BWW Interview: A Beautiful CD By a Beautiful Singer: Anika Larsen's Debut CD
If you are looking for that perfect gift this holiday season, Anika Larsen (who currently plays Cynthia Weil in the Broadway musical Beautiful) has just the thing for you. Her debut CD - SING YOU TO SLEEP is a "tuneful and personal album for adults and children alike, which Larsen recorded with her nine siblings and fourteen nieces and nephews in mind". I was honored that she and her producer Dan Watt had the time to answer a few questions about this CD.
First off, I had the joy of seeing you in Beautiful and thought you were absolutely wonderful in that show. You've had such a pop/rock background in the Broadway shows you've done, how different was it approaching the music from Beautiful?
AL: Well, thank you very much. But Beautiful is thoroughly pop/rock!
You do have me there! I was comparing it to your past shows like RENT, Avenue Q, and Xanadu.
AL: All of Carole King's music is pop/rock, and 3 of the 4 songs I sing are pop songs. The only one of my songs that doesn't feel pop/rock is "Happy Days Are Here Again," and even that was a pop song in its time. It's not a different kind of singing than I generally do, so I didn't have to prepare any differently for this show. I did, however, have to prepare differently for this album, which involves a whole lot less belting and riffing than I usually do. It was a challenge that was good and a little scary for me, to trust in the softer sounds of my voice.
Many Broadway performers will release a CD, but you have something truly unique with yours. What drew you to the songs you have chosen?
AL: Well, when Dan initially asked me to do an album, I said absolutely not; because I didn't feel comfortable with the idea of me just covering other people's songs for no real purpose than to put out an album of my voice. I'm one of ten children, and while I therefore have always desperately craved attention, I also get intensely uneasy at the thought of more than my fair share of it. But a few weeks after he asked me, I was singing lullabies to my nieces and nephews as I've been doing for years, and I thought, "An album of lullabies, now that's an idea I can get behind. That has a purpose." I ran it by Dan, he loved it, and away we went!
Lucky for us that Dan not only brought up the idea to you, but that he gave you the time to think about it too. Was it hard to cut down the list of songs you knew that you wanted to sing?
AL: I knew I didn't want it to be an album of just children's lullabies, but also songs that I found beautiful, partly because I've never sung just lullabies to children, and partly because I didn't want this to be an album only for children. I think grownups need lulling sometimes too-I know I sure do.
AL: I wanted this record to be sophisticated, because I think we should play for children the music we want them to love, not music dumbed down for them. My kids are all going to be raised listening to Stevie Wonder. I thought culling through the list of pretty songs I've been singing to kids would be hard, but it actually wasn't. The final twelve made themselves known pretty easily. They had to have lovely, soothing melodies, happy imagery, and I wanted them to come from a diversity of styles. And lastly, I wanted them to start at a faster tempo and little by little get slower as the album went on. An old trick from my babysitting days.
I must admit, I heard about this because I've often blog about people that make career changes and take chances later in life. Dan had read my blogs, completely connected to that theme (as someone who has done that in his own career) and reached out to me about this. So, Dan, tell us how this entire project came about?
DW: I went to see Beautiful and fell in love with Anika's voice.
DW: I remember sitting in the audience and when she sang the song Walking in the Rain, a softer more melodic song, I just wanted to hear her sing more. So I decided to go for it and after the show I took her, Jessie and Liz out for champagne to congratulate them on a wonderful show, and it was then that I asked Anika if she would want to do a CD with me. She was flattered but said no - but I didn't give up. I pestered her for 2 months and asked her just to do a list of songs she would love to sing and after she did that, our theme and direction fell into place and here we are, releasing her debut CD!
Persistence pays off! Anika, you mention you come from a large family and the holidays are centered around family. What's a holiday memory that you have?
AL: Oh, my favorite holiday memory hands down is my mom making us perform at our annual Christmas parties. Six of my brothers and sisters are adopted, so we're this rainbow-colored family, and I think my mom always thought we were the multicultural Von Trapps.
That is awesome!
AL: Some of my siblings were a little more nervous about performing, but I was LIVING for it. I started anticipating my big solo number around July.
That's a great memory. What would you like for listeners to take away from this album after buying it or downloading it?
AL: I'd sure like for it to make them feel good. Is there anything more important than trying to make other people feel good?
It's an essential part in giving and paying-it-forward...I love that!
AL: And I would be thrilled if I helped instill a love of any of this music into little ones out there. And if I can do any parents out there the solid of helping them get their kids to sleep, well then, my work here is done.
I'm sure parents will be grateful for that! Dan, any last words from you?
DW: Anika has such a beautiful voice and our song choices have such a range that I think anyone could listen to this CD and thoroughly enjoy it. She sings songs that range from "Summertime", "Somewhere Out There", ""Baby Mine" to the duet "You Can Close Your Eyes" with Jessie Mueller. I hope that the audience feels what I felt in the theatre when I first heard her sing, - just needed to hear more!
I'm sure they will. Grab a copy (or two) of Anika's album today and make someone's holiday a very happy one with it. Thank you both for taking the time to chat about it!
From This Author Gregory G. Allen