DOING IT HER WAY | Interview
Theater Interview by William Gooch
Interview with Christine Martucci of "Breakfast With Janis":
Sneak Peek and Launch party on July 18
After meeting and listening to Christine Martucci's eclectic CD "I'm All In," I wondered why a show like American Idol hadn't discovered this young lady. As I got to know Christine a little better, I realized she has so much more to offer than the pre-packaged singers that are paraded weekly on music reality shows. With a solid foundation in blues, R&B and hard rock vocal acrobatics, Christine can electrify, wail and serenade with the best of them.
Christine Martucci's sophisticated musical taste goes way beyond the niche marketing that far too many artists are forced to operate out of. Only a musical artist of her immense talent and vision would dare do a musical about the great iconoclast Janis Joplin. Although musicals about Janis Joplin have been done beforeŚa few years ago a critically acclaimed version ran Off-BroadwayŚnot until Martucci's Breakfast with Janis do we experience Janis Joplin as confidant, sage and late-night carousing buddy.
During pre-production of Breakfast with Janis, Christine took out a little time to talk with me about her life, her passion for music, and why it is so important for her to live life on her own terms.
What are your musical influences?
Christine Martucci: My musical influences are Janis Joplin, Koko Taylor, Bessie Smith, Aretha, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight; you know, most of the R&B and Motown divas.
You named all these women that have strong voices; what attracts you to that type of voice?
Christine Martucci: Their voices come with a story. It is easy to be a trained singer, but to have a strong voice and to have soul is what attracts me. These ladies have more than good vocal skills. Their heartaches, their joys, just everything comes out in their music.
What is your musical background?
Christine Martucci: I started out by listening to my dad's Motown Records. One day I just picked up a guitar and started playing around with. I come from a musical family; all my siblings play musical instruments. I have had some vocal classical training. That training has helped me sustain my voice and take care of my vocal instrument.
Why did you want to do a musical about Janis Joplin?
Christine Martucci: I've always admired Janis Joplin. During a very dark period in my life, when I had so many issues and was going through so much stuff in my personal life, Janis came to me in this dream and kind of blessed me and told me that I had a musical purpose on this planet, and that I was wasting my talent with being in this dark place and being around so many negative people. I know it sounds a little hokey, but it was a wake-up call for me, my light bulb moment. Later in the dream Janis asked me to go and have breakfast with her.
Is that where the title of your musical come from?
Yes, that's where the title comes from. [Laughing]
How did this visitation of sorts evolve into Breakfast with Janis?
Christine Martucci: I really felt this dream in some way was a divine message. In some way there are aspects of my life at that time that corresponded to Janis' life, performing before large crowds and getting that approval and then going home alone. I felt like I was crashing and burning. In the musical I contemplate the loneliness, the performance fatigue, and I ask Janis for help, her advice, how she dealt with some of the same issues, how she might have handled some things differently. In a nutshell, this musical is everything you would have wanted to ask Janis Joplin but couldn't. It is really raw and out there.
Is Breakfast with Janis a one-woman show?
Christine Martucci: No. This production is still a work in progress. The first act is my having a conversation with another actress who plays Janis Joplin and the second act is a monologue.
When I listened to your CD "I'm All In," I found that you have a raw, throaty vocal quality similar to Janis Joplin. That quality can be hard on the voice. Do you do any vocal techniques to maintain that sound without damaging your voice?
Christine Martucci: Since I naturally sing that way, I don't do any special training to maintain that quality. My voice has always had that raw edge.
What songs by Janis are you using in the musical, and why those songs?
Christine Martucci: This musical has all original material, no covering of Joplin songs.
Where would you like this show to go?
Christine Martucci: I think this musical will play really well Off-Broadway. It may be a little too honest and raw for Broadway audiences. [Raucous laughter]
Let's talk about the back cover of your CD "I'm All In." You have a picture of yourself with poker chips, why the poker chip image?
Christine Martucci: I invested all my money to do the CD "I'm All In." So, the poker chip images are about me putting everything out there and on the line. In spite of the possibility of being successful or not, I am still willing to play the game.
Was "I'm All In" your first CD?
Christine Martucci: No, actually it was my second. My first CD was entitled "Mama Says," and was released in 2003. You know that old saying that it takes your whole life to record your first CD and six months to record your second. (Laughter) Anyway, "Mama Says" got great reviews; it kind of made people stand out and notice me.
Do you self-publish or do you record for another record label?
Christine Martucci: I self-publish. I felt I had to get my material out there, so I started my own label called Sun West Records. I just felt like starting my own label would be easier than trying to package myself into an image that wasn't me just to get a record label to pick me up and market me. And I have to say, so far it is working pretty well.
The songs on your CD "I'm All In" has hard rock, a little country rock, some soft rock; but definitely all rock. How would you describe your sound?
Christine Martucci: I define my sound rockin' soul. It is rock and roll that moves the audience because the songs come from my life experiences. I pour my heart and soul into this music.
The song "Come the Night" definitely has a dark edge, could you talk about that?
Christine Martucci: That song reflects the pain I've experienced. It comes from a place of feeling like I could be more myself under the shadow of the night. During the day, sometimes we have to wear so many masks, pretend we are people we are not, whether it is for your job, your community or whatever. But under the shadow of darkness, we have the latitude to be ourselves.
What are you trying to express with the song "Child Inside"?
Christine Martucci: Because of family discord, I left home at an early age. I had to grow up really fast. I went through so much stuff, man. I was in the military and for a short time I was even homeless. Anyway, through all these experiences I was still a child inside, even though I was taking on all these adult responsibilities. This song is about the healing process of me trying to reconcile my tumultuous childhood with what I went through, and who I am now.
After Breakfast with Janis, what is next?
Christine Martucci: I am working on the material for my next CD. I am working on my new material with Anthony Crizan, the guitar player from the Spin Doctors. This will be my third CD, which I believe will reflect more of who I am as a singer and songwriter. I try to take one project at a time.
The Breakfast with Janis Sneak Peek and Launch Party will be performed at The Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, NJ on July 18. Tickets are $15.00 in advance and $18.00 at the door. Tickets are available at www.christinemartucci.com and www.livenation.com. Special guests include the Bob Burger Band, the Mike Montrey Band, the Linda Chorney Band, and guest host comic Amy Beckerman.
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