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BWW Feature: At Home With Michele Brourman (and Her Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

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Tiny woman, huge talent.

BWW Feature: At Home With Michele Brourman (and Her Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg)Michele Brourman had a Bistro Award bestowed upon her earlier this year. A few days later she went home to California and went into quarantine, and that was that. During that time at home, the venerated singer-songwriter (ok, musical director, too) has been really busy - so busy that she and longtime collaborator Amanda McBroom just had a movie come out! The twosome responsible for some of the most enduring scores and main titles in the animated feature industry provided the music for CURIOUS GEORGE: GO WEST GO WILD, just recently released. On top of all that goes into virtual creations with colleagues far away, Michele has been keeping up with her besties, performing in online benefits, and getting her yoga on, online of course.

With so much happening, I thought it was time to check in with one of the industry's most revered and adored forces of nature.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.

Michele Brourman, welcome back to Broadway World. We are so happy to have you chatting with us today. It's been a while since you and I talked, how's life in the time of Coronavirus? How was your quarantine experience?

So far, it's been mostly good - surprisingly! I was in denial about the virus until I flew home right after the Bistro Awards. That NY trip meant so much to me! Not just the award - though that was thrilling! But I also had the chance to spend a long, gorgeous afternoon with Billy Goldenberg. We had lunch at his favorite restaurant, Chez Josephine, then sat in his apartment where he played me some of his new songs for "Ballroom." We've known each other for years, but this was the first time we'd gotten to really talk together. I had no way of knowing that our first real visit would be our last real visit - but I did know how special it was. What an extraordinary man! And musician!! My trip was probably foolish and risky - but I'm so glad I chose to make the journey!

BWW Feature: At Home With Michele Brourman (and Her Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

Flying home, on an almost empty plane, my denial ended. I even started having odd symptoms - tight chest, dry cough. Scared me! But whatever that was went away in a couple of weeks.

I dove into production work on the songs for "Curious George 5".

And all the domestic chores that I was sure I'd have time for? Nope! I've been continuing yoga classes via Zoom, and doing Tai Chi classes outdoors in a local park - with masks and a lot of distancing. So I'm not feeling isolated or stuck in the house.

And I'm grateful that everyone in my family is staying careful and healthy!

Even though these are still dangerous times, the country has begun to go about, like business as usual, what do things look like where you are?

It's mixed here in Venice. Mostly I see people wearing masks, being cautious and thoughtful, but I also have some neighbors who seem oblivious. For the first two months or so, the streets were incredibly quiet here. Normally we have a ton of traffic, and a constant hum of car noise. But for a while the air was clean, the noise was minimal, people were strolling in the middle of the street, as if it was a beautiful Time-Out for everyone. Now it's somewhere between that and "normal." I don't think we're ready yet to return to pre-pandemic. Do you??

I do not, though I agree that it is necessary to make movement forward. Just last week you were supposed to play Birdland, and we missed you here in Manhattan; have you tested the waters with online performances at all?

It felt crazy last Monday to turn the page in my little calendar book and realize that I was supposed to be at Birdland that night! Doesn't it feel to you as if everything simply froze in mid-March? And yet, here we are, almost through September!! As if time just folded in on itself. So many things have happened in these six months, yet I keep thinking it's still March.

As for live-stream performances - I've done just a tiny bit for a few benefit programs. I love interacting with real people! I'm not nearly as turned on by the idea of singing into a camera. Though I've had to do that this week for the Chickies' benefit concert.

I know you folks have an appearance on October third - tell me about The Fabulous Chickies, won't you?

BWW Feature: At Home With Michele Brourman (and Her Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg)The Chickies are a wonderful, awesome group of woman singers. The group consists of: Eileen Barnett, Nancy Dussault, Julie Garnyé, Shelly Goldstein, Ilene Graff, Dana Meller, Valerie Perri, Joan Ryan, and Lisa Vroman. And me!!

Ilene Graff brought us together for what began as monthly lunches. I was thrilled to be included - they're all such amazing artists, and amazing humans! We were meeting and eating at The Sportsman's Lodge, this funky old Ventura Blvd hotel. Now we meet on Zoom. But the conversations are the true nourishment! Every woman in the group is unique and uniquely talented. Our concert on October 3rd is a benefit for the Actors' Fund, which right now is more important than ever. For anyone who doesn't know, the Actors Fund is not just for actors. It's for all the folks involved in the theatre, onstage and off. Most of those people are aching right now.

So it felt like a great idea to do a fundraiser

Also - and particularly dear to my heart - there's also a special fund called the Songwriters' Lifeline of the Actors Fund. It was started by Abby Schroeder whose late husband wrote a lot of hit songs, including a number of Elvis recordings. Abby, who ran their publishing company for decades, is determined to help support other songwriters.

THE FABULOUS CHICKIES IN CONCERT! Catch us at: youtube.com/TheActorsFund on October 3rd, 5 PM PDT.

Read about the October Third benefit HERE

I've seen screengrabs on Joan Ryan's Facebook page of Zoom calls that you do with your women friends. Tell me about that bond that you ladies share.

Yep, that's the Chickies! We all love music, love singing, love great songs - and love each other! Oh, and we love food. We've become great supporters of one another as well, showing up for each other's performances, sending out e-blasts and FB posts for each other's shows. Remember, the first time you and I met in person was in NYC at Joan Ryan's show. That was so much fun!! btw, I loved your interview with Joan. Just lovely!

Thank you - she's wonderful. You are fortunate in your friendship with Joan. Now, you've recently had some other exciting work news. You have a new movie out. Tell me about Curious George: Go West Go Wild.

This is the second Curious George feature for which I've co-written the songs with my "sister-in-song" Amanda McBroom. The first - released a year ago - was "Curious George: Royal Monkey". We've been writing songs for Universal's animated features for children since 1994 - including ten sequels to "The Land Before Time."

Has the process of working with Amanda via remote been different than your usual work routine, or is the shorthand you share so strong that you weren't affected by the change?

That's such a good question!! We've totally had to work remotely. We do have a lot of history and "shorthand" as you so aptly put it - but I miss being in the same room with Amanda! Since we live 90 miles apart - she's in Ojai, I'm in Venice - we've written remotely before.

Amanda sends me lyrics first. She's brilliant at coming up with lyrics for kids that are delicious and childlike without being simplistic. I'll work from her lyrics, usually try a bunch of different musical approaches until one of them starts to feel right. I'll send her a rough mp3 so that we can talk about the approach. Once we're both happy with the general shape of the song, I'll focus in more deeply, come up with a basic arrangement concept, maybe lay down some layered vocals. Given the "branding" for "Curious George", the songs need to be more guitar based than piano based. And they need a strong rhythm section.

So my next step is to bring the song to Stephan Oberhoff, our brilliant engineer, co-arranger, and all-around genius. Often I'll have a synth guitar foundation for the song. Stephan will add layers of real guitars and bass, program drums. We work closely together; in "normal" times in his studio, he sets up two keyboards so that either of us can chime in with our various instrumental ideas. Which is good, cause we used to have to push each other off the bench to insist on our differing ideas!! Working remotely is a little harder. We use Zoom. If I want to communicate a musical thought, I either have to lay it down in my computer and send him a midi-file - or, if the idea is short, I can play it over Zoom or sing it so that Stephan can play it into his ProTools set-up. (is this WAY more than you wanted to know??)

We're deeply proud - me and Amanda and Stephan ! - about the songs we've made for this new feature!

The pop singer Yuna has covered the song "The Other Side" - does every animated movie on which you work get a pop star cover, and what does a pop star cover mean to a movie music songwriter?

Only a few of our animated movies have had a pop star perform one of the songs - but the artists we've had have been wonderful, and have enriched those pictures. Olivia Newton-John did one of the songs for LBT8. Donny Osmond sang one for LBT9, and liked it so much he added it to his own album.

We got to write a song for Reba McEntire's character to perform in LBT14 - she was the voice of a red-haired, red-nailed flying dinosaur with cape-like wings! The song is called "Look for the Light" and Reba, as my darling friend Dixie Carter would have said, "sang the fatal fillin's out of it!"

We had Corbin Bleu perform my solo song "The Joy of the Ride" as the end-title piece for "The Little Engine That Could". I brought the track to a studio in NY, and produced his vocal there.

Having Yuna on "Curious George" was special in a lot of ways. And challenging - since she's quarantining in her home in Malaysia! We were sending files back and forth across a crazy time difference - but she gave us a stunning performance! It's during a climactic scene in the picture, and her vocal really adds a lot of emotion. Plus this is the first time they've had a woman singer in ANY of the Curious George features. The first CG movie had songs by Jack Johnson; in keeping with that "brand", all the ensuing vocalists had to be guys. We've broken new ground with Yuna - hopefully we'll have more amazing woman artists on the next CG feature!

Was the lockdown a productive time for you, or a time to relax? Will we get a new Michele Brourman CD out of it?

It's been an incredibly productive time! Don't think I've relaxed yet. But no, I'm not planning another CD at the moment. Given the trends, how we're making and marketing songs these days, I'm planning to put out a series of singles. I've also started releasing some of my "orphan" songs - ones that I've written over the years that have somehow not been heard before. I call the series "Eine Kleine Trunk Musik". (Full disclosure: I stole that phrase from from Rupert Holmes' brilliant book for "Curtains.") You can find the songs, along with the sheet music, on my website. I hope that more cabaret artists will want to perform them!

Visit Michele's website HERE or on her Youtube channel HERE

Michele Brourman, what was your favorite year?

I have to say that it's the year we're in right now, because I'm old enough to know the value of living in the moment, even though 2020 has been one of the suckiest years we've ever experienced! But still - I'm here. I'm with the husband I love, my sons and my sisters and my dearest friends are all okay. I'm making music and sharing it, and my cat Buttercup just leaped up onto my mess of a desk and is sitting on the jumble of papers. How can I not be grateful?!

One more thing I need to add. We're all grieving the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I posted a song on Saturday that I'd written more than a year ago with Hillary Rollins. The first words of the song are: "My daughters will be Bella and Justice."

RBG helped to inspire the poem by Jo-Ann Mort that became the germ of Hillary's lyric.

I called Wendy Lane Bailey who created a moving, beautiful tribute video. Here it is, from all of our hearts.


Michele, thank you so much for visiting with me today and sharing your always wonderful stories. Please come back any time, and often. We at Broadway World Cabaret love you.

I love you too, Stephen! Thank you so much for inviting me to visit. And I miss New York! I can't wait to be back there!!


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From This Author Stephen Mosher