Curiosity turned to passion and a Billboard Top World CD
Last week I was having dinner with a pal at PangeaNYC while we waited for Gay
Marshall's performance of Gays's Paree to begin. The restaurant was playing her 2008 recording, Gay Marshall Sings Piaf la vie l'amour. As I was lost in the trance of the song "Avec ce soleil" (Jacques Larue, Philippe-Gérard), my companion all of a sudden blurted out what I'd been awake-dreaming: "I can never get over what a great album this is!" I looked at him and nodded my head, amazed after all these years that every time I hear the CD, I think, "this is SUPERB." You don't often hear this type of music, so beautifully recorded, played and interpreted, on a contemporary disc anymore. It's sophisticated and it sounds like it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I met up with Gay Marshall in 2008 in a dingy coffee shop in Penn Station. She told me she was releasing a CD in...six weeks? OY. In addition, she was performing four shows at the Metropolitan Room in support...in six weeks. Gay had recently completed a nearly year-long off-Broadway revival of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at the much-missed Zipper Theater, for which she received stunning reviews, so attendance at the shows would not prove to be an issue. However, there was something else happening during that time period that I saw as a more challenging issue: the overwhelming, non-stop wave of publicity for the Piaf film, La Vie en Rose, that had delighted and exhausted everyone. When Gay said, "it's a PIAF CD," I smiled gamely and said, "Wonderful!" But I thought, "Wow, how can I sell this? People really have extreme Piaf fatigue." Then I listened to the CD. It was heartbreakingly beautiful and very exciting. Gay told me how she discovered Piaf through a biography and of her quest to know more about the French icon becoming nearly an "obsession." She went to Paris to learn French, and there she met and fell in love with iconic photographer and Man on Wire accomplice, Jean-Louis Blondeau. After a five-year, trans-continental courtship, she moved to Paris to marry and live with him, leaving her Broadway career and role as Morales in A Chorus Line in the bargain. In Paris, she sought out Piaf colleagues and friends for history and stories, and translated many of the French classics anew. She also searched out gems people rarely sing. Gay eventually began returning to the states for periods of time to perform. She wrote a show about Piaf, and took it to the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, Dayton's Victory Theater and Missouri Rep. She appeared in The Baker's Wife at Goodspeed, The Papermill Playhouse and The York Theatre. When she appeared in the revival of Jacques Brel, she was truly inspired to finally record the Piaf material she had been perfecting for many years. She needed a publicist, and was referred to me by a radio promoter named Len Triola. She didn't know that I absolutely love Piaf, that I speak French and I am a francophile! That was luck. I fell hook, line and sinker for Gay's amazing story, and I was able to spin that story passionately into the romantic tale that it was and communicate it effectively to the press. It took over a year of talking to EP Sarah Lucy Oliver to book Gay on NPR's Weekend Edition, but it finally happened in December of 2009. Scott Simon interviewed Gay, then a couple of weeks later, as Gay and her husband were vacationing (and Jean-Louis was attending an exhibit of his work), Gay received a call from Billboard Magazine informing her that Gay Marshall Sings Piaf la vie L'Amour was about to be named a Billboard Top World Album, with a bullet at #12. She had sold so many CDs as a result of that interview, that she charted. CD Baby called her in a complete panic, on a weekend, needing a shipment of thousands of CDs to fulfill the orders! It pays to follow your curiosities and passions, if you're lucky enough to have a passion. Not everyone does and that's just fine. Just follow a curiosity and see where it leads. Then find a good publicist!