Hello and happy Friday Everyone!
I don't know about all of you but I am happy to see the sunshine again after the days of rain!
The next Spotlight is coming up soon around the corner on August 17th and it is my pleasure and honor to feature a dear friend who is one of the most supportive people of cabaret and performance I know... Kevin Scott Hall.
For those of you who don't know Kevin, here is a short bio to get you started:
Kevin was born in rural Maine and raised in north central Massachusetts. After receiving his B.A. from Gordon College, he moved to New York to embark on an acting career. During his twenties, he studied at HB Studios and other schools and made the audition rounds. He appeared in a handful of off-off-Broadway and summer stock productions, including The Shadow Box, The Pirates of Penzance, Hello Dolly!, Androcles and the Lion, and a summer with the New York Renaissance Festival.Over time, Kevin transitioned to the nightclubs as a soloist and occasional songwriter. He worked for many years at the legendary Rose’s Turn piano bar, and had his own shows in such venues as Don’t Tell Mama, The Triad, The Duplex, Judy’s, Eureka Joe, and also several clubs in Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities.In late 1994, Kevin became the victim of a random serial attack in midtown Manhattan, which was covered widely by the press—and again many years later in a follow-up incident. Despite that, Kevin rebounded with enthusiasm, performing some stand-up for a year or so, and founding his “That Singing Feeling” cabaret workshops.In 1998, he released his first CD, “New Light Dawning,” on his own label. Many of the songs (ten of the twelve were written or co-written by him) were played on radio stations around the country. He followed this up with his 3-song “Holiday Spirit” EP in 1999 and “Live at Middle”, recorded at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, in 2001.Kevin returned to school and completed his MFA in Creative Writing at The City College of New York. He has taught at CCNY and the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2005. Off the Charts!, Kevin’s first novel, was published in 2010. His acclaimed memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (in which the 1994 stabbing and another narrative are weaved together), was published by Wisdom Moon Publishing in 2014. Kevin wrote a monthly column and several interviews and entertainment features for Edge Media Network from 2008-2016, and was a reviewer and board member for the prestigious Bistro Awards from 2011-2015.
I met Kevin back in 2014 when he interviewed me and wrote a supportive article on my second show, "They've Only Just Begun... A Carpenters Tale". Since then, over the years, I have come to know Kevin as a wonderful supportive of performers, great performer in his own right and a dear friend of the heart!
I decided that it is time for this interviewer to take the seat of the "interviewee" for a change! He asks all these questions from us, the "interviewed", it is time for someone else to do the interviewing!
For this interview, I asked Kevin the following questions:
1) Can you share with us a couple of interesting facts that most people don’t know about you?
Well, I guess if you want the deep and heavy stuff, I pretty much covered all that in my memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart, that was published a few years ago.
Other than that, let’s see. I grew up in a family that loved to play games—card games, board games, even sports when everyone was young enough to be able to play them. We still play them, and the Halls are very competitive and even nasty when we play even something as quiet as Scrabble. Most people see me as Mr. Nice Guy, but I am very competitive and love to argue a point, and I think my early training in games brought that out in me.
The first five years of my life, I lived on a small farm in Maine. Some of my earliest memories are of my father and uncles slaughtering the pigs and chickens! That may explain my love for horror movies! But even after we moved to another small town in Massachusetts, we always had a garden and pets. With that background, when I moved to New York at age 22, many were betting I’d be back within a month. I’m still here, 33 years later, and I can’t imagine living anywhere but New York, but I do love the countryside too.
2) You are a wonderful entertainer, teacher, director, writer, reviewer and so much more. What kicked off your passion for music? How did you discover your passion for it all and realized that it was what you wanted to do?
When I was growing up, it seemed that almost every kid was expected to take music lessons of some sort. I studied piano for seven years, although you’d never know it to hear me play now. My brother studied accordion and guitar. My sisters took clarinet and piano lessons.
But my parents were the biggest influence. My Dad was—and still is—a very good pianist, and he would entertain relatives and neighbors with late-night parties. He would also play just for fun at any time of day. This later made me very comfortable in piano bars and cabaret rooms. My Mom sang in the church choir and around the house. And there were records everywhere, from the ‘40s on up, that we listened to all the time.
The radio was also a great teacher. I obsessively listened to American Top Forty with Casey Kasem in the ‘70s and ‘80s and wrote down the charts every week. I still study Billboard magazine religiously to hear what is current and to keep up on trends. My college students were shocked when I referenced a Cardi B lyric in class last fall.
Oddly enough, I was too shy as a kid to join chorus or sing in public. I was more of a solitary writer-type then. I didn’t get serious about singing until my last year of college
That’s also when I got the theater bug. I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.
3) Do you have a couple of particularly interesting stories that you'd like to share with the readers?
Back in the early ‘90s, I finally got a press person to come to see my cabaret show. It was Roy Sander from Backstage, and he didn’t give it a very good review. I didn’t know Roy at all, but I got in touch with him through the magazine and asked if we could meet to discuss the review. We met for coffee and he went through his notes. He held nothing back—the review was nicer than his notes! What I learned from that was that it was not personal, it was about my craft.
Fast forward a few years, and Roy was retiring from Backstage. In his final column, he wrote about what a thrill it was when one person called to meet with him about a review and allowed him to have a moment to teach the singer what he knew and to share what he observed. I was so proud that I had done that—I didn’t realize how unusual that was. And Roy loved that story as well.
Roy and I became friendly acquaintances after that, and many years later, in 2011, we became colleagues on the Bistro Awards committee. A very rewarding four years with him and the others on the committee.
Of course, I also love telling stories about my time at Edge Media from 2008-2016, when I interviewed dozens of celebrities and up-and-comers. I’ll just tell one here, because it relates to the records I grew up with.
I had the chance to interview Herb Alpert, and I told him that as child I was kind of scandalized by my father’s Herb Alpert record on the shelf, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, which had the beautiful model covered in whipped cream and giving the camera a come-hither look.
Well, Mr. Alpert went into great detail about the controversy of that cover, and even remembered the photographer, art director, and model. We had a great conversation.
A few nights later, I went to see him at Café Carlyle and brought my friend Ronnie Giles. I was so glad I did that, because it was such a thrill for him and he died unexpectedly the following year. Anyway, during the show I realized that Mr. Alpert was using many of his answers to my questions for his patter! I turned to Ronnie and said, “I guess it’s a good thing we had that interview or he wouldn’t know what to say!”
4) What motivates your creativity and passion for life? Name three things that never fails to put a smile on your face!
I think seeing other talent motivates my passion and creativity. If I see something great, that competitiveness kicks in and I say, “I want to do that!” Also, I am very up on current events, including politics and news as well as entertainment. You need to be alert and awake because you want to be ready to react to something that is going on in the world. In my mind, part of the artist’s job is to be an activist, help others see a truth.
Three things that never fail to put a smile on my face:
A student working hard and blossoming in front of me
A senior citizen who is still kicking ass
The awesomeness of nature
5) Share with us what you have in the pipeline for us to be on the lookout for!
What do I have in the pipeline? I have been very serious lately about my songwriting collaboration with guitarist Ura Griban. We are writing some really exciting pop music, spanning all genres—yes, even rap and country! We showcased our work for the first time in April at the Duplex and we will have another show in the fall, TBA. We have been recording demos and are getting them out. Ura will join me at Spotlight On You and we will perform a few of the new songs.
I am crossing my fingers that I can put out a new recording myself next year.
Also, I’m in my 23rd year of teaching my cabaret workshops, and we will be starting the next six-week session in late September. My goal is to get to 25 years. I’m almost there!
I have also recently been certified as health coach and life coach, so I’ve been blogging about that.
And I hope to start the next book sooner rather than later!
Life is too short and there is too much to do!
What an amazing interview! No surprise to me since Kevin is a MASTER writer!
Come to Spotlight on YOU on August to find out more about Kevin and to sing with the amazing award winning Ricky Ritzel!
STAY TUNED FOR MY INTERVIEW WITH RICKY RITZEL AS WELL AS A SURPRISE TO BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY!!!