What is your favorite venue to perform at in New York and why?
I’m a big fan of a few different venues, but my favorite is without a doubt Rockwood Music Hall. The people who work there are great, the vibe is relaxed and intimate, and they have back-to-back performances on three different stages every night which totals over 100 singer/songwriter acts each week. The sheer mass and range of music you can experience is astounding, and to be a part of that is a true thrill. Two of the three stages are mostly standing room, which I really like when performing my own music. I find it harder to engage when the whole room is seated because it creates this gap between what I’m doing and what’s being received. When people can move around and be a part of what’s happening, the experience becomes more of a give and take. If I were to relate it back to theatre, I’d say that the audience is the closest thing you get to a scene partner. It’s all about that relationship. The first concert I ever headlined was at Rockwood and I feel most at home when I’m gigging there. Plus, the area is amazing. Oh gosh, this is reminding me that I need to get back there, pronto!
What is your dream music venue?
I’m going to dream big here. I had the good fortune of getting to perform at Madison Square Garden a couple of years ago, as a backup singer for the band Phish. It was a jaw dropping experience. Beyond simply getting to a level where you can fill an arena of that size, there is a palpable energy to that kind of venue that can’t be replicated. If I could have that experience again, let alone with my own music, I’d be in heaven. And, from a theatre standpoint, I’m looking forward to one day being a part of something on Broadway. I used to have that dream because it felt like the biggest thing someone pursuing theatre could possibly do, but now that dream is wrapped up in a lot of very practical wishes for my life, as well. I’m married and settled in NYC and I would love to be able to sustain my little family’s life here in the city, doing what I love. It’s a little bit less about the allure of the accomplishment than it was when I was younger and more about the lifestyle that it would afford me. You can do great theatre in a lot of places, but Broadway provides a specific kind of rare opportunity right here in NY. I really, really look forward to having that.
You have a background in both acting and music…how do you balance the desire to pursue multiple dreams?
I’ve been doing both for almost as long as I can remember. I began singing when I was a little kid and my dad, who has always been a wonderful musician, helped bring that out in me. I started doing plays in middle school and spent hours a week in gospel choir. I didn’t write songs at the time, but I wrote poems. I was introduced to classical music in high school and started exploring that side of my voice and at that point I was doing about three shows (musicals or plays) a year. When I landed at Northwestern University for college, I still couldn’t narrow down my passion, so I appealed to the dean’s office and created my own double major at the school. I studied both Vocal Performance and Acting, while pursuing a minor in Music Theatre. It was a lot of class and my mom told me countless times that I was burning the candle at both ends.
It wasn’t until a year or two after I moved to New York that I understood how difficult it can be to do everything at once. I really started writing seriously at that time, and it’s hard to give 100% to working on your own music while also trying to give 100% to auditioning and networking. Not to mention all the other things you need to do to be a normal human person doing good and making ends meet. So, I’ve been learning the ebb and flow of life’s seasons. When I was traveling on tour with a musical, I didn’t have the energy to write as much of my own stuff so I didn’t. In the months preceding my solo album release, I took a break from theatre projects. But, despite the time crunch, I am very lucky that these creative mediums have a lot to do with one another. My education in one always, always enhances my understanding of the other.
Tell us about your experience starring in the new musical by Broadway writers, Bartam and Hill?
This was my first job, fresh out of college, and it meant a great deal to me. To this day, it is the most challenging and rewarding role I’ve ever worked on. The emotional and physical demands forced me to a higher level- as an actor and a person.
I was really very fortunate (more than I knew at the time) to be working with such a strong creative team right out of school. Neil Bartram and Brian Hill (The Story of My Life) are generous, bold writers with a long history of excellent work. Chris Jahnke (Les Miserables, Legally Blonde, Grease) created uniquely brilliant orchestrations with inventive voicings. Maija Garcia (Fela!) choreographed with muscle and guts and zero inhibitions. And Amanda Dehnert (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), who directed, challenged me daily to take ten steps deeper into the world we created. It was rewarding every single day and demonstrated exactly why new work is so important. That experience is a big part of why I’ve dedicated so much time to workshopping new shows with writers here in New York. New work matters. It’s quite literally the future of art and I like having a say in the direction we are going.