Sound Observations with Brenda Russell

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 8:31
Posted in category Interviews, Upcoming Shows

By David Moye

Songwriting is an art form based on inspiration. All an artist can do is make themselves aware of when the moment arrives and act on it.

Just ask Brenda Russell, the composer of standards like “Get Here,” “If Only For One Night,” and the Grammy-nominated “Piano In The Dark,.”

“I have to let it come to me any way, even when I’m washing dishes,” Russell said. “That’s how my first hit, ‘So Far, So Good,’ came to me. To me, songwriting is spiritual and I try to be open.”

It’s an approach that has worked for Russell, who in a three-decade career has been a multi-Grammy nominee and cowrote the songs for the hit Broadway musical, “The Color Purple.”

Now she is bringing many of the highlights of that career to Anthology on May 28 — most of them.

“This time, I doing songs that people are familiar with and some that are not so familiar but I like,” she said. “I am not doing anything from ‘The Color Purple,’ but hope to work some of them into the show at a later date.”

As she mentioned, Russell, considers songwriting a spiritual activity, but while she is a great, self-taught piano player, she admits not being able to read or write music.

In many ways, that’s been an advantage.

“I allow the songs to happen in my head, then I get out of the way,” she laughed. “I’ve tried many different ways of writing songs. One thing I do is collect song titles. That’s how I wrote ‘Piano In The Dark.’ My co-writers, Jeff Hull and Scott Cutler, came up with this beautiful music and wanted lyrics and a title. They were rushing me so I went to my song title collection and said, ‘Piano In The Dark.’

“They said, ‘We like it, but what does that mean?’ I said, ‘i’ll figure it out.’”

The song ended up as a top ten hit for her in 1988 and was nominated for a Grammy in the Song Of The Year category.

Not being to write a song down may be a hindrance at time, especially, she says, “when I’m trying to articulate something to the musicians,” but she sees the value in having to commit a song to memory.

“If I wake up and it’s not on my mind, I know it probably isn’t that good,” she said. “It’s like I once said, ‘If your boyfriend doesn’t last more than six months, you probably have a good song.”

WHAT: Brenda Russell
WHEN: Saturday, May 28th, 2011, 7:30 & 9:30pm
TICKETS: $10-$49 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile