. Sometimes if there’s a different key, we’ll pull out a different part depending on their range, but as to the timing, it’s all up to the conductor because they are the ones leading and making those choices. The great thing about this show, particularly with Elaine Stritch, is that you get a different theatrical performance each time and I love that.

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On Monday, April 5, 2010, I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Award winning country music artist Bryan White after seeing him perform with Victoria Shaw and Gary Burr at New York City’s legendary jazz club Birdland as part of Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland series. Right before I interviewed him, Bryan took the time to meet with fans, take pictures, and sign cds. Gracious, personable, and down to earth, Bryan White is proud of his success, but hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Since the age of 14, he has been entertaining audiences. He’s won a Grammy award, CMA Horizon Award, ACM Top Male Vocalist Award, had six #1 singles, two platinum records, two gold records and joined forces with Shania Twain for “From This Moment on” which they took to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. Bryan just released his eighth studio album entitled “Dustbowl Dreams” and is currently touring the country. For tour dates and much more on Bryan, be sure to visit: http://www.bryanwhite.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? First, I’d have to say my parents because they were musicians and they were the first people I saw performing music. The guy that made me want to be a recording artist and make records and do all of this was a guy named Steve Wariner. Steve is just a tremendous artist, singer, and songwriter. I heard his voice and I said to myself that’s exactly what I want to do. If it weren’t for Steve’s music and talent, I wouldn’t be here.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many people already over my career, but I’d love to work with Bonnie Raitt sometime. I think she’s an tremendous talent. I’d love to sit in the same room with Dolly and write a song with her. I’d also love to work with Michael McDonald, Carrie Underwood or James Taylor.

3. What’s your proudest moment? When I saw my children being born, that was my proudest moment. That’s when I realized life is so much bigger than me and us. Being a dad is about as good as it gets.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve given someone, but not taken for yourself? That’s a great question, ’cause it makes me think.  I tell a lot of singers that they need to warm up and don’t drink a lot of caffine and try to drink a lot of water. I try to stay adamant with staying hydrated and warm up a 1/2 hour before a show, but I’m not always real diligent about it.

5. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My granddad. My granddad was my hero. He passed away about 5 years ago and that was very difficult for me. Sometimes he’s in my dream and I wake up and I realize it was just a dream and I think man what a bummer cause it was cool to see him. It was like we were hanging. I would also like to dream that I was in heaven hanging with God.

6. Favorite ride at an amusement park? I love wooden roller coasters because their fun, their fast, and their scary, but they give the impression like their gonna fall apart at anytime because you hear the wood and the clacking and all the noise and it sort of adds to the illusion of the fear.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Walking definitely not running. I hate running. I like basketball too because it’s faking you out by thinking you are not working out, but really you are.

8. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs most of the time, but I have two pairs of boxers and on occasion when it’s really hot outside, I’ll wear boxers.

9. Favorite website? I tend to go to Twitter almost every time I go online. I like Twitter from my phone, but I really like it from my laptop better because it’s faster. Sometimes I’ll get into a conversation with a fan and that is really fun for me. I love going to Wikipedia because if I think of some big celebrity that I’ve always wondered about and wanted to know where they are from, I’ll go to Wikipedia to find out. I’m big into where people are from. That’s typically how all my conversations with people start because I’ve been so many places I can usually bring up something about their hometown and engage them in conversation.

10. “Transformers” or “Gobots”? Transformers. I don’t remember buying Gobots.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? I love to laugh and hang with friends or have a bbq in the backyard with all my favorite people. I also love recreational stuff outside, especially on a boat. I’m an avid fisherman and I don’t get to do it as much because of my schedule, but I’m getting ready to go Wyoming and I’m really excited because there might be an opportunity for me to go fly fishing. There is just something about being outside where I can see a long ways and think and reflect. I’m a song writer so I typically think better and most of my ideas come when I’m out in the wilderness.

12. Out of everyone you’ve worked with, who did you learn the most from? That’s a tough one because I took something from everyone, but I would have to go back to Steve Wariner. He’s been not only a mentor in respect to the artistry but also in respect to the business side of the industry. He’s given me some of the most priceless advice in terms of staying in there and fighting through. I’ve learned a lot from being on the road with Vince Gill and Mark Miller from Sawyer Brown. There are a lot of real people in the industry and you just hope that you are directed to those people. When you find them, you just try to hang on to them because they’re really blessings.

13. Who do you consider to be your hero? My granddad. Like many of our grandparents, he comes from a whole different generation. It’s a generation where people really worked for their living and they didn’t know what sitting around meant or they didn’t know what it meant to surf the web and kind of veg out. Veg out was not a term back then and I respect that about him. He got up every morning and he was a hard worker and he enjoyed his work and he enjoyed his family even more. I know now, looking back, why he worked so hard because every ounce of energy he put into his work was for all for his kids and all for his family and he loved people. So I think everyday when I do things or when I meet people or working, I try to think about how he approached life and I try to apply what I learned from him to my life as well. I want to leave that same kind of legacy one day.

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Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of seeing and interviewing country superstar Jo Dee Messina (click here for my interview).  She is performing from March 16-20 at Feinstein’s at The Regency as part of her Music Room Tour where she goes around the country playing intimate venues where she really connects with fans by taking questions and requests from the audience between songs. She opened the show with “Heads Carolina, Tails California” then went right into “I’m Alright.” Next she asked the audience for questions and I asked her to sing “Who’s Crying Now” (my personal favorite). She then went onto sing her latest single “That’s God” which lead into awesome cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. She then sang the title cut to her new album “Unmistakable” and went into one of her favorite songs to perform live, a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Jo Dee then took another fan request of “Burn” and “Bye Bye” with ” A Lesson in Leavin'” in between. Another fan requested “Because You Loved Me.” She ended the evening with “Bring On The Rain” and “My Give A Damn’s Busted.” Every show is a different set of songs because you never know what somebody will request (whether it’s her own song or someone else’s). Jo Dee Mesina is so kind and down to earth it makes sense to have a tour like this where she really gets to connect with her fans. Thanks Jo Dee for an unforgettable evening!

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Jo Dee Messina is a CMA and ACM award winner plus a two-time Grammy nominee. She has sold over five million albums, had nine #1 singles, and was the first female country artist to have three multiple-week #1 songs from the same album. Her many hits include: ” Heads Carolina, Tails California,” “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore,” “Bye Bye,” “I’m Alright,” “Bring On The Rain,” “That’s the Way,” “My Give A Damn’s Busted” & her latest “That’s God” from her upcoming album “Unmistakable” due out April 27. For more on Jo Dee Messina be sure to check out her website: http://www.jodeemessina.com.

Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of seeing and interviewing country superstar Jo Dee Messina.  She is performing at Feinstein’s at the Regency from March 16-20 as part of her “Music Room Series Tour” where she goes around the country playing intimate venues where she really connects with fans by taking requests & questions from the audience between songs.  I have been a fan of Jo Dee’s for many years and to have this as my first time seeing her live is truly wonderful! (Click here for my review of Jo Dee at Feinstein’s).

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? Dolly Parton, The Judds, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor. In my full show (we only got to see 70 minutes of what is normally a 2 1/2 hour show) there is a lot of wild craziness that goes on and it’s great to be able to pull off a Dolly Parton or Reba McEntire influence show which is all of the big woo-ha-who and do a James Taylor kind of laid back, let’s just hear about the music. It’s a huge spectrum of influences in my career. I just love music. Even now on my iPod I have everything from James Taylor to Miley Cyrus to Casting Crowns to Maroon 5. It’s all over the place. Okay, I gave you way more than you wanted.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? James Taylor, James Taylor, James Taylor!

3. What has been your most embarrassing on-stage moment? It actually was not on stage, but this morning on national television. I thought we were doing something really quick and local and I wasn’t paying attention to my paperwork so I had the worst outfit to wear on “Fox and Friends.”

4. Is there ever a time you thought about quitting? If so, what career would you choose? Recently. I thought about it recently because I could not get this record out. If I weren’t singing, I would love to do something with TV, like hosting. Any kind of interactive TV show would be hysterical because it’s all about the fans and listeners. I’d also like to write, which as I mentioned in my show, I’ve been working on a book forever and ever.

5. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My husband. He’s a hottie!

6. What’s your proudest moment? Every time I can get on stage and perform, I’m proud. It’s about having fun and sharing that experience with the person who cared enough to give up their evening and come.

7. Favorite hobby? Singing, writing.

8. Favorite way to spend your day off? Ah, hanging with you! I’m going to go run in Central Park tomorrow and I’m totally stoked about that.

9. Favorite website? Yours of course! Also weather.com because I’m always checking the weather where ever I’m going.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Who do you consider to be your hero? The single mom’s out there that are pulling it off because I have the help of my husband and it’s amazing how much that can take.

12. What is the best advice you’ve given, but not taken for yourself? Don’t care what anybody else thinks.

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