I’m great, thank you!
Congratulations on the release of “Land Of Dreams” how does it feel?
It feels wonderful! I’ve been working hard, and I am very proud of this one!
What’s the story behind it?
The song “Land of Dreams“ was inspired by Latin jazz. I’ve always been a big fan of Chick Corea, Airto, and Flora Purim’s song “Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly.“ I love the imagery of soaring through the air to a beautiful, healing world that has really always been right in front of us, and I wanted to capture that magical feeling of freedom, of flying through the sky like a bird to the wondrous “Land of Dreams.“
It’s a song that you wrote way back in 1986. What was life like for you back then?
I was an aspiring songwriter living in Los Angeles, regularly attending songwriter gatherings where publishers and producers would come, hoping to place my songs.
This is from a larger body of work that features you as a producer for the first time; what did you learn through the process?
So much! I learned how to take charge, and get what I was envisioning (and more!) every step of the way. It was a major learning and discovery process. The initial challenge was honing in on what exactly what my vision for the project was, and then being cautious and protective of outside influences, as I’ve tended in the past to be too easily swayed by opinions of others, resulting in not feeling satisfied with the end result. So I resolved this time to stay true to myself and take full responsibility for the outcome, and I’m happy to say that, for the first time ever, I can look at this finished album and say, “Yes, this is what I meant.”
All the songs are my babies, so that’s tough! But if I had to choose one, probably “Open Dream,“because it was the catalyst for the entire project. I write all the time; lyrics and pieces of songs float in from everywhere, but I’m not always thinking “album.“ “Open Dream“ came to me in a dream in 2021, at which time I had been accumulating a number of lyrics and song parts over the lockdown years. When “Open Dream“ appeared, I realized a theme had been developing, a collection had been forming, and it was time to record.
You’re a singer–songwriter from New York with quite a resume. How did it all begin for you?
I was born in New York, then grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. I’ve been in music all my life, playing piano and singing since I was five, then majored in music in college. After college, I worked as a lyricist for about 20 years, wrote for film and TV, had a hit with Kathy Sledge in 1992 (“All of My Love“). Around 1998, I began writing full songs for myself to sing, both lyrics and the music, and in 2000 released my debut album, “Wolves at my Door.”
What did you listen to starting out?
I’ve always loved the soulful singer–songwriter poets and storytellers. My mile-long list includes Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, and Ben Folds. I’m also a big fan of piano and vocal jazz. Some early favorites were Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Take 6.
You’ve written for Sarah Vaughan; did you get to meet Sassy herself?
I wish! No, I was living in Los Angeles at the time. “Tears in My Heart“ was my first song placement with a major publisher, Famous Music. I’m not sure if Famous is still around, but back then they were big, and in 1989, the potentially career-launching call came in from my attorney that Sarah Vaughan was going to be performing “Tears in My Heart“ the following week at the Blue Note Cafe in New York, and was also getting ready to record it. Less than four months after her show, she passed away. Never made it to the recording part.
You’re also a poet; what’s your favourite poem?
Wow, that’s a great question! Nobody’s ever asked me that! I did most of my poetry reading when I was very young and my favorites were Rumi, Shel Silverstein, Louisa May Alcott, and Dr. Seuss. But now I get my fix from the great lyricists, whom I believe are the real poets of today — the only ones getting noticed on a large scale anyway. I once heard a quote attributed to Joni Mitchell, something like, “Poets who don’t sing their own words are cowards,” and that struck a chord with me. That quote was actually some of the impetus behind me eventually putting my own songs together, getting up on that stage, and starting to sing.
But, to pick a favorite — I’ll go with one that’s been swimming around in my head lately, “That’s Not the Shape of my Heart“ by Sting.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Jacob Collier. I’m blown away and inspired by everything he does.
What are you looking forward to most in 2024?
I’m looking forward to doing some touring around “Land of Dreams.“ I’m also working on a book based around the songs from that album, filling in some of the backstories, which will be coming out later this year.