Interview: Singer-songwriter Spencer Day to debut at the Cabaret

Posted by admin on May 7, 2015

By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
May 7, 2015

“Love Fool” is the title of the show that singer-songwriter and pianist Spencer Day will be performing when he makes his debut Friday, May 8, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. He will be joined by guitarist and singer John Storie.

Day, who has drawn comparisons from Harry Connick Jr. and Jamie Cullum to Chet Baker and Paul Simon, has released 5 critically acclaimed solo albums. He has also performed world-wide at jazz festivals and venues such as the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center, Yoshi’s, Monterey Jazz Festival, the Hollywood Bowl, Birdland, Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Jazz Alley and more.

Recently chatted with San Diego resident Day by phone from New York City where he also maintains a home. He was in Manhattan to meet with Tommy Tune about composing songs for a musical the actor, dancer, singer, and theater director and producer. is creating. The discussion between Day and this writer centered on the performer’s Cabaret show, his music and career.

What will “Love Fool” consist of?

A lot of original songs as well as songs from the American Songbook and some contemporary songs. The real focus of the show is reexamining the nature of love. We’ll explore it in song and psychologically analyze why heartbreak is really the most common inspiration for songwriters and what that says about us as a culture. Even a lot of really upbeat songs that you love to dance to if you listen to the lyrics are usually about heartbreak. The show is basically about how we find catharsis and how music brings us an amazing amount of healing by turning a painful experience into something beautiful.

I read where a break up you experienced had a profound impact on your music.

Yes absolutely. Especially now, a couple years later, now that I have come out the other side of it I am not the same person. I think I lost some innocence. You take uncomfortable experiences and actually use them as amazing opportunities for growth and opportunity to say “I don’t like the way I have been doing things. I probably need to examine many parts of myself that are not so pretty to look at.” It’s also an opportunity to let go of things you can’t control and accept that life will always be a combination of joy and suffering and be at peace with being comfortable with both of those things coming and going.

Have you undergone therapy?

I am a huge fan. I read a lot of Carl Jung and a lot of philosophical and psycho analytical books. If I weren’t doing music I would probably go to school but I think music is really a form of therapy. You are really helping people access their emotions if you do it right.

What sort of feedback do you receive from your fans?

The main feedback I get is that they were touched or moved in some way. I love that I can make people laugh and that we have a lot of humor in what we do whether I am playing with a full big band or whether I am doing just an intimate evening like I will be doing in Indianapolis. I love seeing people moved and leaving inspired. That for me is the sign that regardless of what success or hardships might come to me in my career, knowing that I did that and brought people into awareness about something greater than themselves and what’s important in life is something that makes me very happy.

What are the demographics of your fan base?

I have 14-year old “Glee” choir kids to 80 or 90 year olds. Also, all races. My songs have been played on a lot of R & B formats as well as contemporary jazz and adult contemporary. So all sorts of races and all kinds of political parties. That is something that makes me so grateful that I get to do this for a living. I hopefully can remind people of what we share in common as opposed to our differences and I believe there is enough in our culture about dividing and separating people into very tight little categories. Probably more women than men if I could pin point one group.

Who are your biggest influences as far as songwriters?

Cole Porter for rhyming. It’s hard to go wrong with him. I love Rufas Wainright. Fiona Apple is a fantastic lyricist.

Because you are so photogenic— any interest in doing film and television?

I do in the sense that I think all those things make me a better story teller and a better performer. Every experience I get to do that takes me into new territory. No matter what you do, even new activities or hobbies, you can find a whole new passion you never even knew you had. I haven’t acted on film yet but I’ll have to do it and let you know how it goes (laughs).

Have you done theater?

I have acted a little. I’ve done one show on the West End, a burlesque review which I got to write some of the music for. I have been going out for more things theater-wise in the last couple of years. I am not results oriented— whether I get those gigs or not. I don’t care as much because I know every time I land something, it is just pushing me more as a performer.

Do you dance?

I can dance but I can’t tap. I use to do ball room dancing and was in swing dance competitions. I can Lindy Hop (laughs).

Any new projects coming up?

I am working on a couple of different ones. One is an album with songs about California and living in California. I am working on a kind of song cycle, primarily about living in Hollywood and Los Angeles. I am always looking ahead to different projects. I have a couple of original works as well that I’ll be recording. I play with a fantastic big band in L.A. called the Budman/Levy Orchestra. They are a big band in L.A. and we are looking at doing some more projects together as well.

You’re pretty open about being gay, aren’t you?

I am very much out. The struggles and the challenges I experienced have given me depth. Knowing what it is like to be an outsider has made me a huge champion for underdogs. It forces you to grow and be creative, that is why so often any marginalized group of people often have or continue to contribute such a dynamic culture to the world because you are forced to look at things outside the norm and the status quo. I wouldn’t be who I am without all the things good or challenging that happened to me. Absolutely my sensibilities have been shaped. If you can learn to embrace the darkness and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Things like a break up or the challenges of growing up, not being fully loved or appreciated for who you are—those things can be amazing catalysts for growth and give you an amazing opportunity to inspire other people to also live their lives authentically, if you can come out on the other side of it.

Have you been keeping track of the RFRA controversy here in Indiana?

I have. I am very happy and proud of who I am. I think the main problem that most of these people are coming from is that they still don’t have a personal reference point—a contact. It is all the more reason for me to be a good ambassador for the community and carry myself in a loving, honest way and not write every one of those people—who if they knew you or heard you sing or even just meet you and hear your point of view, you could really change hearts. I think the main thing is just trying to reach out to people as fellow human beings and once you realize people are not so different than you, that that is when good things happen.

Do you think the music of the Great American Songbook can break down barriers?

Yes. And if I am singing a song about love you are singing about this universal longing for love that everyone can relate to. Someone from the Huffington Post wrote a piece and said he was very touched about a show I did in S.F. I got a request for “The Man I Love” which I hadn’t sung before but it is one of my favorite songs. The reviewer mentioned that I sang it without any kind of irony and that I sang it very sincerely. He also remarked how wonderful it was to see a primarily straight audience cuddling and finding it romantic. I was just singing about a basic human need and desire. And for me, that is such a wonderful act of activism of reminding people of what we share in common and for all the crap that you have to put up with as a musician, why I still get up every morning, excited and loving that I get to do this.

Click here to read the full interview.


"Best in class. A truly delightful experience - over the top!"

Cabaret Guest


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