The consummate entertainer, Mark Winkler dropped by for a conversation including about music and the latest stellar release of West Coast Cool!
West Coast Cool is getting rave reviews! The chemistry between you and Cheryl is painfully obvious. Can you tell us how the record came to be and was it as easy as it sounds?
M.W. - "About 4 years ago an engineer friend of mine, Tom McCauley, called me and said that Cheryl Bentyne was looking for tunes and did I have anything for her. I’ve written about 450 songs in my time, So being a big Cheryl Bentyne fan I had a few dozen that I thought would be good for her—so restraining myself, I sent him 4 and he got back to me and said Cheryl loved “one” and would like to meet with me. Well, we met for lunch—and got along like a house of fire—She guested on my “Till I Get it Right” CD—aced her vocal in one take. I guested on her Gershwin CD- I did about 23 takes! And we really had a good time singing together. Then, one day over lunch (we’re very good at eating) we discovered a mutual love of the cool sound of the 50s, and came up with this show entitled “West Coast Cool” that we’ve been doing for the last 2 years around the country. It’s a blast. Getting on the stage with Cheryl is like being in a race with a Ferrari- you better have your foot all the way down on the gas—just to keep up with her."
I loved the Laura Nyro Project! Can you tell us the differences in creating a duet vs a solo recording?
M.W. - "Actually, I hadn’t planned on releasing two records this year—but they are honestly so different- it was fun! The Laura Nyro Project was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time—it was tricky and somehow it was a very emotional and challenging record to do. Staying on the food metaphor it was a “7 Course Dinner” – “West Coast Cool” was the dessert—Just fun and tasty and very fattening—Cheryl and I recorded it last October after coming back from a Mid West Tour and we basically recorded it live in the studio. Lots of fun—Although listening to it has a range of emotions—but “road testing” it like we did made it a whole lot easier."
You are a legitimate triple threat as singer lyricist and educator.What is the most important thing you have learned from your students?
M.W. - "Wow, I think every teacher would agree that they learn more from their students than they could ever teach them. I’m lucky to be in LA and have lots of great students. I’m constantly learning many things
1. Great songs are not dead. People are just writing for these times- I’m blown away by the great material these kids come up with.
2.There is a big correlation between reading and writing
3.Everybody learns a little differently, and as a teacher I have to discover how to reach them.
4.I have a lot to teach them—I’ve got 30 years on them, and it sometimes blows my mind what they don’t know
5.If they want to write a song, they’ll make the time. The ones who do the work get really good fast. The ones who don’t come up with lots of excuses."
Finally tell us your inspirations and do you think the great American songbook is in any real trouble as the pool of performers seems to be dwindling. Can it be revived?
M.W. - "I’m a very eclectic guy. My inspirations run from the Gershwins and Cole Porter to Stephen Sondhiem and Jimmy Webb—and currently I’m just crazy about the songs of Gregory Porter.Being a teacher makes me realize that the great American Songbook has many pages left to be written. These kids are great—I’m just a little worried about the delivery services of this music. Radio is so niche oriented—you have to work a little harder to hear the good stuff as a consumer. Top 40 pop is not about lyrics—it’s about hooks and the beat. But current Singer Songwriters like Ed Sheeran and Sara Bareilles, Country, Broadway and Jazz (Lorraine Feather, Dave Frishberg) are keeping lyrics alive and well. Hey, I’m an optimistic guy!"
Many thanks to Mark and for more information check out www.markwinklermusic.com