If you really want to get Lucy Woodward hot and bothered,
all you have to do is bring her… cheese?
“Love gets me hot and bothered. [And] I guess, cheese…,” Woodward
as we sit
together in a Cosi coffee shop in the Olde City section of Philadelphia,
where she is visiting to do some collaborative writing for the follow-up
to her recent second album,
Lucy Woodward… Is Hot and Bothered.
“Ray Charles,” she continues, listing more of her favorite things. “And
chocolate. Chocolate gets me hot and bothered.”
Woodward laughs at the surreal track the conversation has taken. “No
one’s really asked me that. Oh my God, I shouldn’t have titled my album
Now, guys, before you start hitting her shows with a
block of cheese, beware – dairy products aren’t half of what one will
experience at a Lucy Woodward concert. (Though she cheerfully
acknowledges it would be funny, picturing men at shows “just
handing out cheddar cheese! That’s a great idea.”)
You know what fellows? A Lucy Woodward show will get you hot and
is a sultry, jazzy, torchy experience that feels genuinely out of time
and at the same moment timeless. In fact, more than any other artist,
perhaps the music and showmanship of a Woodward show is reminiscent of
the early, jazzy shows of young Bette Midler. (Yes, her publicist
originally made the comparison, but it fits… wow, does it fit.)
Hard to believe that only a few years ago Lucy Woodward
was on the precipice of being a pop star. Woodward had recorded her
debut CD While You Can, which spawned the minor hit “Dumb
Girls.” She also co-wrote Stacie Orrico’s smash single “(There’s Gotta
Be) More To Life.” However, even though she enjoyed the experience, her
current musical track feels much more natural to Woodward.
“When I was at Atlantic [Records], I got thrown into the
Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson world – a big girls with guitars
world,” Woodward says. “I guess it was a misconception because I got
lumped into skater rock sometimes. I think that I felt some regrets
about it, because maybe I didn’t speak up enough during the making of
the record. At the same time, I’m also very proud of what I’ve
learned. If I had done an Atlantic record number two, it wouldn’t have
The “this” she is referring to is Lucy
Woodward… Is Hot and Bothered.
The album was self-funded and recorded as an independent,
though Woodward ended up signing an interesting deal with the Barnes and
Noble bookstore, which released the CD exclusively through all their
stores and their website.
was doing a show at Joe’s Pub in New York, last May or June or
something,” Woodward recalls. “One of the music buyers was there and
left her card with one of the girls who sell my CDs. I called her and
she passed me on to the head music buyer. He said every few months he
does a ‘discover-a-great-new-artist’ program. They push a new artist,
whether they are on a label or not. It took a long time for it to
happen. I had to redo a photo shoot. They don’t work with you as
intently the label, obviously, but they want to make sure you’re not on
the cover with a bikini on. We worked very well together. It was
really, literally, right time, right place.
“There are so many times when you’re like ‘why can’t I have luck like
that?’” she says, faking crying. “This is one of the situations where I
was an independent artist. I funded this record on my own. I got a job
to go through the ups and downs of life. What am I going to do next?
You just go: we’re going to just make the record. It was like the
perfect thing. I wanted my demographics to be older. I wanted to play
it for people my age. A lot of my teenaged fans have grown up now, so
now they are able to get into clubs and see me. Atlantic was a very
young age. This is [for the] 25-50 or 25-40 woman who buys records.”
The album’s success and critical acclaim led to more good
things. As we were sitting at the coffee shop Woodward told me she had
just signed with the legendary jazz label Verve earlier in the week.
The album itself was made in collaboration with an old
friend, Itaal Shur – a friend who had a history with penning hit songs
wrote most of this record with [him]” Woodward says. “We’ve been
friends, best friends, for like ten years. He wrote the Santana
‘Smooth’ song with Rob Thomas. So he did very well.” Woodward also
used to be a member of Shur’s short-lived New York buzz band Itaalatron.
It’s all part of a fascinating and wide-ranging life of
and she’s barely gotten started. Woodward has had a wanderlust most of
her life. She was born in London, lived in Amsterdam and essentially
grew up in the middle of the New York music scene.
moved to America when I was five, so I lived here” Woodward recalls.
“My father stayed there and remarried. All my summers were spent in
Holland. We’d travel all around Europe and camp out everywhere, because
that was how he could show me his world. He was British and my mom was
American. So at a young age, I could go into… it wasn’t a survival
mode, [but] you’re in different places, people speak different languages
and you had to do whatever you had to [in order] to make friends. It
was just the summer and a few weeks here and there – throughout my whole
life. You kind of got into a groove. I feel like I can adapt
anywhere. I love to be in hotels. I just need a place to put my head
and it is home. I’m very comfortable with change. I’d come back home
and my friends were like, ‘Oh, I just sat around all summer.’ There’s
this world out there they don’t even know. If only everybody could be
exposed to that. It was a bad divorce that my parents went through, and
at a young age. My brother, it hit him harder than me. But there were
so many benefits that came out of it, just being able to have worldly
experiences. I got the travel bug really young.”
She comes from a musical
family – her mother is an opera
singer and her dad a composer – so music always came naturally.
“In the womb, that’s when the early stuff is going on,” Woodward said,
“so my parents would listen to classical music. That was what I would
to listen to for the first ten years of my life. My mom was an opera
singer, so it was always going on. I’d listen to my mom. When I was
twelve they would have these things where you can go into a studio and
do a demo and they have the backing tracks. You would go make a demo of
a song. I was like, oh, my God, I like this. I like being in a studio
with headphones. You only had one take… maybe you would have two takes…
and I did ‘Material Girl’ and I did some Debbie Gibson songs. That was
the first rock and roll concert I ever went to, it was Debbie Gibson.
That was when I [realized] this is what I want to do. It just felt so
right. I had already been doing music for so long – piano and flute –
but this was different. This was something I could actually have a
career with. I knew that, at the age of twelve.
“I went to the Manhattan School of Music when I was sixteen,” Woodward
continues. “I skipped my senior year to go to college and you have to
breathe be-bop or you didn’t belong there. I did leave after a year,
but I got really into jazz. My first gigs were singing jazz standards
on Bleecker Street in New York where I was waitressing.
So, that’s my
love. That got me started writing songs. I was singing jazz.”
That singing career seemed to have achieved liftoff a few years ago with
the release of the debut CD. Turns out Woodward got a sampling of the
rock-star lifestyle, which did not exactly play out as advertised in
millions of people’s
daydreams. Still, it
was an interesting ride and one that Woodward is glad she experienced –
even if it wasn’t always glamorous.
“It was weird,” Woodward acknowledges. “The first time I heard [‘Dumb
Girls’] on the radio, I think it was about to play on Z100 in New York.
They told me it was going to play at 4:00 with Cubby, the big DJ. They
were like, ‘We’re going to announce it. Here’s the time. Listen up for
it.’ I was having serious cramps. I’d been throwing up for 36 hours.”
She laughs at the memory.
“So, he played the song. I was like, oh, my God, that’s
so weird, then went to the bathroom.
“Then I started doing radio touring, went to different cities – and it
was very bizarre hearing it. You’re driving on the way to the station –
you’d always listen to the station that you’re going to visit and
they’re welcoming you because you’re going to go on next. Like, ‘In
fifteen minutes, we’re going to have Lucy Woodward here.’ And you’re
makes a funny face
“and the whole car was like ‘Wow!’ So, there are some real moments.”
Woodward is proud of the music on her debut, even if she feels the music
she is doing now is really more representative of her personal style.
However, though her musical tastes skew more towards the jazzy torch
world, she prides herself in being the kind of songwriter that can
capture many genres.
can tap into writing different styles,” she says. “I’ve always been
able to do that. A few months ago someone asked me to write a song in
the style of ‘Suddenly I See’ by KT Tunstall, for a film, and I’m like,
okay, cool! I picked what writer I wanted to write with and was able to
tap into it. It doesn’t mean it is right for me anymore. I would have
written that song a few years ago if I were doing another Atlantic-type
record. But, I grew and I changed.”
Woodward is also comfortable with the fact that Stacie Orrico had the
big hit with her song “(There’s Gotta Be) More to Life,” acknowledging
that the young singer had really nailed the song. In fact, Woodward
feels that her version of the song – which she has released as a B-side
and on iTunes – may not have done as well as Orrico’s.
“That was a song that was meant for my record, before I even knew she
existed,” Woodward recalls. “[However] I felt my record was done and
didn’t need to say any more than it did. I felt ‘More to Life’ was a
little bit younger of a melody. It was almost the extra step poppy. My
record was done, so Kevin [Kadish], who I wrote ‘Dumb Girls’ with, was
[also] working with Stacie. He wrote [Orrico’s hit] song ‘Stuck.’ He
already had a relationship with her. He was like, let me just play this
for her and see if she likes it. She was coming from a Christian artist
market. She didn’t want to do the whole ‘I’m taking my clothes off’
thing. She was sixteen or whatever. That was the message in that
song. She said, ‘I’m very comfortable singing this.’ My version is
more pop/rock. Hers is much more hip-hop. I could totally buy it. She
was an MTV girl. I wasn’t. I was a little more VH1, so it wouldn’t
have worked the same way. I have no regrets. It paid the bills for a
long time. I’m proud of it.”
Now, however, Woodward is ready to pay the bills for herself. And
opening the doors. She felt a new freedom when making the album – allowing
herself the room to experiment with styles and tempos that appealed
to her. The CD is a steaming gumbo of jazz, torch music, girl group
pop, dance, folk and whatever other styles that tickled her fancy.
“With writing, I’m not looking for anything,” Woodward says. “It’s just
whatever comes naturally. I had no one at a label telling me what to do
or how to write a song. Not to say, ‘that’s not a hit.’ So Itaal and I
would basically get together every day and write a song to see what
would happen. A lot of songs didn’t make the record. Sometimes, it
took song a day to write; sometimes it took two months to write. It was
like, let’s tap into this. Let’s do this. It kind of came into a
mixture of all of them. There’s always a pop influence, but it is
torch. I wanted this to be a modern day torch record.”
This mood and tone came from constant experimentation and tweaking in
the studio. For example, the album leads off with a blast of strutting
defiance with “Love Is Gonna.” However, the song, though it has a
great, simple melody, wasn’t that easy to nail down. In fact, it went
through three vastly different productions.
“When we first wrote it, it was really hip-hop, like Missy Elliott,”
Woodward recalls. “There were these string arrangements that were
amazing. And basically the melody is ‘Swan Lake.’ It’s Tchaikovsky.
Which has kind of been done before, but I was a ballet dancer when I was
a kid and Itaal is really classically driven. We were like, we should
make this funky. It went through that hip-hop version. It’s just
hip-hop, I’m not doing a club record. I remember there was another
version which was a little less hip-hop. Then we ended up on this,
which is full-strings, lush. People can say, ‘oh, it should be the next
James Bond theme song, you know? A little Shirley Bassey thing – which
I’m big into, she’s a big influence. There was such a fire to her, like
‘Come on baby, light my fire.’ There were some amazing arrangements.
No one’s doing shit like that anymore. So I just go with it. When you
know it’s right, it’s right. You can keep reediting and reproducing and
re-singing vocals and rewriting verses. You have to stop at some
This is best shown in what may be the most stunning moment on the CD –
the simmering love-gone-wrong song “Slow Recovery” in which Woodward
portrays a woman trying to survive a particularly hard breakup.
had written that after I got dropped from Atlantic,” Woodward recalls.
“I wasn’t going through a breakup, but I had known what it felt like.
It was originally called ‘Fast Recovery.’ My co-writer, James Michael,
said the word ‘Slow’ is so much sexier. I knew how to tap into a
breakup because we both had one, but I wasn’t necessarily going through
that at that time.”
Then she can also do smoldering strutting be-bop sexuality in “Sugar,”
“Use What I Got” and “Submarine Love,” the shimmering girl-group
pastiche “You Found Me Out,” the be-bop wanderlust of “Geographical
Cure” or the simmering passion of the ballad “Hot and Bothered.”
However, just because she can be sexy that doesn’t mean dirty, like so
many of her contemporaries.
“It wasn’t difficult,” to straddle the line between sexy and sexual,
Woodward assures. “I don’t sing raunchy stuff. I’ll swear a little
bit, in talk I may bring up a sexual issue, but I will never be
raunchy. I just don’t go there.”
is all about feeling to Woodward. She simply hopes that her music
touches people, just like the music which has inspired her over the
years makes her feel.
“Just that it moved them in some way,” Woodward says.
“Even if it was one song. It made them think a little bit, whether it’s
self-reflecting or about the world.”
She feels this way not just about her music, but about her life. As she
settles into the recording of her follow-up for Verve Records, Woodward
enjoys living life on her terms and being a part of arguably the
greatest artistic community in the world – New York City.
“In New York, I carry a book around with me everywhere,” Woodward says.
“I have my book, a notebook and an iPod, because I just don’t know how
I’m going to feel. You know what I read last year?
To Kill a
I was like I need to read it. I didn’t finish college, and I’m really
trying to tap into what I missed. It took me a while… you know, you
read a few pages on the subway. I would love to take a whole year off
and just read books. I love reading, but sometimes it’s a time thing.”
Then there is the traveling which Woodward has loved since childhood.
Woodward’s roaming is not just for fun. Over the years, she has made it a habit
to do charity all over the world – from playing benefits at home to
visits to Kenya and Rwanda
– to help in any way she can.
do a lot of benefits because it’s my job,” Woodward says. “My job as a
human being. Sometimes you go through music and you’re like, oh, this
is the most self-absorbed business you can be in. The entertainment
field in general you’re writing about my problems, my problems. I think
because I had traveled as a kid, I was open to other worlds. I saw lots
of things that other people didn’t have the chance to see.
“The Africa thing started about twelve years ago, when I went to Kenya
with my best friend the first time. She grew up there. Her father
still lives in Nairobi. I’ve been there five times. Her father five
years ago founded an orphanage called Cura. A group of us this summer –
about eight of us, my brother and a bunch of friends – we went to paint
their walls and play with them and sing songs with them and play soccer
with them. It was such a natural thing to do. Now I feel like it’s
such a passion of mine to raise money for this. I’m planning a benefit
for maybe December or January in New York. Those things, when they come
along, I can’t say no. It’s not a money thing. It gives your music and
your life a purpose. I finally feel like I have something to offer, to
balance out the times when you’re also self-obsessed with my songs. Not
that that’s all I think about all the time, but it’s very easy to fall
into ‘my world is about me.’ It’s a very bizarre thing. I think about
other things, other than Lucy.”
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT LUCY WOODWARD HAD TO
SAY TO US IN 2012!