BWW Guest Blog: The Story Behind 'Drama Club'
In February of 2018, my good friend Shenandoah Davis paid me a visit. I was having a hard time, I felt a little aimless. We had a vague plan to make a cover album and some recently procured recording gear. She filled my fridge with food and assured me that all would be ok-- we had a good idea. She wasn't wrong.
Over a year in the making, the album officially dropped September 24 on all streaming platforms, with both super limited edition vinyl and CDs forthcoming.
People can pre-order the album here: www.brittainashford.com.
Perhaps sacrilege to say, but neither Shenandoah nor I were super familiar with Wicked when we started this project. We pulled this song up and decided it was ripe to have its jazz hands ripped from it. We recorded the skeleton up in the Catskills, in a yurt in the midst of winter. I would later have Drew Cooper add those sick western style guitars and Shenandoah's sister, Alenni, the string parts. Both additional instruments were recorded in my Brooklyn apartment.
Truth, most of the guitars on the album were recorded in my apartment.
You're The One That I Want
This is the first song we started recording. And by *we* I mean Shenandoah took it upon herself to lay down an organ track and a vocal while I went for a long walk. We experimented with a lot of sounds in this early stage, trying to figure out what we were doing. And while the improvised bathtub drum didn't make it to the album, this is definitely the track that solidified the concept of what we were going for.
Come To Me, Bend To Me
I've always had a soft spot for Brigadoon. This was a show I did in High School and, to this day, this is a song that worms its way into my brain at random times. This version, to be sure, was constructed 100% from memory.
Send in the Clowns
I love Sondheim. I've never loved this song. Something about the many, many melodramatic versions I'd heard over the years that left a bad taste in my mouth. But while I was doing a show in Seattle with the Williams Project last summer, fellow actor Reggie White suggested that I should revisit the tune. Indeed, on a close listen I found myself a little torn up. "I thought that you'd want what I want... sorry, my dear..." (Sobbing.)
I Could Have Danced All Night
This is assuredly the track on the album that I feel is the most changed from the original intention. And for sure the one that has been stripped of any and all jazz hands. When Joe Michelini, who was working on mixes, sent me his first crack at this one I thought... this has some very David Lynch vibes. Took a while for it to grow on me, but ultimately ended up being one of my favorites on the album.
I Dreamed a Dream
Les Misérables was one of my favorite musicals in high school-- I couldn't not do a song form this seriously iconic show.
I very nearly did not put this song on the record. We actually recorded it twice because I was unhappy with how the first version turned out.
Dave Malloy always told me this song was based on one of my own songs and it wasn't until I sat down to learn the song on an instrument that I finally heard it. A major heeeeeeey! moment.
It's Quiet Uptown
This is definitely the song on the album that we did the least with to make it fit in-- changed some pro-nouns, since we restructured it without an ensemble. I initially recorded a live version for the HAM4ALL challenge in 2017, so it seemed appropriate to revisit for this album.
But holy jeeze, Lin-Manuel really wrote a whopper of a heartbreaker.
Fun fact: I sang this song as part of a high school musical theatre review. Yes, I had a red dress. Talk about type casting.
Additional fun fact: that amazing harp is Shenandoah ripping on a midi keyboard.
Music of the Night
An 11th hour addition, I didn't think I could get away with making a musical theatre cover album without a little Andrew Lloyd Webber. I always thought this song was a little creepy, so it was fun to dismantle the song and get rid of the less savory bits. This entire song was recorded in LA with my friend (and frequent collaborator) Matt Bauer.
No One Is Alone
I first heard this song performed by a rival high school when I was a freshman. I was so taken with the show as a whole, but particularly with the young woman who played the Baker's Wife and... this song. Always a song that hit me hard, needless to say there were no jazz hands to be removed here. Just beautiful, brilliant f***ing Sondheim.