Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 Interview - Steve Ross

Singer Steve Ross has been knocking 'em dead on the cabaret circuit in New York and other theatre cities for many years. He has released several solo albums. His latest is It's Almost Christmas Eve but features an ensemble of singers. Ross took time from his busy touring schedule to talk to me from Boston about the album and his love of old music.

Are you on tour right now with your Christmas album?

Actually, no. I did the Christmas show a couple of times, but I don't have a Christmas show per se. I'm certainly featuring the recording in my regular show. I'll do my Birdland shows and I'll do songs from it. Everywhere I go, I kind of try to sell it.

 I think you could very easily make a show from this album.

It could be, but of course so much of it is set up for the other voices. Maybe they could do the solos or I could do it with a couple of other people. A Christmas revue...that's an idea.

Maybe you should plan it for next year's holiday season.

Absolutely. I didn't think about that.

Why did you decide at this point in time to do a Christmas album?

I was at a party in LA hosted by performer K T Sullivan two yesrs ago. I had written a melody and at the party I sat down and played it for Kenny Hirsch, a published lyricist in LA.  I told him I just had this instinct. When I played it, he said, "I hear it as a Christmas song." I asked him if he'd be interested in writing a lyric to it. He said, "I would be." That's how it all started. So this song "It's Almost Christmas Eve", which became the title of the album, was born a couple of years ago. And then a singer heard it and said, "I think it should be an album." And then it evolved from there. It was going to be traditional songs. I took out my huge cache of Christmas music that I've collected, all these different genres. We looked at everything and listened...and these are the ones we picked. It becsme more specialized which I thought  might be in a way a relief to the people that due respect, everyone puts out all the same songs. I thought it would be kind of fun since we had dug into the songbook for more obscure things. It would be consonant to what I do. I have a couple of good singers and that's how it evolved into this lesser known stuff. I think there are s couple of gems in there.

I was brought up by an Irish mom who was from a musical family, so I know all these songs, like "Sing a Little Song of Christmss", "Goin' On a Sleigh Ride", "The Wassail Song". I am so happy you are bringing them back for those of us who remember them and for the youngsters out there who need to learn to appreciate that everything old is new again. Then you combine wonderful Broadway tunes like "We Need a Little Christmas" from Mame and "A New Deal for Christmasz' from Annie.

People might be interested if they're searching for lesser known stuff. It would be nice if they downloaded them or buy the CD.

"The Twelve Days After Christmas" is hilarious.

I thought everybody knew that. Did you know that?

No, that's one I have never heard. What a hoot!

When I did it recently in my show, a lot of people didn't know it. It's very clever.

How long have you been doing the cabaret scene?

Are you sitting down? (I laugh) You should lie down. I have been as they say hoodwnking the unsuspecting public for 60 years. Not cabaret, I've been a professional musician for 60 years  Cabaret started basically when I came to New York when I was 30. I found a job in this gay bar on W. 56th Street. One of the pianists was let go. The manager said to me that I was going to have to start singing.We want you to sing and play. We're not hiring two people. I had only sung for a joke. Many voice teachers later, I figured it out. Now I can't imagine not singing. It all started way back when.

You have quite an audience of admirers. Young people, as I said, need to learn to appreciate the old standards you play.

I feel that way if we can only get them to sit in on it. Cabarets are an expensive proposition for the young artist, which is very unfortunate. When I came to town, I was able to sit in at Bobby Short's bar at the Carlyle. He was wonderul and in those days you could go to places fairly reasonably. Now it's out of the reach of most people who should be hearing it. A situation for which I have no solution.

Who is your favorite composer?

Cole Porter. I like his brilliant wordplay.When I started singing, I sang funny songs, songs with words that were amusing. I didn't have the tones that a singer should have. I can do words. I started off doing funny songs, wordy songs, Noel Coward songs. Patter songs from the English music halls, songs that were situationally funny. I love the fact that Porter made sex chique. He was very sexy and sensual and erotic in a way in his lyrics, but he did it with such a genius and with such style that he pulled it off. "Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love". We all know what the metaphor is. It made everybody smile and laugh without being crass. He elevated that kind of humor to s very high thing "Brush Uo Your Shakespeare" I love the double entendre thing and that he got away with it. I also love his very deep passion when he wrote his love songs. The longing that is in any good love song he expressed very beautifully."In the Still of the Night" is my favorite song. It's a gem. When he is at his best, he's nonpareil. He represents a life I might have aspired to when I was growing up, a glamorous New York life that he writes about, that I sing about, that a lot of people dream about. He painted a picture, and it's the kind of picture I enjoy looking at and talking about.

What is your honest opinion of today's music?

It's not something I connect to. As I do my revue, I've been revisiting the master classes I used to do. It's been a facinating journey, I must say. I've learned a lot about these songs. We live in a world that is questioning that. Most of my students have been middle age, nonprofessionals. A lady the other day said, "We can't sing "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer'" because it's about bullying.".I looked at her and said, "Yes, but it has a happy ending. He finds a reward from Santa Claus .., and he ends up being a hero". We can only take this so far. It ends up being extreme. Don't you agree?

Absolutely! Did you like Hamilton?

Yes, it's historical and life changing. It has become a favorite with young people. Bully for it! Good for it! They see that Broadway music can be relevant. It brings young people into the theatre, as did the brilliant 1776 and Rent, big life changers.

Let's get back to your CD It's Almost Christmas Eve. What would you tell our readers about it that will really make them want to buy it?

It captures the spirit of Christmas in many different ways with worthy but less known Christmas songs that can touch the heart and tickle the funny bone.

Go to itunes or amazon to purchase the album or visit Steve Ross at:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018 Interview with Kevin Odekirk

Actor/singer Kevin Odekirk has been delighting audiences worldwide with his stage appearances in musicals such as Miss Saigon, concert venues and with his amazing CD Unheard. He now has a Christmas album called Season of Hope. Odekirk took time from a hectic holiday schedule to tell us about the album.

Why did you want to record a Christmas album? And why at this point in time?

I have been so lucky to connect with so many great fans and friends over the years, and every year many request a Holiday CD for them to enjoy themselves and for gifts. This year, I had the chance to put together a solo Christmas program for a large private VIP Gala in Los Angeles. We were putting so much effort into new arrangements and new rendtions of these amazing songs, it only made sense to put them down on disc for more people to enjoy. Combine that with the opportunity to work with my amazing composer/arranger Jonathan Keith, and I just couldn't not share!

You seem to have a very serene personality. Where does most of your musical inspiration come from?

Well, that is really nice of you! I think some days I'm better at that than others, especially with four kids.

Music has always played a really important role in my life. I don't think, for me at least, that many other things have the power to affect my emotions and my spirit as strongly as music. Happiness, sadness, heartache, elation, loneliness, and love...nothing makes me feel things as deeply as a good song. When I can share that with others, it's even better. I want to create things people will feel, but to be honest, I create things that make me feel first. I can only create things that connect with my spirit, and then just hope others feel something unique for them.

There are several very religious hymns included. Do you have a favorite? Explain your choice.

There are a lot of religious hymns on this CD. I feel like it's really easy, for me at least, to get sucked into all the other things related to Christmas, and maybe this was my way of reminding myself what really mattered. Every song on this CD is a prayer. Really, that was my guide through this. I wanted Season of Hope to be an intimate look at prayers we all can connect with this time of year, no matter what your religion.
At the same time, I had this idea that I mention in my liner notes, this concept that most normal people (i.e non performers) may never get the chance to work through a sitzrobe. The very first time musicians and vocalists perform together on a new work is amazing to me. Nothing is flashy, everything is new. Everthing is foreign and familiar all at once. And there, without costumes or sets or sound deisgn, we get to connect to the music and to each other. I love it, and I wanted to share that. Big songs, performed really intimately. Piano quintet (mostly) and a voice.

How does "Bring Him Home" fit into a Christmas album in your opinion?

To me, the catalogue of musical theater is full of prayers, stuff so heartfelt, so empassioned that they easily reach that level. In the Dead of Darkness from Kristina is one such example, with a man separated from his wife and family on a horrible journey across the ocean. How could he do anything other than pray? "Bring Him Home" is maybe the quintessential prayer, though. I'm not sure I can think of anything more appropriate for a holiday season than thinking about someone else more than yourself, praying for them, wanting for them, and being willing to sacrifice everything for them and their happiness.

You should record more often. Do you have a plan for a future project? Share if you will.

Well, I am so grateful you would even say that. I think as long as I have interesting and valuable things to say, I will have a strong desire to try and say them. I don't want to add to the mountain of similar stuff already out there. My first CD, UNHEARD, was neat because we got to share some totally new and ultra-rare songs that any musical theater lover would enjoy. I want to really contribute something. I love getting to share, but I am not always sure I have things worth sharing. (Hence the mountains of demos buried on my hard drive - stuff the world will never hear. lol) That may not be fashionable or sound cool. But it's true. (Too honest, maybe.) We all get to see other people and their infinitely Instagrammable lives, and then we sit back and think we are the only ones struggling or doubting or grinding. I struggle. I doubt. But I love singing, sharing, and connecting with people so much that I keep trying. I hope people keep listening. 

Who was the motivational force in your career choice to be a singer? Were your parents supportive?

My family was a sports family. Most of my cousins, uncles, and my dad all played professional baseball at one level or another. It was rather expected I'd go that way. (I still can turn a mean double play.) So when I joined a musical theater class my junior year of high school to be near a hot girl I wanted, I think they were all a little shocked. Turns out, I loved it, and loved studying what the voice could do.

Here's the amazing thing, my athletic father without a bit of artisitc experience immediately threw his support behind me, even going as far as joining the board of a local arts organization. I can only hope that I'll show my kids the kind of love my mom and dad showed me.

And thank you to that hot girl that I don't think I ever had the guts to even talk to!

Any plans to possibly do a musical? You were so good in Miss Saigon. I would love to see you do another show. Are you possibly looking at Les Miserables?Are you casting? lol

That is so nice of you about Miss Saigon. I had such a great time in that show. I grew up singing that music. It was one of the very first musicals I saw, so I really wanted to do that show. Great music. And we had an amazing cast. I felt really lucky to be part of that.

Honestly, I've been so busy with other projects, concerts and recording work, that it made it hard to devote the time to a show or a tour. I'm hopeful I can make that work again soon, either on tour or back on Broadway. Let's make this happen!

What is your wish for Christmas?

LOL Dolls. Oh sorry, I'm channelling my daughter. (Seriously, since when did girls toys sell out so quickly!?)
Um... for Christmas this year I hope someone listens to Season of Hope and feels something good for them. That would make me smile. And a new baseball glove. But mainly the happiness for other people.

Anything you care to add?

I'm grateful for those that continue to support me and listen to my music and see my concerts and shows. Happy Holiday to everyone out there!

Season of Hope is available at to listen, visit:

Monday, December 10, 2018

2018 Interview with Robyn Spangler

Consummate singer Robyn Spangler has been resurrecting her singing career for the last ten years with great success. She appears in cabaret from coast to coast and has just released her newest CD Christmas Is. She took time from a busy schedule to talk about the album and her concert appearance at Rockwell Table and Stage on Sunday December 16.

Robyn, I was just listening to the album. I picked "Who spiked the egg nog?" first. What a deliciously offbeat song!

You know I hired a radio promoter for this CD. They asked me to name a couple of songs and I didn't name that song, but you know it is getting a lot of air play. It was originally done by the acapella group at IU.

It's a cute song!

It's very funny.

Why did you decide to do a Christmas album? And...why now?

The honest answer is: I saw a lot of other people getting attention who were doing Christmas albums...and I was talking to a promoter and he said the best thing to do if you want to try to get air play is to do the album first and put songs on it that are different from the standard fare, so when you do do another album, then they've seen your name before and they've played you before. That's the technical answer. Also from a business standpoint, I turned 60 this year.

You look years younger.

You're so kind. But, as we get older, I know that divas sing well into their 70s and 80s, but it's like how many more years can I put out a CD before I feel like I'm completely aging out of the sytem?!

Your voice is alive and young. You have no worries. You sound the same and I have been listening to you sing for a few years now.

I was a voice major in college. The music business has changed so much just within the years that I have started to sing again. As a young person, I would have had to go out and find a record label to carry me. There's just no way I could have gotten the exposure that I get now. So... I'm taking the opportunity that a lot of independent artitsts are taking and putting their music out there. I have to laugh because the duet that Don (Most) and I decided to do ( "It\s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas") ... personally, if I hear "Baby It's Cold Outside" one more time...

But to give that song its due, I hate all this negative publicity that it's obscene...after all these years.

(She laughs) It's a good thing we didn't do that song. (pause) I wanted to do something different, so that people would go, "Oh, that can be a duet too." Overall, as with the eggnog song, I researched to find songs that weren't typical and had them rearranged so people would listen to them.

Talk about your association with Don Most. How and when did that begin?

That relationship began because, as you know in entertainment, there are agents and managers and bookers. So one of the bookers that I have for the symphony show (Linda Ronstadt sings Nelson Riddle) also books for Don. When I decided to do the symphony show,  I had looked at Don's reels, and he's also trying to get traction for a symphony show. I reached out to him and said, "Do you want to come over and sing a number with me?" I had seen him perform a lot here in Los Angeles. We talked on the phone, and he's just the nicest guy. So, he agreed to come over and we rehearsed a duet. After that symphony show at Rockwell a couple of years ago, we just stayed in touch. I put up on FB that I was going to do a Christmas album and he reached out and asked, "Are we going to sing a duet?" He has a booker in Florida, and he is trying to put together a symphony show ... and he has invited me to work with him. We would do a new show together.

When I did the symphony show I got all the arrangements at the University of Arizona in Tucson because that's where Linda Ronstadt had donated those arrangements As it turns out, the University also has a bunch of Nelson Riddle arrangements for Frank Sinatra, which is what Don is interested in singing. I've helped him procure some of those original arrangements too. So we're at a point where we're ready to put the show together. We're waiting for the booker to book us, we'll do the show and have it taped so it can be pitched to other symphonies. I'm so excited about it. Who knew that I could get this kind of traction at this age? I'm grateful and happy to be in the business and be able to do this kind of stuff. I know the day will come when I stand onstage and start to forget the words, so I think "What am I waiting for?" My husband is very supportive and thankfully we're financially able to do it.

Give us a little tease. What are you doing in the show at Rockwell besides the songs from the album?

I'm doing one piece that's not on the album, but I'm not going to give that away. I haven't really done a show before with more than one special guest. Shawn Ryan is just a hoot, so between him and Don and Joanne Tatham, a singer from the jazz circuit, they all bring something special. It's going to be a great show. It's not like the Ronstadt show or the Billy Barnes show. Those shows are tributes basically to those people. This show is just more like a party and a celebration. It's an opportunity for people to get together and celebrate Christmas in a fun way.

Christmas Is SINGING. Please join me and my very special guests at Rockwell Table + Stage Sunday, December 16, 2018. Ticket link: