I woke up on Christmas morning by a text reading George Michael died. A tear rolled down the side of my face. Here’s why…
When I was around 8 years old, I remember driving in the car with my sister, her friend Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s mom on the way to the bowling alley in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! played on the radio. We just loved the song and sang with joy. In this moment, life was perfect…
By 1987, I was in the 7th grade and although I attended Catholic school, I knew exactly what George was singing about in his “I Want Your Sex” video. George Michael by then was a bonafied MTV solo star. He shook his ass and donned a dangling cross earning. All while promoting monogamy.
The single “Freedom! ’90” was released in 1990 on the acclaimed Listen With Out PrejudiceVol. 1 and “Too Funky” on the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Dance. George began to shy away from the camera focusing on an elite group of “Super” models – he blended music, art and fashion. Two of the most iconic music videos of all time and personal favorites.
Six years later, while in college at SUNY Oswego, I discovered an “Older” sense of self and George Michael. His music continued to speak to me and well as his sexy look in the “Fastlove” video. I wanted to look just like him when “I grew up.”
In 1998, George Michael got busted for performing a “lewd act” in a Beverly Hills public restroom. He proudly came out as gay and made ZERO apologies. I too was out as a young gay man and appreciated his f*ck you attitude. He even poked fun at the situation with the release of the cheeky dance track “Outside.”
In 2004, I stayed out all night and fell in love with a bartender who worked the bar Eastern Block in NYC. Gabe and I shut the place down with his friend, preformed drunk yoga and listened to “Amazing.” The next day at work, I sat at my desk and played the song thinking of my wild night. I never saw Gabe again…
In 2008, my friend Eric invited me to see George Michael’s 25 year anniversary tour at MSG. It was one of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen. George Michael’s voice was razor sharp, one of the best. I watched and listened in awe of his great talent. A wonderful memory.
George Michael will be greatly missed by myself and millions around the world. A truly beautiful man…
This week blogs, gossip sites and major news outlets published reports of Madonna and Sean Penn’s alleged re-coupling. Madonna flirted with the idea during a fundraiser for Help Haiti Home in Beverly Hills on Jan. 9. In front of a full crowd, she professed her love “I want to say [to] Sean that I love you, from the moment I laid eyes on you — and I still love you just the same.”
Madonna and Sean were never media darlings. In fact, they were once dubbed the “Poison Penns” – mainly due to Sean’s hot temper. Penn landed in jail for spitting and attacking photographers outside Madonna’s old Upper West Side apartment. As a young Madonna fan, I would walk by her apartment hoping to get a glimpse – the closest I came was seeing her jogging in Central Park.
When Madonna and Sean wed at a secret location in Los Angeles on her birthday, August 16th 1985 – Andy Warhol and Cher were in attendance. The reception became a total spectacle with photographers dangling out of helicopters trying to get a shot. Madonna’s image started to change. It appeared as if Sean took Madonna away from her fans. Many kids my age stopped listening to Madonna altogether – she was no longer cool. She was a married woman devoted to Sean – his reputation rubbed off on her. Their flop of a film Shanghai Surprise put the nail in the coffin.
Rumors of abuse began to circulate. It was said, Sean had beat Madonna and tied her to a chair. Madonna supposedly, filed a police report but never pressed charges. Madonna has since denied this ever happened. Most recently, in a deposition in Sean’s 10 million dollar defamation lawsuit against director Lee Daniel’s who referenced Sean as an “abuser” in an Vanity Fair article.
Madonna and Sean’s marriage lasted four years. I never gave up hope on Madonna – I prayed she would find herself. After the divorce, Madonna returned with one of the most celebrated albums of her career, Like A Prayer (1989). Her new sound was mature, empowered and self-expressive. Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses and kissing a black Jesus in the Like A Prayer video promted Pepsi to axe a commercial starring the controversial pop star. Madonna kept the 5 Million dollar pay check. Yes, Madonna was back. And the rest is pop culture history…
I still remember hearing “Don’t You Want Me” and “Looking for a New Love” blasting out of car windows in Brooklyn. Jody Watley was on fire with a self-titled solo album that infused R&B, Pop and Dance. The 1988 “Best New Artist” Grammy winner’s musical style, fashion sense and artistry remains not only relevant but serves as an point of reference to artist of the day like Rihanna and Solange Knowles.
Jody Watley’s independent creative spirit has taken her full circle, relaunching the group that kick started her over 30yr career. But before reaching global success, an ambitious teenaged Watley landed a spot as a dancer on the television show Soul Train. As her popularity grew, she was selected by Soul Train creator Don Cornelius to join the hit R&B group Shalamar.
Jody Watley makes her mark as original female lead with Gary Mumford and Jeffrey Daniel in 1977.
Today, with a Shalamar reboot and multiple creative collaborations underway, I had the privilege to sit down with Jody to discuss her incredible journey.
Was it always your intention to perform music?
Yes. I’m thankful for being prepared for the opportunity when it came in the form it did – Soul Train was the right show for that moment through Don’s vision as well as his vision to create Shalamar and ask me to be a part of it. I’d been preparing for it since I was a little girl dancing and singing in the mirror in my Mom’s high heels and fabulous clothes. Being onstage with music legend Jackie Wilson, my godfather, who brought me onstage. Yes, I was born to do this, despite being very shy. Music is a gift in my life – it’s a gift to all of us…even those who don’t have aspirations like this…I can’t imagine life without music. For those who have no idea what Soul Train was – as an iconic show in television history – head to Youtube!
By 1987, it was clear you arrived. Your solo debut alum “Jody Watley” became a huge success. Were you surprised or did you feel like you were poised for something great?
Yes, I was surprised…I thought Terence Trent D’Arby would win the Grammy because he was offered a performance slot and was more embraced by critics. I feel it was my blessing and reward for stepping on faith – from a successful group, just to be happy is what I’ve always said – and get control over my life. Everyone said I would fail. There was an article written back then that said my future would be questionable or up in the air. Winning the Grammy was a sucker punch to the doubters – some are still bitter about it. People have no idea what I was actually going through at the time. That win was everything. I know some still hate me for it to this day, which is their problem, not mine. I’m thankful to the executive who put me on the ballot in that slot and that the rules at the time made me eligible. It was a first glimpse at who Jody Watley really was…despite being in Shalamar for 6 years. Nothing will ever make me NOT believe in myself. I know there is a force always with and within me.
The entertainment industry can be surreal – can you share any “pinch me is this really happening” moments?
Surreal – and shady (laughs out loud). Every day that I’m doing what I love, being onstage, receiving love from strangers. Most recently, getting mistaken by the paparazzi for Diana Ross in Beverly Hills – that was surreal. They got a tip there was a black woman with big hair buying groceries. I laughed about it. I loved her growing up and she told me she was a fan of mine when I met her some years ago – that was a moment! Being followed on Twitter by Depeche Mode – totally awesome. Erykah Badu telling me how I was an inspiration…there are so many…I’m grateful for the journey and still having a blast on my own terms, soul and enthusiasm intact.
The super stylish video for 1989’s “Real Love” was directed by the famous film director David Fincher. What was it like collaborating with David?
Awesome. I told him I wanted to do a fashion video come to life – put me on the runway! He nailed it. It’s cool to know you collaborated with someone before everyone else discovered their brilliance. The thing about me that some miss is although I was a dancer, my videos weren’t built around that. No one could copy me. It was more about the style, attitude, giving face to the camera…mixed in with some freestyle…but nothing choreographed. I’ll have my Kanye moment and say to this day – few videos touch mine from that period. I laugh and say ‘You beta work Ms. Jody” and I mean, “Still a Thrill” in Paris, France…no black girls were giving that…and still not…it’s like Grace Jones doesn’t get the props she deserves as a trailblazer and neither do I…but it’s cool because it’s not really about that…the people that know – know.
Back then, “your look” was unique in that you mixed vintage and street styles with high fashion. And let’s not forget those signature large hoop earnings. How did you develop your sense of style?
I think I’m still unique – there’s only one Jody Watley, (laughs). I’ve just always wanted to be authentic – be myself and that how I stood out especially at that time. I didn’t want to be another run of the mill R&B singer. Pushing the fashion envelope not the sex envelope was my thing – attitude and style. My first influences were my parents – both very flamboyant yet chic. My mom was the first woman I saw wear dolman sleeves when I was little and I remember it vividly. My Mom always had Vogue and Harper’s in the house..so fashion was in my bones. At one time I also wanted to be a designer. But I’ve been blessed to be able to be my own stylist, designer, etc..writer, business owner – I told my Mom at 5 I was going to have my own modeling school. It’s not a modeling school, but I run my own business. So to everyone, I say dream big and keep adding dreams and goals and going after them.
What I love about your video “Friends” is that it takes place in an all-inclusive club – straight, gay, and transgender people, of all races, body shapes. What made you want to project this imagery?
Again – just wanting to be authentic. The type of club I would go to all types of people serving and living in the music. My label at the time was very concerned about having drag queens, (underground NYC icon Connie Girl), a transgender (RIP Codie Ravioli) and all of the various real people that were assembled. I fought for the collaboration.I never liked hiring models to portray a role – give me the real thing. My friend Tyrone Procter who appeared in my “Still A Thrill” video helped me coordinate it – filmed in New York by first time video director Jim Sonzero. I think it was a quietly ground-breaking video – it was about acceptance and all people partying together, b–boys, hip hop (Eric B & Rakim) invited their crew. As well I was wearing Gaultier couture…that I personally flew to Paris to get after seeing the runway wrap up on Style Elsa Klensh! No stylist, that’s what also separated me from others.
While it’s important to reflect on our past, let’s talk about the evolution of your music. You have done everything from R&B, Pop, Dance to Jazz. Do you have a favorite?
No – I love it all and the fact that I’ve never been hung up on making hit records. I realized I’m a true artist in that I’m willing to venture off of the expected path creatively and always do what makes me happy and fulfilled. There is no failure in trying and going for it. I’m proud of the continued diversity of my work after all of these decades and those that continue to follow know that…others never evolved with me. That’s common, and I understand that aspect as well. I’d like to mention recent collaborations with Dam-Funk, I’m a guest vocalist on his new collection “Invite The Light” on a song called “Virtuous Progression.” As well French Horn Rebellion’s “Dancing Out” and “Cold Enough” which is a fresh take on 80’s synth pop – lighthearted and fun. I’m also on the new Teddy Pendergrass “Duets of Love and Soul” re-imagining some of his greatest hits. I recorded a song with Groove Armada as well, though that project didn’t end up coming out. We hope to do something together in the future.
Speaking of evolving sounds, on “Midnight Lounge” (2001) you dove into electro-pop. How did you arrive there?
I was inspired by the underground music scene starting with 4hero’s ‘Two Pages’ from the UK…seeing how formulaic and corporate pop/r&b was becoming..I didn’t want to be chained to that and ‘Midnight Lounge’ was a product of that. It’s probably my best critically received record…which was cool.
By the way, I first heard “Midnight Lounge” on one of my first visits to LA – I purchased it at Virgin and played it in my friend’s car. Later on, while in a parking garage, there was a small earth quake! I never experienced one, it was scary but we turned on the car and continued listening. I felt at ease – true story!
Awesome! It’s a very chill record and one of my best as a full length – and good vibes so I’m glad it put you at ease! If people don’t know it – I hope they continue to discover it.
Last year, you returned to the dance floor with the EP “Paradise” and the lead single “Nightlife” – The music sounds current yet classic Jody Watley. Is that what you set out for?
Yes – finding a way to bring my love of dance / electronica the best of it, with classic disco soul which is where I began as an artist – how to make it work. I love it. ‘Sanctuary’ is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written and recorded and that says a lot because all of my songs are so special to me…early on no one realized I was a songwriter as well…writers always want to make women in music someones ingenue – and I’ve never been that. With the craziness, violence, and hatred so prevalent today – ‘Sanctuary’ has taken new meaning for me…in the midst of encouraging others to be fabulous (whatever that might mean to someone) and living life ‘today’, get out of the rut one might be in..inner Paradise…it’s in the music…how you feel within – loving yourself…creating an environment of love…it begins at home…within you and us all – and where we go after a long day, a trying day….a safe place for our children to those who have them…for ourselves, in our relationships and so on.
‘PARADISE’ will be re-released through Spectra Music Group with new artwork, track listing and a previously unavailable song, so it’s temporarily unavailable digitally now.
You have influenced many pop stars of the day but is there anyone on the pop scene or elsewhere who inspires you?
Thank you for the acknowledgement. There are more underground artists I’ve gravitated to like Little Dragon, Foreign Exchange, Bonobo, Andreya Trias, Erykah Badu is also really awesome to me – though not a pop star, she’s always intriguing and doing her own thing. I respect that “damn what people think” attitude – that’s what being an artist is. I think FK-Twigs is cool, outside the box which the UK allows more so than here in the States. It’s too bad we can’t have an American singer / artist like Adele get that global support. A similar artist trying to get signed here to do the same style would struggle to get support. People tell me all the time Solange Knowles reminds them of my early solo years which is cool. In the commercial pop realm, I like Rihanna and have bought her records – if I were still doing commercial pop/r&b I would love to duet with her – the video would be hot – fashion fabulousness – she does high low style very well and always changes it up visually as well as her music. I love that…my niece who just turned 21 and a few others said especially the imagery for her new record and a few others seemed to be inspired by Jody Watley.
I see my influence a lot. Even if the artists don’t know where it came from, their stylists do. It’s especially cool to see all of the artists get featured in fashion magazines, and cover features..that door was opened a little wider by me…with early features in Harper’s Bazaar, RollingStone, Vogue. When I did first-of-their-kind celebrity ad campaigns like GAP, I had to fly myself to the sessions because the label was like who cares about fashion magazines and ads for jeans? What does that have to do with selling records? I think they found out! I pitched a fashion line back then that was met with a collective of blank stares. So, to the girls today I say – the time caught up, so YES, do it, do it all. So many opportunities are now available if you’re smart or have savvy people working with you. You don’t even need big hit records anymore – just a lot of blog coverage, who are you dating or sleeping with that’s famous, who’s beefing, who’s making the most money, who got married and how much he’s worth…those are the things that grab attention most times now. Celebrity stuff…and the gatekeepers of the industry decide whose turn it is. But that’s another story!
I’m inspired by life, art, the sky…real people just doing their thing. A lot of things people take for granted, a flower in bloom, the sound of laughter, a banging house record. I’ve taken up coloring again, adult coloring I guess it’s called. It’s therapeutic! I’m currently working on an art deco fashion book. I love to cook and I’m also inspired by that.
What’s up next for Jody Watley?
I became the trademark owner for Shalamar. Shalamar was always a place for new talent to emerge, so that’s what I’m doing with Shalamar Reloaded today. The male lead Nate Smith has his own style and Rosero McCoy is a renowned choreographer. They’re both the full package – singers and dancers who look good and fit into the now. We’ll be building something new and not just pimping the past. I never want to do what I’ve already done. This was unexpected…but life brings things to us we weren’t looking for – but it feels perfect. You have to be open to the guiding hand of the universe. Maybe because in high school I never got to hang with the hot boys – and now I do at this stage in my life. Thank you universe! But like I said – most of all they are fun to be around – we laugh a lot and genuinely enjoy each other onstage and off. What a gift that is.
Jody with Shalamar Reloaded’s Nate Smith (left) and Rosero McCoy (right).
The video for our current single ‘SlowDance’, directed by new film talent Damien Sandoval – it’s so beautiful, cinematic and modern. On the fashion front, I’m featuring vintage Junya Watanabe denim and vintage Gaultier. I continue to make new goals and plans, and of course in life we never know what unexpected opportunities may present themselves. Stay tuned! One of these days my memoir will make a great movie.
Lastly, what advice would you offer for those who want to break into the business?
Living life for me continues to mean being grateful, enthusiastic, and challenging myself to continue to get better as a human being, artist, writer, entrepreneur and hopefully as an inspiration to others to believe in yourself. Damn the critics, haters, wannabes and naysayers!
I say do you and carry on. I’m an example of defying the odds. I feel like I’m never the girl everyone is cheering for, but everyone watches just the same. Maybe some are waiting for me to fail, even after decades in this business. I’m still here being my own sort of fabulous. It’s still not for everyone because I’m never status quo and never fitting a formula. This is always my message to others. Do you! Live your life, laugh and love.
Talent isn’t enough – damn a sense of entitlement or instant gratification – work hard and be distinct from others. Go get it, be smart and keep growing. Learn the business – and most of all enjoy the journey, revise, rethink…whatever, just don’t get stuck. Also don’t give a f— what people think, as long as you’re not doing something abusive, violent or harming others. There will always be lessons, joys, hardships and triumphs. As long as I’m here there will always be more to do – new goals, new dreams, new mountains to climb. It’s called being alive!
As a young gay child, I didn’t feel like the other boys. I was sad. When I was in eighth grade, I remember being depressed and worried that I would disappoint my father by getting a bad report card. I feared failing and my father’s wrath if I did not excel.
One day before school, I turned on MTV and they debuted the video for Wilson Phillips inspirational “Hold On”. Wilson Phillips comprised of music royalty….Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips, the daughters of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.
The video was shot in the mountains and Venice Beach, providing a beautiful backdrop for the quintessential California girls.
From Right to Left: Carnie, Chynna and sister Wendy
Always the dreamer, the “Hold On” video gave me the willpower to keep hoping that everything would be ok. I was captivated by the beauty of their lyrics and celestial images. I wanted to escape to the mountains as well. I set a goal to one day move to California – it only took me about 25 years but I recently left a well paying job in New York City to follow my heart! So here I am pursuing my dreams of being a writer and actor! It’s scary and I have no idea what lays ahead but I am still “Holding On”.
Thanks to the power of social media, I met Carnie Wilson via Twitter about two years ago. Carnie has inspired me and countless fans around the world with her infectious sense of humor and brutal honesty concerning her struggles with weight and sobriety. What an honor that she agreed to an interview!
Carnie, thank you so much for taking the time. Its crazy that we met on Twitter. I love that you are so active on social media, what do like about it? What don’t you like?
No problem! I like social media most of the time. I really enjoy being able to interact with people and fans. I am mostly enlightened and appreciate the more supportive and humorous postings and tweets. I don’t do Facebook as of right now – but maybe in the future. It’s really cool to maybe give people who are needing little nudges of encouragement kind responses that can be with a simple heart emoji!
Naturally, I hate negative comments and find it hard not to do so myself. There really isn’t any need for it. It takes a lot for me to not respond in a vulgar way sometimes. I have a potty mouth and just wanna go off. But I’ll stoop to their level if I do!!!! People are bored and unhappy…. those are the big losers who just like to bully others and put people down. Their lives must SUCK.
You always post a song for the day and a song for the night, how do you come up with your selections?
SFTD and SFTN is like a necessity for me now! Funny, people wait for it now too. I love this because all of this is a love for music. I have a very wide range of taste when it comes to music. I love the B52’s to Sade. So, usually I go with more up-tempo for the day and more mellow for PM. It can be a beat or guitar riff I’m hearing in my head. Or maybe it’s a lyric I’m being reminded of just watching my kids play or walking down the street. But I have music in my head at all times and it can feel kinda crazy because I can’t remember if I’ve tweeted it before. It’s been like two years since I’ve started this…I know I’m on repeat (laughs out loud)!
What artist do you connect with most and why?
I am a huge fan of Yacht Rock, mellow 70’s, disco, and R& B. On any given day, you’ll hear my Pandora on The Carpenters, Steely Dan, ELO, Seal, Backstreet, Annie Lennox, Toto, Little River Band stations. I love it all. My favorite singers are Babs, Ann Wilson, Annie Lennox, Patti LaBelle, Karen Carpenter, Stevie Nicks, Sade, Luther Vandross, Steve Perry, Frank Sinatra, Michael McDonald and Seal among others I forgot! All their voices make me crazy with emotion and I just try to sing along and thank God for their gifts.
What do you think of the pop stars of today?
Pop stars today… I like Gwen Stefani, Adele, Meghan Trainor, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Sara Bareilles…. Honestly…. other than Meghan Trainor ….the younger talent right now is disposable to me. Enough said.
If Wilson Phillips were to debut in 2015, how do you think they would be received?
If Wilson Phillips were to debut right now… I think we’d have pretty good success. The positive messages and harmony is coming back!! At least I’d hope for this!!
You sing, act, host talk shows, do voice-overs and write. What is your dream gig?
I wear many career hats, but my dream is having my own cooking show and opening a cafe or bakery. The two could go hand in hand, you never know. Anything that has to do with cooking and baking would be a life-long dream. It will happen. Nothing fancy here. I’m self-taught and just love food and watching people eat. Of course, I’m dramatic and a spaz so it’ll be wacky and over-the-top. That’s something in my soul. Another is to be playing a relative of Melissa McCarthy’s in a movie -or best friends!
You have been public about your successes and struggles when it comes to your health. Why has it been important for you to be so honest?
I have to be honest! It’s part of my recovery in sobriety. It’s part of being a good person. It just feels better to be open about something rather than holding it inside. Someone else, younger or older, is struggling through the same thing. We all need each other. I am not perfect. Some people expect perfection from celebrities. That’s fucking nuts. We have highs and lows. We go up and down… in my case it is weight! (laughing). I need to remain teachable, too. That helps me with humility and being somewhat humble. I’m not humble by nature, so this teaches me to shut up and listen sometimes.
As a mother of two young girls, what is the most important thing you want them to learn from you?
I want my girls to learn from me is honesty and compassion. They have huge hearts and my husband Rob and I could not be more proud of who they are already becoming. Also, I try to teach them that they will make mistakes and so will others. That’s a lesson about forgiveness…. a challenging but critical one.
Besides being an artist, what do you think your mission is in life?
My mission in life is to raise my daughters and also to just be an inspiration to others no matter what I’m going through in my life. I love people and appreciate them. Helping others is extremely fulfilling.
Carnie with family. Lola (left), Luci (middle) and Rob (right).
What makes you “Hold On” for one more day?
My strength comes from my children these days. My strength also comes from passion. When you lose passion for anything, you lose zest and inspiration. Passion can be about anything. As I get older, I realize that life is short…. until the next one… so take advantage of time… don’t dwell, live in the now, see the good, have a lot of orgasms, don’t let others control you and GO FOR WHAT YOU WANT. XOXOXOXOXO.
Over 25 years ago, 16-year old Debbie Gibson exploded onto the music scene with her debut album “Out of the Blue.” Her self-penned, infectious pop songs “Only In My Dreams” and “Shake Your Love” rose to the top of the Billboard Charts. She became the youngest artist ever to write, produce and perform a #1 hit song, “Foolish Beat.”
1989’s “Electric Youth” paved the path for the music marketing trends of today. She was the first pop star to launch a signature fragrance to support an album. Her image was plastered on the bedroom walls of kids across America. In fact, she sold more than 16 million albums worldwide –all while keeping her clothes on and maintaining a squeaky clean image.
After conquering the pop world with three consecutive albums and world tours, Debbie set her sights on the theater and starred in 17 musicals in 17 years like “Les Miserables,” “Grease,” “Funny Girl,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Gypsy,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Chicago” and the Broadway revival of “Cabaret” with Neil Patrick Harris. Debbie has also appeared in numerous television and film projects including “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Sing Your Face Off,” the SyFy hit “Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid” (opposite fellow 80’s pop star Tiffany) and most recently starring in the 2015 UP original movie, “The Music In Me.”
When I was a kid, growing up in Brooklyn, I wanted to be her best friend. She lived close by in Merrick, Long Island. I was jealous she had a recording studio above her garage. But knowing she wrote her own songs and got her start at home inspired me. Debbie made me feel like I could make my dreams come true as well.
I had a fantasy of contacting Debbie asking her to reflect back and to find out what’s going in her world on now. My fantasy became reality – the “Original Pop Princess” agreed to talk.
Debbie, tell me what is the best part of being a pop culture icon?
It may sound cliché but getting to do what I love to do and making other people happy is fabulous!
No, not cliché at all, I think that’s great. It is an artist’s job to uplift others. We do what we do to make others happy.
Let me ask you, if you could step into a time machine and go back to 1987, what message would you deliver to your former self?
Relax and take time to enjoy what’s happening. It’s not a race.
That’s great advice!
Having reached such a high level of success at such a young age, how were you able to manage that?
It wasn’t without its ups and downs. But basically, I’m in this business to be creative and not for the fringe benefits, which tends to keep one grounded and focused.
You were always perceived as a “good girl”….perception or reality?
I’m an authentic girl! I was never into any club scene or drugs or alcohol so if that makes me “good” …then reality. But, I’m not a fan of labels and I wouldn’t say that anyone’s journey is “good” or “bad” as long as they are being themselves and not hurting anyone else.
Tell me something that would surprise people about you.
I can hula-hoop for hours on end without dropping it! Seriously. Also, I was once on CSPAN because I went and spoke to Congress on behalf of artists, and represented ASCAP, when professional caliber digital recording machines were first coming out. Much like Taylor Swift protected artist’s rights with her letter to Apple, I was out to make sure that artists got compensated for their work.
I didn’t know that, that’s cool. I would be terrified to speak to congress!
Since love is a constant theme in your songs. I’m curious, what would be your perfect date?
Well, for starters my current boyfriend would have to be there! (Laughs) And, we would go to our favorite burger joint and I would get sweet potato fries and we would leave the rest of the plan open, cause we hate plans!
Speaking of boyfriends, I heart James Franco, do you have celebrity a crush too?
I’m definitely in the James Franco admiration club too! But, back when I was a kid it was Ricky Schroeder from “Silver Spoons”!
Moving on, I read in Billboard you are a Madonna fan. She has been harshly criticized for being too provocative given her age. What are your thoughts on that?
Everyone deserves to be whoever they are at any age with no regard for others’ perceptions. Madonna is living proof that you can rock it in every decade!
What advice would you give to an aspiring pop star?
Keep doing what you love to do, and look to be open to collaborating and learning and training all you can. As your career gets further and further along, technique will come in handy and so will your passion for what you do.
Photo by Troy Smith
So musically, what’s next for Debbie Gibson??
I’m sitting on a bunch of new songs and I’m dying to record and just waiting for the perfect window of time to do that, which is coming soon!
Cool – I’ll be on the lookout. In the meantime, I’m gonna throw it back to one of your classics and “Shake Your Love” – it’s one of my favorites!
Amy Winehouse’s father told her she was “just fine” when managers pleaded with the singer to enter rehab soon after the success of her first album “Frank,” back in 2003. The new documentary film Amy directed by Asif Kapadia, makes you wonder if Winehouse’s fate could have been less tragic if she had the right people around her.
The film provides an intimate portrait of the troubled singers journey as an 16yr old girl turned global superstar. In 2011 at the age of 27, Amy suffered a tragic death when her heart stopped beating from years of stress on her body brought on by an eating disorder and substance abuse. Her death and the famous images of Amy’s downward spiral have over shadowed her raw talent as a singer-song writer. Her voice, reflective of a soul much older.
Through the use of home video, live performances and interviews Kapadia pieces together Amy’s story. We see a beautiful full faced teenage girl transform into a person out of control; exploited by the media and enablers. Among the chaos, her music and lyrics are front and center, and in retrospect are telling of Amy’s pain and desire to be loved.
We will never know what might have been…. Amy reminds us that Winehouse was as an amazingly talented artist worthy of much more respect than she received in her short life.
In 1994, grunge music was popular and so was an emerging group of female singer songwriters. Lisa Loeb was front and center. The Grammy® nominated artist started her career with the platinum-selling Number 1 hit song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. She enjoyed further success with hit songs like “Do You Sleep?” and “I Do” just to name a few.
To this day, she is still the only artist to have a Number 1 single while not signed to a recording contract, a remarkable and unparalleled feat for an unsigned artist. Lisa continues to craft irresistible pop songs for the 21st century, while designing eyewear, writing children’s books, supporting non-profit causes and acting. Lisa’s recent television appearances include John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, Orange Is the New Black, About a Boy, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, King of The Nerds, as well as Sprout’s Sunny Side Up Show.
“Stay” brings me back to my youth, invoking the feeling of wanting to make my place in the world. Lisa will always be special to me. We became friends on Twitter (post modernism at its best) and bonded over our cats. I asked Lisa, if I could interview her; she agreed. Here’s what she had to say ….
Hi Lisa, legend has it, Ethan Hawke discovered you while performing in a coffee shop. He would later play “Stay” to Ben Stiller, long story short “Stay” was included in the film Reality Bites and boom instant stardom. How much of this is true?
Ethan and I met in NYC after I graduated from Brown University through a friend we had in common. A group of actors, musicians, writers, and other creative types used to hang out together, and all supported each other. I wrote music for Ethan’s theater company too. Ethan asked for a recording of my song “Stay” to pass along to Ben Stiller and the other folks involved in placing music in the film Reality Bites. Ethan conceived and directed the one take video for the song as well.
“Stay” and Reality Bites spoke to a generation who was told they would amount to nothing. As it turns out, many of us are doing just fine. How were you able adapt to the pressures of fame and continue on a road of success?
Having a great support system, made up of my family and friends just keeps everything grounded. And I was just raised that way. I kept working hard, making music and doing projects that mean something to me, and try to balance my personal and business life.
Your music and styling has stayed true to who you are. Was there ever any pressure to “sex it up” or change your musical styling venturing into dance or pop like other artist have?
People have never pressured me to be like other artists, although I’m always looking to explore different styles and approaches. I haven’t gotten too far outside myself, but there’s always another song and another recording.
Your album titles “Tails” & “Hello Lisa” (which is a play on Hello Kitty) and let’s not forget your signature eyeglasses all pay tribute to the feline. Have you always been a cat person? What’s the obsession?
I love cats. I don’t know. They’re cute. They’re soft. They’re mysterious. I’m just a cat person. 😻
Me too, cats are the best!!!
Next question, what music do you listen to? What gets you going?
I listen to everything from Queen to Sufjian Stevens, David Bowie to Elton John. Lots of classic rock and singer songwriters from the 1970’s radio. Also, my husband works with a lot of newer bands, so I’m usually pretty up to date with some idea of what’s going on.
If you could collaborate with one person dead or alive who would it be?
I’d love to work with David Bowie.
You have also built an impressive resume as an actress? What do you enjoy more, singing or acting?
It’s really my dream to be able to play a character in a great story on film, but singing definitely comes more naturally to me. I love singing in front of an audience- there’s a special connection that comes from a live performance.
Your nonprofit Camp Lisa helps kids attend summer camp, what inspired you to start this amazing organization?
I wanted to share the summer camp experience with kids who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to go to camp. A kid can learn a lot about themselves, have fun, become a great leader, member of the community, challenge themselves by trying something they’ve never done before. It’s an amazing experience that resonates through your entire life. How could I not share that?!
In 2006, you appeared on E! Entertainment Network’s No. 1 Single which documented your journey to find love. You have since married and are now a mother of two. What advice do you have for those reading who are still looking for their soul mate?
Read the book, “If the Buddha Dated” by Charlotte Kasl. Focus on what you want. Not what everyone else expects from you. And then if it’s a priority for you to meet someone, make it a priority in your schedule and your life if you have that kind of flexibility in your schedule. Focus. Relax. Make it a priority.
Work wise and on a personal level, what’s up next for Lisa Loeb?
I’m touring, making tons of new grownup songs, a new kids’ project, getting the camp musical I collaborated on, Camp Kappawanna, on the road, and we’ll see what’s next. That’s a lot. Believe me.
I hear you, that does sound like a lot! With your busy schedule, thank you for taking the time, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Keep us posted, looking forward to hearing your new music. Until then, I’ll see you in the Twitterverse. XOXO. 😘
As we remain focused on the future…here’s a look back to the song and the one shot video, directed by Ethan Hawke that put Lisa Loeb on the map! Enjoy!