- - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is Storm Large a powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll singer from Portland, Oregon, who fronted bands with names like The Balls and Storm & Her Dirty Mouth before catching the world’s attention while competing on “Rock Star Supernova,” or is she the cabaret-singing chanteuse who tours that world as the co-lead singer of the much-beloved combo Pink Martini?

The answer is yes and yes.

In advance of her show at the Concert Hall at The Kennedy Center April 29, Miss Large discussed how she ended up on “Rock Star Supernova,” in Pink Martini and what you can expect when you see her live.

You may be offended, but you’ll definitely be entertained.

Question: How did you go from singing rock ‘n’ roll to cabaret?

Answer: I do rock ‘n’ roll cabaret. I had a band in Portland called The Balls. This band is an extension of The Balls. I affectionately call them The Boners, but with symphonies you can’t say that. So I call them “Le Bonheur.”

Q: What is “Rock ‘n’ Roll Cabaret”?

A: I do interpretations like a traditional jazz musician would. I don’t try to change them to be clever, but basically I take them and I perform them in a way that I find a personal nugget of truth. I try to pull my version of truth from the song.

Like “Under My Skin” by Cole Porter. Everyone is used to the Frank Sinatra version — peppy and upbeat. But if you read the lyrics as if maybe they were scribbled on a condom box [in sinister voice] “I’d sacrifice anything just for the … “

Q: It sounds sinister.

A: It puts the lotion in the basket. It’s messed up. Cole Porter is dark. He has a lot of dark lyrics.

Still, to this day there our symphonies that are scared to book me. They see me online and say, “She has pink hair and tattoos. She swears. She has a bit of the reputation. Good voice but … “

I also do that with songs I grew up with like Bad Brains, Black Sabbath and Lou Reed, and I cabaret them.

Q: Do you consider yourself a chanteuse, a cabaret singer or a crooner?

A: I’m just a performer pretty much. Garden-variety. I’m a singer by trade. I’m a better singer I think than anything else I do. I’m an audience whore. Always have been. And I give.

Q: How did you end up joining Pink Martini as the temporary replacement for China Forbes?

A: I was friends with China and Thomas [Lauderdale], and we had done little concerts together in Portland. And we had been friends. Thomas called and said, “China needs vocal surgery, and we need you to sing.” I said, “I don’t know any of your music. And I can’t. I’m sorry, and also I don’t sound like her at all. And you fans would hate me. And you.”

Q: What changed your mind?

A: China finally wrote me an email and said, “We’re going to lose thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. I know you can do this. Please, please do this.” So I learned 10 songs in five languages in four days to do my first Pink Martini [concert] at the Kennedy Center. We did four sold-out shows with the National Symphony.

Q: What was the reaction from the fans?

A: I made Thomas swear to introduce me as someone doing China a favor. Do not just present me, please say, “China Forbes has lost her voice and this woman has come to our rescue. She is a friend of China.” China is classy and very stylish. I look like a bag of [garbage] coming out of Vargas pin-up magazine, which is great and has served me well, but people are weird and very protective about their female lead singers.

He made it very clear, and that made a huge difference.

Q: How did you go from part-time replacement singer to co-lead singer?

A: China asked me. And Thomas really liked it too. Two different energies on stage. It’s good. I honestly believe that singing with Pink Martini has made me a better singer.

Q: A lot of people first discovered you on “Rock Star Supernova.” How did you get on the show?

A: I got a call from these producers. They said, “Hey, can you come up to Seattle? We’re doing some auditions for this show. It’s called ‘Rock Star: The Tommy Lee Project.’” I was like, “How did you get my number? Who are you?”

When I got to the audition, I thought, “What am I doing here?” They said, “We love your video!” It was a video of me in a small club doing a song I wrote called “I Want You to Die.” During this beautiful quiet moment, someone’s phone goes off and they answer it. I start screaming, “[Expletive], give me your [expletive] phone!” I looked like a drunk unhinged showgirl.

I think they thought if they cast me I was gonna be some drunk troublemaker on the show. Sadly, I was really professional.

Q: What did you get out of doing it?

A: I got a lot of fans. It was weird because it was a rock ‘n’ roll show, but people who watch TV aren’t music fans.

When you’re a musician, you’re onstage, you’re lit and electrified and separate from people. People have to go out and go into the dark to experience it. There are boundaries.

When you’re on television, people are home and you belong to them in a weird way. Some people experience culture only through television. When they encounter you in person, they have no sense of boundaries.

Storm Large performs with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Concert Hall at The Kennedy Center on April 29. Tickets are $15 to $80 by going to Kennedy-Center.org

 

 

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