Lorraine Feather: Songs for the Little Things The daughter of famed jazz journalist and producer Leonard Feather first tried to make a career as a stage actress. That's when she started to translate her minor aggravations into song lyrics — and singing them.
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Lorraine Feather: Songs for the Little Things

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Lorraine Feather: Songs for the Little Things

Lorraine Feather: Songs for the Little Things

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In this age of fresh released and e-mails, not to mention iPods and iTunes, it's amazing how many compact disks promoting artists new and old still find their way into our mailboxes. Sometimes these arrivals include a true gem. NPR's special correspondent Susan Stamberg got such a musical delivery the other day.

SUSAN STAMBERG: It's a CD called Language. The singer is Lorraine Feather.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LORRAINE FEATHER (Music artist): (Singing) They're not up on the dresser. I've looked and they're not underneath the bed or in the laundry. Pardon me while go out of my head.

STAMBERG: The poor thing is obviously upset about something.

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) They're not in any pockets. I thought I didn't lock them in the car, but I'm so late now. And I appreciate your help if you might have any clue to where they are. Where are my keys?

STAMBERG: Oh, that's it. Sound familiar? Lorraine Feather has lost her keys.

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) Where are my keys?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) I'd give anything if I could find mine.

STAMBERG: Lorraine Feather sings about life's ordinary aggregations, losing keys, losing focus, losing grip. She joins us from KUOW in Seattle. Hi Lorraine.

Ms. FEATHER: Hi Susan.

STAMBERG: Now this is a song that every single one of us could sing Where Are My Keys? But we'd do it if only we had your voice. Everyone has this experience, but led you to write a song about it? And by the way, all these lyrics are yours.

Ms. FEATHER: I wrote this song because I am very absentminded. It was written by the way with Tony Morales who's my husband, and Terry Sampson. And more than almost anything I've written over the years, people have said, it's the funniest thing because my fill in the blank, wife, husband, girlfriend, is always losing her or his keys, but often when I'm working on a song I think of one line that amuses me or a title and I just decide to take it from there. Tony had put together this track and I started singing where are my keys over the chorus part and it just kind of tickled me, so I made it into a song.

STAMBERG: You also write about another kind of low level panic.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) I was looking around and I was explaining to you that we had this fear that in 30 years I'd be frail, destitute, and alone, nothing to show for my life, nothing. Living in hills of cats, afraid to go to the store, not so attractive anymore. I was going on about it at great lengths. All of a sudden I stopped and sighed and you replied, I can hear every word you say, but it's very unbecoming. Now I don't get, you may feel that way, but it's very unbecoming.

STAMBERG: This poor thing. She is a wreck and that's his response?

Ms. FEATHER: That was inspired by somebody who was complaining to us many years ago and saying oh, this person really screwed me over and then this happened and it always seems to happen to me, and it was so unfair and after he walked away, we looked at each other. I said, gee, it's all too bad. Tony said, yes, but it's very unbecoming, isn't it? And I've said things unbecoming, as well, of course.

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) There's so much to worry about. It could take up all absolutely all your time. The cruel trips of…

STAMBERG: You have such pretty harmony in it.

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) The decline of music, the way the world is run.

Ms. FEATHER: The harmonies are me with Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne of the Manhattan Transfer. We sang together on the Dick Tracy Soundtrack and I asked them to participate in the album on a couple of tracks and it was really fun. We just screamed with laughter.

STAMBERG: Well, I think it makes the song even funnier because it's so frantic to have these pretty chords, you know, sort of the adjusted position in the tune.

(Soundbite of music)

STAMBERG: In other annoyances, Lorraine Feather, you write about the telephone call that never gets answered by a live human being.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) She says thanks for calling. This is a recording, but don't be nervous. I'm going to provide you with excellent service. Please forgive us, no one's intention to overstrain you. So the music from the 80s will entertain you. We appreciate your patience and we promise you a customer care representative will be with you shortly. We appreciate…

STAMBERG: You're singing about life on eternal hold, right? That annoying computer voice with this fake concern and the fake manners.

Ms. FEATHER: And now they've humanized the voice, so that if you say something it doesn't understand it will go, oh no, I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Could you please run that by me again? So it's even scarier.

STAMBERG: Right. Tell us about you, Lorraine Feather, where'd you get that great sense of humor for starters?

Ms. FEATHER: Oh, I don't know exactly, but my parents both had a whimsical sense of humor, dry. My father, who was the jazz critic Leonard Feather, would make fun sometimes if I said, I think I'll go down to the drugstore. He would go, when will you know? That kind of thing to torment me through my whole childhood.


Ms. FEATHER: And my mom had a dry, strange, corky, little sense of humor too. So I picked up a lot of it from them, I guess.

STAMBERG: Wow, you're dad. I mean he was a legend in his day, was a writer of jazz and a writer about jazz, and a producer, a composer, so was it inevitable that you would be a musician?

Ms. FEATHER: In a way, looking back, maybe it was inevitable. I tried to be an actress and I spent a tremendous amount of time waitressing in New York and then fell into singing with Top 40 and jazz bands just because I always had a good ear, and it was a way to make a few bucks to pay for groceries other than waitressing, which I really was terrible at. Then eventually I started writing lyrics for fun and it just struck me like a thunderbolt, I loved doing it so much. So I - it just took over my life.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) I came here hoping to be a Broadway star. My (unintelligible) are typically to me as you know who wound up waiting tables. When all you (unintelligible) who are some are, well there's nothing I would rather do that be here waiting tables.

STAMBERG: I'm willing to bet that nobody has ever written a song about waiting on tables. You are going to be the hero of every actor wannabe in America.

Ms. FEATHER: I would love that. I was so bad at waiting tables and there are a lot of people who are good at more than one thing, like I always remember that Bette Midler said she's great at keeping house. She can make a very tight bed that you can bounce a dime on it. There have been people who went on to other things who were fantastic at waiting tables, but I was not good at it. It was a very interesting time though. I learned a lot.


Ms. FEATHER: Well, I learned that people can be very rude and condescending and I learned that it's probably good to stay away from the bar fruit because it's been there for longer than it should be. And also, I'm a good tipper. I wouldn't tip somebody 10% unless they actually spit in my face.

STAMBERG: Do people come up to you all the time and say listen, this awful thing just happened, why don't you write a song about it?

Ms. FEATHER: Yeah, or I'll say something like, I got this eco-friendly nail polish and it doesn't have any formaldehyde and it's water-based, but it's just coming off my nails in sheets. They'll go, oh, you could write a song about that?

STAMBERG: So in this CD, now you have covered losing your keys, sitting on phone hold, waiting tables, traffic, weather, so what is on your list of other life experiences that are minor but just could become major at any moment, and those to put on your next CD?

Ms. FEATHER: Oh, well I was thinking, this isn't really an annoyance, but I was thinking that I might like to write a song about my reluctance to give up drinking coffee because people are always saying it's bad for you, but I really like having that jolt in the morning.

STAMBERG: So would the annoyance be when they ran out of coffee?


(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) We've got traffic and weather, traffic and weather…

STAMBERG: She'll think of something, maybe when she's stuck in traffic.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) They're only together.

STAMBERG: Thank you very much. Lorraine Feather's new album is called Language. I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News, Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FEATHER: (Singing) If you had your way, clouds moving inland. Then you're think you're in Finland. You'll (unintelligible) Walnut Creek. You might feel different, but it will rain all week. Rain, rain, rain…

SIMON: And you can hear full songs from Lorraine Feather's new album at our music website npr.org/music. This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon.

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