Melissa Errico Adds New Colors With 'Blue Like That'

Excerpted from the magazine for

Melissa Errico always made a point not to make a record.

For one thing, she simply did not have the time. At 18, while a freshman at Yale, the native New Yorker was cast in the national touring company of "Les Miserables", followed by Broadway runs in "Anna Karenina," "My Fair Lady," and "High Society."

Then came TV, first with a key role in CBS series "Central Park West," then as a recurring character on NBC's "Ed." Hollywood beckoned next, with a part in the Angelina Jolie vehicle "Life or Something Like It," and several indie films.

"Making a CD was the one place I wasn't going to play the game," Errico says. "I'd been offered deals since I was 21, and I'd always said no. There were just too many other things to explore."

However, in 1998, Bruce Lundvall -- current Blue Note/Angel/Manhattan Records CEO -- became interested in recording Errico for the cast album of "High Society." Ultimately, he declined the project but approached the singer for a solo deal.

"He told me, 'You are happiest when you sing quiet,'" Errico says. "'You're not going to have to be the big, loud Broadway diva. You don't have to be a vocal stormtrooper. We'll help you find your way.' You know, it finally seemed right."

Lundvall was integral in connecting the songbird with fitting material and like-minded collaborators, including pianist Alan Pasqua. "I hit it off with him right away; the nights I would hear him play, I couldn't sleep," Errico says. "He was such a strong presence and exactly what I was looking for."

The pair got to work recording demos in Los Angeles, one of which landed on the desk of industry legend Arif Mardin, who was working with Lundvall. "It was a piano/voice version of 'Company' by Rickie Lee Jones, which Alan made into an art song, sexy and pained," Errico says. The uber-producer was entranced and signed on to produce the full project.

Five years later, Errico, 33, has released "Blue Like That," an intimate exhalation of jazz, modern-day standards, and heart-on-sleeve compositions written by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Billy Joel, Shawn Colvin, and her old-soul brother, Mike Errico. She is one of a handful of artists signed to resuscitated upscale imprint Manhattan Records, joining operatic tenor Daniel Rodriguez and Art Garfunkel.

Mardin insisted that the set be gently recorded in a live setting -- a decision echoed from his recent work on another debut, Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me," for which he was awarded the 2003 Grammy as producer of the year.

"I would take Melissa's album with me to a desert island," says an enthused Mardin. "Melissa is a singer's singer. She offers such heartfelt interpretations of originals and these incredible standards. She sees each song in a visual way, sets up a scene, and then sings as if she's telling the story she has created -- in much the mode that Bette Midler operates. I really believe in her."

Errico, who will appear in several episodes of Darren Star's upcoming NBC series "Mismatch", starring Alicia Silverstone -- possibly showcasing her music from "Blue" -- is also eager to share the music with her budding fan base, and is looking for an appropriate U.S. summer tour.

"I want to cast a spell over my live show," she says. "I see the evening as a kind of evolving watercolor, a wash of colors but still vibrant. I want guys to be playing with a subtle touch, with a smoky, sexy quality in the air. It's not just about catchy songs; it's about captivating all of your senses."

Excerpted from the April 19, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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