THE SCREAMiNG JETS
iNTERViEWS LUCiANA SOUZA
LUCiANA SOUZA TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HER LATEST CD TiDE
WORKiNG WiTH HUSBAND LARRY KLEiN
AND BALANCiNG CAREER AND FAMiLY
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
At the moment, life is considerably less hectic for GRAMMY-nominated jazz vocalist LUCIANA SOUZA. The Brazilian-born songstress is now a new mom and three-years into her marriage with celebrated music producer LARRY KLEIN. While SOUZA has experienced great joy in the past year, she also experienced the loss of both of her parents. One would think that the highs and lows would keep SOUZA beneath the covers , but instead she celebrates the ups and downs with the release of her latest CD Ė the fittingly titled ĎTIDEí. Produced by husband LARRY KLEIN, ĎTIDEí combines SOUZAís natural Brazilian leanings (namely on the rousing medley of HAROLDO BARBOSAís ĎADEA AMERICAí and EU QUERO UM SAMBA), her appreciation for the work of poet E.E. CUMMINGS as evidenced on the albums title track and LOVE-POEM 65í, and a penchant for confessional-styled songwriting (FIRE AND WOOD, CIRCUS LIFE, and ONCE AGAIN). Not to be lost in the mix of ace musicianship and top-notch production is SOUZAís smokey, one-of-a-kind delivery.
ROCKWIRED spoke with LUCIANA SOUZA over the phone following two performances in New York City. Here is how it went.
How was New York?
It was really, really good. We played two nights at LINCOLN CENTER and the night in between, we played in Pittsburgh and it was fun. It was three nights in a row and the music shaped up very beautifully.
TIDE is a few months away. Are you getting antsy?
Actually Iím not because Iím a mother now. I have an eight-month old so Iím watching my baby grow so nothing else makes me anxious. Iíve changed. There are no more anxieties about my career. Itís fun! Iím excited but not antsy. People are responding to it well, especially live. This past weekend, people were coming up to me and saying they wanted the record but were upset that it wasnít available. And I was like ĎI know, youíve got to wait.í Itís only a month away.
It is month away but it was pushed back, wasnít it?
Thatís right. Because I am on VERVE and they had so many releases that were scheduled. Iím actually signed to UNIVERSAL JAZZ (FRANCE) and those are the people that take care of me. So the French people said that they would like to put the album out in Europe by April and the U.S accepted at first but then they looked at their schedule and they realized that they were releasing DIANA KRALL and MELODY GARDOT. There were too many people being released at the same time so they asked me if would push the release back and I said Ďof courseí. Like I said, there is no anxiety anymore.
Doesnít this year mark your tenth year of recording?
I think so.
Well thank you for thinking about that. I donít know I should count it. What are we now?
Well itís 2009. Wasnít your first release in 1999.
Yes, youíre right!
Wow! Motherhood really did make you unobservant!
I guess so. Iím counting days now instead of months. Years are too abstract for us now.
They certainly get more abstract the older I get.
You sound like a young fellow, though.
Well thirty-four isnít twenty-four.
But thirty-four isnít forty-two either.
With TIDE, what is different this time around as opposed to previous recordings?
I think this one really puts together everything that I think I love about music. Itís got the E.E. CUMMINGS poems, which I pay tribute to on this album. I did a record on NERUDA and I did a record on ELIZABETH BISHOP and Iím not sure Iím going to be able to do a whole record on a particular poet in the future but CUMMINGS is someone that I have been reading for years. To me his poetry is the closest thing to jazz. He is so structured yet he has so much freedom to play with words and really make you think as a reader. This album has the poetry thing and the Brazilian thing. It opens with a medley of two Brazilian songs and it has my own songwriting. It is a record that offers a little taste of everything that I love about music. I think it succeeds because it is completely honest and revealing of who I am but it also allows you to shoot into so many different directions. It doesnít contain me. Itís a short record but itís open-ended.
In the years that Iíve been doing ROCKWIRED, I think you are the fifth person that is produced to LARRY KLEIN and you are actually married to him.
I sleep with him, what can I say!
Iíve always asked people what itís like to work with him but for you the question is going to be a little different. How easy or difficult is it bringing the married life into a working situation?
LARRY surprises me. He is so professional and I think it is the maturity that both of us have. He is in his fifties and Iím in my forties. There is no need to hide anything and there is no need to prove anything. He is a consummate musician and he plays bass on the record, which is wonderful. He obviously loves me so itís not like Iím fighting to be heard. Music is in the house the whole time. Heís producing records pretty consistently so itís impossible not be talking about what we do as musicians. In no way do I not feel completely supported. Itís just really easy. You ask me how difficult it is to work with LARRY and Iíve got to say, itís not difficult at all. I love that he is a great listener and I think that is why he is able to work so well with so many great female songwriters. Heís known for working with female singers and I think itís because he listens very well. He is very patient. He is slow which is wonderful. I move a little faster than LARRY most of the time and he really pulls me back and makes me think about what Iím doing and make choices that are both intuitive and deliberate.
When I interviewed MELODY GARDOT, she pointed that out as well.
Oh good, Iím glad!
How did music begin for you?
I was born and raised in a family of musicians. My dad was a self-taught guitarist and came from very humble beginnings but made his way by helping to create that whole Bossa Nova period and bringing it to San Paulo. He was in Rio when it started and then a couple of years later he moved to San Paulo with my mom. My mom was a poet and songwriter. They wrote a lot of songs together and they were very successful in the day. They never made it to the States but in Brazil during a certain period for a few years, they wrote some hit songs that were sung by some successful singers of the time. Then, they had five kids that they needed to support so they started writing jingles. I grew up in environment where there were a lot of musicians coming through the house. Early on I realized that I sang in tune and had rhythm, so my parents took me to the studio and I started doing jingles at age three. There was music around all of the time. There was no television in the house until I was twelve. It was all about having fun with music and playing tons of instruments at the house. At eighteen I went to BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC in Boston. I got a scholarship and went to study Jazz Composition and did my Bachelors there and pursued my Masters at the New England Conservatory where I also focused on Composition. Iíve been in school quite a bit. I taught at lot but I donít teach anymore. Itís been about three or four years now since Iíve moved to L.A. and now Iím just focusing on singing and various other projects. I like to keep things interesting. I sing with orchestras and quasi-classical things. I try to keep things as broad as I can. I do a lot traditional Brazilian music, jazz and a lot of other things. Now that Iím with LARRY Ė we got married in 2006 Ė the last few years have brought me closer to a greater variety of music. Iím much more interested in lyrics and writing songs which is really good.
It looks like there was a strong Classical Music streak in your career before you started recording.
Yeah, but it wasnít even intentional. There was new Classical composer named OSVALDO GOLIJOV. He is new because he is young. Heís been writing music successfully for about ten years now. He heard me on the radio in Boston once and he called me and actually wrote a piece where I was actually the soloist. It sort of got me started. I started performing his pieces with orchestras and then the orchestra director started to know me. Iím not a mezzo-soprano or anything like that. I canít even qualify my voice as that. Iím not a Ďlegití singer like that. I sing music and they liked the sound of my voice and I go in and do it, but I donít feel like a fake. Iím just not traditional in that way. I donít have that kind of authority. I love the music so Iím glad to do it.
I noticed on this album that the original material is sandwiched between this one opening track and this closing track by PAUL SIMON.
Itís a very, very famous song. Itís actually two songs together by the same composer named HAROLDO BARBOSA. The first song ADEUS AMERICA is an anthem for Brazilians who are living outside of Brazil. It talks about the Samba calling your name. Iíve spent so much time away from the things that made me who I am that there is this gravity that is pulling me back. The lyrics specifically speak of living in America for so long and missing everything but when you go back, you realize that you canít go back because the Brazil that you left is no longer there. That is sort of how I feel as a singer. I left Brazil twenty-some years ago and I would love to go back but it isnít the Brazil that I know. Itís changed. Two decades have passed. The lyrics of this song are very good and they truly capture that spirit. He last song, which is PAUL SIMONís was curious because I worked with him lat year and this year just a few weeks ago. They did this huge retrospective of his music at the BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC in New York. We were playing and he called me backstage one day and said that he wrote a couple of songs in the last year that he really wanted me to hear. He played one song called LOVE IN HARD TIMES, which is beautiful. Then he played me AMULET and I said ĎI love this one! Can I have it!í and he said that it doesnít have lyrics. The piece was really poetic even in the fact that it was wordless. It took a while for him to send it to me and then he made a very beautiful recording on solo guitar and I just had a guitarist here in L.A. transcribe his version and I just sang the melody.
Explain the songwriting process. How does that work for you?
The last year has been quite busy. As I told you earlier, I had a baby in August. I actually lost my dad in May of 2008 and my mom passed away two months ago in February. Itís been an eventful year in terms of enormous joy and enormous grief and having a child has allowed me to look at my career in a different light. It was an up and down year and as I was pregnant, I would sit at the piano and noodle. I would record myself quite a bit so I didnít have to stop and hand-write the music. LARRY would go and come from work and listen to something and say ĎOh, I love that or that could be something!í I started recording little bits and pieces of things and with his help he would push me forward. He urged me to continue. Because I was so busy with the baby and life and terrible losses that I had had, my tendency was not to want to write. Then I would start writing lyrics. I started a lyric and would say ĎIím kind of stuck!í Then, a friend of ours named DAVID BATTEAU who is a really wonderful lyricist who live here in L.A. would come in to the house to work with LARRY on other things. At the beginning of the process it was all me and I wrote all of the music and then LARRY urged me to continue with the lyrics, I got stuck and then DAVID BATTEAU took over and then three of us got together and we finished it off. It was very interesting because I had never written this way. S for me it was really wonderful. Again, what I said about LARRY earlier Ė he is very easy-going.
So you, LARRY and DAVID were pretty much the creative backbone of the project.
Yes, exactly. My tendency wouldíve been to do a record using more standards but LARRY was the one saying that these songs were good and that they could stand on their own and that we should use them. We ended up writing four songs on the record.
Talk about the title ĎTIDEí. I know that itís the title of an E.E. CUMMINGS poem but why the title.
Because it suited the moment and it still does. There is this idea of gravity pulling you and the ups and downs that we go through in this life. When I think of Ďtideí, I think of something that comes and goes and rises and falls down again. It is about this feeling of Ďplacelessnessí and moving from place to place and country to country and having to carry a feeling of stability inside yourself no matter what happens.
I ask this question and most people donít like it. What pieces from the album stand out for you the most and why?
I know why people donít like this question because at the end of a record, you love everything that youíve done.
That is exactly right.
Itís not that I donít like the question, I just think that different songs would serve me differently. Here are songs that are autobiographical like FIRE AND WOOD. I have a lot of fun when I sing that song or when I hear it. Then there is a song Ė one o the E.E. CUMMINGS poems Ė we called in LOVE but LOVE IS THE ONLY EVER-LOVING GOD is the full name of the poem. That song really hits me beautifully. So I would say those two songs stand out for me the most, but for very different reasons. But then again, the Brazilian stuff is fun too. Itís got a lot of humor and groove. So I guess the short answer is, ĎI love them all!í
Thank you for that question. Itís not a record with songs that have a lot of hooks. Itís a jazz album.
In putting this album, what was the biggest surprise for you? What didnít you expect in making this record.
You know BRIAN, the first album I made with LARRY was back in 2007. It was completely different process. I was a slow, slow record to make. Things were added and things were removed. We also had a bigger budget. We sort of took out time. This last album was done live in three days. For me it was really wonderful to do because it sort of brought back the jazz thing of having to do records fast because we have very small budgets in jazz music. We also wanted to capture a moment with each of these songs. We did several takes on the songs but we eventually go to something that we were all comfortable with. This album captured everything that we wanted to say in a very natural way. He music is rather simple and the musicians were well chosen and we rehearsed enough and it just felt good to play.
They are great musicians! Which one of them stood out for you the most on this project?
The one musician that was the biggest surprise for me was VINNIE COLAIUTA who is the consummate drummer for just about anything that you can imagine. I had never heard him play Brazilian music but I knew that he could play jazz. I had heard him play anything involving jazz, and rock and pop. He is probably the busiest drummer in music.
I think so too. His name has come up quite a bit.
Oh my God! His name is everywhere.
Heís with THE YELLOWJACKETS, right?
Yes and JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HERBIE HANCOCK, and CHICK COREA. LARRY was the one telling me that he would be perfect for this record. I was wondering if VINNIE could play Brazilian music and LARRY told me that there wasnít anything that VINNIE couldnít play. He comes into the studio and he is there for you. With such humility he goes there and finds the rhythm for you and it is just incredible. Heís got that sense of musicality and experience. No wonder he is who he is. I had a great time playing with him and would love to do it some more. I think he will be the first man that I call for my first record. And LARRY, but I sleep with him so heíll be there anyway.
Talk about the VERVE label. Theyíve been around forever. Describe the relationship there.
It is such an honor for me to be in the States with VERVE. As I said earlier, Iím signed to UNIVERSAL (FRANCE), which also has a beautiful tradition in their jazz department of recording wonderful people. They recorded NINA SIMONE for many years. They have a small catalogue but they are very good with nurturing their artists. I feel very privileged to be on a label like that. To be represented in the States by VERVE is such an honor. Iím on the same label that had SHIRLEY HORN and so many other people. Itís a great home for me. I think with the state of the industry today Ė which I donít pay much attention to because what I do is so specific. I know things are not easy out there Ė to have VERVE be interested in artist such as myself says a lot about the label as well. They are interesting in something other than the bottom line. They are also interested in nurturing less traditional and unexpected artists.
As a listener, what music is capturing your ear right now?
Iíve been listening to a lot of Flamenco music. Iíve been listening to a lot of Spanish music because Iím doing a project with a dance group. Iím listening to a great Flamenco singer named CAMERON DE LA ISLA. Iíve been immersing myself in that sound. LARRY is always bringing music home. I couldnít tell you what it is but we listened to ADELLE the other day and that was fun. MADELEYNE PEYROUXís last album, which LARRY produced, was a lot of fun also.
A good part of your life was spent in academia. Would you ever go back to teaching?
Iím invited all of the time and right now, it just doesnít feel like itís a good thing for me to do. I like to teach a lot and I donít feel like I have that kind of energy to give right now. I think between a family life and a career, I think that is enough right now.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard ĎTIDEí?
Iíd like any listener to be moved by my voice, by the words, the instruments and how the musicians play them. Iíd like people to come away thinking that the music we have made is honest. That is important to me. Iíd like for the truthfulness of it to come across.