BWW Interview: John Bucchino And Amanda McBroom Celebrate 30 Years of Friendship with SWEET DREAMS AND ROSES at Birdland
Celebrating 30 years of friendship, beloved singer-songwriters Amanda McBroom and John Bucchino take the stage together for the very first time in New York City on December 16th at The Birdland Jazz Club.
John Bucchino is the recipient of The Johnny Mercer Songwriter Award, The ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award, The Jonathan Larson Award, The Kleban Award, The Los Angeles Ovation Award (for the revue IT'S ONLY LIFE), The DVD Premiere Award (for the song "Better Than I"), and the first annual Fred Ebb Award.
In celebration of their cabaret premiere, I was excited to speak with Amanda and John about their work, their friendship, and what makes music an enduring gift in their lives.
John and Amanda, congratualtions on your first New York appearance together! I love the title of your show, SWEET DREAMS AND ROSES, which I know alludes to two of your best known songs. What can audiences expect on December 16th?
Amanda: A night of wild abandon!!! No, seriously... this is an evening of humor and passion and lots of great musical stories. I am such a huge fan of John's, and it is a thrill to sing his brilliant songs and to hear his magical fingers on mine!
John: Two dear friends sharing their creativity with other friends in a cozy setting.
Why is Birdland the lucky club that snagged your debut duo show?
Amanda: I LOVE Birdland. It has become a loving musical home to me. The room is delicious, the piano perfection, the people who run it the creme de la creme. I am always happy when I am on that stage.
John: Birdland has always been one of the places in which I'm most comfortable performing. Everyone has a good seat, the sound is impeccable, the staff is lovely and, most importantly for me, the piano is spectacularly responsive.
This is your first time performing together - have you ever joined forces as songwriters?
Amanda: Yes we have. We have written a few songs together. One fabulous heartbreak ballad called "Beautiful Mistake" is one of my favorite collaborations ever.
John: I mostly write my own lyrics, and rarely collaborate. But I have been the lucky recipient of lyrics from Amanda that are so brilliant and "musicalizable" that I can't wait to set them. This show will feature two of those songs.
You are both ridiculously talented songwriters, lyricists and singers. What's the skill or discipline you see in each other you most wish you had yourself?
Amanda: Oh honey! If I had his gift for music, AND his fingers. His melodies destroy me!
John: I wish I had a voice as glorious and expressive as Amanda's. Add to that her consummate acting ability, and you have a singular and enviable combination.
I know composers often don't like to speak of favorites when it comes to their own songs but, John and Amanda, do you have a favorite of each others?
Amanda: That's a hard one...there are so many. I think the first one I ever heard, called "Sweet Dreams," is my VERY favorite.
John: Of course there's "The Rose," one of the best songs ever written, and everyone's favorite. I especially love a song of Amanda's in our show called "Putting Things Away." It's a great example of her ability to blend humor, relatability, and wistfulness in a perfect 3-minute package.
Almost every songwriter has a singer who they feel is the best interpreter of their music: do either of you have a singer that you feel understands your songs in just the right way?
Amanda, as well as your work as a songwriter, you've got a healthy acting resume; do you have a favorite role that really taught you something as an artist or about yourself?
Amanda: My favorite roles have been Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD and MAME. Mame is who I aspire to be as a person.
John, your song "Grateful" became the basis for a published and award winning children's book and resulted in a lovely friendship with Julie Andrews. What did that unexpected experience teach you?
John: Spending time with dear Julie, not only on our book, but also as co-writers of a children's musical, taught me a lot about how to balance strong opinions and kindness - with collaborators, certainly, but also in general. She's not at all weak, but unfailingly kind.
John and Amanda, you both have have success writing for animated features. What advice do you have for songwriters wishing to break into this specialized niche?
Amanda: Whew. It was such an amazing gift, brought to me by my other favorite collaborator, Michele Brourman. She did all the heavy lifting. Learn how to write for musical theater if you want to write for animation...
John: I agree with Amanda that learning to think and write theatrically is crucial if one aspires to write for film. Also, I'm used to having total control over the creation of my songs, so a big challenge for me was to become more flexible in what is often a "writing by committee" kind of process.
You both are committed to teaching master classes. Why is that important to you?
Amanda: Sharing what I have learned in my long long life on the stage seems like a tiny way of giving back . An act of gratitude.
John: For a long time, I didn't believe I had anything to offer as a teacher. Then I realized I am undeniably an expert in one thing: performance of my own songs. And, I've learned that working with singers on my songs can help them to become more effective communicators in general. When I'm teaching, I feel the same kind of "flow" as when I'm writing, and that's always an energy in which I want to be.
Where do you find your greatest inspiration?
Amanda: In the obituaries. I love obituaries! You find the MOST FASCINATING stories of people's lives.There is a song in almost every one. I once read a book about those who write obits, which was VERY insightful and often funny. It made me appreciate this under represented art form.
John: A commission is always a good incentive... But also, when strong emotions bubble up they can find expression in a song. Or inspiration may come as a result of hearing music by another artist, or seeing a painting, or something in nature, or any of a million other things. The birth of songs is always, for me, a kind of magic that I don't ever want to demystify.
What is the secret to having an enduring 30 year friendship?
Amanda: Mutual respect and not too much alcohol.
John: Enormous respect artistically, and a great capacity for silliness personally.
John, what kind of Christmas are you dreaming of?
John: Well, I'm dreaming of a Christmas with this president out of office. In reality, I'll be here in Tucson, where I live now, with my 88-year-old mom. So it will be quiet, simple, and sweet.
Amanda, what are you doing New Year's Eve?
Amanda: I have no idea at this moment, but I know it will involve dogs, cats, and a very good bottle of champagne...
Be sure to catch John and Amanda together in SWEET DREAMS AND ROSES on Monday, December 16th at 7:00 PM at The Birdland Jazz Club. For tickets visit Birdland Jazz.