Exclusive Interview with CeCe Bullard
How would you classify your music?
I’m an “authentic music” aficionado, and this CD explores my adoration of the jazz standards I grew up hearing in my home. The arrangements on this compilation are superb and unique, thanks to the genius of the great pianist/composer/arranger Otmaro Ruiz, so it’s not just the same old, same old. In other incarnations, I explore other genres of music that speak to me as truly authentic expressions of longing, pain, joy and the complete human experience, things I refer to as ‘soul music’ because they speak to the humanity, or soul, in all of us.
Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?
Frank Sinatra – nobody makes a song his own like Frank does. Brilliant phrasing and storytelling. Joni Mitchell – because, of course.! Joni has it all, can access it all and shares the things we find difficult to express so brilliantly. James Taylor – sweet baby James – I love his reedy, unadorned voice, his soulful, gentle introversion and his remarkable feel. Stevie Wonder, for the joyful exuberance of his rhythms and the fierceness of his delivery, his sheer, overwhelming musicality. Ella Fitzgerald, for the inspiration I felt watching her perform and how effortlessly her genius poured through her and out to her audience.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
I want people to feel that they heard a short story well told by a real person who shares their pain, confusion, humor, longing and grief.
How is the music scene in your locale?
I live in LA, which used to have a bigger local music scene when I first came here than it does now. Some of the best musicians in the world make their home here, but even before Covid dealt such a blow to live performances, a lot of the little clubs where you could here great music had closed up shop. It’s sad to see. I hope the need we have as humans for exposure to the arts does something to rectify that when and if the world returns to safety and sanity. We’re gonna need music and the arts more than ever before to help us heal from this past few years.
What is the best concert you have been to?
Annie Lennox of Eurythmics comes immediately to mind at the Hollywood Palladium in the late 80s – mind blowing performance. Genesis in 1984 in Paris. Springsteen, always thrilling. Jazz great Joe Pass at a tiny club in Boston in the mid 70s – another pivotal introduction to the genius of jazz in my young life.
What do you like most about performing live?
The best part of performing live is the spontaneous and electric connection to the other musicians on stage, first, followed by the ‘participation’ of the audience. Even silently, when the audience is tuned in it elevates the experience to another dimension entirely. There’s no better feeling. It’s what we all crave as humans. Music is such a magnificent way to speak to one another, whether actively participating or by listening with the heart.
Is there a song on your latest CD release that stands out as your personal favorite & why?
I’d have to say Skylark – the lyrics are heartbreaking and haunting and the melody is sublime. Johnny Mercer is one of my all time favorite lyricists, and Hoagie Carmichael nails the ache of the human heart so perfectly with a gorgeous arc of emotion. Together they created are a true work of art.
How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?
Quarantining during a pandemic has made it difficult to share live performance, obviously; even a magnificent chorale that I’ve been performing with for the last 7 or 8 years has had to go on hiatus, which is hard, because I truly love the sound of a big group of excellent vocalists singing soaring 4 part harmonies, and that group has allowed me to explore an incredible body of classical works that I’d otherwise never have the privilege of performing. It makes me a better singer and hones my reading chops like nothing else. Having said that, the hiatus has given me the time to listen to a lot of vinyl and work on my original tunes, thinking about what I’d like to release next, when things open up and we can all collaborate in person again.
If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and even sometimes gig with many of my personal idols over the years, but if I could collaborate with one artist on a song it might very well be James Taylor – his harmonic sensibility and deep folk roots really resonate with me, having grown up in New England, and I’ve always wanted to sing with him. There are plenty of others, but James has always held a special place in my heart. Plus, he’s a really nice guy to hang out with.
What’s next for you?
Drumming up tunes for a new release, and hoping the venues open up again for some live shows.
End of Interview