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Leslie Vincent released her debut album These Foolish Things back in April. After a long wait, she’s finally getting a chance to perform the album live in a most unusual way. August 10th she’ll take the outside stage at Crooners Supper Club to perform to a blend of seating and parked cars. In todays pandemic, music is finding creative ways to shine.
Music in Minnesota sat down to discuss the new album, Leslie’s theater side, and what changed her mind about performing to parked cars.
MIM: How are you coping with the loss of live music and being able to go out and perform?
LV: It’s horrible. I’m partially a theater performer and partially a music performer. When this all started, I lost some shows that I was really excited about, and it was really hard for me to lose those. There’s no good alternative for theater right now. There’s outdoor theater, but there’s not a lot happening in that world.
So I very much feel the loss of that, but music is actually a lot easier to do. I’ve been making more music than I’ve ever made. I do a weekly ukulele show so I’m always learning new pieces for that and then prepping for this album release show. In some ways it’s helped me to pivot my attention towards music-making and trying to create a sustainable, not career in music, but something that makes more sense as opposed to being so piecemeal.
Not only am I a theater performer, but I’m a huge lover of the theater community and the best audience member. I love shows. I love laughing in the theater, or crying in the theater, or clapping.
“I almost miss being an audience member as much as I miss performing.”
MIM: How do you imagine audience engagement is going to change in an environment where you have to be feet a part?
LV: I went up to Crooners to see what the shows were like because I could not imagine singing at a bunch of cars. At first I was not going to do the release party like this, essentially singing at cars.
I have a friend named Kate Beahen who did a show and I loved it. I just loved it. Just the novelty of seeing live performance was so great, but then I also got to drink my first draft beer, which is also great. Then she did a sing-along and everyone was singing while distanced.
I already know it’s going to be different. But honestly, after doing it to a screen, I can handle it. When you’re playing and then like your sixth grade teacher’s name pops up and then comments, that’s so distracting. I can’t believe I’m going to get to play and no words will be in my popping up. It won’t be as intimate but live people will be there.
MIM: Jazz is the one genre where the interaction that takes place between the band and singer encourages spontaneity. As an audience member that has witnessed everything through a screen, seeing something live for the first time appeals to me because of that.
LV: We’re playing songs off the album and nothing will exactly be like the album. The forms will be the same. There won’t be as much improvisation of who’s taking what solo, but they’ll play whatever they want to play (in that solo). We’re also doing some stuff that’s not on the album, which will have more improvisation.
My dear friend and musical director George will call the solos by looking at everyone. When I started as a singer that was so new to me, because in theater, everything is scripted. The idea that I was going to stand on stage and just wait for him to look at me and then I would sing was so nerve wracking. My first gigs with him, I thought I would just faint from fear, but you get it and then it’s so fun.
“I think that’s why I love the two art forms so much because they balance each other out.”
MIM: This album came out in April and this will be the first time performing these songs live. Take me back and share the decision to do your own album outside of The Champagne Drops.
LV: I sing this yearly cabaret at Saint Joan of Arc, which is a three day long event, and they have a merch table and people are always buying CDs. Every year I’m just like, “I don’t have anything.” I’d been making music with George for awhile. George was like, “I really think you should do this.”
It’s such a daunting project. We put some dates on the books, and then met a couple of times, made a set list, got the band together, and just started recording. I just thought it’d be a neat thing to have and I’m young. Before I’m old I want to have something that’s more permanent.
MIM: How did you choose the songs that are on the album?
LV: Most of the songs I’ve been close to over the years. Some of them are ones that George and I just have done a lot that I really like and I want to immortalize. George gave me some advice to have this album represent my personality. What are the facets of my life? Some parts are angry and some parts are sweeter and some parts are sassier, I just wanted to find myself and my voice.
MIM: “My Baby Just Cares for Me” and “Rhode Island is Famous for You” both sound like such fun songs to sing. Are there songs on the album that are more vocally challenging than others?
LV: “Rhode Island” was really hard for me, it took me the longest. I thought I would never get it done. That one was particularly hard because I normally just sing from my instincts and George wrote that ending. So it wasn’t my instincts.
MIM: “The Nearness of You.” I’ve heard that song thousands of times, but your version sounds like a completely new and fresh version. What went into re-imagining that song?
LV: I stick by the standards is the standards are universal. Right? Even though it’s so old, those feelings are still really current. People still feel that way. You can sing it like, it’s so sweet when you’re near me, but for me it’s about longing. It’s about thinking about that time when you were close, but now you’re not anymore.
“Moon River’s” a really good example. The secret is I actually don’t really like “Moon River” that much. I almost didn’t put it on.
But it reminds me of my grandmother so much, and I know this is not what the song is about, but my grandmother is very much at peace with her life. She’s like ready to go. And for me I’m like, she just wants to go on the moon river, she just wants to be at peace.
And so when I sing that song, I’ll don’t just sing about a river. I sing about how that for me is really hard. It’s hard for me to love her and think about her not being here. I’m still by her side.
MIM: What was the biggest thing that changed your mind on performing this at Crooners?
LV: Part of it was being in the crowd. There was a moment where Kate started singing a song and I just immediately started mouthing the words. It was, like, a pretty obscure Broadway musical theater song. She like looked at me and she saw it. She kind of freaked out and she was still singing and then I freaked out. So we just had like a connection. That was really cool. Then she did this sing along.
“This is so absurd, we’re sitting outside of our cars, but it was really beautiful. I think that just changed everything for me. It was really powerful to sing with people again.”
Tickets are still available here at $20 for August 10th at Crooners Supper Club. Come celebrate Leslie’s debut album outside, socially distanced, and singing along.