Artist: Lucy Kaplansky
Played at City Winery: February 10th, 2012
Q&A With City Winery
When you were 18 you decided not to go to college, but to move from your hometown of Chicago to New York to pursue your musical career. What inspired the change?
I met a guy who loved my singing and we formed a duo. I was 17, I was in high school and he had finished college, he was 5 years older than me. So he wanted to move to New York. And the other thing that happened was there was a huge article in the New York Times about a folk revival in Greenwich Village, this was 1977, and that’s really what propelled us to New York. The place was Folk City, which is no longer there. So I was 18 when we moved, and my parents were freaked out I wasn’t going to college, but they let me go.
But it felt like the right thing to do at the time?
I guess at the time it was the right thing to do. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but somehow I ended up OK and it all kind of worked out.
What made you then decide to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology?
That’s a long story, but I’ll try and make it short. So, I came to New York to be a singer and it was actually going really well. And when I was 21 I got a really, really good write-up in the New York Times. I could have really pursued it but I was too neurotic and too conflicted and decided I didn’t want to do music, and at 22 I quit and decided to go and become a therapist. I went back to college at NYU and ended up deciding to become a clinical psychologist because I thought therapy was interesting. I did that for a few years, got my doctorate, and then started therapy with a really, really good therapist and realized that I was running away from what I really wanted, which was to be a singer. And that’s when I came back. That was 1993 or so.
Were you still as involved in your music or did you have to put it on the back burner?
It did take a back burner. I didn’t pursue it in any kind of active way. People had me sing on their records, I sang on a Suzanne Vega album and Shawn Colvin’s, but I wasn’t writing and I definitely wasn’t performing.
You also perform with a group, Red Horse. How is playing with them different from playing solo?
It’s all the difference in the world. The trio is two of my old friends, Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka, and we’re all singer songwriters. We’re taking turns singing lead, we’re doing lots of harmonies, and I don’t have to just front the whole show. So, it’s fun in different ways. They’re incredibly funny and we laugh a lot. I love singing with them and we’re doing mostly different songs than I do in my own show. But doing my own show is also really exciting, and much scarier.
Have you all written together?
No, we haven’t done that yet. We recorded an album of mostly each other’s songs, but we have not written together yet, although that’s certainly possible.
Has playing with them taught you anything that you’ve used when performing solo?
Oh wow. I guess I’ve been doing the solo thing for so many years that I kind of take the solo thing and bring it to the trio. The trio’s just very different because we’re playing off each other, and when I’m solo there’s no one to play off of, except the audience. So they’re really very different animals for me. Both fun in their own way.
In all your years here, what’s the weirdest/funniest thing you’ve witnessed on the streets of New York?
Wow, there’s an awful lot…You know, I saw the best Halloween costume ever in the Halloween parade, so that counts. It was a guy who looked like he was sitting in an outhouse. He had built himself an outhouse with fake legs and he was propelling himself down the street. And that was the best Halloween costume I’ve ever seen and maybe the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in the street. My daughter loved it too; she was seven at the time.
Where’s your favorite place in the city to go and relax?
Home. Home is definitely my sanctuary. Even in the midst of a loud, crazy city it’s relatively peaceful. And that’s where I do everything. That’s where I write, that’s where I practice, if I ever practice. That’s where I have my life, really.
Do you have a favorite wine?
I like Chardonnay. There’s a wine my husband and I discovered years ago, I think at the Union Square Café, called Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which is the best white wine I’ve ever had.