REBECCA PIDGEON: A BRILLIANT GEM, ON STAGE, ON FILM, ON RECORD

Photo credit Blossom Berkofsky

By Paul Freeman [June 2013 Interview]

On screen and on record – ever intriguing, always fascinating.

Whether acting, singing or writing songs, Rebecca Pidgeon has proven to be consistently captivating.

Pidgeon has been featured in such films as “The Spanish Prisoner,” “The Winslow Boy,” “State and Main,” “Heist” and “Phil Spector,” directed by her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband, David Mamet, as well as the box-office action hit “RED.” She has also graced television series, including “The Unit” in the recurring role of Charlotte Ryan.

In addition, Pidgeon has recorded six sparkling albums, plus a retrospective. Her most recent release,”Slingshot,” sumptuously produced by Grammy winner Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Madeleine Peyroux), showcases Pidgeon’s crystalline voice and elegant songwriting. Thematically, the album explores the many facets of love. Among the memorable, stylistically diverse tracks are “Tremble,” “Disintegration Man,” “Kiss Me,” “I Still Feel That,” “I Loved No-One” and the title tune, as well as a haunting cover of Warren Zevon’s “Searching For A Heart.”

Pidgeon’s exquisite rendition of “Spanish Harlem,” played over the end credits of the HBO drama “Phil Spector,” is available on iTunes.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her father was a visiting professor at MIT, Pidgeon was raised in Scotland. She graduated from London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where Clive Owen was among her classmates.

Pidgeon was the lead vocalist in British folk/pop band Ruby Blue, before moving to the U.S. She married Mamet and starred in the acclaimed play “Oleanna,” in a role he wrote for her. She later penned the score for the film version.

Pidgeon and Mamet have two children, Noah and Clara. Clara currently stars in the sitcom “The Neighbors.”

Fortunately, despite her busy schedule as the mother of two teens, Rebecca Pidgeon finds time to make beautiful music. We’re grateful that she graciously worked a chat with Pop Culture Classics into her schedule.

POP CULTURE CLASSICS:
The ‘Slingshot’ album is wonderful. I read that, on this project, it was really the first time you made a conscious decision to own the music. What did you mean by that?

REBECCA PIDGEON:
Well, what that meant was, I decided to spend a long time writing a lot of material and really trying to choose the best and make the best thing that I could and also devote myself to trying to get the music out, trying to support the record.

PCC:
Was it difficult to winnow down the songs, to know which would make the best fit?

PIDGEON:
Well, I think the strongest ones kind of leapt out. We had written over 30. So we discarded quite a few.

PCC:
Larry Klein, you’ve worked with him before, what makes him so special as a producer?

PIDGEON:
He’s got an extraordinary sense of arrangements. And he came up with arrangements that just blew me away. The general sound, the tying together of the sound of the record, he’s just one of those magical producers. And he’s also a very, very strong songwriter. We worked together closely on that aspect of it.

PCC:
As you say you co-wrote several of the songs with Larry, as well as David Batteau. What was the collaboration process in terms of the writing?

PIDGEON:
Well, I got together with some people as kind of like a blind date [laughs], like Freedy Johnston and a guy called Timothy Bracy, who’s a wonderful songwriter. And we just hit it off immediately, which was quite nice… and lucky. I wrote two songs with Freedy and one song with Timothy Bracy. And then, David Batteau, I’ve been writing with for a couple of years, actually. Larry put us together. And we really enjoy working together. I think we have a strong collaborative process. And he’s kind of like a bit of a soulmate in terms of musical sensibility. And so we did a lot of writing together.

PCC:
And was the writing done together in a room? Online? Lyrics first? How did it work?

PIDGEON:
In a room, I find, is always very good, at least to start the song. And then sometimes we’d email back and forth with lyric ideas.

PCC:
What sparked the concept for the title track, the metaphor of a slingshot in terms of a love relationship?

PIDGEON:
Actually, that title song was really David Batteau’s general idea. And I loved the title so much that I wanted to use it on the record, as a metaphor for love taking you into a realm of joy, like a slingshot throws a stone.

PCC:
Your own songwriting, does it tend to follow a certain creative path? Or is it different for each song?

PIDGEON:
That’s a good question. I suppose, when I get into different periods, I guess it follows a certain path. I find, with songwriting, I’m not always writing songs, I have to make time for it. And I get led into a certain direction, when I say, ‘This is the songwriting period.’ But I tend to be quite a romantic person and interested in that kind of subject matter.

PCC:
So does it tend to come when you decide it’s time to sit down and write? Or do you have to wait for the muse?

PIDGEON:
I think I have to make time for the muse [chuckles]. I think that’s generally what I do. Although sometimes it just comes and flows through you and you say, ‘Hey, where did that come from?’ I was thinking about my writing process and it takes various, different forms. Sometimes things just come to one and you have to scurry away and write it down. And sometimes you reach things through collaboration with other people. Sometimes you get inspired by other artists. Or you hear a story. It comes from all sorts of different angles.

PCC:
The Warren Zevon number, what attracted you to that one?

PIDGEON:
Larry Klein introduced me to Warren Zevon’s work. I hadn’t really known him, except for ‘Werewolf of London.’ And so I listened to the song and, it had a big, ‘80s production on it and sounded like a big 80s rock song. But on listening to it, I could hear potential for a different kind of direction. And I loved the song. And I love him as an artist, Warren Zevon.

PCC:
‘Baby Please Come Home Again,’ another great track, what was the jumping off point for that and what was the co-writing process like with your husband?

PIDGEON:
I had written that song, because I’d been listening to Hank Williams and thought, ‘How difficult can it be to write one of these simple, classic country songs?’ And then, of course, I realized how difficult it was. I went to Dave and said, ‘Can you help me with these words?’ And he wrote the most beautiful words. I’d sort of come up with the concept of the song.

PCC:
You both have your own creative, as well as shared projects. Do you act as one another’s sounding boards?

PIDGEON:
Yeah, we do. He’ll bring things home and ask for my opinion, where I think things should go. And I do the same with him. He’s got a very musical sensibility, much more classical than I am. And he teaches me a lot.

PCC:
Do you find that your musical background helps you with his dialogue, in terms of it having such distinct rhythmic patterns?

PIDGEON:
I think, yeah, probably, because it is very musical. I find his writing is always very musical. When I watch a play of his, I always tend to compare it to listening to a Bach fugue, because there’s always these themes, kind of weaving in and out. And the writing, as you say, is so rhythmic and musical. And very classically structured. There’s no improvisation. Everything is very, very thought out.

PCC:
Does that make it easier or more difficult for the actor, knowing each word has its own importance?

PIDGEON:
I think it makes it quite difficult, sometimes, but very rewarding. I mean, every little ‘uh,’ every little punctuation is written in there. If you’re doing a rehearsal with Dave and he’s just written a play, however, he does do a lot of rewriting. And sometimes he’ll take a cue, if an actor just cannot learn a line. Then he’ll rewrite it, because he thinks it doesn’t flow naturally and therefore, can’t easily be learned.

PCC:
Your own writing, the songwriting, has that become more important to you as a means of self-expression over the years?

PIDGEON:
Yes. Although, it’s always been very important to me. I always find that I come back to it. Sometimes I don’t feel like a songwriter at all. And I suppose this is why I have these two different careers. I love to work, as an actress, on beautiful works of art, on things that I consider to be rich. And I’ve been very, very privileged to work with Dave for so many years and get a lot of joy out of that. And then sometimes, the songwriting muse, I guess you’d call it, just takes me over. And I’m completely in that world. And I find myself there again, much to my surprise. I never really thought of myself, in the beginning, as a musician or a songwriter. But over the years, I’ve come to think of myself as that, just because I keep finding myself there, just keeping on with it.

PCC:
The involvements in music and drama – are they equally satisfying, just in different ways?

PIDGEON:
Yeah, they are. I mean, it depends who I’m working with in drama. Sometimes I can find things dispiriting and dull, if it’s sort of humdrum work. But if I’m working with people that inspire me, then I feel very rewarded, really high from the experience. And also just nourished by it. And I feel that way a lot, when I’m working in music. You know, I always think my songwriting could be better and I’m always striving to make it better and to get to a higher level. But I find that I’m surrounded by wonderful musicians who inspire me and who make me grow. And that’s just pure joy, as well. And I love performing the songs, more and more.

PCC:
And is there a different persona on stage, during your musical performances? Or do you try to make that as much the real you as possible?

PIDGEON:
I find that there is a different persona that emerges, yeah, that’s it’s kind of a performance just as much as working on a play is. When you build a set, it tends to take on this journey, this arc and it becomes its own thing, which you are performing. And you’re not really yourself. You’re sort of inhabiting these different personas of the different songs. So there’s a huge element of acting, I suppose, involved.

PCC:
The writing, does it tend to be a lot of self-revelation or is it more storytelling and observational?

PIDGEON:
I think both. Both. If I go into self-revelation, I always take it further. I learned this from Larry, that the song demands things from you that might not really come from your own experience. You might start from some personal place. But don’t be afraid to take it further and make it more than what you personally experienced.

PCC:
I love your version of ‘Spanish Harlem.’ How was that chosen as the Spector-related tune to cover?

PIDGEON:
Well, I recorded that years ago, when I was working with Chesky Records and Joel Diamond was the producer of that record. It was on ’The Raven.’ He did a lovely little string quartet that happens in the song. He arranged the song. I was actually just pregnant at the time with my first child and I was so sick and nauseated, really [laughs], that I just kind of showed up and sang it. And then, we have kind of a different version that we play live, with our guitars. But Dave always loved that version that we recorded on ‘The Raven.’ And then, when this Phil Spector project came up, he wanted to use that.

PCC:
Had you been a big admirer of Spector’s work prior to the HBO project?

PIDGEON:
Only in that he is in the background of pop music and changed all our lives. All of those iconic, classic songs are so important. We probably all associate that with different parts of our lives.

PCC:
All the controversy about his personal life and psychological issues, do you feel we should separate the art from the artist?

PIDGEON:
Oh, yeah. But I think people do that anyway. If the art is great, people enjoy the art. People don’t really care about Picasso’s personality, particularly. They care about the art.

PCC:
Do you know yet what your next project in the acting world will be?

PIDGEON:
I’m not sure, actually. I’m hoping that it’s going to be something with my husband.

PCC:
You’ve collaborated on the film script for ‘Come Back To Sorrento.’ What can you tell me about that project?

PIDGEON:
‘Come Back To Sorrento,’ actually, is a script that I wrote. I adapted it from a novel by Dawn Powell. Dave worked on it , too. So we adapted it together. It never went into production. We could never really get it off the ground. So I don’t know what’s the future for that.

PCC:
Are you working on the next album yet?

PIDGEON:
Yes. We’ve actually just wrapped on recording the next record. It’s produced by myself and Tim Young, who’s a great all-around musician that I work with. I’ve worked with some of the same musicians as on ‘Slingshot,’ and a bunch of new musicians, as well. It’s called, ‘Blue Dress On.’ And it will come out in October. It’s the first material of mine that I’ve co-produced in a long, long time. It’s a little rougher around the edges than the production of ‘Slingshot.’ I mean, nobody can be Larry Klein. He’s sort of the ultimate at what he does. And it’s incredibly beautiful. So I would say this is a little more scrappy.

PCC:
During childhood, were you encouraged to pursue music as a creative outlet? Or the dramatic side?

PIDGEON:
Yes, my parents were very encouraging. My brother [Matthew Pidgeon] and I are both actors. And they didn’t hinder any form of artistic expression for either of us. I remember my mother being a bit worried about me, when I wanted to go to drama college. She wanted me to at least apply to university, which I didn’t want to do. I just wanted to go to one of the colleges in London, which I ended up doing… Thank God! [laughs], because I didn’t have a B-plan.

PCC:
RADA [The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] must have been quite an experience.

PIDGEON:
Yeah, it was terrific. It really, really was terrific. It’s really connected with the dramatic, professional establishment in London. And really launched a lot of people.

PCC:
With the band Ruby Blue, was it a difficult decision to leave them as they were on the verge of gaining attention? Or were you committed to acting at that time?

PIDGEON:
Well, the reason I left the band, actually, was that I met and fell in love with my husband and moved over to the States to get married. So our Phonogram deal kind of went away. But they continued for a while, before going their separate ways. Leaving the band was a drag, though. It wasn’t fun.

PCC:
You’ve created indelible roles in so many fine films. ‘State and Main,’ the marvelous satire on the industry, had an amazing cast. What was that experience like for you?

PIDGEON:
Oh, just a lot of fun. I had a cold throughout the entire film. So you can hear, ‘Oh, my God, she sounds a little like she has a cold!’

PCC:
[Laughs] So that wasn’t a character choice.

PIDGEON:
[Laughs] No. But that film was spectacular, great fun.

PCC:
Have you experienced a lot of the film business craziness over the years or have you been able to steer clear of that, to a large degree, working in a lot of indie projects?

PIDGEON:
No, God, no, of course not. You experience it all the time, when you work in Hollywood. Every new enormity, you just turn around and think, ‘Okay, I thought I’d seen everything. But I didn’t see that. Wow! Okay. That’s the business.’

PCC:
What makes you get past that and deal with it?

PIDGEON:
That’s a good question. I suppose just loving what you do is the thing that makes you keep on doing it.

PCC:
‘Spanish Prisoner,’ another great movie. Did you get to interact much with Ben Gazzara?

PIDGEON:
Yeah, I did. He was really a legend.

PCC:
And Steve Martin, very different role for him.

PIDGEON:
He’s such a terrific actor. He’s so funny. He’s such a great stand-up comedian and such a great writer, great performer, great musician, that you don’t often think of him as a straight actor. But he’s just really good.

PCC:
You’ve had recurring roles on TV series, was there a measure of satisfaction in those experiences, as well?

PIDGEON:
Yes, yes. Not so much, however. I mean, my dream is to work on a comedy show, because I think that’s where television really gets to be brilliant. I don’t think drama often… Of course, things like ‘The Sopranos’ are exceptions to the rule. But I think, more often, television writing, you get away with being intelligent in comedy. I think a drama easily devolves into soap opera. Of course, there are those exceptions to that rule.

PCC:
Your daughter [Clara Mamet] is now doing a TV series. Are you happy to see her follow in your footsteps, acting?

PIDGEON:
Oh, yeah, yeah, sure. That was always inevitable. I always knew, when she was growing up, that she was an actress and a writer. And I just acted in her movie. Her movie should be coming out, I hope, sometime next year. They’re going to be taking it to festivals. She just made a movie called ‘Two-Bit Waltz,’ in which I play her mother. And Bill Macy is in it, playing her father. David Paymer. A lot of great actors. Jared Gilman plays her brother in the movie. He was in ‘Moonrise Kingdom.’ So it was a funny experience being directed by my daughter.

PCC:
Well, at least you’d already had been directed by your husband, so you were familiar with a family dynamic on set.

PIDGEON:
Yes, it feels like a family business. It feels like a bunch of gypsies in a caravan, actually.

PCC:
So you weren’t trepidatious about her going into the business?

PIDGEON:
No. No, no. Not at all.

PCC:
The children are how old?

PIDGEON:
Clara is 18. Noah is 14.

PCC:
So with them a bit older, do you plan to expand your touring in the future?

PIDGEON:
Yes, that’s certainly my hope. I’ve been having a great time opening for Marc Cohn for over a year now. I was just out with Stephen Kellogg, which was really great. And Madeleine Peyroux, I’ve been doing some opening for her, trying to build an audience for my work, so I can eventually do some headlining. I love touring, so I want to do as much of it as I can to promote this next record.

PCC:
Is it challenging, you hear the record, you know it really works, but it’s still difficult to get people to hear it?

PIDGEON:
It is challenging, especially nowadays, because the model is changing all the time. A lot of people are doing things independently, which is what we’ve chosen to do with this new one. Because you have complete freedom. But on the other side, you don’t have, necessarily, the funds that you would with a company. But, on the other hand, many companies don’t have funds enough anyway. It’s just a bit of an unknown quantity.

PCC:
You’ve played Farm Aid, what was that like for you?

PIDGEON:
It was really fun. It was an enormous stadium. And we played during the day and then went on later, with all the bands, to sing with Willie Nelson. And that was really fun. And, of course, we saw Neil Young, who is one of my heroes. I saw the back of him. I was backstage watching him. I saw Neil Young’s back performing. He was drifting around the stage with his guitar, really holding down the stage.

PCC:
[Laughs] So even his back is charismatic.

PIDGEON:
It is. The whole thing. The whole package is charismatic.

PCC:
With all the work you’ve done in all these in these various avenues, what’s been the most personally rewarding project so far?

PIDGEON:
That’s a really good question. I’m so proud of my daughter and her film and I loved working in it. She wrote me a really funny part as her really goofy mother. I’m wondering if this is how she really thinks of me [laughs]. And I loved making this last record. I’m really hoping that we can get it out there into the world. I’m really excited about those two projects. They’re both independent projects. Sometimes independent projects are the most exciting, actually.

PCC:
More creative freedom.

PIDGEON:
Yes, more creative freedom. Exactly.

PCC:
You had mentioned a TV comedy, any other as yet unfulfilled dreams? Would you like to direct?

PIDGEON:
I don’t really have a yearning to direct, unlike my daughter, who is a director. I love to create music. That’s where I get my directing jones in, I guess. Just having that experience of co-producing the new album was really a fulfilling thing for me.

PCC:
You can take it from initial vision to fruition.

PIDGEON:
Yes, I’m in charge. And when I’m acting, I like to be directed by people that I respect and love. That’s a thrilling thing.

For the latest news and tour dates, visit rebeccapidgeonmusic.com.

Article Source: Popcultureclassics.com

REBECCA PIDGEON CONCERTS

Saturday, June 8
opening for Marc Cohn
The Colonial Theatre
227 Bridge St
Phoenixville, PA
thecolonialtheatre.com

Sunday, June 9
opening for Marc Cohn
The Birchmere
3701 Mt. Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA
birchmere.com

Saturday, August 24
Genghis Cohen
740 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, Ca
323-653-0640
www.genghiscohen.com