Musical Discoveries: What can you tell us about your musical training and your passion for music?
AnnMarie Milazzo: Well I have to admit I don't have any "formal" training in relation to singing but I will say I listen to so many artists and I have stolen from the best!
I am passionate about all kinds of music. It's such a broad question but what I can say is that I am drawn to the voice and lyrics; the soul of the singer, if you will, who communicates the music right into my ears.
I love being moved and taken on a journey, getting lost in a strong voice or a fragile voice, taken away by a lyric and a great melody.
There is so much music I will never hear in my lifetime because there will never be enough time to listen; if I think about it I get upset!
What artists drew a lot of your interest from the beginning to present day?
I think I am a cliché but it started with Joni for me. My father gave me my first record which was one of his old records. She spoke to me first. Then onto U2, Sting, Shawn Colvin, Ella, Patty, Fish. The list is endless.
What's exciting now with the internet and with traveling and meeting other new artists is that we have access to artists that may or may not be quote un-quote famous. And of course traveling with the band--we watch tons of DVDs of the great bands of rock and roll, including all of the Beatles, all of Queen, the Stones, Heart and Blondie/
How did you develop your various vocal styles?
I have no idea. I guess over time and after filtering through other people's own voices I found my own voice. I pray this isn't it for me. I hope to keep changing and growing vocally. It would be sad to stay here where I am. I am hoping my pallet of expression will grow and deepen as I get older and life fills me up to the top. I hope it spills out of my voice.
How did you get involved with the East Village Opera Company?
Peter was a friend of mine. I had worked with him before and knew what a freak genius he was. I also knew about the band because members of my old band Cherry were all in this band called the East Village Opera Company, so three of the band members were my best friends. They asked me to come in and sing some duets with Tyley Ross. He has such a voice!
I was thinking I would stop singing for a while because I couldn't make a living at it and the starving artist thing was getting a bit much for me but singing opera was a new adventure and sounded like fun. So I said sure. We did a few gigs, got signed and I fell in love with it! God it's fun!
What have been some of the most exciting music projects that you have worked on?
Let's see. What has been exciting for me I guess would be that I have met some of my heroes and actually worked alongside them. What a great life.
For example I was mad about Jonatha Brooke. What an incredible soul on this planet. Musically, lyrically, it doesn't get better. I've been a fan since I can remember and she calls my cell one day and asks me to come over and sing with her to see if we had a connection. What? I almost dropped the phone.
I also got to work on Spring Awakening with Duncan Sheik. Vocal arranging his music for Off Broadway and Broadway was an amazing experience for me--working with the young adults. They were the most inspiring. I learned a lot from that whole show.
I worked with Tom Kitt arranging his show at Second Stage Next To Norrmal. His music was so different from Duncan's but just as exciting and beautiful.
I also worked on my first big Vegas show! What? Yes. I rewrote the English lyrics for Le Reve that plays at the Wynn Hotel. Franco Dragone directed and created this masterpiece and I was so lucky to be involved. His mind? There are not enough words. There is no language to describe his mind. If you get a chance, go see the show.
There are lots of potential projects up the road I am just holding my breath to see where life will take me.
Can you tell us more about the "Pretty Dead Girl" project and the soundtrack?
Sure. I must say I love a good musical. I always have. Some of my band members cringe when Broadway is mentioned, well, I've got to say I disagree. Theater can be so amazing, a good show tune, nothing like it. I grew up wanting to be a part of the theater. It was another interest of mine. I think I've seen every show. So writing music and lyrics to new stories--wow, it's insane. It's not easy either. I am laughing cause its tons of work.
Pretty Dead Girl was a project I started with film Director Shawn Ku. It's a 20-minute short that got into the Sundance film festival and now we have taken it and are making it a two hour staged musical. The book writer is David Henry Hwang. It's been a heck of a journey and I look forward to seeing it on its feet. The ARACA group in NY are producing it and Leigh Silverman is directing. We get to workshop it in Feb 2009.
OK, so what happened to your band Cherry?
Cherry is Steve Hass, Ben Butler and Richard Hammond and myself. We have been writing songs together and the songs that appear on the MySpace page were from just a demo we did for no particular reason. For us. For our own happiness. I have no idea how any one heard this demo but it makes us happy that people seem to like it.
We talk about doing gigs, hey maybe we will. We all write songs together all the time. These men are my arms and legs and heart, my greatest teachers. Musically, it doesn't get any better. You should hear them play. The project continues. I hope it never stops.
Tell us more about your duets with Tyley Ross and your solo performances on the two CDs. What did you find most challenging and what recordings mean the most to you?
Duets with Tyley? He is my co-pilot and my friend. I want to be clear because he means so much to me. I wonder how he makes the glorious sounds he does. What a passionate singer and so generous on stage. When we sing together we both go to a place that I hope everyone gets to go to in his or her own lifetime. It's open and bright and fun and difficult sometimes but wow, I love singing with him!
My solos on the cd? Peter and I picked. He really helped me with the process by introducing me to some great tunes to choose from. It's exciting to visit Peter's head. I don't know how he lives there cause it's a yellow submarine but its wild to visit.
Funny enough "Casta Diva" sang itself. The melody, the meaning, it lifted me so high. "Tosca" was a bitch! Can I say that? That song bit me over and over again until I had it out with her! Now we are friends. You know that friend that teaches you with tough love? Well that was "Tosca." "Jove In Pity"--Peter wrote the melody. Like a Beatles tune--thrilling in its simplicity then kicking ass at the end. One of my favorites is "The Butterfly Duet." It's glorious to sing. I think Tyley would agree.
I also love Tyley's track "Gloria." Check it out. It's awesome. He really reaches a new place on that track for me.
What's it like for you being on stage?
It's like flying. I get to travel everywhere. And the view! Wow.
What can you tell us about how audiences react to your live performances?
Audiences around the world react stunned at first because they think we are an opera act but they are willing to except us secondly--thirdly--totally loving it--fourthly jumping to their feet.
It's always the same. Crying, screaming, understanding that opera is just a bunch of great tunes that they are experiencing in another way.
In theater, the reaction is a bit more formal. EVOC rocks the house; people understand that jumping up and down is ok to do. I hope theater audiences will do that throughout shows when moved to instead of waiting to the end. Theater should be shown in bars like the old days. Have a beer, see a show--be changed forever--go home.
In a world transforming to digital distribution, what do you think the future holds for the industry and artists like yourself?
Good question. I try not to think about it. Happy place happy place. That makes me crazy. I remain hopeful and positive. I believe in people and that they will find music even with deaf ears.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?
I'd love to mention a new musical I am working on with an amazing playwright Karen Hartman. It's called Sea Change and is based on the Lois Gould novel. I am so happy with this piece. It has its first reading in February 2009. It's a small musical with a big heart. So keep an eye out for it.
Supporting theater is very important to me and the little musical that doesn't have flying cars or explosions or super hero suits or super stars staring in them should have a chance. Be kind to the little show.