Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Poet Among Us...The TIFFANY APAN interview!

Awhile back, when I reviewed TIFFANY APAN’s debut disc, “Poet,” I commented to the effect that this was the best Celtic-oriented release that I’d heard in a long time. To know why, all you’ve gotta do is listen…the songs, the arrangements and TIFFANwY’s wonderful voice make it all happen. Plus, that vibe of a record made for the love of it rather than a major label’s balance sheet add up to one of the year’s best releases. I recently had a talk with Ms. APAN and here’s how it went.

RAY - When I first got your CD in the mail, I honestly had no idea of how busy a person you must be. I know a little bit about busy myself, but when I took a look at your website I’m seeing that not only are involved in doing music, but also have quite an extensive acting background as well as apparently (as the photos indicate) modeling as well. Why don’t you go back & give us a little background…or a lot, if you like…on your early years, how you got involved in music, acting…in the horror genre, specifically, modeling and whatever else.

TIFFANY - Ah, my background:) Well, first of all thank you so much for this interview. I grew up in a family in which there are professional musicians throughout. My grandparents where professional musicians back in the 1950s and early 60s. After settling down to raise my mom and uncle, my grandfather was a radio DJ and taught guitar. My grandma taught accordion and they would still play locally every now and then. I can also say that the famed Big Band drummer Buddy Rich was my great uncle as he was married to my great aunt Betty Jo Brown who was a top model back during World War II. She also hung out with the likes of Jackie Gleason of the popular tv show 'The Honeymooners.' There was inspiration pretty much everywhere growing up. I studied classical piano as a child and even dabbled in guitar, accordion, and organ. I also took dance lessons throughout my childhood and teen years and eventually learned seven forms of dance (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, flamenco, middle eastern/belly dance) which I also hope to incorporate into my stage show in the future. I began taking formal voice lessons at the age of twelve and continued them well into college. I studied classical singing and was in my first opera ('The Crucible') when I was thirteen. Over the years, I picked up other forms of vocal stylings including pop, jazz, and rock. I have been involved in numerous musicals, plays, and operas throughout the years including Fiddler on the Roof (in which I played the role of Hodel), Mozart's The Magic Flute (as the Third Spirit), and Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors (Luciana). Film came about much later. Not until I was well into college, actually. I ended up taking some film acting classes during my second semester from Jeff Monahan who has worked with George Romero and Tom Savini (both famous in the horror genre). From that, I sort of segued into film, a little bit of modeling and the horror genre which I didn't mind as I have had a lifelong love of horror films. But I had always had my eye on being a recording artist and music was the number one thing in my life growing up. I didn't much like the modeling and I did not see myself being a 'Scream Queen' for many reasons. I realized pretty quickly that acting in the realm of horror would be more of a hobby for me and the only modeling I do now is to advertise my work or future projects. Sometimes I might collaborate with a company to use my likeness and/or music to endorse their product but that's about all on the modeling front. I did meet Jason English on the set of a film and knew him on and off for about 5 years before we began working together musically. We clicked, the music seemed to do well and we've been a team ever since the summer of 2006:)
RAY - What were your early musical influences and what led you to finding your interest Celtic music in particular?

TIFFANY - My grandparents were my earliest influences in music:) But I was surrounded by a wide variety of music thanks to my relatives. Everything from Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd to Cyndi Lauper to Huey Lewis and the News to Neil Diamond to Anne Murray to Johnny Cash to Patsy Cline to Hank Williams to all the Broadway musicals and classical composers where always playing in the house. I remember hearing the Phantom of the Opera recording with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman for the first time when I was seven and being blown away by it. As for the Celtic music, I have my voice teacher Eileen Hannisch to thank for that:) She was my voice teacher throughout high school; she mainly had me singing classical music but she also had alot of repertoire and material that included traditional Celtic and English folk songs. This prompted me to research more on the Celts, their music, their culture, and their language. These songs became a big part of my own repertoire and I enjoy singing some of them in my shows to this day.RAY - Am I correct that “Poet” is your first full-length recorded musical venture? It’s a remarkably mature , well-paced and arranged album.

TIFFANY - Yes, you are correct and thank you:)RAY - Jason English seems to have a very integral part in the album with regard to the musical arrangements, the instrumentation, etc. and his work is very impressive as well. How did he get involved with your work? Are you guys friends or is there more to it than that? Just wondering, I’m not trying to see if you have a boyfriend/husband or not, I’m happily married. (lol) As an aside, I also noticed that Persephone’s Dream’s Rowen Poole gets some mention…very cool band.

TIFFANY - Yes, Jason English plays a very big part in my music I am happy to say. As I said before, we met on the set of a film we were working on (and he was scoring) and knew each other for 5 years. Jason came to me after hearing through a mutual friend that I am a classically trained singer as he was interested in working with an opera singer in some of his future film scoring. He was also in the band Society of Sound as their guitarist. It was mentioned back and forth that I would sing some songs with that band, but it never happened as Society of Sound later dissolved. But we are still good friends with those guys and a couple of them (Mark Kapsha, Joe 'The Mook' Ursida, and Csaba Domos) where actually a huge help to us in the production of 'Poet.' But anyway, I was interested in putting out my own album and had been for a long time at that point. Jason and I began just cranking out cheap sounding demos on his then cheap equipment (we've since upgraded our equipment) in the summer of 2006. We didn't really know where anything was going to go at that point. But we had a plan, a love for music, and a will to help each other out as well. But we literally started out with nothing. Along the way came Rowen Poole and Persephone's Dream who we have been very blessed to know. Rowen helped us alot with the conclusion of the album and offered alot of expertise, insight, and wisdom needed to be in this industry. I am happy to say that Rowen and PD will be involved with future projects Jason and I do. Rowen has signed on to produce my second album (now in pre production/ writing phase) and we will be recording the vocals and drums for my second album at his studio, Starglider Studios. Jason will also be recording the bulk of his solo record there as well. As for the relationship between Jason and I, he is in fact my boyfriend on top of being my music collaborator. So yes, for the record I am taken ;) But the most wonderful thing is looking back on how we started this journey in an old shed with cheap equipment. But we had a vision, goals, a plan and a determination to not take no for an answer. That is important in this business. We have come quite a long way in so short a time but still have so much more we are setting out to do.RAY - With regard to the songs on “Poet,” I think one of the reasons I really like it is the way you are blending the Celtic folk aspects with heavier (even metal) guitar and other rock instrumentation. It’s not that Celtic & metal hasn’t been combined before, but it usually ends up being more in the “power metal” vein, with Celtic overtones rather than the other way around. Is this something you’ve always had an interest in doing? That is, was it a conscious decision style-wise or did it just evolve? Feel free to say Jsomething like “Shut up, you wordy idiot” whenever you want!

TIFFANY - Shut up you wordy idiot! Just kidding:P No, but that's a good question. Jason and I have a love for all types of music. We also both have a wide background in music although mine was more formal than his meaning that he is a self taught musician for the most part. Celtic music was a big part of my repertoire for many years in my vocal training and Jason has a 23 year background in rock and metal bands. Plus, I've always enjoyed acts such as Loreena McKennit, Enya, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Celtic Woman. The album was us combining alot of our musical influences (mostly mine since it as my album) and seeing the end result. This album was an album that evolved as we did it. Very organic.RAY - Quick! It’s a Red-Light Challenge! What is your secret or not-so-secret idea for a fantastic horror film plot that you can’t believe has never been done yet?

TIFFANY - Hmmm...that's a tough one because I don't know what hasn't been done. Most things have been done already to an extent. But Jason has a project up his sleeve we are going to do through our production company. Stay tuned:)
RAY - Back to “Poet,” and your vocal style. Your voice strikes me as not only having an exceptional range & tone but also being very original. One of the things I love that you do is to take the melody and then sort of bend it, taking a note to the point where it is almost flat or sharp and creating this wonderful tension which you then release to create a killer sense of dynamics. A great example of this is in the later part of “Free,” the third track. Is this something that you’ve purposely worked on or is it simply natural?

TIFFANY - As I said, this album was very organic when it came to the process of making it. Alot of what we did came naturally including the manner in which the vocals were done. The album is also very autobiographical as far as the lyrics are concerned and much of the music and notes were written to reflect how I was feeling when I wrote particular lyrics.RAY - The last 3 tracks, “Ashes To Dust,” “Warrior (Soldier For Myself),” and “Whispers” are among the strongest tracks in Celtic music as a whole that I’ve heard in a very long time. They end the album with such a powerful statement. Were you thinking about the way the 3 of these flowed especially when you were putting the track order together?

TIFFANY - Once again, thank you very much:) The album is basically my autobiography. The order in which the songs are placed on the album chronicles the order in which certain things in my life took place. 'Whispers' was a song my grandparents originated with their band back in the late 1950s/early 60s. We kept the basic formula for the song, but updated it a little with our own personal touches. It is such a special song that I wanted to have it as the last song on the album. Fortunately for us and the outcome of the album, the songs ended up flowing together very nicely:DRAY - Could you take a couple songs off “Poet” and give us a little background on the lyrics? I know some song writers don’t like to do this, so if you don’t, I may pout a bit but JI’ll understand.

TIFFANY - I could let you in on a LITTLE :D 'Ghost' reflects alot of my mood and feelings toward my life in my early teen years (which was actually when the lyrics to 'Ghost' were written). I also had a fascination with the supernatural at that time. 'Porcelain Doll' reflects a dark point in my life in my late teen years as well as some observations made during that time. The entire album pretty much chronicles my life in the order that things happened in. Jason actually wrote the song 'Run Away and Hide' but it was something that fit so perfectly into my life at one point when I was coming to terms with many things. I chose 'Scarborough Fair' because of the impact Celtic music had and my voice lessons becoming my sanctuary throughout high school and college. There really is an uplifting sense of triumph at the end of my album which reflects where I am now as I have overcome many obstacles. Mainly though, I like to leave the meaning behind the songs up to the listener.RAY - What kind of distribution are you getting for “Poet?” What are your thoughts on the current marketing of music in this day & age? Things have changed so much over the years, with things going from records/cassettes to CD’s to downloads…etc. How does all this affect an artist of your type, do you think?

TIFFANY - We are actually doing our own distribution but have gotten pretty far on the internet as well as some in store sales. Of course we also have the album available at shows too. It's hard to find good marketing in the music business today because there are so many wolves in sheeps’ clothing as of late. You really need to do your homework even more in this day and age and check people out as I have known quite a few people get mixed up with individuals who weren't who or what they claimed to be. We would love a distribution deal, but are holding out for the right one. As for the other changes in the industry, the only thing I have issues with is illegal downloading/trading. I think it's sad when someone can't appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making an album and feel they deserve free access to your work over those who actually did buy and pay for it. The long hours in the studio, mixing room, etc. Alot of money goes into making and putting out an album. Personally, I'm not out to make a million dollars; but I do need to eat, pay rent, not to mention have money to tour and make another album for those who enjoy the music! RAY - I know you’ve been doing some live shows, at least in the PA area that you’re based, to promote “Poet.” What kinds of places have you been playing and how has that been going? Any plans to take things further away? Any shows planned for the Baltimore area?

TIFFANY - We have been doing a small tour in cities around PA and we have also toured in other states such as Ohio, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. We do hope to venture out to other states, cities, and even overseas in the future. Baltimore is on our list;)RAY - Do you do most shows with a full band? Do you do any all acoustic gigs?

TIFFANY - While we had a couple people besides Jason and myself in our studio band, it is actually just Jason, myself, and our Compaq laptop for live shows. We have live vocals, guitars, and sometimes live keyboards backed with the rest of the 'band' programmed into the laptop. Jason was the one who suggested we do it like this and I have to admit, I was reluctant at first. I was afraid that it would look like karaoke But after doing it this way and even seeing that we weren't the only ones who played out in this fashion (the beautiful Danish violinist, Catya Mare, plays her violin while being backed by her composed tracks on her Mac), I've gotten used to it and it's actually quite nice. It's also alot cheaper than having a full band:P Now, we do plan to have a full band at some point down the road but for now this works and audiences don't seem to mind one bit. We also have began the evolution of a full stage show. We are beginning to incorporate some props, lighting, and costume pieces into our show. It's simple to start, but it will grow and evolve. Now, we can't do this at every venue due to lack of space at some of the smaller venues and in store performances. My sites usually indicate which show is a full stage show and which is the 'condensed' show. We haven't done any real acoustic shows, but that is a plan for the future:)RAY - Any plans for more recordings in the near future?

TIFFANY - Well, I am writing my second album. Jason is working on his solo record on which I will make some appearances. I'm also collaborating with Electro/House/Trance producer and DJ, Der Mystik on a track for a CD he is putting out and with Celtic Rock band Bonfire night for a song. I am also collaborating with Persephone's Dream frontwoman. Heidi Engel and singer/songwriter Penny Phillips for duets on my second album. I am also lending some of my songs to upcoming indie films.RAY - Here’s one that people always get a kick out of. In your entire career, singing, acting, modeling, etc….Tell us a story or something that has happened that has been either uproariously funny, crazy, stupid or just plain weird. Please, don’t feel as though you have to hold back, we’re all adults here and have a very odd sense of humor.

TIFFANY - Actually, there is a story to go with our show this past weekend in Niles, Ohio at the Hollywood Memorabilia Expo. We were slated to play at 9pm on Friday and have a meet n greet all day Saturday. I spent much of Thursday and Friday preparing for the show, making checklists, making sure we had EVERYTHING before having it all loaded into our vehicle. Jason and I leave with me very confident that we left nothing behind. We are halfway down the turnpike when I realize that I left ALL my makeup behind at home! We weren't able to turn back, for that would have made us late. I rummaged through my purse looking for ANY makeup I could use finding only lip gloss and a tube of dark lipstick. On this note, Jason and I needed to find any place where I could buy makeup for the weekend once we reached Niles. Fortunately, there was a Walgreens right off of the Niles exit and I ran inside and quickly bought a foundation, eyeliner, and mascara. I used the dark colored lipstick I had as eyeshadow and cheek color and also mixed the lipstick with the lip gloss I also had to put on my lips. I was actually able to create a pretty nice look for the show! Thank God for Walgreens and it's convenient location:D One cool thing that also occurred there was Joyce DeWitt (Janet on Three's Company) was there at the Expo and enjoyed our music. She even ended up getting a CD from us! All in all, it was a great weekend; but what a way to start it out!RAY - Any final comments for the RAYSREALM readership?

TIFFANY - You rock:) Thank you for this lovely interview and hope your readers will check out my music and album. Hope to catch some of you at the next show!

So, there you have it, a look at the artist and the person behind one of the Celtic releases in years and one of the year’s highlight albums for 2008. You know what to do.

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