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One True Word
(Lucy Kaplansky Interview)
By Jim Wormington

This much I can say
This much I can do
When your heart is empty
I'll try to fill it for you
'Cause I'm the girl who learned to love
From watching you
(From “The Red Thread” by Lucy Kaplansky)

Lucy Kaplansky straps on her acoustic guitar and you can tell that, for her, it’s like slipping on some extraordinarily comfortable garment. Maybe it’s even more like she’s grasping a sacred artifact--a divining rod of sorts--that will faithfully lead her to the place within that offers up the deepest emotion and exposes human truths that are at once personal and collective.

Lucy’s music overflows with themes of family, loss, love, romance, and hope. Her exceptionally clean voice lifts out of her with the weight of experience and it is set adrift by a tangible, positive intention.

Having earned a doctorate in Psychology (she even had a private practice), Lucy figured out in her own therapy session that she needed to give music everything she had. The results of this decision can be discovered on her six solo albums. Her most recent effort, Over The Hills, was released in 2007.

She took the time to answer some questions recently.


Q: You began performing live and left home to pursue music at a pretty young age. Were you always fairly confident in your talent or was there a pivotal moment when you first believed that you might have an exceptional gift?

A: I knew I had some talent from the time I was a little girl, but when I was in high school I took a voice class with a former opera singer and, around the same time, I started performing at my school: covers of Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, James Taylor. People really liked the concerts and I assumed my teacher would disapprove of the style of music I was playing, but she told me she was very impressed. I think all of that was a turning point for me.

Q: Many marvelously talented people have helped decorate your artistic interior. Can you recall things done or said by any of these people that are particularly memorable for you?

A: I remember my friend, Cliff Eberhardt, a singer-songwriter, said to me, when I was probably twenty and had put on one of my first shows in New York, "Whatever 'it' is, you've got it." That really stuck with me.

Q: Your original compositions, I understand, are collaborations with your husband, Rick Litvin. Tell me a little about that process, how it ends up being divided and the like.

A: To one extent or another we write all the songs together. Either he has a lyric and brings it to me and we finish it together, or I have a lyric and bring it to him and he helps me finish it. Or we have a germ of an idea together and sit down and write the whole thing together. I always write the music. He's a really gifted writer and has taught me so
much about writing.

Q: In an NPR interview, you said that in both music and therapy there is an attempt to “find some kind of emotional truth.” You certainly have a talent for tapping into core emotions with your songwriting. Is that where most songs begin for you--with the experience of, or recognition of, powerful emotions?

A: I guess songs begin for me when something moves me in some way and I try to write about it. If I'm not moved by something, it doesn't work. It comes out in clichés and usually is awful.

Q: Some great imagery and detail in your post 9/11 song, “Land of the Living.” How soon after-the-fact did you write it? Did something specific move you to write the song?

A: Rick and I wrote it in November and December 2001. I saw taxi drivers kneeling and praying by the taxi stand when I was waiting for a taxi at LaGuardia Airport in New York, and that's how the song was born.

Q: Brian Ferry’s “More Than This” was recorded in 1982 and has been recreated quite a number of times since. This is a resilient song and your take on it is moving and fresh. What drew you to the song?

A: Brian heard me playing live on the BBC in London and liked my voice and tracked me down and asked me to sing on his album Frantic. So, in honor of that amazing event in my life, I started doing "More than This," which I had always loved.

Q: Tell me about Half the Sky. What is it about and how did you come to be involved?

They're a wonderful organization that helps orphans in orphanages in China, the children who don't end up getting adopted. They provide education and all kinds of enrichment. I love what they do and did a series of benefit concerts for them soon after we brought Molly (the Kaplansky’s adopted daughter) home from China.

Q: I read on your site that your daughter has had obsessions with both Star Warsand The Beatles. Is she still carrying those obsessions around or has she moved on to new ones?

A: Those are pretty much her current obsessions, more the Beatles than anything else now, which is wonderful. She loves Ringo the best and wants to be a drummer.

Q: Tell me about anything you’re especially excited about right now.

A: I'm working on a new album. Hopefully will record it this winter and release it in mid- 2010.


Anne Lamott wrote (in her book, Bird by Bird: “To be great, art has to point somewhere.” For Lucy Kaplansky that place, clearly, is the human heart. Whether she’s singing about her Grandmother’s Parkinson’s, her six-year-old daughter’s fascination with the moon, or taxi drivers praying after 9/11, her very real feelings are unmistakably present in her voice, face, words, and the movements of her body when she plays live. I know this because I had the pleasure of seeing Lucy perform at Evanston S.P.A.C.E. (in Evanston, IL) on Oct 25, 2009. 

I sincerely recommend you catch her if you get the chance.

One true word’s gonna beat a pack of lies.
(From “Written on the Back of His Hand” by Lucy Kaplansky) 

Here are some upcoming Lucy Kaplansky gigs:

November, 6 2009 08:00 PM - Old Town Artisans in Tucson, Arizona
November, 7 2009 08:00 PM - Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, New Mexico
November, 13 2009 08:00 PM - Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon
November, 15 2009 08:00 PM - Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Washington
November, 20 2009 07:30 PM - Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut
November, 21 2009 08:00 PM - Stone Soup Coffeehouse in Pawtucket, Rhode Island
November, 28 2009 07:00 PM - Joe’s Pub in New York, New York

See her site for a complete and current list:


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