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Madeline Peyroux at St. Cecilia Music Center

Madeline Peyroux
St. Cecilia Music Center

Madeline Peyroux is coming to Grand Rapids to perform at St. Cecilia Music Center. WGVU’s Scott Vander Werf has this feature interview.

Scott Vander Werf: Madeline Peyroux makes her Grand Rapids debut on Saturday, October 21st at St. Cecilia Music Center. She's an artist who crosses over from jazz to blues and folk music with a tradition of busking and playing intimate music. Her voice is distinctive, recalling Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith while at the same time encompassing her own individual artistry. Here's Walkin' After Midnight from her first album, Dreamland:


SVW: I spoke to Madeline by telephone and I asked her how she’s doing here since her musical life was shut down by the pandemic in 2020.

Madeline Peyroux: Well, thank you so much for asking, Scott. I'm just one of so many people in this world, however many people there are in this world, that's just dealing with the day-to-day stuff. And I'm grateful to be a musician, you know, even when we're not all getting together and hustling, bustling around, they would normally do. But I will say that I...I believe more strongly in the things that I believed in before the pandemic. I hope that's a good thing because the things that I believe in are gatherings with strangers to hear good music, hear, you know, nurturing sounds and think of dreamy ideas. And I believe it's good for society, it's good for the individual. And so being able to get back into that groove of being around other people is really exciting and fulfilling. And I feel like, you know, ever since I started touring again in late 2021, that I've had such, even a more magical experience than ever. It's been a very special time. People are really grateful to be together and I'm grateful to be with them. And that hasn't gone away yet. It's not gotten old, if you know what I mean, like coming back out of the cave.

SVW: I kind of sense it myself when I'm at concerts that people seem a little bit more humble and also a little bit more joyous.

MP: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And it just, a lot of meaning in the little things, a lot more appreciation. And I'm sure there's a lot of sadness as well. And we have to share that and face, you know, that there was a lot of heartache. But doing it together is actually very nurturing and very, you know, very positive thing. So I tend to come out of every concert feeling like this is what we should be doing all the time. We should, or at least we should make sure that everybody, every little kid, you know, has a chance to do that on a regular basis. There would be less tendency to violence in any shape or form if we could just have a little bit more of these type of innocent community gatherings. You know, without an agenda, you know, you don't have to do anything. You can just be, you know.

SVW: Well, your, your tour is billed as part of the careless love, uh, anniversary, um, tour and continuing that. Um, I just was interested in how you approach interpreting songs. And there's so many great songs on that album from so many great composers. Do you have a particular approach in interpretation?

MP: Those were songs that I had been singing or songs that are sort of a start of day so that I had been singing since I was a little girl. I grew up hearing a lot of early jazz and blues. And then when I started singing with a street band, I focused quite intently on Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith, Elisabeth Gerald and Louis Armstrong. And we studied that repertoire for several years and memorized quite a bit of it. So I think that's what I brought with me to the table when we made Careless Love, was an essence sensibility that comes from that period between urban, sophisticated blues and early uh jazz but without getting into the bit but in a small combo jazz in other words not really the it was a big band era but these were recordings of small groups so it was a little bit like the b-side of that whole era the 30s yeah.

SVW: And I did read that you are also going to be presenting uh some new songs that that haven't been recorded yet.

MP: Mmm, yes. Well, they have been recorded now. We've recorded a record that is being mixed due to be released in the first half of 2024.

SVW: Oh, awesome.

MP: Yeah, but we would like to present a few of them and we definitely will be doing that in Grand Rapids.

SVW: Could you tell us about some of the musicians that you're bringing to Grand Rapids?

MP: We are a quartet that includes me and Graham Hawthorne on the drums, Ross Gallagher on upright bass, Andy Ezrin on a myriad of keys.

SVW: Madeline Peyroux she's performing at St. Cecilia Music Center in Grand Rapids Saturday October 21st at 7.30 p.m. The tour is a celebration of her new edition of her acclaimed 2004 album Careless Love that was reissued in 2021. Here's a bonus live track. This is heaven to me:


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