If you haven’t checked
in on Lucy Woodward since her 2003 rocking hit single “Dumb Girls,”
you’ve been missing a jazzy good time. You see, while Woodward had fun
with the pop rock of her debut, her true passions have always been
swing, torch and soul. She first showed those colors in her
independently released 2008 album Lucy Woodward Is Hot and Bothered.
That led to her signing with the legendary jazz label Verve. The
first fruits of that new partnership was Hooked, a smoldering set
of vintage-sounding jazz with a hip, modern sensibility.
We recently caught up
with Woodward to catch up with her career and learn a bit about some of
the influences which helped to mold her.
Both of your
parents were involved in music. What are some of your first musical
I can’t remember a
time when there wasn’t any music going on in the house. My parents are
both musicians. We lived in London and Holland until I was five. My
dad was always playing the piano and I was sitting on his lap or
watching him study or work on a piece of music. That was always
lingering. If he wasn’t playing, there would always be some classical
music. These were classical musicians, so really only classical music
for years. Then, when my parents split, my mom took my brother and I to
America. My mom was an opera singer, but she was also a belly dancer.
So there was a lot of doing her own scales and singing her arias at the
piano, but then she’d blast this Middle-Eastern music. Elementary
school and high school, that’s what I remember so much of, a lot of
Turkish music, Lebanese music and her practicing. That was the first
time I probably ever heard drumbeats (laughs) and percussion,
because classical music was a very different rhythm.
What were some of
the things you were passionate about growing up in New York?
Music and dance. I started ballet when I
was five and stopped when I was about 14. I
played piano when I was a toddler, but when I was eight, I picked up the
flute, and the flute was probably my first obsession with anything.
Over dolls. Over kittens. I would practice an hour or two before
school. I practiced at lunch break. I had band in the afternoon. I
would come home, have a snack and practice for another few hours before
and after dinner. I just could not put that down. My mom always said
that if I came home with a test that I didn’t do well on or I did do
well on a test, my first place to go to was playing the flute. Whatever
emotion I was feeling. Then I really got into dance. I took a lot of
dance lessons and a lot of ballet. So I’ve got to say flute playing and
dance were the big main ones for me. I tried softball for a minute, but
they kept throwing me in the outfield where no ball would ever be hit,
so I ended up just doing pirouettes and sitting in the grass. I wasn’t
a sports girl.
Do you still have any things from back
then that are still sacred to you – that you have to take with you no
matter where you move?
I moved to LA
almost three years ago from New York. Photos are everything, especially
because now everything is digital. So hard copy photos are everything.
I left a lot back home, I put it in my mom’s basement. Photos I’ll
always take those wherever I move to. There is a book that I grew up
with. I forget what it was called, but it’s a little English book about
a doll and a teddy bear. I had it in the Seventies and there was a
store in SoHo where I saw a newer version of it. I bought it for
myself, I don’t know why. I was like, I need to have that, because it
just made so many memories come up. But I think photos are the big one,
though. I don’t need a lot of things in my life, but photos – all the
memories are there.
What were some of
your earliest influences musically?
My parents, just from
playing in the house. I remember Chopin piano sonatas were always on.
We lived with my grandparents for a while, and I remember that was
Vladimir Horowitz, the famous pianist. We played his records over and
over. Those go so deep in my heart. Even if I [recently] called AT&T
and I was being held on hold, they were playing the Chopin piano sonata
and I just go to this place. Even with my mom as an opera singer, even
though I don’t sing classical music, those kind of melodies and the
melodic and harmonic structure of Chopin – these big, big, big melodies
going from major to minor all the time, that had a big effect on how I
looked and made music.
What was the first
record you bought?
It was Like a
Virgin by Madonna. That was an album, you know, vinyl. But my
mother really didn’t want me listening to anybody’s music where she was
wearing a bra on the front cover, so I remember there was a battle that
I really had to fight for it and I had to pay for it myself. But I
lived in a world of hand-me-downs, so my first cassette, I remember a
cousin giving me Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual. The first pop
records I ever had as a birthday present were 45s: my two first 45s ever
were “Tell Her About It” [by Billy Joel] and “King of Pain” [by the
What was the first
concert you ever went to?
Debbie Gibson at
Radio City. (drolly) It changed my life. Never forgot it.
What music do you
put on when you are in a bad mood to cheer you up?
There was something,
I wasn’t in a bad mood, but I was moody. It was down the past two
days… I can put on 1970s African funk. I couldn’t even tell you band
names, because I have a whole compilation of like a million bands, but
definitely crazy disco African funk from the Seventies will change my
mood instantly. And Brazilian music, usually Antonio Carlos Jobim will
do it for me.
What songs can
automatically make you cry when you hear them?
Yes. Sting, “Shape
of My Heart.”
What records would
you say you have listened to more than any other in your life?
Thriller, Talking Book by Stevie Wonder and probably Björk’s
What do you listen
to when you are feeling romantic?
I’m gonna say
D’Angelo’s first record.
What song do you
most wish that you had written?
I wish I wrote “The
Girl from Ipanema” [written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Norman Gimbel and
Vinícius de Moraes]. I wish I wrote “P.Y.T.” from Thriller
[written by James Ingram and Quincy Jones]. Actually, I wish I
wrote “Wanna Be Starting Somethin’” [written by Michael Jackson] from
Thriller. I could go on and on and on. I wish I wrote “My Funny
Valentine” [written by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart].
Are there any
records that you are you ashamed to have in your collection?
Your first album
was more rock-oriented than jazz. When did you decide to go into more
of a jazzy direction?
I studied jazz, blues
and soul even before I got that first record deal, so it was already in
my makeup. When I got that deal, we all decided this was the
direction. I was in that vein of making pop/rock music. It was a
no-brainer to go do that. It was my first record deal. I was very
excited. I was writing all the songs. I was just learning how to write
pop songs. But for years before that, my first gigs ever were singing
jazz standards in coffee shops on Bleecker Street and playing with big
bands. So, I just basically went back to my roots. I remember
specifically for [the movie] The Ice Princess, I was asked to
sing the Björk song – well, it’s actually Betty Hutton, but Björk
covered it – “It’s Oh So Quiet.” That song, which I think Björk did in
’91 or ’92 is an amazing big band number. This movie The Ice
Princess, they asked me to sing a cover of it. I knew it inside and
out and I remember cutting it in like an hour. I flew to LA literally
for one hour and then went home. In that moment, I said, “Oh, my God,
not only is this song amazing…” I don’t know how well you know it, but
it’s a lot of screaming and wailing and singing and swinging. It’s
really vocally satisfying and I found myself so happy after I finished
that session. I was like, I need to be writing this kind of music. I
need to be writing music that is allowing me to sound like this on my
own stuff. Why aren’t I doing that? I had just gotten dropped or was
just about to get dropped from Atlantic and I remember thinking this is
the sound I have to do. I need to really treat myself as a vocalist and
not worry about what was on the radio and not worry about the biggest
and most expensive pretty current pop song – I need to sound best at
what I do, vocally.
How cool is it to
be part of such a legendary label like Verve?
It’s cool. It’s
changed a lot over the years, but I’m very proud of the fact that I can
say that I’m on Verve.
Hooked do you feel you were
able to capture the old-school feel of older jazz albums?
I think I did. We
thought about the style of the record a lot when I was making it. It
couldn’t be too poppy. It couldn’t be too vintage. I’m not doing a
Madeleine Peyroux record and I’m not doing a record full of jazz
standards. I need it to have a swing and be sassy and have great
arrangements on it. I hope we captured quite a bit of that.
You just toured
with Rod Stewart. How did that happen and what was that experience
Oh my God, amazing.
My ex-boyfriend, and one of my closest friends, is the bass player in
the band. Conrad Korsch, who is a monster bass player. He’s been Rod’s
bass player for maybe nine years. We’re really, really close. He was
in LA recording some stuff for Rod. He said, “Hey, Rod needs a third
backup singer. Can you come to the studio in like an hour?” I
cancelled my dentist’s appointment, I was on the way to the dentist, and
I went right there. We had a great time singing. Rod was so into
creating background vocals. He was a joy to work with. We recorded a
song. Then that led to the tour. We had a great time. We were in
Australia, Indonesia, Paris, New Zealand. We’re going to go to Vegas
next Friday for two weeks. It’s a really fun show. He’s doing all the
Faces stuff and a lot of early Rod. No jazz standards.
The song you did
with him, he’s been doing a lot of covers lately. Is it a cover or a
new song or what?
His song on his
album? I just sang backgrounds. It wasn’t a featuring Lucy thing or
anything. It was just a background part. I don’t know if it made the
record or not. I’m not sure because they are still working on the
record, so I really probably shouldn’t mention the name. But it’s a
great song. It’s kind of like a new modern version of “Do Ya Think I’m
Sexy.” I could see the route that he’s going is the good old rocking
Rod, which everyone loves.
You have a new
girl-group side project called The Goods. What should we expect from
Yes, I do. We’re so
excited. Holly Palmer, who is a recording artist…
Yeah, I have her
first album, I believe…
Oh, you do? Yeah.
So Holly Palmer and Michelle Lewis, who is also an artist on Warner
Brothers, she is a songwriter. We all had the chance to sing together.
We’re all friends, for many, many years. We respect each other so
much. I wrote a lot of songs with Michelle Lewis on my Verve record, so
we already have a long writing history. We had this opportunity to sing
together at a party and we loved how we sounded together so much. We
were like, Oh, my God, this is too inspiring. We have to do something
with this. We decided we’d write a song and see what would happen. We
wrote one song and that led to another song. We’ve written like a half
a record. Then we throw some covers in. Our first public gig is April
3, where we’re featuring kind of a half Lucy gig, half Goods gig. It’s
at Hotel Café on April 3. It’s so good to sing with other singers in
this old… it’s very Andrews Sisters inspired, but they’re very modern
lyrics. We get really sassy, really dirty, really bluesy. It’s
inspired from Andrews Sisters plus a lot of soul. We’re really psyched
about it. Who knows what’s going to happen, but we’re enjoying every
moment of being together.
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT LUCY WOODWARD HAD TO SAY
TO US IN 2008!