Alaska, Michigan, Cole Porter discussed on Awards Chatter
That conversation Joel. Thanks so much for joining us on the PODCAST. We always begin with just a few basics. Where were you born and raised in? What is your folks do for a living? I was raised in Alaska and my family were pioneers. They helped settle. The state made out was a musician and a social worker and music was a big part of your parents. Lives to rate it was not you really were born into the viz so to speak. Definitely not the BIZ. But I was born into creativity. May Grandmother and grandfather left Europe just before the Second World War they wanNA to form a Utopian artistic colony of people that were escaping Germany. Nobody ended up going up there except grandfather and my grandmother who didn't know him exceptionally well but she knew she wanted to have kids in a free country so she gave up her dreams of being a opera singer and a poetess and went to Alaska before it was a state and they tamed the Wildland. It's an incredible story and she had children a lot of them in. Dirt floored log cabin and she taught them all to sing and to draw and paint and so all of my eight aunts uncles are exceptionally talented. They all write their own music to all of our holiday. Gatherings were very musical. Everybody just wrote songs. That's what everybody did. It was very normal to me and all of my cousins are very talented. It's really it's just sort. It is what my family does. My Dad's of the one that picked up where she left off he made a couple of records was hoping to go national when my mom left when I was eight. And so he and I. He t took over raising. Us and He and I became a duet started singing with my dad and my mom when I was five and hotels. They did dinner. Shows tourists like on the side. It was like a side Gig for my dad and then he and I became. Yeah this duo when I was eight and that was his full-time Gig. Pretty much We were singing in bars from age. Eight on and Yodeling was a part of that. Is that from early on. Yeah my dad taught himself to Yodel and I was fascinated with it when I was five. And he said I was too young to learn which apparently was the exact right thing to say to me to make me practice a lot and so I Practiced too so I could prove them wrong and yeah began yodeling. We'll preparing for this. I was reading everything I could find going back to the beginning about you and it was interesting. I I understand. There was at one point. A MUSIC PROFESSOR. Somebody who came up and said like this is not supposed to be able to happen right. That a child vocally is really. It's shouldn't be able to Yodel it that that young age right. Yeah my dad said when came up to him to show when I was very young about five or so and I didn't know how it was. Obviously she was wrong. I'm sure I don't know that. A lot of five year olds try really. Who would. It's a strange thing. I needed a psychiatrist. Not like a was were those kinds of performances in bars and hotels in the first experience that you were having doing music for others was that fund. Was that worked. What's what's your take away when you think back about those days. I remember being fascinated by singing because it felt like a puzzle. I don't know why I felt that way but I was very very interested from a very young age figuring out a lot of very technical things. I didn't know that word obviously. But that's what interested me about. It was like this puzzle that I kept having to think about all day to be like wonder how I do that. I wonder how do that. That's what really got me hooked. The performing was more nerve wracking. I wasn't a sin. Mcc little pageant kids you know that are just they're just so outgoing and extroverted and they smile and wasn't like that was very shy very introverted. I hated going on stage but also knew that was the culmination of all this practice that I enjoyed The first time I went onstage hiccups because I was so nervous. I had the hiccups while Yodeling. Which sounds ridiculous and everybody started giggling. I mean I guess looking back. It's cutesy a five-year-old Hiccup yodeling but I felt really mortified. Listen they're laughing at my serious practice now. One thing I gathered again from from this reading. Was that you from a very early age. Learned another part of the I guess the music scene that that you would see more of which is that you know you're getting encounter some some unsavory characters there. Some of you know I guess a bar. You'RE GONNA have all kinds of folks and you were saying I guess it's something you're able to talk about now because it sounds like you have a very nice relationship with Your Dad. But even at that point it was not all you know roses and sunshine or whatever. It was a tough from a very early age. You were seeing some bad behavior right. Yeah so nobody's ever one thing. Typically we're usually a lot of things we have great qualities and bad qualities. I learned a lot of great things in my family. My family's very bright. Beautiful storytellers charismatic. Highly capable they work hard and they pioneer but there was also a lot of emotional. Dysfunction is much as we inherit a genetic component we inherit an emotional component and it gets passed on generation. Only my dad had a very abusive childhood. He wrote a book called son of a midnight. Land that chronicles a lot of what happened. I love that book because a lot of people. There's a lot of debate about personality settling. How late in time can you change? Can you change when you're older? My Dad is living proof that you can the books just such a raw gripping look at abuse and shame and then repeating a cycle and then how do you heal from that in your sixties? But for me. When I was young you know my mom left which is obviously really traumatic. And then my dad had a lot of trauma and PTSD. Those words weren't known that I'm aware of Susil. Vietnam Vietnam Vet. What was interesting is when he went to Vietnam. It was calming for him. That's how hard has childhood was in his home. Life was. He realized he was in trouble when he got to Vietnam and his system was much more relaxed than it ever had been at home so my dad had trauma from his childhood and then again trauma from Vietnam he was part of the Ted Offensive. Sixty nine and some pretty gnarly stuff so when my mom left obviously could imagine trauma triggering and he's tried to drink to medicate which is very common and you're gonNA repeat cycles. You were raised by you. Know our brains with binary computers that are wired and as much as he didn't want to obviously when you you can't exist in a vacuum unless you learn new behavior in practice new behavior. You really aren't going to do well. So he and I had a rough relationship. You know a lot of great times it also a lot of really hard times. I ended up moving out at fifteen and I'd seen a lot by then. I've been parsing since I was eight. You know as you say in an Alaska bar is a bar and I guess one thing that is kind of a feel good to go hopefully counter some of the the. You know that you'd had already seen some things by the time you're fifteen but it sounds like it fifteen a you were known enough in in your community at least that when this idea of going elsewhere for some music education came about the the community. Kind of rallied behind you from from the way it sounds right I mean. Can you share how this place in Michigan comes on your radar private school and and just how it became possible for somebody? Who didn't have much money to go there? Yeah so I moved at fifteen lived really far out of town and a little one room cabin without electricity running water. I was hitchhiking into work holding down several jobs to try and get together and one of my jobs was cleaning random buildings. You know if somebody would let me clean their building and pay me. I mean thank heavens. This was in the really really early nineties when somebody would pay a fifteen year old. I mean but still happen but now it's funny. It's getting harder and harder pay kids for work. I started cleaning little dance studio and an out of town. Clinician came and taught dance clinic and so I asked if I cleaned his studio. Would he let me take dance? Class in exchange I had always been told was released stiff on stage. I was just like a little robot that would turn like. I don't know every four measures I would go all right rotate and he let me do that. I was a terrible dancer. I was not born to be a dancer but he found out is saying and he was at teacher. This fine arts school in Michigan. And he said why. Don't you apply for a vocal scholarship? Which was beyond bizarre to me something. I'd never dreamed of but he helped me get the application and so I had to sing. An Aria was a bar singer. I did not sing classical music so I learned to French oriented the best. I could and send it off and I got a partial scholarship. I got a five thousand dollars scholarship but I needed another ten thousand dollars to go and six women town. Several of my aunts took me under their wing and taught me how to do a fundraising concert so as my first solo show. I'd never written songs. I still wasn't writing at this point. Never ever sang harmony for my God. I wasn't affront singer so this was my first time carrying show much less singing that much lead. And I did all Cole Porter Songs. Because there is a gay man in me dying to get out love the Cole Porter. I remember for a talent show in fourth grade. I wanted to do love for sale and remember Mary uppers in the music teacher. Being like this is about about a prostitute. You can't sing a song for the fourth grade talent show but it wasn't lost on me on how beautifully written that was such a Cole Porter Fan. My aunts taught me how to go to local businesses and get a donations to able to auction off and my town sent me off to school. They helped me raise ten thousand dollars. Tombo debt was a guy who lives in homer and he really hoped and it sounds like you've literally in one interview from years ago as as a turning point just that I guess maybe can you share. Just some of what you began to do when you were there that has served you really ever. Since that was a pivotal year learning that I could move out learning that I could take care of myself learning that I could have more of a say in control over my environment. I was excited. I was looking forward to life. It was also anxious. You know I started having panic attacks at this time. Didn't know what those were. I'd never heard of him. When I went to school. My panic attacks began. I would learn to you know. Take myself out of class and excuse myself and go have a complete breakdown for anybody. It's had a panic attack. It's shocking and when you're sixteen you have never heard them and they don't trust anybody and I was Kinda shy leary kid. I didn't tell anybody what was happening. And so I had to start develop tools. I knew when I moved out. This statistically kids like me repeat the cycle. They're raised by. I knew I called it emotional English. There was an emotional language. My family learned and I didn't want to repeat that cycle but there's no school I could go to. You can learn Spanish in school but you can't learn new emotional way of relating to the world. I knew I was up against a lot but I was so curious about that. Could happiness be learned if it wasn't taught in my house nature versus nurture? If I didn't receive good nurture had I get to know my real nature or would I ever ever get to my real nature if you're nurture is that incorrect or whatever you want to say and so. I started taking notes. It was strange. So as much interlocken. Creatively was incredible. I took tons of classes. I skipped lunch. Doubled major double minor. I was making the most of my scholarship because I didn't think I'd ever get to go back guitar right. Yeah I learned guitar. You weren't allowed to stay on campus and couldn't afford to go to Alaska so I decided to play guitar and learn to St Sing and earn money to hitchhike across the country and hitchhiked through Mexico. Because I'm an idiot. This was just during just those spring break or something. Yeah so my first time I remember my dad shipped me down a guitar. I'd never played but he gave me one of his guitars. And I learned four chords a minor. See Jean de in that order and I had enough money to get to Detroit. My school was an interlock in Michigan. Anna of course met nefarious crazy. People on the Greyhound bus and started writing about it. I slept in the Greyhound..