Yesterday, I had lunch with a New York singer/actress named Rhe De Ville. She's incredibly beautiful, deliciously talented, has a terrific sense of humor about the world and herself and, the thing that I love most, has a tender heart. During our emotional, rambling two hour talk, our conversation veered from everything from the state of the world to the state of the music industry to show business, health and marriage.
She came to the show this past Saturday when I offered tickets to her and her very handsome, hunky husband -- the point of which was "SING MY SONGS." She came by way of Amy, who told me about her fantastic video on YouTube, which I will post at the end of this blog. She was also a close friend and sometime caregiver to the late, recently departed Morgan Rice.
She and I share a belief that the only way to survive in this business is to keep true to yourself and what you are at your core, musically. Like me, she has endured the slings and arrows of people who think we're aren't quite hip enough, "current" enough, not enough like all the others out there, etc. And, like me, her reaction to this kind of criticism was to ignore it and turn away from the world, focusing even more on our own qualities and letting the rest of the world catch up.
What I remember about Saturday was that she came up to me afterwards with tears in her eyes telling me how much she loved my voice and my singing. (THANK YOU!) And she wasn't just kissing my ass (since there's absolutely no reason in the world why she would need to do that). We discussed this a bit at our lunch.
She said, "You have a genuine, innocent sweetness that comes across. It's my favorite kind of singing." I told her how my vocal abilities had been slammed by a few reviews who were basically positive about the show, but seemed to be less than impressed by how I sang. She bit into them, "That's because they're looking for that Broadway big voice projectile singing. If they don't get it, they think you can't sing. You're a stylist. I think I could listen to your voice all day long."
I was totally overwhelmed by this reaction. I tried to let her off the hook and tell her that it wasn't really necessary since I wasn't here to push my voice, but my songs. "No, I'm serious. There are so few stylists these days. You sing directly from the heart. All the technique in the world can't match that."
She said she faced some of the same type of criticism. I've heard her sing, so I can't imagine anyone challenging her technique, but one thing is true. She definitely sings from the heart and she definitely has her own style.
One of the things I love most about the video below is that it illustrates the life of a singer in New York trying to survive. She will sing at a benefit where multi-billionaires are in the audience and she has to show up in a beautiful dress, looking like millionaire. And how does she do this? By culling the bins at discount stores, having her gay friends put together a "look," -- queer eye for the gal singer? -- and putting on a show.
We also talked about various weird gigs we've had. She told me of the time she showed up at a bar where the band was OVER the bar. Then someone said, "Where's your microphone?" Who knew she had to bring her own microphone?
We spoke about Morgan. How he knew six months before he died that he had contracted PML but didn't tell anyone. So, he knew he was dying, but said he "didn't want to burden his friends." Many people I've known with AIDS took the same tack, not realizing that they were actually depriving their friends of the chance for their last goodbyes, the privilege of taking care of them, of the time to grieve before it was too late.
I gave her a CD of songs and we promised to get together again soon.
I have to say, as a corollary here that it's incredible to be getting so much respect as a singer and songwriter compared to the emptiness of Los Angeles, where you only get respect if you are on the latest toilet bowl commercial or can construct a "groove" that everyone will love for two weeks.
For me, songwriting is about the melody, the lyrics and the chords. Rhe spoke about that, too. She said the magic words, "A great song can be produced to sound like anything you want. That's the producer's job. Lots of people have that ability. Few people know how to write a well constructed song." Long ago, I gave up even trying to find "grooves" or to keep up with the latest "sounds." Sounds come and go. Songs endure forever. Write a great song and the rest comes easily.
I'm finding myself overwhelmed, increasingly, by the number of singers who are coming up to me asking to sing my songs. And the downloads of the sheet music at The Big Voice site are astonishing. Literally thousands of people have downloaded the songs. That makes me very happy.
Now, here's Rhe's hilarious video:
My first show since my surgery. With Blake Zolfo.
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