3 Questions With Storm Large: Singer Brings Powerhouse Vocals to The Gaslight Theater Nov. 6-7

 In Culture

Storm Large and her powerful vocals come to The Gaslight Theater Nov. 6-7 as part of the 2015 Gaslight Cabaret Festival. Her performances—think a bit of a smolder and a bit of sass—revive the midcentury cabaret tradition without depending on tired covers. Classics are reimagined, and her own work is featured on stage as well in a uniquely modern but still retro-chic set. But Large might not be entirely what you expect (and that’s not a bad thing), as we found out when we caught up with her over the phone.

Storm Large | singer

Storm Large | courtesy of artist

What are your biggest inspirations for your on-stage persona?

I don’t have any—actually, I feel like I act like an idiot on stage. I don’t think I’m anyone I’ve ever respected or enjoyed as a performer. I’m kind of a doofus. I’m sort of a drag queen mixed with maybe some Mae West mixed with maybe Robin Williams—when he was doing lots of cocaine. I love music—I love what I’m hearing and seeing—but I’ve never had a feeling of relating to other performers onstage. I’ve never looked at someone and go, “Oh, I’m totally going to do that.” I go on stage and totally lose my mind.

[Turns to her drummer, who she’s with] What do you think I’m like on stage? A drag queen? A coked-out comedian? [Turns back to phone] Bette Midler … when she was singing in gay saunas, when she was completely unhinged.

How do you pick the music for your shows?
I pick the music that I love. I have such a wide range of taste and things that excite or interest me. Usually it’s melody, the story, the emotional potency. I do about 50 covers and originals. When we perform, it’s usually a little more covers than originals—I do more interpretations. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” [for example], we’ve heard it 9,000 times, and we lean toward romantic [interpretations], but when you read the lyrics, they’re pretty twisted, and we know it’s going to end badly. I have a skewed, different way of seeing things.

How do you avoid nostalgia and camp to make your shows your own?
I don’t know… People like it when I sing jazz standards—Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald. If something’s been perfected—done really, really well—I won’t cover it, because what’s the point if I can’t improve upon it or throw a different angle at it? What’s the point?

I hope I’m not cliche, and I hope it doesn’t ever come across as schlocky or maudlin—I don’t mind being called theatrical or dramatic but I certainly wouldn’t want to be unoriginal. You really can’t reinvent the wheel; you can’t find notes that haven’t been next to each other; you can’t hit unhuman highs and lows … but not every ear has been touched by your voice and not every feeling has been understood. There’s just something alchemical in music that’s so necessary, and some people are very specific with what they want to hear and some are very open to hearing and experiencing everything. Sometimes it’s like falling in love: You will be the voice that person needs to hear that day.

The two-month Gaslight Cabaret Festival features 12 performers in 22 performances through Nov. 21.  

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