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Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

"Audiences across the country are eager for the arts.  Everybody's thirsty for this kind of thing."

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

You know that friend you have that's all about The Christmas? Or maybe it's you, yourself, that embraces the Yuletide Glee? We all have those Christmas people in our lives and we all have our own relationship with the holiday season. For Edmund Bagnell, this time of year is really special, and he has taken that blessed relationship with the Season of Joy to his artistry with albums, music videos, even some baking videos. So it should surprise none of his fans that this year Edmund has circled back around with more Christmas music to put out into the world. His first-ever Christmas song as a writer just dropped today on all digital platforms, and he will be performing a holiday show at Birdland on December 12th. A longtime supporter of Edmund Bagnell's Broadway World Cabaret asked the 2022-affianced gentleman to stop by our home office for a chat and a photo shoot. How appropriate that that should all take place just before Thanksgiving.

Enjoy our talk below to learn more about Edmund's artistic beginnings, his creative process, and what his favorite household tradition is at this time in his life.

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.

This interview has been edited for space and content.

Edmund, welcome to Broadway World.

Hey, hey!

I want to get this out of the way, first, in print for everyone out there... Is it Bag-null or Bag-Nell?

Bag-Nelll. If we were in South Carolina, it'd be Bag-null, but it's Bag-Nell.

Because I have heard it said both ways, and I want to make sure that we tell everybody it's Bag-Nell.

Okay.

How are you?

I'm doing well.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving.

You've been working quite a lot this year. What's it feel like to come out of the quarantine and hit the ground running?

(Laughing) Oh my gosh. I don't know. I tried to stay as active as I could during quarantine, recorded an album, tried to do singles, and create videos and that was very much just to stay creative and not lose my mind... but also with an eye of, when this does lift, how do I maintain a presence?

That's hard to do.

It really is.

What is the secret? What have you found is the key to maintaining a presence?

Oh gosh. I don't even know if I found the key. I guess, if you don't create anything, there's nothing to share. For me, creation, I really enjoy that process. Recording, which is so different than live performance, which I love too, that was something that blossomed for me during Covid. I think it was more like, "Let me try everything I can and kind of see what sticks."

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

Where does this big lean into creativity originate?

Probably my mother. Both my parents are very much into the arts. They would take me to the symphony in South Carolina and my dad liked opera; I remember, in first grade, going to see a Mozart opera and being so taken with it. Broadway was kind of, I wouldn't say my dirty little secret, but that was less my parents' bag... but I was really itching to go see the Cats tour and that kind of thing. I didn't really grow up with that. And my mother was an elementary school art teacher, so very visual arts, that was a big thing.

You come from a creative family.

I suppose so. And my dad was a chef for a long time and had restaurants, that's its own creative outlet, then he became a lawyer and all that changed. I would say he expresses himself through food.

You have a background both in music and in acting. Did those two things blossom for you simultaneously?

No, not really. I remember being the kid that really wanted to be an actor. I saw the movie Home Alone and I thought, "Oh my gosh, that looks so cool. What Macaulay Calkin gets to do. He gets to go and live this fantasy." I thought that movie was the coolest, and this kid actually kind of lived it by being an actor. So that's kind of what I thought being an actor was. But I was not one of those performance-y kids. I was very shy. I really didn't like getting up in a room full of people in that way, on the spot. The John Grisham book that they turned into a movie... The Client... They were doing a casting call for southern kids and everything. But my parents kind of debated that because they knew my interest, but I didn't have that in me at that age. It was later, I would say in high school, that I kind of got over the introvert who could pretend to be an extrovert. I kind of was like, "Okay, the stage, that's your time to go and put it out there and you can go and do that and be that way." I kind of figured that out myself. Music happened first, then the acting thing for sure.

A lot of shy people use acting to hide behind a character. Is there an opportunity to hide behind the music, to hide behind your instrument?

That's a really good question. No, less so, in a way, because it's you. It's always you. I think that that was a thing, finding what is your stage persona - I was in Well-Strung for so many years (and we are still together, for the record) and that, for me, was one kind of stage persona. There being four of us, what you bring, energy-wise, to the stage is very different than being on my own. That was a transition for me. No, I don't think you hide behind it.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

So... just a few minutes ago, you mentioned the movie Home Alone...

Mm-hmm.

...which is a very famous Christmas movie.

Mm-hmm.

And you are a Christmas person.

(Laughing) Yeah. I love it.

And you have a lot of Christmas stuff coming up.

Yes.

Let's start with the recording.

Sure!

Tell me about that.

I've wanted to do an original Christmas song for years, and maybe 10 years ago I started writing a musical, and I was musing my way through that. Then Well-Strung kind of took over and I just kind let that go by the wayside. Then Covid came and I started doing the recording thing and I was like: let me try songwriting again. It's getting easier for me, the more I do it, but I would say it is kind of a, I really am kind of a massager, you know what I mean? I wouldn't call myself a quick songwriter but occasionally, the chorus will suddenly come real quick. And I very much go back and change things a lot - I guess, like anything, it's getting a little easier. So it was like, "Let me write a Christmas song," and that took me all summer. I found the genre so much more difficult than I anticipated because, in a way, it's all been said. We've got these themes for Christmas, there's certain feelings you want from a Christmas song, it's a very specific genre. And I started so many songs that I'd write a chorus for, or a verse for, and then I abandoned them, it just wasn't right. I'm very pleased with the song that I ended up with (Laughing) but that was a surprise for me - I really had to work to find my way in, to be like, "What do I want to say about Christmas that hasn't been said before? And it's not cheesy or pedantic and feels original." Also, I wanted something that other people could sing. I feel like a lot of current Christmas songs come out and they're very much about the production or the beat, and I love them, but it's very singular to that artist. I want to try to write a song that maybe somebody else could sing.

When does it come out?

December 2nd.

And where will people be able to get it?

Spotify, iTunes, YouTube. Everywhere.

Now, your Christmas album

Mm-hmm.

...was recorded in your closet.

(Laughing) Mm-hmm.

Did you record this in the closet, too?

(Laughing) I did not record in my closet. Although, you know what, most of my songs start there because I need a place in the house where I'll record things and listen back before I make my actual recording - I need a quiet place to go and get a decent recording. So a lot of my songs start in the closet. But I recorded this up state at a wonderful place called the Community Music Space; this great guy, Ben Senterfit, worked very closely with me on the production side of the song. It was nice to be in a studio and not recording all alone by myself in the closet.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

You also recorded Pink Lemonade.

Yes!

Is there more dance music coming from you?

I so enjoyed doing that song because it is so different for me. I'm so acoustic based - that's very much my world. I definitely will do a little bit more of that, kind of like my side gig. I do enjoy getting into that genre.

Are you a club person? Is the dance remix thing a vibe that you like?

I used to go out to clubs and stuff. I enjoyed listening to it. I love Dua Lipa's whole disco return and Carly Rae Jepsen, she's got disco. I think it's very much a moment for very happy music. It makes me very happy, I really enjoy it. Maybe it's the actor side of me too: I want to dabble in every genre a little bit. It's fun because why not? There are no rules.

You can write your own narrative.

Mmm-hmm.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

You have a Christmas show coming up at Birdland.

Mmm-hmm.

When you sit down to create a new show - and the shows that you do are very specific because it's you and the violin - what's the process like for you and your sidekick?

It always starts with the music. This being a holiday show, that immediately focuses you. But I like to add parameters because it's like, "What are some non-holiday things that I can throw in that are still appropriate to the season and keep it interesting?" What's a good instrumental mix or juxtaposition to throw in against a contemporary pop song? It always starts with the music, and you begin to see a picture, then it focuses itself and the narrative comes through. But always: music first.

When you're creating the narrative do you work from an outline, a framework? Or do you actually create a script that you stick to in the show? What's your spontaneity level when you're in the middle of a performance?

I've definitely gotten much more spontaneous. My first show He Plays The Violin was very scripted - there's always an outline - but I would say the more I've been doing this there's a definite spontaneity aspect.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

And you're becoming quite a cabaret star, touring to the nightclubs of this country. Tell me what it's been like going out into the provinces and performing for the people of America.

I really love that. When I'm on stage, it's that kind of mind over matter thing - but in that instance, the room is min,e and I very much go in with that energy, not in an ego way, but just kind of like "I'm gonna do this thing." This is me and my music and my sound and I love reaching new audiences. I think that's every artist's goal - to find new audiences. I don't find it scary. Audiences across the country are eager for the arts. Everybody's thirsty for this kind of thing. I don't know if that's a post-Covid thing or whatever, but the reception's been very warm and people have been very open and very giving

You work as a vocalist and as a violinist. Most of the actors and singers and dancers that I know continue to go to class and study. Is that something that you do as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist? Is there a tradition where musicians continue to study, throughout their lives?

That's a little more rare. You can. I do practice, that is its own thing.

So, as a musician, once you've got it, you've got it. You are in control.

Yeah. It's not unheard of to go and have a brush up. It's always great to have another eye on you, just to take you out of yourself, you know? I felt, with Well-Strung, certain things, because of the singing and playing, I had developed some odd habits to deal with holding the violin while singing, and I realized I wasn't breathing well to sing. I had kind of forgotten some of that technique, after years of doing these things. So, I went back in over Covid and met with some wonderful vocal coaches and re-centered myself and found that place again. I think I found a much healthier place to do that from.

It's like using two different muscles at the same time.

Yeah, I'm really practicing hard on the violin, maintaining, trying to be as conscious as possible.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

You are playing Birdland on the 12th, and the single drops on the 2nd.

Yes. I will do it (the single) live, on the 12th.

The last time you played Birdland something really groovy happened.

(Laughing) Yeah.

I didn't get to be there, so put me in the picture of the experience of what happened to you there.

Oh my gosh. So, this was last spring. I was doing a new show with all new material. So, my headspace was just like: show, show, show, show, show, show, show. You know, all these new songs, all these notes, and I wanted to do my best possible, you know, really nail it. So that was my headspace, I was just very in the show. So, I finished the show, I do my encore, and then Colin, my boyfriend, leaps up on stage and I was kinda like, "Did I not do something?" I don't know. it just, really, in my head I was just so "This song to the next song to the next song," and here we are, at the end, and I was like, "Something must be wrong." Anyway, he had flowers in his hand, he gets down on his knee and he PROPOSED! So I got engaged at Birdland.

Was it a surprise or is something you had talked about?

I knew it was definitely in the cards for us, but I never pictured a public... Colin, he's not usually public in that kind of way, so it was a complete shock to me. And he was convinced I knew somehow! He was convinced I'd known all along. No: complete, COMPLETE surprise.

Because you guys had been going together for a while.

About seven years.

And now you're engaged . Do you have a date for the wedding?

No, we don't. And everybody says we need to pick one.

Everything has its own time

That's right.

You can enjoy being engaged for a while.

That's right.

Did he bring you a ring?

No ring, but he got me a really lovely pocket watch.

Oh, la la. And you're a very snappy dresser, so that's a nice accessory for your outfits. So with the holiday season upon us, you must be planning for 2023. What's your next big adventure going to be?

I think I'm gonna put out a completely instrumental album. I just did a short little cover of Taylor Swift's song "Anti-Hero" and I enjoyed the sound, I enjoyed the head rush of it. I want to put out an instrumental album.

It would be instrumentals of pop songs.

It's a little too soon to speak clearly about the content, but there's a real head rush to that song, and that kind of is my guiding light.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater

So tell me, you and Colin, what's your favorite household holiday tradition?

Oh, that's a really good question. I will say - this is not a holiday tradition, this is just a life tradition - we recently got a dog, we got a Covid puppy, and he's this really sweet beagle. Over this summer we got him a lovely sister. So now we have two dogs, so we're the foursome...but she's still a puppy and she likes to wake up way early, that is her jam - I'm hoping she grows out of this in a little bit. So we'll alternate who wakes up to go be with Birdie in the morning. And the person who didn't wake up early, they're in charge of breakfast and making the coffee. It's a little thing, but I'm enjoying this.

Well, it's you.

Yeah.

Every household has its daily meditations.

Yes.

I'm so happy you stopped by to visit with me today and I'm looking forward to your Yuletide artistry.

Oh, thank you so much. This was really lovely.

Edmund Bagnell's WRAPPED UP IN YOUR LOVE is available on all streaming platforms - for full access, click HERE.

Edmund Bagnell will play Birdland Theater with HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS on December 12th at 8:30 pm. For information and reservations, visit the Birdland website HERE.

Edmund Bagnell has a website that can be accessed HERE.

Edmund Bagnell will embark on a Christmas Tour of Home for the Holidays with pianist and Musical Director Mark Hartman.

December 4th: Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

December 5th: Washington D.C.

December 12th: Birdland Theater in New York City with special guest Lisa Boccuzzi.

December 15th: Davenport's Piano Bar in Chicago with special guest Barry DeBois and pianist Beckie Menzie.

Interview: Edmund Bagnell of HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at Birdland Theater



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