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Entries in Music (170)

Monday
Dec012014

Call Answered: Payson Lewis: Out of the Woods

Payson Lewis, Photo Credit: Alex Dean"Call Me Adam" chats with rising singer and actor Payson Lewis about his cover of Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods" with Rumer Willis, Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," his break up with Janel Parrish, his fans, staying in shape, and many other aspects of his life and career!

For more on Payson be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and Patreon!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a singer/actor? It's tough to say. I've always had a passion for performance; musical and theatrical. But I never would have had the courage to pursue that passion as a career without the love and support of my family. My mom, dad, and brother have always believed in me, even when I have had my own doubts. I couldn't do it without them.

2. Your latest single is a cover of Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods" with Rumer Willis. What made you want to cover this particular Taylor Swift song and how did you decide to team up with Rumer Willis? Well, first of all I love the song and, like everyone else, all of Taylor's new record. But this song in particular really spoke to me. When we first started working on it, Ru and I had some "interesting" stuff going on with our relationships...and that's what "Out of the Woods" is all about; Getting through all the stuff that bogs down relationships and that can make you lose sight of the person that you're in the relationship with. But, all that stuff...just trees.

3. What was the best part about working with Rumer? Rumer has become one of my closest friends and working with someone that you genuinely care about and respect is so fulfilling. That and the "onesie parties" we have at her place! Oh, and have you heard her sing?! INCREDIBLE. So, basically there are lots of best parts!

Payson Lewis and Rumer Willis, Photo Credit: Kenton Chen 4. Your cover of "Out of the Woods" has over 44,000 views so far on YouTube. What does it mean to you to have that kind of response to this song? It means so much to me that people have enjoyed it enough to share and spread the word about the video. But more than just the number of views, I am BLOWN AWAY by the overwhelmingly positive response it has gotten. I have loved hearing from people who liked the song. It's been really fun getting to interact with people from all over the world who share my love of music and have enjoyed my version of this song.

5. In addition to Taylor Swift, you have covered Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." What do you like most about getting to put your own spin on these popular songs? Do you know if the artists you have been covering ever get to hear your version? If so, what has their feedback been? What's great about music is that it is so deeply personal. There are an infinite number of ways to sing a song. Every single person's version is going to be a little different. I just love taking a song that means one thing to someone and sharing with the world what it means to me. Because in turn, my version will mean something else to someone else.  It's never ending and beautiful!

As for the original artist hearing them, I'm not too sure. I was able to send my cover of "Out of the Woods to Jack Antonoff (who co-wrote the song with Taylor) through a mutual songwriting friend. I never heard any feedback. I'm hoping it's because he was just too blown away! :)

6. When you start releasing your own original music, what genre do you think you most likely will want to be part of? I am working on some original music and I really hope to share some of it soon. I think my music is safely in pop territory but avoids being bubblegum. It's "genuine pop," if that makes sense.

7. Who do you hope to get to work with during your career? Wow. That's an incredibly difficult question to answer. There are so many people that I would LOVE to work with. I'm honestly overwhelmed thinking about it. Off the top of my head though, how about Pharrell musically and PT Anderson theatrically.

Payson Lewis, Photo Credit: David Muller8. You have a campaign going to encourage fans to help you create music videos with various incentives depending on how much they contribute. From just $1 to $100 or more, fans can be part of your creative process. In creating this campaign, how did you decide on what the incentives would be? What is it like to have fans be part of your creative process? What is their reaction to getting to be involved in this way? To be honest, I'm new to using patreon. But I am incredibly excited about being able to interact with the people who really love my music and want to be more involved. I just thought about what I would want if I were contributing to a musician that I truly supported. I really can't wait to get more involved with all the fans who want to be a part of the creative process!

9. The music industry is vastly different today. What do you find the most exciting aspect to be of the industry today and what are the biggest struggles you face? I think that the most exciting thing about the music industry today is also the thing that all of us have struggled with most. There's no roadmap for success in this industry anymore. We're all just trying to find our way, which is very hard, but very rewarding and exciting.

10. Speaking of struggles, your year-long relationship with Janel Parrish recently ended. In times of adversity, how do you bounce back on your feet? Ah yes. The breakup. I don't want to get too into the details, but we had a really good run and a lot of happy times. Unfortunately, those times had to come to an end. It was VERY difficult for me but luckily I am surrounded by amazing friends and family. They were there for me above and beyond what I ever could have expected. I am very lucky to have each and every one of them and they are almost exclusively responsible for getting me back on my feet.

Payson Lewis on ABC's "Revenge"11. In addition to music, you are also an actor, performing in film, television, and on stage. What do you get from acting that you do not get from music? The two pursuits offer, to me, a creative outlet and a path to the emotions of the audience. I am a very empathetic person. I feel everything around me. That's what I love about music and acting. I don't know though if I can separate what one gives me that the other doesn't. I just think both feed my need to emote and share deep feelings and storytelling with everyone who wants to come along for the ride.

12. What's the best advice you've ever received? My dad always told me to do something every day that improves you and the world around you. It's simple. But it's how I try to live my life. One day at a time. Always trying to make it better and be better than the day before.

13. What have you learned about yourself from being a singer/actor? I guess I've just learned how there isn't anything else I could ever see myself doing. Growing up I had more "sensible" plans for what I was going to do with my life. But I know now that this is what I was put on this earth to do. Once I figured that out, I was free to find out the things about me that drive that sole purpose.

14. How do you want to be remembered? First and foremost, I just want to be remembered for being a good person. I don't think there is anything more important to being good to the people around you. I also hope to uplift and inspire some people along the way.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

15. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I don't know that it's that super, but I would love to not need to sleep. There's just too much I want to do on a daily basis to fit into 16 waking hours. I could really use those pesky 8 hours of sleep for other stuff if I didn't need to, you know, sleep or whatever!

16. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Brussell sprouts. I don't think people would eat me if I were a Brussell sprout flavored lifesaver. Even though I do LOVE Brussel sprouts...a candy flavor version just sounds weird. I'm all about self-preservation.

17. Favorite way to stay in shape? I HATE working out. But to stay in shape I force myself to do a little regimen of push-ups and sit-ups. 10 minutes a day. It's just enough to keep me looking alright.

18. Boxers or Briefs? Both. I don't discriminate against any underwear. I'm an equal opportunity underwearer!

Payson Lewis, Photo Credit: Theo & JulietMore on Payson:

Payson Lewis is an actor and singer originally from Philadelphia, PA. He graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music. While at USC he was a member of the 3-time ICCA champion a cappella group, the SoCal VoCals. Since graduating, Payson has pursued a career in music and on TV with appearances on Revenge (ABC), How I Met Your Mother (CBS), Rules of Engagement (CBS), Love Bites (NBC), VicTORIous (Nickelodeon), and was a Top-4 Finalist on The Sing-Off (NBC).

In addition to other recent TV appearances, he's been seen in a number of notable LA Theater productions including Glory|Struck productions' Bare as "Peter" (BroadwayWorld Award Winner: Best Leading Actor in a Musical) and as "Rocky Horror" in The Rocky Horror Show. He's also been seen every weekend for the last two years in the hit "For The Record" series at Rockwell and, more recently, DBA Hollywood with the likes of Tracie Thoms, Barrett Foa, Steve Kazee, Janel Parrish, and Rumer Willis.

Payson has most recently started a YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/paysonlewis) which will focus on music; both original and covers. Twitter and Instagram: @paysonlewis

Monday
Nov102014

Call Redialed: Steven Reineke: New York Pops: By Special Request: An Evening With The Orchestra

Steven Reineke, Photo Credit: Michael Tammaro"Call Me Adam" once again chats with The New York Pops' Musical Director Steven Reineke. This time around we discuss the second concert of their 32nd Season, By Special Request: An Evening With The Orchestra, which will take place on Friday, November 14 at 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall in NYC (57th Street and 7th Avenue). By Special Request: An Evening With The Orchestra will feature popular symphonic pieces by European masters; selections from great American composers such as Copland, Gershwin, Bernstein with Essential Voices USA; and the New York premiere of "Festival Te Deum" written by The New York Pops very own Steven Reineke. Click here for tickets!

For more on The New York Pops be sure to visit http://www.newyorkpops.org and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops, Photo Credit: Johanna Webber1. On Friday, November 14, The New York Pops continues their 32nd Season with By Special Request: An Evening With The Orchestra. What do you like most about doing these special request concerts? I love that we've begun a tradition of featuring the orchestra and its wonderful musicians each season. We collaborate throughout the year with so many incredible guests artists and soloists but at the heart of it all, it's the orchestra that makes each concert so special with their amazing musicianship and versatility. 

Doing a program like this really allows the orchestra to shine. The repertoire I've chosen is very demanding, giving us a chance to push ourselves and challenge the orchestra to reach even greater heights artistically.

2. During this show, you will perform your composition "Festival Te Deum," which will be making its New York debut. What excites you most about premiering this song during By Special Request? What, if anything, makes you nervous about having an audience hear one of your compositions for the first time? I'm very excited to conduct this piece in New York for the first time. I don't often program a lot of my own music here but I thought this was a great opportunity to show our audience another side of me. I'm not sure many of them realize that I'm also a composer. It's always a little scary to perform your own music for an audience because it's very personal. I just take a deep breath and hope that it connects with the listener and has an impact on them.

Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops Gala, Photo Credit: Richard Termine3. How did you decide which songs you were going to perform for this concert? The second half of the program is dedicated to iconic New York composers - Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and George Gershwin. It all started when I realized the date of the performance, November 14th, fell on Aaron Copland's birthday. He would've been 114 years old this year. That's when I decided to feature his music and pair it with Bernstein and Gershwin. The first half of the concert features some great music from the European symphonic repertoire.

4. Since the evening is called By Special Request, what is the one special request you get asked the most in regards to The New York Pops? Patrons and fans are constantly giving me their ideas and opinions regarding what they would like to see and hear. I really like that and take it all to heart. Honestly though, the number one thing I've heard from patrons over the years is that they sometimes just want to hear the orchestra featured without guest artists.  I think this is a huge compliment to the musicians of The New York Pops. That's why I decided to create a concert each year called By Special Request: An Evening With the Orchestra.

5. If you could request anything of the New York Pops' audience, what would you ask them? Please tell all of their friends to buy subscription packages or single tickets to our concerts! Also, feel free to use social media to spread the word about this great orchestra. If you enjoyed a concert, then tweet about us or post on Facebook. We want everyone to know how special our concerts are and to continue to sell out our performances.

Steven Reineke conducting, Photo Credit: Richard Termine6. Once again, you are teaming up Judith Clurman's Essential Voices USA for this evening's concert. How did you first come to work with them and what makes you want to continue to team up with them for your concerts? Judith Clurman and the chorus were recommended to me the first season I was with the orchestra. We brought them in for a concert and I was blown away by their sound and professionalism. Judith is an extraordinary conductor and prepares the chorus beautifully. We know each other so well at this point that she knows exactly what I'll like or not.

7. What makes this By Special Request concert different from previous ones? For these concerts, it seems as though I've alternated programming film music one year and classical repertoire the next. This year we are back to classical pieces. I'm excited that this one also includes music from opera, ballet, and theater.

8. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Pineapple. It's the most interesting of the five original flavors.

Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops, Photo Credit: Johanna Webber9. If you could have a song written about your life, what are some key elements you would want to make sure the lyricist wrote into the song? For example, I've had two theme songs written for me...one for my past radio show and one for a live interview series I used to conduct. The key elements I wanted to make sure got written into each theme song was that I did entertainment interviews and then the lyricists wrote my theme songs around that idea. That I was born to be an entertainer and that I think love is the most powerful force in the universe.

10. How do you want to be remembered? Um, I sure hope that I'm not going anywhere very soon!!! I would like to be remembered as a kind, thoughtful, and generous person that gave everything to my work and lived life to the fullest. Hopefully, I also touched some people through music along the way.

Steven Reineke, Photo Credit; Michael TammaroMore on Steven:

Steven Reineke is the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh. As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Mr. Reineke's work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world. A native of Ohio, Mr. Reineke is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He currently resides in New York City with his husband Eric Gabbard.

Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops, Photo Credit: Richard TermineMore on The New York Pops:

The New York Pops is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States, and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Led by Music Director Steven Reineke, the orchestra performs an annual subscription series and birthday gala at Carnegie Hall. The New York Pops was founded by Skitch Henderson in 1983 with a mission to create greater public awareness and appreciation of America’s rich musical heritage. The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and collaborates with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. PopsEd allows thousands of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in fully customizable music programs that blend traditional education with pure fun. 

Thursday
Nov062014

Call Answered: Conference Call with John R. Waters and Stewart D'Arrietta: Lennon: Through a Glass Onion

Stewart D'Arrietta and John R. Waters, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus"Call Me Adam" chats with John R. Waters and Stewart D'Arrietta about their new show Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, part spoken word, part concert, and all heart, this show is a celebration of one of the most distinct voices of his generation: John Lennon. Lennon: Through a Glass Onion is currently playing at The Union Square Theatre (100 East 17th Street) in NYC through January 11 only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Lennon: Through a Glass Onion be sure to visit http://lennononstage.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Your show Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, is currently making it's New York debut at the Union Square Theatre. First conceived in 1992, you have played to sold-out houses around the world including Sydney's Opera House and London's West End. How did you guys first come to work together?

John R. Waters: Stewart and I were put together by a mutual friend to meet and discuss another project. This was in the mid-eighties. We've worked and written songs together on and off ever since; with our main focus on the times we reconvene to do another tour of Glass Onion.

Stewart D'Arrietta: John and I first worked together on a theatre piece in 1985 for the New Moon Theatre Company. We got on well and when John was offered a 3 week season at a 85 seater Pub theatre, he contacted me asking if I would like like to be involved on a Lennon piece, I said yes.

Stewart D'Arrietta and John R. Waters in "Lennon: Through a Glass Onion", Photo Credit: Joan Marcus2. What made now the right time for Lennon: Through a Glass Onion to make it's New York City debut? 

John R. Waters: We had refined the show for a tour beginning at the Sydney Opera House, and at the same time we joined forces with Producer Harley Medcalf, who made an approach to the estate regarding rights, and it was successful. Opportunities further opened up with the assistance of Richard Frankel here in NY, and the availability of the fabulous Union Square Theatre. Now we're here!

Stewart D'Arrietta: It was the meeting of Harley Medcalf last year that brought about the production here in New York at this time and then Yoko allowing us to perform the piece.

3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show?

John R. Waters: I like what most of the audience tells me afterwards; that they were surprised and taken aback by the unique style of treatment of the material, and that they feel somehow closer to the man and his story.

Stewart D'Arrietta: We would like the audience to be moved as they leave in the sense that realizing the greatness of the man and the loss to our society with his killing.

John R. Waters in "Lennon: Through a Glass Onion", Photo Credit: Joan Marcus4. What made you want to write a show about John Lennon? How has he influenced you?

John R. Waters: I was influenced by not just Lennon, but all the Brit-rock scene of the sixties. It was my time - I was in mid-teens to early adulthood in London in that decade. I had already loved rock-n-roll from the time I heard "All shook Up" at the age of ten. When I decided to write a show that brought all the aspects of my own career together - acting; singing; playing in bands and generally telling stories - the subject matter came very quickly to mind.

Stewart D'Arrietta: It was John’s idea to do a show about Lennon. Lennon's influence has been large in my life as I grew up with his music and his philosophy of peace.

5. How did you decide which John Lennon songs you wanted to include in Lennon: Through a Glass Onion? Were there ones you wanted to include that you didn't?

John R. Waters: It goes without saying that we can't do them all without having a show longer than War and Peace, so I used the most autobiographically interesting songs which provided a 'text' of their own. Plus a few that are just bloody good songs!

Stewart D'Arrietta: The songs that reflected his life journey as a lot of Lennon’s songs were written autobiographically. "In My Life" and "Don’t Let Me Down" are used as underscore but we would have liked to use them as songs sung but it was not to be.

Stewart D'Arrietta in "Lennon: Through a Glass Onion", Photo Credit; Joan Marcus6. Since this show is about John Lennon, if you could have sang any song of his with him as a duet, which one would you have chosen?

John R. Waters: Well if I had ever got to sing a song with John Lennon, I don't think I would have cared much what we sang. "We're a Couple of Swells" in reggae, maybe?

Stewart D'Arrietta: "Come Together"

7. Has Yoko Ono come to the show or anyone from his estate? If so, what did they think of it?

John R. Waters: I am thrilled and gratified to have been licensed by the estate. Beyond that I believe is not my territory, really, but of course I'm very pleased that our treatment that has been approved.

Stewart D'Arrietta: No.

Stewart D'Arrietta and John R. Waters, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus8. What has been the best part about working together? What have you learned from each other?

John R. Waters: Stewart and I know each other well enough to work 'instinctively' off each other, and that saves a lot of time! I think that Stewie's high level of motivation to get things done has been his biggest influence on me.

Stewart D'Arrietta: You always have to have a sense of humor in this business and hang on to the positive.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received?

John R. Waters: "Give up acting." It made me try harder.

Stewart D'Arrietta: What goes around, comes around.

Stewart D'Arrietta and John R. Waters, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus10. If you could have a song written about your life, what are some key elements you would want to make sure the lyricist wrote into the song? For example, I've had two theme songs written for me...one for my past radio show and one for a live interview series I used to conduct. The key elements I wanted to make sure got written into each theme song was that I did entertainment interviews and then the lyricists wrote my theme songs around that idea.

John R. Waters: I wouldn't like anyone to write a song about me. Except maybe if it was one of my children who did it. And they could write all about how I was the greatest dad in the world. The best songwriting always contains an element of invention.

Stewart D'Arrietta: Any song written about me would have to have in it that I gave life my best shot and I didn’t die wondering.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

John R. Waters: X-Ray vision. I sent off for those glasses advertised on the back of Superman comics. Imagine my disappointment when the girls I looked at still had all their clothes on.

Stewart D'Arrietta: To fly.

12. If you could be any original Life Saver flavor, which one would you be?

John R. Waters: Blackcurrant. Same goes for pastilles, gums etc etc. the black ones.

Stewart D'Arrietta: Lime.

14. How do you want to be remembered?

John R. Waters: Being remembered at all, is a good start! I think I'd be happy with that.

Stewart D'Arrietta: As a Cool Garden Gnome...now wouldn't that be cool!

John R. Waters, Photo Credit: Joan MarcusMore on John:

John R. Waters is one of Australia's most recognized, respected and critically acclaimed actors and singers. Born in Britain, he has built and retained an audience in Australia across four decades of theatre, musicals, TV, film and music. Waters has performed in over 20 stage productions, 22 films and 43 TV series/telemovies. Some of his best known works are My Fair Lady, They're Playing Our Song, Oliver!, The Graduate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Breaker Morant, Weekend of Shadows, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Rush, "All the Rivers Run," "City Homicide," "Singapore Sling," "All Saints," "Underbelly" and "Offspring."

Stewart D'Arrietta, Photo Credit: Joan MarcusMore on Stewart:

Stewart D'Arrietta recently enjoyed a nine-month New York run of his Tom Waits show, Belly of a Drunken Piano. Last January, Stewart was the musical director for The White Album Concert by the Beatles, performing on stage at the world famous Sydney Opera House with 15 other high profile artists including Jon Stevens and Jack Jones. Other musical director/performer/composer credits include Cafe Brel, Reunion and Satango. Stewart has also composed and conducted soundtracks for features, short-form drama and documentaries including Whitsunday Ash, Sugar Inc., Blood Oath, Colour in the Creek and the Emmy Award-winning documentary Faces in the Mob.

Friday
Sep052014

Call Answered: Wendy Ho: Greatest Shits CD Release and Concert at The Triad/Stage 72

Wendy Ho, Photo Credit: Dusti Cunningham at Dragonfly Trannyshack La!!! Wig styled by Curtis William Foreman and provided by RockStar Wigs"Call Me Adam" chats with "The Queen of Raunch and Soul," Wendy Ho about new CD Greatest Shits, releasing on September 25 as well as her concert in support of this release called Wendy Ho (And Friends) on September 29 at The Triad/Stage 72 in NYC (158 West 72nd Street)! Click here for tickets! 

1. On September 29 you will be having your official NYC concert/release party for your new CD Wendy Ho: Greatest Shits at The Triad/Stage 72. What made you want to have this concert/release party at the Triad/Stage 72? Yes, it’s true! I am pleased to be hosting my "Greatest Shits," album release and concert at Stage 72 on September 29. My friend Michael Doane runs the theater booking, and I actually was just going to come into town to visit friends, but he offered the date to me—and since it coincided with my album release I said, "Why not?"

2. The concert will feature some of today's biggest names in theatre including Ben Rimalower, Natalie Joy Johnson, and Daniel Reichard. I love all three of them! How did you decide who you wanted to have as a special guest? Well, we have something in common because I love them too. The name of the show is Wendy Ho and Friends, and these "names," just so happen to be people who are dear friends of mine, and they have encouraged and inspired me throughout my artistic journey.

Daniel Reichard and I actually met at a one year "Never Forget" 9/11 commemorative party on a roof top on the lower east side—3 days after I had moved to New York in 2002. We hit it off instantly and were inseparable for quite some time. He was actually at the piano playing "Get Here," in his Chelsea apartment when I started to sing what is now the opening line of "Fuck Me," as a joke.

Ben Rimalower and I became close when he directed my first one woman show at Ars Nova in December of 2007. I met him through my friend Scott Nevins, and we hit it off in that same sort of instantaneous way that Daniel and I did. Natalie Joy and I met through Ben at Posh one night when we were doing a show with Poppi Kramer. I knew we were kindred spirits when we found ourselves outside of Posh on the street belting Jill Scott songs, and someone shouted from their apartment "shut the fuck up," and we CACKLED ourselves right off the curb.

3. What made now the right time to release your Greatest Shits album? There were many songs that were not allowed on iTunes because of liberal and ignorant sampling that we used when I first started recording. I kept finding myself at shows where people would either ask one of two questions, the first being— "Is this on itunes?" To which the answer was always a sad "I’m sorry, but no." So first, we rearranged the instrumentals to make them legally sellable on iTunes. The other thing they would ask is, after looking over the 2 hard copies of albums that I had for sale was inevitably— with tears in their eyes, "Where’s poop noodle????" So supply and demand told me that I had to get all of the favorite songs onto one album, and I really needed to make them available on iTunes.

4. Your Greatest Shits Tour includes stops in Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles. What are you looking forward to most about this tour? What do you like about interacting with your fans? What I am looking forward to most is what I always look forward to when I hit the road, getting to be in the middle of, and getting to co-create all the little pockets of love that I have luckily accumulated throughout my tenure as Qween Hobag! I love being with friends and fans because there’s a mirror affect, they give me encouragement and I in turn give them permission to be shameless attention whores like myself!

Wendy Ho, Photo Credit: Eileen Keenan Photography5. Let's go back to the beginning for a moment. How did you come up with Wendy Ho? How did you get the title "The Queen of Raunch and Soul?" What do you like or dislike about having this title? My real name is Wendy Jo, and when I was an acting student at Missouri State, I used to write and perform raps about my teachers and some of the students. They were all dirty and funny, so a friend of mine started calling me, "Wendy Ho," and it stuck. I never considered it a career move, nor did I ever take it seriously, but "she" followed me from place to place and job to job. I would inevitably end up performing her for other performers and cast members, and people would clamor for more. I eventually made a couple of albums of standard songs that I loved singing just to see what it was like to record, along with those albums I decided to put out a joke album of all the Wendy Ho bits I would do at parties, called Wendy Ho: Bitch Off a Leash, and this was the album that everyone wanted. Then, I was fumbling around New York, an out of work entertainstress when I met music producer, Craig Levy. Again, I tried my hand at legit singing-songwriting, and while we were working together I gave him a copy of the Wendy Ho album. He listened to it and immediately called me and asked, "Why aren’t we working on this? This is so funny, and no other artist I know is doing this…above all certainly no white woman."  It took me a while to get comfortable with being Wendy Ho on a public level. Although I had all of my friends encouraging me, I didn’t know if it would be enjoyed on a larger level. So Levy and I started to work on flushing out some snippets of songs, and then I put out an email to all of my performer friends asking if they knew where I could perform. They answered, and I found myself performing at Caroline’s on Broadway and then at just about every gay bar in the city. It was accepted and encouraged immediately. Of course there are those that don’t get it/don’t like it, but it’s really not for them. I eventually came to look at it like, if I can accept this over the top, dirty, loud, and crazy part of myself—maybe others will accept it in me and in themselves too. "The Queen of Raunch and Soul" came from my friend Roman Feeser, a writer, I met at Caroline’s on Broadway, and I love it!!! He also penned the line in "Fuck Me," "blow my coochie up like the taliban." I go back and fourth between the titles, though, in some circles I am known as "The Queen of Poop."

6. Many of your songs are "adult-themed" parodies of popular songs. For instance "Fuck Me" is set to the tune of "Get Here," "Poop Noodle" is set to "I Love The Night Life." Your songs are very fun and brilliantly written. What made you want to write this kind of music? Thank you. I have to say a lot of it, came naturally. I am merely the vessel from which all poop flows. I really was and am just playing catch with the universe a lot. I just thought and think this shit is funny, and when others did too, I was strongly encouraged. Laughter is truly my crack. I am addicted. If laughter was currency, I would be a very rich woman sitting on stacks of it, but there would still never be enough.

Wendy Ho7. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I really was one of those cliched babies that sang before I could talk, I just loved music and singing. But performing was not something that came naturally. I was actually really shy, really self conscious, picked last for the team, fat and awkward, but when I was around my family and close friends I would come out of my shell. I would sing and act and always liked pretending and stories. My dad encouraged me to audition for a play, so I did, and the exhilaration of even being called back had me hooked. Then there was the amplified pretend element, and I was IN. I guess I was just one of those kids that reality just wasn’t enough, and I certainly didn’t feel like I was enough, so that lead me to the life of a theatrical misfit. I had no idea that avoiding myself and reality would in essence circle right back around to require acceptance of myself, my limitations, and strengths.

I’ve met so many entertainers with a similar story and those people REALLY inspire me. I consider myself very lucky to have found not only self acceptance, but in so doing— my tribe. OH! and when I was 11 and saw Bette Midler singing "Otto Titsling" in Beaches I just knew that was the type of performer I would be. It was a definitive moment.

8. Who would you still like to work with? Gosh, there’s so many that I haven’t worked with. I don’t even know where to begin! The orignial cast of 9 to 5 would be great!! Margaret Cho and I are working on something, and I’m super excited by her. She is a gawdess! I love Bianca Del Rio and we go way back, I’d love to do something with him. Musically I’m still waiting on Michael McDonald to call me! Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Coolidge both still owe me one for ripping off "I Stole Yo Purse." There really are too many to name. My world is so abundant with artists. I’m so lucky!

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Was from my high school theater teacher Lee Hitchler—"Always work with people that are more talented than you."

Wendy Ho10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? The main thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am a crazy contradiction of different shades of gay, maybe not sexually—but theatrically, yes.…I said GAY. I’ve learned that at my worst I can be petty, selfish and insecure, and at my best I can be forgiving, generous and confident. If you can’t deal with all that, then we’re breaking up. I also have learned that I really think poop is funnier than farting.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite skin care product? My favorite product is "City Skin" moisturizer from the all natural skin care line developed and created by Dr. Jen at Atomic Cosmetics in Seattle. Plug, plug!!!! Seriously, this woman makes everything right in her own lab, and the entire line is amazing. The moisturizer smells like an orange blossom and just glides on my skin like silk! She makes the best stuff, and I adore her.

12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Well, making some people laugh is pretty super...but if it’s gotta be SUPER, I’d have to say self multiplication, it’d be great to play 80 different shows at once!

13. If you could be an original Life Saver flavor, which one would you be? Cayenne Pepper! Wait, that’s not a flavor…Purple. I would be purple flavored.

14. How do you want to be remembered? As that funny, nasty, generous, forgiving, loving ho lady!

Wendy HoMore on Wendy:

Wendy Jo Smith, better known by her stage name, Wendy Ho is one part skilled singer, one part comedienne, one part rap artist, and 100% entertainer. Over a million youtube views, having drag queens around the world cover her songs, and being spoofed by Ryan Murphy are just a few of this ho's claim to fame.

Wendy got her start as a little honey boo boo child in a trailer court in Ohio. She had a dream of being a stage performer moved to New York City to pursue it. In her starving artist years, she flirted with the idea of stealing ladies’ handbags from coat rooms at parties where she catered, of course, this inspired her track "Bitch, I Stole Yo Purse!," which became the #1 Funniest Video of 2008 on the MTV/LOGO Network, and was parodied on FX’s Nip/Tuck with Jennifer Coolidge playing their version of Wendy Ho. This track came from the beloved cult classic album, The Gospel According to Ho which includes the torch song parody of Brenda Russel/ Oleta Adams' "Get Here," now known as the drag classic, "Fuck Me!" This irreverence and balls-out femininity struck a special chord with the gay community, inspiring drag queens around the world to perform her songs and celebrate Ho.

With a rainbow hurricane of gay support behind her, Wendy Ho tours non-stop nationally with her one woman show, The Wendy Ho Show playing at gay bars, comedy clubs, theaters, and cabarets. Her act is always evolving with original songs and parodies. Her YouTube Channel, "HOtube," is also always growing its web presence with regular music videos and sketches, her newest single, "Public Place," a parody of Rihanna's "We Found Love," is picking up traction.

Wendy currently resides in Los Angeles with her film-maker husband Stas Tagios (who collaborates with her on many videos), and she's a regular at The Comedy Store, Hamburger Mary's, Rage, and The Abbey. RuPaul and Victoria Beckham are two of her biggest fans, and her work has been featured on Logo, Showtime, and HereTV. She has also opened for comedy legends Sandra Bernhard and Leslie Jordan.

Ho is an artist. Ho is a state of mind. Ho redefines women in music and comedy with true liberation. She is funny and sexy, never sacrificing one for the other. A pretty bitch, a witty feminist, a self-possessed, self-assured mashup of street and trash who makes you laugh while she makes you think. The responses she evokes from audiences are as diverse as her roots, but at the core there is no question about who she is. Wendy is all woman. All Ho.

Wednesday
Jun182014

Call Answered: Michael Levesque: Jules

"Call Me Adam" chats with playwright Michael Levesque, who's new play Jules is about Broadway's most famous vaudeville and film star of the time: female impersonator, Julian Eltinge. With music direction and arrangements by the award-winning Tim Di Pasqua, Jules plays at Teatro Latea in NYC (107 Suffolk Street, between Rivington and Delancey) through June 28! Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://www.michaellevesque.net!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? I was an actor for thirty years and one day I realized I was tired of saying other people's words, so I decided to start writing. As well as being an actor I was also exploring spiritually a lot, so playwriting became my marrying of those two passions, playwriting and spirituality.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? There are so many but if i had to narrow it down to one person, maybe two, between all the actors, directors, composers, I would have to say Meryl Streep and Stephen Sondheim, although working with Francis Sternhaggen, was a dream come true.

3. Jules will be presented from June 18-28 at Teatro Latea. What made you want to tell the story of Jules Eltinge? I found his story to be so fascinating and tragic as well as a great piece of history for both theater and LGTB people. He really paved the way for many. It is a love story, a self love story. Without Julian there never would have been a RuPaul.

4. How do you feel your life is similar to Julies Eltinge and how is it different? Similar in how when I was first getting an agent, and performing, people tried to make me be quiet about being gay/different. I refused to be quiet and if it meant not having the career I wanted then too bad. You know I grew up in Northern California during Harvey Milk and he just come out with the campaign he advocated. I came out when I was a senior in high school, 1977, and have fought for gay rights my entire adult life. Be it prop 6, prop 64, prop 8, and many other attempts to legislate "morality laws." It was these so called "morality laws" that helped end Julian's career. Look at where we are today, we can get married and Julian helped us with even that.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? To have more compassion and an open heart and to be at peace with whomever and whatever you are. You are perfect just the way you are.

6. You have presented your work at Teatro Latea before. What made you want to present your work here again? What does this venue offer that other ones around the city don't? JULES take place backstage of Billy Roses, Diamond Horseshoe. I really love the look of Latea and this show fits very well in their space. Also they have a wonderful location on the lower east side.

"Jules" creative team: Tim Di Pasqua, Sierra Ryan, Andrew Glant Linden, Cameron Hansel, David Sabella, and Michael Levesque7. One of the things I am very excited about with Jules is that the award-winning Tim Di Pasqua is the show's musical director and arranger. What made you want to work with Tim and how has his talents help shape your vision of the show? First of all Tim and I are ex lovers of ten years over twenty years ago, and still best friends, so any time I can work with Tim it is an honor and a privilege. Tim and I wrote a musical about ten years ago called Synchronicity together and it was a ball. We think a lot alike so when it came to JULES and finding someone to not only play the show, but create incredible arrangements and write additional music and lyrics, there was no question, Tim was the guy. I also produced two concerts of Tim's music to raise funds and awareness for BCEFA, and to this date it was the most money ever raised for a cabaret show for BCEFA. I am also very fortunate to be working again with my great friend and very talented long time collaborator Andrew Glant-Linden who is directing JULES.

8. I had seen a previous incarnation of Jules a few years back at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. How has the shown grown over the past few years? It has grown quite a bit on many levels. First of all there is new opening involving "Freddy," the character of the stage manager. Second, the actors are getting so much more out of the text now, finding new things, it has just become so much richer, and more nuanced.

David Sabella and Cameron Hansel in "Jules"9. What excites you about having this cast bring Jules to life? They are amazing. David Sabella, as you know plays "Julian." David did "Mary Sunshine" in the revival of Chicago, which come to find out, was loosely based on "Julian." It's great to always hear David sing, but it is more fun watching him being pushed beyond his comfort zone and go places I don't believe he has had to go to before as an actor. Cameron is just a doll. He is young, handsome, talented and always willing to try anything, he just jumps right in. They really are a fantastic team. Then you add Ed in there and I am pretty damn thrilled!

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright? I've learned I have a lot things in my life that need healing. It's interesting, I am not one of those playwrights that sits every day and tries to write. It may be months before I write, but when it comes it comes, and three days later I will have a first draft of a new play. I always think, where did that come from, and then months later I realize there was a reason that came through and usually it is something within myself needing attention, needing healing. Playwriting for me is about listening.

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Always reach for the moon because even if you do not make it you will always be in the company of the stars." -High school drama teacher.

BONUS QUESTION:

12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To fly.

Michael LevesqueMore on Michael:

Readings include Not in Our Town, No Man Can Serve 2 Masters and FAL$E PROFIT$, at the Genesius Guild, Restoration and Freedom Summer at the Hansberry Project, On Hold at the Houseman Theatre with seven-time Tony-nominated and two-time winner, Frances Sternhagen and Tony-nominated Douglas Sills, directed by Scott Schwartz. Who's Sorry Now? at Charles Rosin Casting and his musical Synchronicity, written with award-winning composer Tim Di Pasqua, had a reading at BMI, Seven Angels Theatre and is out on CD. Bad Connections? was produced at The Peoples Theatre in Santa Monica, San Jose City Theatre, and at the Hollywood, Orlando, Toronto and Edmonton Fringe Festivals, where it played to sold-out houses and standing ovations. Bad Connections? also had two NYC engagements, one at the Cell Theatre and the other through Third Eye Theatre Company. His Christmas show, The Christmas Present, ran for three months at La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Akron, Ohio. No Man Can Serve 2 Masters was produced as an Equity Showcase through Third Eye Theatre Company, where Michael also serves as Artistic Director. Michael's plays also include his hysterical whodunit farce, Fire Island and Fire Island, The Next Season, Transubstantiation (also in collaboration with Teatro LATEA) and his political stinger, One Nation Under___? He has written over 25 plays.