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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Nellie McKay

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Nellie McKay
Nellie McKay

Today's subject Nellie McKay is probably best known as a singer and songwriter, but what you may not know is that she has a theatre connection. She has lived her theatre life onstage at Roundabout Theatre Company in The Threepenny Opera as Polly Peachum. That performance won her a Theatre World Award. Tomorrow evening, October 28, she will be appearing at one of the DC area's newest arts performance venues, Amp powered by Strathmore.

With six albums to her credit, Nellie's quirky personality and solid songwriting makes her one of today's most inventive recording artists. With little ditties like "The Dog Song," "Red Rubber Ball," and "Mother of Pearl," Nellie's vocal style is unlike any other singer out there. In the best sense of the word, she is unique.

Her work extends beyond the stage and recording studio though.

You might have seen her in the films PS I Love You and Downtown Express. She wrote original music for the Rob Reiner film Rumor Has It and contributed to the Emmy-winning documentary, Gasland. Nellie's music has also been featured on the TV shows Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Weeds, Grey's Anatomy, NCIS, and Nurse Jackie. She has appeared on numerous televised talk shows, including The Late Show with David Letterman (with the Brooklyn Philharmonic).

In 2010, the Chase Brock Experience produced a ballet based on Nellie's cd called Obligatory Villagers.

Nellie contributed the forward to the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat, by Carol J. Adams. Her writing has also appeared in The Onion, Interview, and The New York Times Book Review.

Nellie Mckay is a true original and for those attending her concert tomorrow evening at Amp, you are sure to see why.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Nellie McKay
Nellie McKay in one of her early career performances. Photo courtesy of the artist.

At what age did you know you were going to sing professionally? How did you know?

At age 16 or 17. I still don't know exactly. Sometimes it just feels good.

Whose music did you grow up listening to as a kid?

Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Lyle Lovett. Quite a range.

Were you one of those kids that performed in all of your school shows?

To some extent, yes. In high school, I opted to perform in the orchestra pit. It's wonderful when the arts are treated strongly and not suppressed for sports. That seems to happen a lot but it didn't at my high school.

Your first CD Get Away from Me was released on Columbia Records. What was it like to have your debut release on such a prestigious label?

It was legendary. I was in such good company with those who came before me.

For those going to see you at Amp this weekend, can you please give them an idea of what they might hear?

An eclectic mix. If the audience has any suggestions, just call them out.

As a writer what do you consider to be your most personal composition?

There is a song called Ridiculous. It's about how the people that have education are the most in denial about capitalism. It is about how, in this country, corruption is legal. People are starting to catch on to that. You have to recognize that the system is faulty. The system is dooming us all and will continue to if we don't have a big change.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Nellie McKay
L-R Jim Dale, Ana Gasteyer, Alan Cumming, Nellie McKay and Cyndi Lauper in the Roundabout Theatre company production of The Threepenny Opera. Photo by Joan Marcus.

You were part of a production of The Threepenny Opera at Roundabout Theatre a few years ago. Can you please talk about your experience of working on that show? If presented with another opportunity to play Broadway, would you do it?

Of course I would. It was a delightful experience. If it had to be one show, I'm glad it was that one. It's still so relevant.

You've had a successful career on both sides of the footlights. What advice can you give to a performer/songwriter just starting out?

Wear clean socks and use birth control.

Special thanls to Mike Fila at Bucklesweet Media and Ms. Mckay's publicist Karla Porisi for their assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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