Actor Jeff Blumenkrantz Interviews Songwriter Jeff Blumenkrantz
Q: Thank you so much submitting to this interview! I’m a big fan of your songwriting!
A: Aw, shucks… well, I love the way you sing my songs. It’s like you know exactly what I’m thinking.
Q: [blush] So we’re here to chat about your new song cycle Month Upon a Time.
A: Actually, it’s not so new. I wrote it between June 2011 and May 2012.
Q: Could you be a little more specific?
A: It’s just that it was written in real time, month by month, so it’s easy to remember exactly when it all happened.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: At the time, I didn’t have an active musical theater project/collaboration, and I wanted to be writing more, specifically something I could write on my own, so a song cycle seemed like a good idea. And by designing it as a series of 12 songs, each one pertaining to a particular month, I knew that in a year’s time, I’d definitely have 12 songs to show for it.
It was around the time when Twitter was becoming popular, and I wasn’t quite grasping the concept of it. By incorporating it into the project, I figured I’d learn to use and understand it. (Note the little blue Twitter bird perched at 3:00 on the logo!) Each month I’d put out a request to my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to pitch month-specific ideas for the following month’s song. Then I’d choose one and write it.
It became a fun game, waiting for the ideas to roll in and for inspiration to strike. It was very kind of people to send in suggestions. In return, on the first page of the sheet music for each of the 12 songs, I’ve credited the person who contributed the idea that inspired it.
Q: So if I understand correctly, during May, you’d ask for ideas for the June song?
A: Exactly, and then at some point before the end of June, I’d release that song, i.e. present a new episode of my podcast (The Jeff Blumenkrantz Songbook Podcast) featuring a performance of it.
Q: What a great idea! Was there ever a point where you regretted committing to writing a year’s worth of songs?
A: In the big picture, I was never sorry I took it on, but there were a few months when I really scrambled to get a song written and recorded before the end of the month. But you know, there’s nothing like a deadline to get $#!& done!
Q: How did you come up with the title?
A: I sensed, even before I started, that I’d be writing a certain amount of story songs.
Q: And are there a lot of story songs in the cycle?
A: Now that I think of it, there’s really only one, “The Fifth of November.” The other songs are stand-alone solos (with the exception of “Christmas in New York,” which is a group number). But even though they’re not story songs per se, each conjures its own unique world, so I suppose they function like a series of stories, even if they’re not officially story songs. My eye was on writing songs that people would love to perform and that other people would enjoy watching them perform. We can never have enough of those in the world.
Q: What’s the style of the music like?
Q: What topics do the songs cover?
Q: I’m scared to ask.
A: You should be.
(In case you couldn’t tell, this video is not safe for work. Or anyone who doesn’t like profanity.)
Q: Are the songs funny? Serious?
A: Both! Some are comedy songs (“Double-Whammy Birthday,” “Drink My Way,” “Burning Man,” “Welcome to My Apartment”), there’re a couple of dramatic ballads (“March Hair,” “Pure Acceptance”), and even a sort of five-act play (“This Will Be the Year”). As I was writing, I tried to keep my eye on the overall content. Was July a ballad? Then I’d better write something ‘up’ for August. February was comedic? OK, don’t have to be funny in March. At some point, I realized this was something that might/could be performed in toto. It must have been around November, because when Rene Ruiz suggested writing a December holiday song sung by a caroling quartet, I thought, What a perfect way to end the evening/year.
Q: Has Month Upon a Time ever been performed as a piece?
A: As a matter of fact, it received its premiere performance this past February in concert at 54 Below! We did it with a cast of five (3w, 2m) and a five-piece band, and I thought it worked really well! And next month, I’m excited to head down to the University of Oklahoma to accompany the musical theatre seniors in a concert performance of it!
Q: And if someone else wants to perform Month Upon a Time?
Q: I know the sheet music for the songs is available on shop19.newmusicaltheatre.com, but what if someone wants a transposition?
A: Again, they can contact me directly.
Q: Any more podcast episodes to come?
A: Never say never.
Q: When are we going to see a whole show from you?
A: I wish I knew.
Q: One last question: what are you working on now?
A: I’m thrilled to be working on a jazz recording: I’ve Been Played Alysha Umphress Swings Jeff Blumenkrantz.
Q: I love Alysha Umphress!
A: Who doesn’t? She’s singing my jazziest songs, plus a few of my arrangements of classic show tunes, backed by a killer trio. And I duck in for a few duets.
Q: I can’t wait to hear it! Best of luck with it and thanks again for the interview!
A: Thanks for asking!
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