Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interview with Lee Lessack

Singer Lee Lessack was my choice for Best Cabaret Artist - Male for 2010 for his Chanteur merveilleux. Now he is releasing the CD Chanteur on August 9. He discusses the show and CD in depth in our chat.
Tell me briefly how and why you wanted to put Chanteur together. What was particularly engaging about the music involved?
My dear friend and colleague, Brian Lane Green, actually came up with the concept and wrote and directed a concert for me which then became the basis for the new album. I had mentioned to Brian that I felt I was ready to create a new concert and since Brian and I have shared the stage with "3 Men and a Baby…Grand!" for many years, he knows where I live vocally and as an actor and he thought of this idea and I loved everything about it.

Talk about your experiences mounting the show in London and Paris.
It was truly a magical experience. I've performed in London several times but it's been about 5 or 6 years I believe. The shows were completely sold-out which is always exciting - and the crowds were crazy for the material so it was just a London-Lovefest. Heading to France I was a bit intimidated. Our first stop was Lille and the audience was not fluent in English so I had to streamline my patter and stories. It was a matinee and they were very reserved and quiet during most of the songs so I was worried that they didn't enjoy my performance. But, alas, it was just that they didn't understand much of what I was singing. When the show ended, this very docile audience bounded to their feet and demanded 3 encores (and I had none prepared).   Paris was a dream come true. I've always wanted to perform there and a friend of mine who lives in Paris came on board to produce the event. It was at a lovely theatre called Le Sentier des Halles. Every moment of the night was just perfect and the audience was phenomenal. Can't wait to go back!

 Does the CD contain the whole show?
The CD is selections from the show plus some additional songs that will be added to the concert as we have now expanded it to a full 2 Act show for performing arts centers.  Some of the arrangements have also been modified as I wanted to create a listening experience and a mood that was slightly different from the "tour-de-force" concert presentation.

Is this the best work you've done so far, do you think? Why?
I never like to comment on my own work as that just feels awkward.  But I will tell you that I am really enjoying this recording.  I don't normally listen to my albums once they are mastered, but I've spent a bit of time with Chanteur and I'm quite pleased. I think it's probably some of my best work. It's very simple and sparse, which leaves room for me to really touch the listener's heart, which I hope I have achieved.

 Are there more concerts of the show planned for the immediate future?
Yes!  I'm most excited about our upcoming concert in Los Angeles at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on October 7th. I'll be sharing the stage with the magnificent Amanda McBroom in an evening titled Chansons d'amour.

Talk a little about your record label and your investment in it. Does it bring you as much joy as performing yourself?
Well first of all, I am thrilled that LML Music has sustained in the ever-changing marketplace for over 17 years. I never dreamed it would become what it is today, or that we would be distributing for such wonderful names like Lucie Arnaz, Kathie Lee Gifford, Lea Salonga, Tom Wopat and Stephen Schwartz. It's been a very exciting journey and one that has allowed me to offer a vehicle of distribution to lesser known talents.   Voices that I truly believe should be heard, but artists that don't necessarily have the name recognition to get them a record deal with a major label. So that brings me great joy.

Who is your favorite composer?
Johnny Mercer

Who are your favorite singers? Of the old school and contemporary!
Old School Male:  Mel Torme
Old School Female:  Rosemary Clooney

Contemporary Male:  Jason Mraz
Contemporary Female:  k.d. lang
What's up next in your career?
Well in addition to the record label (LML Music) I am partners in a concert production agency called Spot-On Entertainment. We book and produce concerts all over the country which feature mostly Broadway vocalists "in concert".  We've got a busy year ahead which I'm excited about.
How precarious a state is the music business  in right now, in your opinion?
It's interesting to watch the music industry change so rapidly. When LML started in 1995 we were still manufacturing cassette tapes and I wonder what will happen when CDs become old school. The digital world has brought wider spread recognition and accessibility to artists, and social media has provided a venue for the independent artist to create quite a loud voice in the marketplace. Every day brings a new adventure and something new to tweet as they say.
to order Chanteur:

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