Lucy Kaplansky debuts stripped-down sound
Touring in support of her latest album, “Everyday Street,” her first in six years, singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky will return to the Fairfield Theatre Company on May 24, singing a mix of new and old original songs as well as fan favorite covers. Kaplansky spoke with Andrea Valluzzo about the album’s stripped-down sound and the stories behind some of her songs.
Andrea Valluzzo: Starting out, who were you inspired by musically?
Lucy Kaplansky: Originally, The Beatles but then when I was about 14 or 15, my older brother turned me onto Joni Mitchell and that was my main inspiration really. Later on, I got turned on to Gram Parsons and Steve Earle, kind of a mix of stuff and Emmylou Harris and the singer-songwriters of the 60s-70s because that’s when I was a teenager.
AV: “Everyday Street” is a very personal, intimate and stripped-down album.
LK: The songs are generally all very personal, which is just kind of honestly the way I know how to write: write what you know. They are all about my life and the album title, which came from one of the songs, “Everyday Street,” is just the beauty and the grace that you can find in absolutely everyday experiences. The stripped-down thing ... for years people have asked me to make a live album and I just sort of never did it, I might someday but this was kind of an attempt to make an album that reflects my live shows, so it’s just me and Duke Levine. The album sounds like what he and I sound like when we do a show together ... it was all live, sitting in a room together, several songs were one take, so it’s kind of like a live performance.
AV: Did you set out to record in a single take?
LK: There was nothing where I didn’t do another take but what I mean is on the first take we nailed it, and I wasn’t going for perfection, I was going for performance. There were certainly things I fixed, like bad notes, and Duke fixed a couple things. The idea was a performance and it didn’t have to be perfect.
AV: There’s an interesting backstory to the opening track, “Old Friends.”
LK: It’s about my longtime friend, [fellow musician] Shawn Colvin. I met her in 1980, she was completely unknown. We became mutual fans and very good friends and then had a falling out a few years later and really were out of touch for a long time. I saw her at a festival about four years ago, got up all my nerve, went up to her, and turns out nobody was mad anymore. I thought she was still mad at me, she thought I was mad at her. We had this wonderful reunion and we are friends again and I was very moved by that whole circumstance. I thought I lost a friend and then she was back in my life, I was so grateful and amazed and ended up writing a song about it. I played the song for her, she told me after she stopped crying that it was the best gift anyone had ever given her and she wanted to sing the harmony on it on the album.
AV: What are some of your favorite songs to perform and why?
LK: Always songs that I haven’t done a lot are my favorite so either a song that’s new that I have written or a song that I just started to cover is always, always the most fun to sing. That said, I think my song, “Ten Year Night” is always one of my favorites, that is not a new song, it’s more than 20 years old. I still feel it when I sing it and I’m very proud of it. And people really like it so that makes it even more fun.
AV: The music business has changed a lot. How is it going marketing this album only on your website and at shows?
LK: It’s going really well, I was thinking for a long time, how am I going to make another album. Albums have stopped selling so what am I going to do? It occurred to me … why don’t I make it so people have to buy it like in the old days. Spotify has been good to me, I have 11.5 million streams of one song but that was a real lucky break, I don’t expect that to happen again. If people can listen on streaming services, they are not going to buy it. So I thought why not try an experiment? I’ve been kind of shocked how many I’ve sold and how happy people are to support an artist. People don’t realize that artists don’t make anything from streaming. Even with 11.5 million streams, you don’t make a lot. If people really understood that, they would be more aware [that] it would be a nice thing to actually buy an album. So I’ve been very gratified by how many I’ve sold and how happy people are to do it and most of all, how many people like this album. I’ve been shocked especially because of the stripped-down thing, which I’ve never done but people really like it.
AV: What can the audience expect at your show at FTC?
LK: My shows, first of all, I don’t plan them, it’s always spontaneous, what songs I am going to play and in what order. I take requests, that’s part of how it is spontaneous. It will be for sure a mix of new and old and probably some stuff I have never recorded and a mix of piano, guitar and mandolin, I have to to say also FTC is just one of my favorite places to play for two reasons. The sound is fantastic and for a musician that is everything, and the audiences are incredibly warm, so it does not get better than that, I love playing there. It’s always fun.