Curtis Stigers has been around the artistic block a time or two. He has entertained us for over two decades and always proves he is a musician you can’t label but always enjoy. He is performing in Seattle on August 5th & 6th at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Tickets are still available here.
ED: Who were your musical influences when you were growing up?
CS: How long do you have? (Laughter) I grew up listening to the radio so a lot of it was on Pop radio so a lot of what was on in the 1970’s was a big influence to me. Elton John was an early hero. I loved him because he was flamboyant, a Pop star, and dressed like a Rock Star. He was also a songwriter and great pianist. He did it all. He had all the goods as opposed to just being a Pop sensation or something. But, you know at that time, everything was on the radio. I became a huge fan of Soul music. I love Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Al Green and Aretha Franklin. I also fell in love with Folk music. I love Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. They also played hard Rock on those stations so I fell in love with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. My early up bringing as a musician and a listener was very broad. So being a fan of so many types of music, it didn’t make sense to me as a musician to not want to play all different types of music. Over the years, I have recorded a lot of different kinds of records and been influenced by a lot of different people. I also record songs by a lot of different people not just old standards. Phew, that was a really long answer and I still didn’t get to about 50 of my favorite influences.
ED: What musicians do you enjoy listening to at the moment?
CS: I tend to listen to more Singer-Songwriters than I do Jazz. Occasionally, I will hear a Jazz record that I really like. There is a woman, Cyrille Aimée, and she is a French singer. She sang a duet on my new record. She sang “You Make Me Feel So Young” with me. She has a new record out that is just fantastic. She is just a wonderful singer. She is actually a Jazz singer, well a great Jazz singer. Frankly, most of what I listen to is Singer-Songwriters even Country Singer-Songwriters. I just love the way those guys write. They seem to be a little more old-fashioned. I think modern sort of alternative Singer-Songwriter like Lyle Lovett, Jason Isbell, or Hayes Carll write songs that are closer to Gershwin and Cole Porter than most Pop songwriters these days. There is just something about the structure of the writing. I think Jason Isbell is one of the finest songwriters in the world right now. He is really brilliant. I can’t seem to get his CD out of my player in the car.
ED: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and what would you play?
CS: Hmmm, oh there are a lot of them. I love great singers. I love really great girl singers. I would love to sing with Bonnie Raitt. I have played saxophone with her on stage. She is an old friend. The dream is still in the back of my head that one day she will sing on one of my records. I think she is one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century. Diana Krall is also a real favorite of mine. I think she is a great singer and a fine pianist.
ED: Musically you are so versatile. How do you choose the genre for a new album?
CS: Yea, it is not easy. It often depends on what I am listening to; a feeling; or even maybe an opportunity comes up. On one of my previous records, I had a chance to work with Larry Klein, a wonderful producer whom I have admired my entire career. That chance really pointed me in a certain direction for the album. We are both interested in Singer-Songwriters and so we made a record of songs written by more modern Singer-Songwriters. On this new record I wanted to make an album of all unabashed love songs. I wanted to make a record that was kind of the antidote to the previous record which was very dark after my divorce. It was a dark painful record. I was in a bad way. It was beautiful but sometimes hard to listen to. So this time around I just set out to make a record of love songs. When you are looking for the greatest love songs ever it is probably a good idea to at least start with The Great American Songbook. So I did something I don’t normally do and really leaned heavy on The Great American Songbook on standards. I have tried really hard not to do this during my Jazz career because so many people do it.
I have always wanted to make my mark and be a little different. But this time around, it just seemed like the time to make a beautiful record that would make people including me smile. It just depends on the opportunity. If I could find an orchestra that would record with me for really cheap, I would make an orchestral album. That is the next thing I would really love to do. It is just so bloody expensive to make a record with 70 people. At the same time, I would love to make a solo acoustic record where I just play my guitar and sing. I sort of just let things happen.
ED: How do you feel about having such a strong Gay and Lesbian following?
CS: First of all, I hope you are right. I am honored if it is the case. I think it is lovely. I am active politically. I am pushing for Gay rights here in Idaho. We have a horrible record in our legislature of pushing of something called “Add the Words.” Basically, our human rights code in Idaho does not include sexual orientation. It is offensive and so maddening. The legislature and governor keep blocking the bill from even going to committee. So, I sang on the State House steps this past legislative session and put my voice in as strongly as I could. I am proud to have LGBT fans. I am a bleeding heart liberal and a friend to all.
ED: Are you working on any new music or a new album right now?
CS: Yes, I am starting to write a bit. I tend to be somebody that needs a deadline. I write really well when there is a guillotine coming down on my neck. But, I am trying to get started a little early this time. I am not certain what it is going to be though. One side of me wants to do a Big Band album with Sinatra tunes. When I was younger, I would never even consider that as an option. I always wanted to do my own thing since Sinatra already did his. Being that it is the 100th anniversary of this birth and I just love singing those tunes. I just love that swinging Sinatra sound and it is so much fun. Now that I am almost 50 years old I think I can get away with it now. Of course, there is always the opportunity to make a small quiet acoustic record that I could go out and tour just by myself. That is interesting to me as well. So, the answer is yes but I have no frickin’ idea.
ED: Do you have a message for LGBT youth?
CS: I think Dan Savage said it best, “It Gets Better.” I have known a lot of Gay kids that were sort of disenfranchised and on the outside especially here in Idaho. Just seeing how they are treated differently, really treated as “other”. There is a future. There is hope. There is love out there. There are good people who accept everyone. It’s a small and fading minority that carries that blind and backwards hatred of people that are different from them.