Posts Tagged ‘Broadway’

sod_logo_smallThere are times when I really miss the daily blogs followed by instant reactions that usually developed into full-on electronic dialogues. But for better or worse, I can only count on a few minutes here and there to post my regular (or nowadays “irregular”… My bad!) updates. Not surprisingly, though, it takes me so long to actually get to the computer for these overdue “news blogs” that I tend to forget half of them by the time I’m typing away yet again!
So, first things first… Earlier this afternoon, we heard from our European counterpart that the authors of “Is It True” (Christopher Neil, Oskar Pall and yours truly) performed most gloriously by Yohanna, have been awarded for the #1 Eurovision Song of the Decade as voted by the ESC viewers and ESC Today readers worldwide. Did we really beat some of the greats, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Diane Warren, Ronan Keating, Patricia Kaas, etc. to name but a few? I’m still reeling from this, to be honest!
And from Sweden – this very song was performed at the Swedish Idol semi-finals (and won the semi’s!) by Erik Gronwall last week… which, by the way, you can hear (and see) right here.
Now, on a political note… As I’m getting ready to return to the UN Radio HQ next week to resume my weekly UN Uncovered show on Progressive Radio Network (it’s been over a month, I can’t believe it!) I am still trying to keep up with international political affairs… Believe it or not, I do read the Financial Times – still, even a year after the August War back home… So…. The other day, as I was surfing the web and reading the online Friday edition of the FT, I came across this article:
“Iceland after a year of financial crisis
Financial Times – London, England, UK
‘Is it true? Is it over? Did I throw it away?’ Seldom can the words
from an entry in the Eurovision Song Contest be more appropriate…”
To read more, please go to: FT.com
If you read on, you’ll be equally surprised by the sudden twist – a pop song lyric in a heavily political piece? I couldn’t be more excited, though, I admit!
And pop songs aside, I can proudly confirm that I am about to start working with the great Timothy Graphenreed, who wrote my very first song for me back when I was 16 years old, on our Broadway-themed concert to take place in NYC (theater, date, etc. TBC) in the new year – a variety of songs, ranging from American standards and some of my own tunes… Quite a challenge, but I’m extremely excited and really, really psyched!
While brand new material is on its way, I can already give you a quick hint – there’s about 4-5 new tunes that I’m dying to post on here asap, but it will have to wait until it’s been sent to my publishers at Kobalt Music and straight onto my homepage.
Please do stay tuned for more news and I promise to keep this blog up to date as much as possible… But for now, happy holiday to everyone (Columbus Day, if you haven’t noticed – some of the stores are closed today…. Brrrr…..!)

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Some of you probably heard about the Euro 2008 soccer semi-final results – Russia got completely swamped by the Spanish team. In fact, they met twice during the tournament, and on both occasions, Spain pretty much outplayed Russia, particularly in the semi finals.

Now, fear not, my friends, this blog isn’t about football (sorry, I should say “soccer”!) but rather about sometimes – only sometimes – actually feeling like you miss being home, in my case, back in Europe.

One of my best friends in Moscow sent me a message on Facebook this morning and we had a brief chat about the Euro 2008 – she couldn’t believe that I missed all of the games, except for the highlights (Russian cable TV made us, the viewers, watch the scored goals a million times over and over again!) – “It’s time you come back home,” she added, jokingly.

And then I realized something…

A lot of my friends – both in Russia and Georgia – have never really approved my moving abroad. Not only because we don’t get to see each other that often (I visited Moscow, where my parents are still based primarily, last September, but believe it or not, I haven’t been in Georgia for… 4 years… shocking!!!) but also due to a simple fact – you’d be surprised how many of my friends and relatives strongly believe that one should live and die in one’s very own homeland. An admirable kind of patriotism, no doubt, and as much as I love and miss both of my homes and the family and friends, I sometimes wonder if I could ever go back for good, having lived away from home for so long now… Should I feel guilty? I’m not even sure if this is good or bad.

Ever since I was a little girl, watching all the Hollywood movies, listening to what we used to then call “The American music” ranging from Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, Whitney, etc. I had an inexplicably strong urge to one day live in this country and do what I love the most (and have always loved, in fact) here, in USA. A part of this fascination was definitely an offspring of my parents’ ultimate dream for me to live here someday.

When the first group of ex-Soviet people were finally allowed to cross the border into the Western world, my parents came to the States to visit some friends on several occasions, which was pretty much unheard of at the time. So every time they went away for a couple of weeks to the Land of Hope and Dreams, my cousin (it’s weird calling Ketuta my cousin, she’s my sister, for God’s sake – after all, we grew up together!) and I used to mark the days of their absence on our individual calendar as our grandma had suggested to keep us entertained and out of mischief… 🙂 We were rather impossible, particularly when we were plotting the next “disaster” as a duo! 🙂

Back when the Soviet System Collapsed and people were hopeful and excited about the future back home, my dad, was offered a very tempting and creative job in NY with a Green Card, refurbished home, etc. to go with it, and had my mom not insisting on going back to Georgia (“How can we ever leave our home, family, friends???”, she was definitely against it!) I’m sure we would have moved right away. But we stayed back in Tbilisi, and guess what? A year or so later, a civil war broke out! Good timing! 🙂

The next opportunity was also turned down, but this time by none other than yours truly. When I came to New York to perform at the Alan & Marilyn Bergman show several years ago, my agent strongly suggested – no, he actually insisted – that I stay in the US and pursue my career here, except not in the pop world but on Broadway, instead. Because of all sorts of reasons, I declined the tempting offer and stubbornly made it clear that I wanted to live in London and that was it.

Well, I did move to London some time later, and I have to say I never ever regretted the teenage decision, although deep down, I always had a quiet urge to one day move here, to America, but this time on my own terms. How was it different from the previous offer? It was actually a great offer, now that I look back on it, but somehow I didn’t feel prepared at the time and don’t ask why – who knows! Immaturity being one of the issues, for sure 🙂

So when I think about the struggle and a long path that perhaps could have been easier and shorter, after all, under different circumstances, I don’t for a second want to go back and leave all of this behind, especially being half way “there”, it would mean betraying myself in many ways. And as much as I love and miss my friends back home, there’s a constant will power and a passion for what I do and why I do what I love in a country that was always an ultimate dream destination for me – and there’s no way I could let it go. Those of you who had to make that journey at one point will surely understand what this is all about…

I don’t think I’d be so passionate and so madly in love with all of this had it dropped on my lap too easily and too quickly… Doubt it.

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The other day, I accidentally came across a selection of demos from years ago that had been sent to me by my former U.S. agent in the early days back when I still lived in Russia. The compilation included original songs by the likes of Denise Rich, Andy Marvel, Peter Zizzo, etc. I am always staggered by the power of music and how a mere 3-4 min song is able to untangle such a variety of memories, including the most vivid images, scents and the most trivial, minuscule details… Incredible but true.

I had barely turned 15 when my manager at the time, Yegor Shishkovsky (see: “A Voice on the Radio”) sent me a casual email from a holiday resort in New Zealand to let me know that he had just met a vacationing couple from NY who happened to be in the same industry… “And guess what? One of Peter’s artists has just recorded a new EP which also happens to include a rendition of ‘The Way He Makes Me Feel’!” Being a huge fan of Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman, this song was one of the very first studio recordings I had made. Yegor happened to have a copy of my version with him in NZ and the managers swapped CDs on the spot before parting ways.

As it happens, a couple of months down the line, after exchanging numerous emails and phone calls, Peter and Yegor decided to work out a co-management deal and Peter flew over to London for 24-hours during my promotional tour for a quick meet ‘n greet.

A few weeks later, I was on my way to New York to perform at the Alan & Marilyn Bergman tribute show – an unbelievable dream come true for a Soviet teenager who grew up loving the Bergman songs and adoring their collaboration with a true idol and childhood icon, Barbra Streisand.

Shortly upon my arrival, I met my vocal coach, Danny Madden who trained me throughout my trip and rehearsed “A Piece of Sky” from “Yentl” during the initial period at the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center… I was getting so carried away, I was living a dream – and it was just he beginning!

Within days, I was working with Mike Renzi, the legendary pianist (Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, etc.) at the ASCAP Headquarters in NY…

On Friday, 9th of June, I stepped into the ASCAP building yet once again for another rehearsal; however, it turned out to be a rather extraordinary one. While I was belting out one of the highest notes of the song, a tall, slim man opened the door and came in quietly. He remained silent throughout the rest of the song.

I felt my hands sweating as I realized that Alan Bergman himself – the same Alan Bergman in all the Streisand photos, videos, etc. – was present in the room. After I sang the song, Mr. Bergman gave me warm applause along with a few sweet comments and some very constructive suggestions. We had a very long conversation about various topics, from modern artists (fascinating!) to the family in California (see: YouTube video “A Piece of Sky” rehearsal.) He even sang several of his songs me and my parents, who, as always, were there to share that very special moment with me. I could hardly believe it, honestly!

The preparations for the tribute show were in full blow! The icing on the cake was a late-night phone call from Peter Herman… I almost fell off the bed…

“Sorry to wake you up, just wanted to let you know that Marvin Hamlisch will be introducing you to the audience tomorrow night!”

Oh my GOD!

As I stood onstage at The Pierre Ballroom and pronounced the opening remarks and thank-you’s, I still couldn’t believe my eyes… Everything inside me was trembling and I still managed to keep myself composed “Can’t mess up now!” I thought… The funny thing is, thanks to my amazing dad, the video of the event is actually on YouTube, so every time I look at it, I relive the moment. It was one of those moments when you so want to stop the hands of time and keep turning them backwards! I was so blown away… And meeting all these heroes of mine after the performance was all the more exciting… For a teenager, it was quite a challenge to be handled with care 🙂

I was so thrilled to hear from Marilyn again when I joined ASCAP a couple of years ago. It’s so rare when people of such caliber touch your life so deeply – nothing can erase that, I swear.

A couple of days later, I found myself at the home studio of Denise Rich who was mega popular at the time – everyone who was anyone in the modern pop world had a Denise Rich song under their belt. I was rushed into the studio to record one of her songs co-written with Peter Zizzo and Andy Marvel (clips from the recording session are also on YouTube!) called “Everything”. It was fun to meet Denise, she came to hear the comp on the last day and I still remember bringing her a Faberge souvenir from Russia (mind you, the Bergman’s got a painting from my dad with a special dedication – can’t beat that!)

At that point, I was so blown away by the whole experience of the 2-week trip, I was beginning to lose the plot, literally! It’s so easy to get used to everything at such young age. I actually think by then I had start to take it all for granted!

The Bergman show was followed by proposals to get into the whole Broadway scene, including the suggestion made by Marvin Hamlisch to Peter Herman. I was reluctant, even though I had been in love with this music all of my life.

One night I went to see “Cabaret” with my parents and spent some time backstage… I was so disappointed in the “theater life” – maybe it was a bad night – but I really didn’t enjoy witnessing the ins and outs of it, I thought I was too young to dive into that world and I felt I wasn’t ready to give up my “pop” dreams… I wanted to learn to write, work with specific record producers and funny enough, by the end of the trip, I did not want to live in NY and instead chose to move to London.

It’s quite bizarre but I believe that anything that comes too easily can’t be appreciated half as much as when you’ve actually “fought” with all your might and effort for that dream. There were a lot of “politics” mainly on the personal front (still within the musical scope) involved in making my decision to move to London, and to be honest, I did regret making that hasty move too quickly on a teenage whim at first, but now that I find myself living and making my dreams come true in the same NYC and mingling and collaborating with the people I could have only admired from a distance, I’m really, really thrilled. It took so much time, effort and sweat to get from A to B, but I do appreciate and value the experiences along the way. I had to go out of my way to get back on track with the same people that were pretty much hand-delivered to me on a silver plate initially, but there is a strange thrill of “self-realization” when you achieve those bits and pieces by yourself.

The initial NY trip was magical and I am grateful for every single memory and experience that I derived from it… And yet, I had to learn the hard way, and I do honestly feel so blessed… Not meant as a cliché, I promise – I guess it’s all a learning curve… As long as one remains true to himself/herself – not an easy task in this industry, and probably everywhere else in this day and age.

And by the way, teenagers can be such spoilt brats 🙂 Maturity can be so helpful, and what a shame it only comes with age…

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