When I was a little girl, my parents bought an ivory colored Baldwin console piano with gold trim and immediately enrolled me in piano lessons. My father, a former nightclub singer turned sales executive wanted me to be a self-reliant musician who did not need an accompanist as he did when he performed in nightclubs during the fifties and sixties. He struggled with learning to play the piano as a child and playing the guitar hurt his fingers too much. My mother hoped that I would somehow develop a mathematical acumen that would motivate me to pursue a lucrative career in math, science, technology or business instead of music. Imagine being discouraged in early childhood from becoming an original performance artist. It was not easy for me to listen to the voices of practicality.
There was a long stretch in my life when my musical activity came to either a grinding halt or was downgraded to a hobby. Just singing in choirs or performing in local talent show events is nice but there was a time when it wasn’t enough anymore. Music will never be just a hobby for me. It’s a passion that will not quit.
Several friends and acquaintances told me about “The Divine Comedy” over the years but the message did not resonate until I heard Neil Hannon sing the closing credits to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Neil Hannon is an artist who specializes in setting everyday concepts to music and making those stories and concepts bigger than life. Catchy melodies, cinematic instrumentation, classical influences and humorous touches in all the right places are the distinguishing characteristics to Divine Comedy music.
I fell in love with this idea of making intelligent, humorous music so much that I started writing songs, arranging them on my keyboard and began performing them at the local open mics. Neil wasn’t just another artist, to me he was a distant musical brother that I could relate to. Just for fun, I would challenge myself by learning one Divine Comedy song by year per year and then performing it in costume around Halloween with vocal effects. My audiences often found my original music to be not only unique but also refreshing break from the usual acoustic covers.
The moral of this story is to always listen to that inner child that tells you what you really want to be when you grow up. Try not to listen to the naysayers even if they’re members of your own family. Find a way to make things happen even if it’s just one small step at a time, over time. Also, if your first album was released to crickets and criticism rise up to the occasion, get up and stay out there. Try to meet your heroes if you can. They just might remember you and actually listen to you…. My encounters with musical friends of the Divine Comedy were fun and unforgettable. I had the pleasure of meeting Duke Special and Pugwash the band so far. One hero is yet to be met.