Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pheaturing Barbara Lusch

Good evening and welcome to another entry of the Phile for a Sunday. We have to talk about something very important first. Forget Black Friday, the best value that was offered was the free peek at the first of the long-awaited sequel to Return of the Jedi, the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. If I had enough turkey leftovers, I'd just put myself into a tryptophan coma until December 18, 2015, when The Force Awakens will be in theaters, or at least until they release a longer trailer.  The Pentagon may soon smell like lavender and perfume, if President Obama has his way. Former Department of Defense undersecretary Michèle Flournoy... who not only is a woman, but also is not a man is reportedly sitting daintily at the top of a short list of people to replace Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Is America ready for all of its F-15E Strike Eagles to be painted a nice shade of pink? Guess we'll find out.  In case you're wondering where your subscription dollars are going, premium cable network HBO is reportedly hiring "probably 160 lawyers" to deal with an assumed onslaught of lawsuits that will accompany their upcoming film adaptation of Lawrence Wright's exposé of the highly litigious Church of Scientology. Once the aftermath of the Going Clear documentary abates, it is presumed that the team of lawyers will be dropped into a volcano by a fleet of DC-8 aircrafts. Star Wars: The Force Is Really Scientology. Haha.  Rachel McAdams has been confirmed as the female lead in the second season of HBO's critically acclaimed neo-noir show "True Detective." Fans are currently unsure if this revelation plays into the Carcosa mythos or if it is simply an illustration of a facet of the philosophical writings of Thomas Ligotti.  Okay, I mentioned the new Star Wars trailer... I loved it but I don't think they used the best special effects.

Haha. My favorite character in the trailer apart from the really cute Daisy Ridley is that soccer ball droid.

And I have no idea why this guy is in the movie...

Batman is not even owned by Disney.  Kids are getting too real these days. Blame the Internet, and its promise of "if you say something awesome and easily screenshottable, it'll go viral like crazy." At least she tried, and succeeded.

I should of saved that for a Mindphuck.  Alright, Christmas is a few weeks away and up until then I will be showing you some real but crazy products you can buy from Amazon.

The canned stuff really holds up if you make long trips to fantastical lands. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York here is this week's...

Top Phive Things You Don't Want To Hear Coming From The Next Bathroom Stall
5. At last! A perfectly-rendered "Don't Tread on Me" snake!
4. That's either corn or baby teeth... either way, I gotta stop ordering from Golden Panda!
3. Hi, Rush! First-time caller, long-time listener!
2. iPad, HBO Go, Sno-Balls, Fanta... I am SET!
And the number one thing you don't wanna hear coking from the next bathroom stall is...
1. Dammit, you're my helper monkey... get helping!

That's an easy one to figure out.  Alright, ever hear anybody get offended when someone doesn't like the phrase "Merry Christmas"? Well, a friend of the Phile doesn't, and he's here to explain. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is...

Random thought of the day... If you're the type of whiney little snit who becomes offended when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, kindly fuck off. I have little patience for this overtly "correct" world we are forced to live in. I wish people a Merry Christmas because I've always done so. I'm not going to run through each cultural holiday just to placate you. If you don't celebrate it... just say, "And you, as well." DON'T make that face and say, "I'm not Catholic." ...or... "I don't believe in God." Simply deal with the fact that somebody extended a verbal courtesy to you... then get on with your life. Or... You can simply go screw yourself. That'd work too.

It's 5:49 PM, 73°F and that's one lucky horse...

Today's pheatured guest is a beautiful jazz singer whose latest CD "Rock Me Sweet" is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Barbara Lusch.

Me: Hello, Barbara, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Barbara: Hi there. Thank you so very much for having me. I'm good, kind of tired from the weekend but good.

Me: I have to to be honest and say wow. I interviewed a lot of jazz artists but I have to say as a singer you have one of the most amazing jazz voices I heard and are the best looking jazz singer I have ever interviewed.

Barbara: YOU are too kind.

Me: You have the total package, Barbara. I am not the first to tell you that, right?

Barbara: Maybe I've heard it one time before.

Me: This picture of you upside on the bed in that red dress... wow. Ahem.

Me: That looked like a fun photo shoot.

Barbara: It was a fun photo shoot but it was freezing cold. We were in a parking garage. I work with a husband and wife team. The wife is the photographer and her husband does my marketing. The three of us have a good relationship and they make me feel super comfortable on the photo shoots.

Me: Have you always been talented and photogenic?

Barbara: I've always loved to sing and be in front of the camera.

Me: You're from Portland, Oregon, right? Do you still live there?

Barbara: I am from Portland, Oregon. I lived and performed between Los Angeles and New York City for about twelve years. I've been back in Portland since the fall of 1998. I love being back home!!

Me: Your grandmother was a professional singer, is that right?

Barbara: Yep.

Me: Who was she, Barbara?

Barbara: You wouldn't know her. She always said that she and her sisters were born too soon. Grandma Alice Warren sang with her 3 sisters. They sang beautiful harmonies together and yodeled in four part harmony, Swiss of course. They sang at the Orpheum Theatre in Portland and surrounding restaurants and clubs. They also did some studio recording in the 30s.

Me: Because of her is that why you wanted to be a singer?

Barbara: She is the reason I learned to love music. I grew up singing with my grandma while grandpa was playing the accordion. After that, I was never completely happy if I didn't have an outlet for singing.

Me: Do you have siblings who are singers as well?

Barbara: One of my sisters has an amazing voice. I think she actually had the most natural talent but, but didn't pursue it. She is singing now with a local group. I'd love to record with her some day. 

Me: Let's talk about your great album which I love so much... "Rock Me Sweet." You do amazing covers of rock songs from the 80s. I have one complaint, there's no Foghat songs on it. How did you pick which songs to do for the album, Barbara?

Barbara: I started with about 30 songs from the 80s that were my favorites. I wanted the songs to be recognizable and ones that people could sing along to. Then I listened closely to the lyrics. If I didn't feel that I could relate to the lyrics and tell the story well, I put it aside. I also listened to the basic structure of the song. In some cases there wasn't enough variation to re-arrange the song into ballad. I didn't want to vary from the original melody of the song. So it was a combination of favorites and what I thought would be a good fit for the music we were going to produce.

Me: Are their any songs you left off?

Barbara: Yes, we left off a few due to time restraints. "Logical Song" from Supertramp, "Every Breath You Take" Police, "Don't Stop Believin'" Journey, "Bad" Michael Jackson.

Me: What was the hardest song to learn or to sing on the album?

Barbara: Probably "Cat People" was the hardest to sing and "Hungry Like A Wolf" was the hardest to relate to.

Me: This is your third album, am I right? But this album is different then the others I am guessing. 

Barbara: This is my third solo album. Yes, the choice of material is very different from the others though I think I approach the music in the same way. I think of this record as 80s rock cocktail music.

Me: Did you rearranged the songs and put together the orchestral parts, Barbara?

Barbara: Oh no. My dear friend and colleague Earl Rose did all the arranging. When I first started this project I knew I wanted to collaborate with Earl. I've always admired his work as an arranger and conductor. Earl loved the concept of "Rock Me Sweet" and took me and the project under his wing. We discussed the arrangements and made adjustments as went along, but Earl was the mastermind behind the arrangements and orchestral parts.

Me: How big was the orchestra?

Barbara: Thirteen in the Orchestra. It was amazing to sing with them and they were AMAZING!

Me: I have to mention a few of the songs... I could go through the whole list but I won't. You do "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick, "Sweet Child O' Mine" from Guns and Roses and "Living On a Prayer" from Bon Jovi. Do you have a favorite of all these songs?

Barbara: That is a tough question. I really love them all and for different reasons. Okay, if I have to, out of the four you've mentioned, "I Want You To Want Me" is my favorite to listen to and "Sweet Child O' Mine" is my favorite to perform. But, it's always changing!

Me: What I love about your versions is when you just listen to the music in the beginning of the songs it's hard to figure out which song it is, but once you start singing it's obvious.

Barbara: I love that you say that because that's exactly what I wanted the experience for the listener to be. I want the music to evoke memories and to be a sweet surprise.

Me: When you started to do this album, did you think it'll be so much fun?

Barbara: No, I didn't. It has exceeded any expectations that I had. It's so fun and fulfilling to see people enjoying the music.

Me: I just realized you do all songs originally sang by men... was this on purpose or a coincidence?

Barbara: It was on purpose. I thought the contrast would be greater with rock songs by men.

Me: Barbara, what music did you listen to growing up and who are you influences?

Barbara: Before college I listened to a lot of folk music, musical theatre, and the American Song Book. In college I listened to 80s pop and rock. The I started listening to everything, but mostly jazz. A few of my influences are Barbara Streisand, Rosemary Clooney, Blossom Dearie, Nina Simone, and Chet Baker.

Me: Are you fans of any of hr artists you cover?

Barbara: Before I started the CD I was a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bon Jovi, and Yes. Now, I'm a fan of them all.

Me: Have you heard back from any of the artists you cover letting you know what they think?

Barbara: Not yet! I'm still trying to figure out the best way to get it into their hands!

Me: Barbara, most jazz musicians I interviewed studied music of some sort. Did you go to school and study music?

Barbara: I didn't go to school to study music, but I did study, if that makes sense? Initially I didn't believe that I could have a career singing. I always studied music and trained vocally and theatrically but it was not my major. One of my music teachers said... senior year in college, you can do what ever you want to do with your voice. Only then did I try.

Me: Not only are you a wonderful singer, but you also have acted on TV in sitcoms and soaps, and in commercials and movies. Was that before you were a singer?

Barbara: I was a singer first and then I got into acting. My heart was always with music though.

Me: What are some of the shows and films you did that we would know?

Barbara: "Coach", "The Trials Of Rosie O'Neil", and "Nowhere Man" were some that you might know.

Me: Are you still acting?

Barbara: I am here in Portland. I still do commercials, print work and voice over work. I'd love to do musical theatre again but can't work it into my schedule right now. I also audition for "Grimm" and "Portlandia."  They both shoot here in Portland. Hopefully you will be seeing me on one of those shows soon.

Me: You do look good on film, not just in photographs.

Barbara: I"m going to call you when I'm having a bad day.

Me: Anytime. Haha. You did a video for "Where the Streets Have No Name." I have a screen shot of it here...

Me: How was this song chosen as the single?

Barbara: I love the arrangement Earl Rose made for this song. I thought it was a great representation of what the record is about. Also, we could film in one location and easily tie in the 80s grit feeling with the intimate elegance.

Me: Where was the video filmed?

Barbara: The black and white shots are in the studio in Capitol Records. It was the first day of recording and the first time we were all meeting each other. Looking back I would have changed that. I would have had more fun if we shot after we had been into the project for a few days. It took me a little time to feel comfortable with everything. The color shots are in a warehouse in SE Portland. The warehouse burnt down and artists have displayed their work all over the walls. It's an amazing space. It was locked up and we snuck in at 5 AM in the morning. It was exciting. My director didn't think so though. He was so worried that we would get kicked out before he got the shots he needed. I wish we would have filmed all of us crawling under the gate to get in!

Me: You recorded the album at Capitol Studios?

Barbara: Yes!

Me: How was that experience?

Barbara: When we finished our last session I wanted to do it all over again and hated for it to end. It was an amazing experience. It's really hard to put into words. I can just say that I want to get back to the studio and work with Al Schmitt and Earl Rose as soon as possible.

Me: Frank Sinatra recorded all his music there, or a big chunk of it. I wonder if you were in the exact ams studio as he was?

Barbara: That is so funny that you say that! The microphone I recorded on was the mic Frank sang on and the stool I sat in was his. Al Schmitt who did my engineering also engineered Frank.

Me: That is so bloody cool! So, will there be a "Rock Me Sweet 2"? If so, you have to do "Fool For the City" or "Stone Blue" by Foghat. You have heard of Foghat, right?

Barbara: I do know Foghat and I think "Fool For the City" would be great! I hope there will be "Rock Me Sweet 2."  I"m crossing my fingers that "Rock Me Sweet" does well so I can make that happen!

Me: Alright, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? What's the best way to spend a rainy weekend?

Barbara: Oh, there are so many ways. The Oregon Coast is amazing on a rainy day. My favorite start to a rainy weekend is to lay on the couch in front of the fire with my 80 lb golden doodle, Rosebud, in my lap. The windows are open, the fresh air makes me feel alive and there are a few raindrops from outside falling on my face. It's so cozy.  The next day it would visit Powell Book Store. The bookstore encompasses an entire block. They also have a bistro inside to keep your tummy full and your mind awake. Then I would do a movie. Mcmeamins or Living Room Theater are my favorites because I can have a glass of wine while I"m watching a movie. Rainy weekend days are easy to fill because it rains 155 days out of the year.

Me: Wow. Great answer. Barbara, will you be performing these songs on the album live?

Barbara: Yes, I'm starting to perform the songs at my shows. The audience reaction has been tremendous! They love the surprise factor and hearing the lyrics of the songs. If I ask them to sing along they do!

Me: Any chance you'll play down here in Florida?

Barbara: I hope so! I"m creating a "Rock Me Sweet" jazz/cabaret type show and I'd love to bring it to Florida.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile. Go ahead and mention your website and please, please come back on the Phile again soon. Take care.

Barbara: Thank you for your support! Do you want a signed CD?

Me: Yeah!

Barbara: It's nice to meet you and I'm enjoying your blog! Hope to talk with you again.

There you go, another entry done. That has to be one of my favorite interviews ever. Thanks to Laird Jim and of course Barbara Lusch. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Christian Turner, lead singer for the band Christian Punk Band. Then on Thursday it's Phile Alum Bree Rose from The New Royalty. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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