Chief headliner Lucy Kaplansky offers advice for aspiring singer songwriters |

Chief headliner Lucy Kaplansky offers advice for aspiring singer songwriters

Accomplished singer songwriter Lucy Kaplansky will headline the Singer Songwriter Series at the Chief Theater on Friday.
If you go: What: Singer Songwriter Series: Lucy Kaplansky When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12 Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave. Tickets: $20 and can be purchased online or All That, 601 Lincoln Ave.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — To be a singer songwriter, there’s a trifecta of requirements.

“You have to have talent,” said Lucy Kaplansky, American folk musician, who will be performing at the Chief Theater on Friday night. “You have to be able to sing, and you have to be able to write. And beyond that you have to be able to put on a show. It’s sort of like a trifecta. Not too many people can do all three well.”

That, and a bit of persistence. Something Kaplansky definitely possesses.

“If you have talent, you’ll get that feedback from people, you’ll be told you have talent, that’s how you’ll know,” Kaplansky said. “And even then it takes a really long time to make a dent.”

Blending her own fresh rendition of country, folk and pop styles to covers and originals from June Carter Cash, Lennon McCartney and Nick Lowe, Kaplansky followed her talents, which led her to be a Billboard-charting singer and one of the top-selling artists on Red House Records.

This weekend, she headlines the Singer Songwriter Series — hopefully without any avalanches to brave after her travels to town last year — for a show that starts at 6:30 p.m. Steamboat Springs musician Tera Johnson will open the show.

Earlier this week, Explore Steamboat caught up with Kaplansky about the inspiration behind her songwriting and life as a musician.

Explore Steamboat: At what point did you decide pursuing music was what you needed to do?

Lucy Kaplansky: I started out, as a teen, knowing I wanted to sing. I moved to New York City and was pursuing it and doing well, and then I decided to give it up. I figured out later that was for neurotic reasons, I was 23. I went back to school, got a doctorate in clinical psychology. Then I had the huge revelation, in therapy ironically, that I actually wanted to be a musician, and I went back. I was 32 at the time, and I never looked back.

ES: What is it about your songwriting that makes you stand apart from other singer songwriters?

LK: I try to be emotionally honest in songs, and when I’m successful, people respond emotionally, even if the details are very specific to my life. So for instance, a song about visiting my grandmother, who suffered from dementia in a nursing home, has struck a chord with a lot of people, because it hit on something kind of universal — the feelings involved with caring for aging parents/grandparents.

ES: How do you determine what should go into a song? Is it just something that strikes a cord within you?

LK: I have to be moved by something. I don’t plan what I write about, I’ve tried and it just doesn’t work. A lot of times I literally just pick up the guitar, start singing words and see what happens. Amazingly, I’ve started songs that way.

ES: What is your songwriting process?

LK: I don’t necessarily know what I’m writing about for a while, and it can change. I let my unconscious guide me. The unconscious is way more powerful and in control than we realize a lot of the time. I’ve also learned you have to be willing to throw away big chunks of what you’ve written to make a song better. Someone told me recently that’s known as “killing your babies.”

ES: What’s happened since the last time you were in Steamboat Springs? Any new releases?

LK: I’ve been doing reunion shows with Cry Cry Cry (Dar Williams and Richard Shindell). We hadn’t done any shows in 18 years and got together last year to do more shows. We’ll be doing more this spring. It’s been wonderful and fun.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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