Lainie Cooke’s Voices

September 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

29 Cornelia St. interviews the inimitable Lainie Cooke via e-mail:

When did you first appear at the Cornelia Street Cafe? How did you land there then, and what brought you back this time?

I had been to the Café a few times to see and hear my friend Jess Korman perform.  When I released “Here’s to Life” in 2003 I spoke to Robin about singing there. Fortunately, for me, he agreed.  I love the Café and its commitment to all kinds of artistic endeavors.  I am very pleased to be part of the “family” and will sing there every chance I get.

How did you get into doing work on commercials?

When I came to New York from Minneapolis, where I was born and raised, I wasn’t particularly clear on whether I wanted to do musical comedy or be a nightclub performer.  I began to have a little success with the club part and realized that being on the road was not my idea of the good life. I was given the opportunity to do a “demo” both the jingle and the voice over a commercial and realized there were other options.  I was working days at the offices of Floyd Peterson who did radio commercials for movies. I began to put together a demo of spots I did there – lots of one lines, giggles, sighs, and screams – I developed great skill screaming – seriously – but I digress.  I put together a demo and got an agent and found that I could earn a living using my voice without leaving town.  In fact leaving town meant you were not available to work – so leaving was definitely a bad idea.  I was newly married and wanted to be in New York. This was heaven. I began my career as a voice over actor…and have been very grateful ever since for the work and the community to which I belong. The work as a VO sort of fed the work I was able to do as a jazz singer.  For years the singing took somewhat of a back seat.  Today it is in the forefront where I always hoped it would be.

What sort of direction do they tend to give voiceover folks?

Direction given to voice over actors usually runs along the line of – “Could you make that warmer, could you make it edgier, could you take out the smile, could you make it flatter, could you make it funnier, could you make it faster?”  You’ve got thirty seconds to make their commercial work and nobody tells you how to do that during a session.  It is results-oriented and you better know how to do your job or you won’t be back.

Do you have a favorite (or most dismal) commercial job that comes to mind?

I have loved almost every session I have done.  Seriously.  I love the work and that makes all the difference, I think.  Perhaps my all time favorite was the session for Jean Nate – many years ago.  Favorite because it was a great learning experience with a good producer/director who helped pull out a performance that surprised even me.  There have been many other good times – especially when you get to work with other actors and experience the give and take of conversation.  Talking to someone is easier when someone is actually there – but even a solo job means you have to talk to someone.

There’s a great blurb on the Cafe website now that says of you “this lady can sing just about anything.” What’s your favorite kind of material to perform? Genre, specific songs, whathaveyou…

That was a very flattering review, wasn’t it?  I’d like to think there is some truth in it.

My favorite material is definitely a song that has a story – or contains an idea I can build a story around in my own mind.  I was first trained as an actor.  I started singing as a child but the first instrument that was trained was that actor instrument.  I learned how to use my voice as a singer after that. But I loved the music before I knew what it meant. As a child my mother would tell me that I was “too young” to sing certain songs.  That I didn’t know what they meant.  It was a lesson that stuck.  I need to know what a lyric means to me to sing it.

As for the music – I just sing the songs I love – blues, ballads, bossas, bebop, tangos, slow or fast. If it speaks to me….I want to sing it. I want to touch you with it.  I want you to hear it and think about what it means to you.

Lainie appears with Tedd Firth, Martin Wind and Matt Wilson on Tuesday, September 28th at 830pm. 212/989-9319 for reservations.


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