LUCY KAPLANSKY INTERVIEW
New Yorker Lucy Kaplansky is a renowned Folk-Country singer-songwriter from the states. Born and raised in Chicago, Lucy moved to New York in her late teens. There, she got involved with the Folk scene in Greenwich Village, going on to play with the likes of Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. In 1994 she released her much-anticipated debut album, The Tide, on Red House Records. Today, Lucy continues to release her music on the same record label to huge critical acclaim.
Here, she chats exclusively to Pulse scribe Steve Rudd about her approach to songwriting, along with her opinions on how the Internet has affected such an approach…
Hi Lucy, how are things?
Life is very, very good, I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter, Molly. And I get to sing for a living.
In 2007, you released Over the Hills. How would you best describe the type of music and vibes that grace the record?
It’s somewhat more acoustic than previous albums; there’s a lot of acoustic bass and acoustic guitars, dobro, pedal steel. The original songs are all about family; that wasn’t something I planned, they just kind of came out of me and my husband that way. The covers are a bunch of songs I love, most of which I’ve been singing live for many, many years.
Since releasing your debut LP back in 1994, have you found that the actual process of song writing has become any easier?
The process definitely isn’t any easier, but I have a little more confidence that somehow whatever I’m working on might end up being good. Although there are plenty of times when whatever it is ends up being lousy, and I have to throw it away. It’s very, very tough for me to write.
Are there any special guest appearances on Over the Hills?
Some of my favorite singers are guests: Jonatha Brooke, Buddy Miller, Eliza Gilkyson and Richard Shindell. I was very lucky to have them sing.
What is your favourite track on the album, and why?
That’s a tough question, but I think I’d have to say Manhattan Moon, partly because I’m proud of that song, because it’s a very personal, joyful song, and because the production and the playing are so beautiful.
After touring extensively in the states, have you been looking forward to returning to the UK to play?
I came back to the UK in June 2007 after five years, and it was wonderful to be back.
How do British crowds react to your shows compared to those back home in the US?
They tend to react about the same, though sometimes the crowds are a bit quieter, a bit more polite.
You grew up in Chicago but now live in New York. Which of those two cities do you most regard as ‘home’?
Home is definitely New York. I’ve been in New York for almost thirty years, and though I love Chicago and have warm feelings for it, I’m a real New Yorker now.
You once contributed some tracks to a CD Storybook entitled Down at the Sea Hotel, and a healthy portion of the proceeds were duly donated to the breast cancer fund. How did you get involved with such a project?
The singers on the CD are all from my record company, Red House. The folks doing the CD simply approached my label and asked us all to sing. It sounded like a wonderful idea, and it is.
Since modern life has increasingly become Internet-orientated in recent years, have you personally found it harder to make money from CD sales, or have you found the Internet a blessing in disguise since it’s now so much easier to raise one’s profile through networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook?
I haven’t noticed a decrease in CD sales at my show. I think people who come to shows still want to buy a physical CD, and often get an autograph. I know that sales of my CDs through traditional stores are down, as are everyone else’s. I think, in general, the Internet has made it easier for artists like me, who aren’t part of the pop music world, to have a viable career and audience.
Of all the singers and musicians you’ve worked with over the years, who has given you the best piece of advice?
Cheryl Wheeler told me that I may not always have fun onstage, which is certainly true, but I can always be musical up there. That’s been a big help when I’m having a tough night.
Was singing and performing always a prominent passion for you as a child, or did such a passion only develop later in life?
No, I’ve loved singing since I was very young, probably five or six. My family was very musical, especially my dad who was a terrific piano player.
Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring singer-song writers out there who have, for whatever reasons, so far failed to make headway in the industry?
What I always tell people is that if you’re really good, something will happen if you keep at it. But it can take a while. You have to be persistent, but you also have to be realistic if you’ve tried for a long time and nothing is happening.
For more information about Lucy and her music, form an orderly queue at www.lucykaplansky.com
(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Lucy Kaplansky)