You know how parents tell artistic children that they should have something to fall back on?
Singer/songwriter Lucy Kaplansky seemingly took that advice. After beginning her career as a singer/songwriter in New York’s folk scene in her late teens, Kaplansky chucked the career to pursue an advanced degree in psychology. But she continued to make music. If you’ve ever heard her sing, you know that was a wise move. After releasing a few of her own solo albums, she teamed up with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell to form the trio Cry Cry Cry, releasing one album nearly 20 years ago. In the coming months, a reunited Cry Cry Cry will be performing a series of concert dates, including one in Tarrytown, which Lucy discussed with us recently:
At the time of the release of the eponymous “Cry Cry Cry” album in 1998, you, Dar Williams and Richard Shindell had already established yourselves as singer/songwriters. How is it then that three solo artists decided to record an album such as “Cry Cry Cry”?
“Dar and Richard had done a bunch of gigs together. During sound checks, they would sing cover songs and harmonize. They had fun with it. Richard and I had done the same thing, because he and I had done gigs together for years. Then they had this idea to make an album of that stuff. I wasn’t there, but apparently Richard said, ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s see if Lucy wants to do it, too.’ I got this call from Charlie Hunter, their manager, asking me if I wanted to do this, but I remember thinking, ‘This is never going to happen,’ because these things never happen. Then it started to happen (laughs).
“Charlie pushed us all along and we started making some song choices and a label got involved. The whole thing was just for fun and it turned into something much bigger than any of us had imagined. Somehow the vocal and personal chemistry between us just hit a chord, so to speak.”
What do you remember about the process of selecting material for the “Cry Cry Cry” album?
“My memory is that everybody came up with something, but Richard and Dar really came up with the lion’s share. Richard found this great song, ‘By Way of Sorrow’ by Julie Miller. Dar heard James Keelaghan do ‘Cold Missouri Waters’ at some festival. I forget who came up with Ron Sexsmith’s ‘Speaking With the Angels.’ I don’t remember what I came up with. Maybe I didn’t come up with anything that stuck.”
If there was a new Cry Cry Cry album, what songs/songwriters would you want to include?
(Laughs) “Great songs. That’s always been the criteria for me. If a song is great, it doesn’t matter to me who wrote it or how well-known it is. I’ve done a lot of cover songs in my career and that’s always how I’ve chosen them. What people respond to more than anything is a great song.”
Cry Cry Cry is on a reunion tour this fall. What are you most looking forward to about being on the road with Dar and Richard?
“It’s really fun. Being out on my own has its perks. Like, I’m in charge. It’s my show. I can do what I want. But generally, being out with a couple of friends is just more fun. It becomes something else. It becomes this thing about laughing and camaraderie and, of course, singing together, which is really my favorite thing. Singing with someone else is what I love to do more than anything else.”
We’re glad you mentioned that. Your 2012 album “Reunion” featured a fantastic array of guest artists, including Jonatha Brooke, Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka and even Richard Shindell. When can we expect a new album by you?
“That’s an interesting question. I was just thinking about this. When you called (for the interview) I was trying to finish a song. I’ve got a bunch of songs at this point, about six that I think are good enough. It’s a strange time for people like me, because CDs aren’t selling. Last time I put out an album, it absolutely stopped selling because of streaming services. A question for people like me is, ‘Why do I need to make an entire album of 12 songs? What If I put out six songs?’ What difference does it make (laughs)?”
We always say that you can’t sign a streamed album. When you do a show, don’t you want to have product that you can sell?
“Absolutely. And that is the only place to sell them. If I put out an EP of six or eight songs and didn’t feel like I had to make a full album, maybe that’s the legitimate way to go now.”
Your song “Land of the Living,” from your 2004 album “The Red Thread,” has taken on even greater meaning in the age of Trump.
“I’ve gotten a lot of requests for it lately. It was something that I always played for a long time. As 9/11 receded and we had a different president, it didn’t feel as relevant. Lately, it’s been feeling more relevant. And there’s been an uptick in requests for it. It’s one of those songs that’s about a larger issue, a whole bunch of things that are troubling in our current political environment. I probably will be doing it a lot.”
Lucy Kaplansky performs as a member of Cry Cry Cry Oct. 28 at Tarrytown Music Hall. For more, visit tarrytownmusichall.org.