I guess it’s too late to say, “Happy New Year” as it has taken off in such a way that I noticed it because the bills are due.

But looking back at 2015, it was some year.

2015 started out with me reuniting with friends and cast mates to perform in “HAiR: Retrospection” at the Kansas City Repertory Theater (at my age). Then I was shown some love from Santa Fe as one of the musicians they love. When I returned from KC, my CD, Resurrection was awarded The Best CD of the Year.

My band toured new and familiar venues in New Mexico and Texas where we headlined. Then in November my musical-husband and I went to Nashville to write with a few hit making songwriters, Gary Nicholson and Kent Blazy. I got to hang out with Lee Roy Parnell in his living-room listening to his next CD (keep an ear out for it!) but what really knocked me out and off my chair was listening to The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill. It will take up more space to describe to you how affected I was and remain not only by their professionalism but their skills…they played to and for each other rather than out-play. Nine musicians on one stage without big egos. Can ya dig it?

So as I write this, I am reminded that I have a major deadline looming over me. I owe a team of writers more music for a musical we started on a few years ago. So, I will say ‘farewell’ for now. See you soon and thanks for your support. Z

Oddly, it seems that I am the only one surprised. This is the culmination of work over the last 4 years and some songs reaching back as far as 30+ years and I have been richly (not in money of course) recognized as the creator of this CD, its music, thought and endeavor that won out over all others submitted.

Such a honor.  Thank you New Mexico Music Awards.
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Much like the phrase, “Play nice with others”, it also applies to the work done on the live stage and in the recording studios with back up singers. “Sing nice with others.”

If anyone asked me to teach them how to sing back up in a group, I could only tell them to “listen” to the singer standing next to them. In that, I mean, hear what is being sung and blend in with the others. Not too loud, not too soft. There are several tools singers can use that will allow them to hear the music, hear the person next to them and to hear themselves.

Once I saw a singer close her ear with her finger, the ear that was closest to the person she was standing next to, the person she was supposed to blend with. All we heard was yelling. There was no effort on her part to create an ‘integral flow’ as one unit. That’s not singing nice with others and this is not Karaoke!

Maybe that’s what the first part of the word, “back” was meant to do, keep those singers in the back, not up front with the lead, star, focal point center stage. The preferred dress was “black” as to not be more visible than the lead, star, focal point center.

At the peek of my back up singing days, I had so many black clothes that I could wear them to a job interview, go to a funeral then head to the stage.

Back up singers sometimes were brought downstage close to the headliner, if they were good looking, to enhance the focus. Other times, back up singers were relegated to almost to back of the orchestra, behind the stage curtains so they would not be seen or to distract.

To be honest with you, not everyone who sings is a back up singer. A lead singer can tear the house down but they may not know the art of ‘blending’. Most back up singers I’ve known can sing lead if they choose and do it excellently but it takes a real gifted singer to be able to sit amongst other singers and not take up so much space individually but as a powerful unit.

I’ve had my share of singing back up with and for singers who were not aware of how loud they sang out. They could not tell if they were on sharp or flat, but just let it rip. Those singers are not the kind I like to work with.

Let me describe to you what a group of back up singers are supposed to sound like: a beautiful tapestry where each and every individual thread stands out on its own, holds its own power yet placed next to each other, they become One. Equal. Balanced. They all shine.

At a recent James Taylor’s concert, I was reminded of how skilled back up singers need to be and his singers are just that. Back up singers never got much notice until the documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom” came out last year in 2013 and recently won an Oscar.

So whether you’re singing in a dive bar or performing in Carnegie Hall, there is no difference to using your skills. And remember to have fun! Lots of fun!

This past Saturday evening, I received The Best Religious/Gospel Song award from the New Mexico Music Awards. What an honor and a validation that I’m on the right path.

The song is, “One More Night” and it will be on the new CD, Resurrection to be released before this year’s end.

Thanks for all of your support! I hope to continue to make you proud of me.

Sincerely,
Zenobia

Greetings friends and fans,

Since the beginning of 2013, I joined musical forces with Jay Boy Adams who is best known for sharing the stage with ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker among a host of other greats. In his on right, I think he’s just awesome! Please “Like” our Fan Page on Facebook!

Just released, our ‘bandstand’ CD entitled “How Long, How Long”. In May, Jay Boy’s CD “Let It Go” will be released introducing me to the Americana market on the song, “The Weight.”

I am still working on my CD, “Resurrection” which is blowing my mind. It’s an exciting time indeed for us both and we soon look forward to touring and doing the radio interview circuits.

Stay tuned!

Best,
Z

When I started writing this song, I had Bonnie Raitt in mind to cover it. In layman’s terms, I hoped that she would record it. I took it to another writer who was great with lyrics. We were teamed up together through an ad agency I once worked at but this time as a composer. When I met Denise Rich, I was taken by her friendliness, then her aptitude for lyric writing, then both. It was her graciousness that excited me to no end to write with her.

I had the basic layout for the song and the chorus (aka the hook) but I needed verses. I needed someone who could sum up the feeling and to take it where it needed to go. Well, Denise blew me away. I recorded the demo with Janie Barnett, a great singer who sang jungles for me in NYC, singing it. That was in 1990.

In 2010, I was a part of a group and asked another singer to sing the song for me. She asked me why I didn’t sing it myself as it was my own song and told her that I didn’t think it was me. I didn’t think I could do it any justice… But I tried it anyway…when no one was looking or listening. It took one time and I realized that this song I had co-written 11 years earlier was the perfect song for me to sing and record as my own.

I went into Frogville Studios in Santa Fe with engineer Bill Palmer and my band, Tone Forrest on bass, Steve “Hurricane” Hill on guitar and Josh English on drums. I am happy with the recording and the performance. Bill even suggested that I add organ on it but I told him that I’m NOT Billy Preston! He said, ‘try it’. I did and fell in love with it. FYI: it’s Chuck Barry‘s old Hammond B-3…nice! Now I know why people who can carry it around with them will use it on recordings and on live stage! It evokes a special feeling!

When I play it in my shows, people get up and dance! So I made the decision to make it the first single on the “Resurrection” CD. I’m so excited and will send it out to press very soon for its release. Stay tuned.

I met Brian at a recording session at Skyline Studios. The session was set up for me through my publishing company, Peer Southern, to record the end theme song I wrote that got placed in the ABC Halloween Special, “The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t” starring Judd Hirsch and Mariette Hartley.

The musicians on this date was Brian on bass, Jim Satten on guitar and I think either Brian Brake or Buddy Williams on drums. Me, on piano. It was engineered by co-owner and engineer extraordinary, Paul Wickliffe.

On “Keep On Thinking” I can hear Brian’s pop and smack on his bass. It didn’t end there. At Skyline, Brian, Jim and so many others honored me by working on my demos but one song, “One and Only” got covered by The Ritchie Family.

Brian was killed on his motorcycle in 1981 before he could hear their release of this song. Unbeknownst to them but I caught it, they copped his bass lick on their RCA release as he did it on the demo.

I owe him for his support in and out of the studio. I dedicated my CD, “Home” to Brian.

With losing Phoebe Snow this week, I am reminded of another voice gone too soon. Luther Vandross.

I met Luther in 1976 through another singer, Tasha Thomas. She called me to let me know that a friend of hers was starting a singing group and offered to introduce us. Tasha was very generous towards me as I was making my transition from Broadway to a studio singer.

Luther was wonderful and his voice was more than I expected to hear. Yes, he wanted to start a singing group but I had other plans. I had just signed a contract to join a national tour of Godspell and I knew what would become of that job but I wasn’t so certain about staying in NYC and hoping to get a job to sing. That was my thinking at the time.

When I returned from the tour, I turned on the TV and heard David Bowie singing, “Young American” THEN I heard the backup singers…it was LUTHER and his singing group. Oh how I regretted for years doing Godspell rather than working with Luther.

In the years after that, we would run into each other. He always called me Zenobia Conkerite while I was trying to be just Zenobia. He made me laugh each time.

There was one session we sang on together that I will never forget. I was asked by Marc Shaiman of Bette Midler and “Hairspray” musical fame, to sing on a few of his demos. I arrived at the studio to see an old friend, Ula Hedwig who I was in HAiR with and there was Luther. Smiles and hugs all around.

When you’re in a session, it becomes clear pretty quickly who will be leading and arranging the vocals. Sometimes we share the duties because when you’re working with professionals, great input can help to create a significant piece of music. Luther was the leader. I’ve heard others comment on his skill in the studio and I got to witness it first hand. He was like a seamster, shaping the background vocals around the track that the lead singer laid down (recorded) earlier. In this case it was Marc’s co-writer Ina May Wool. An experience and song that I will never forget. Like Phoebe, Luther had no problem coming in to sing on a jingle…if he was available.

In late 1999 or early 2000, I was in Las Vegas and heard the DJ announce Luther’s passing. I got on the phone immediately and called Janice Pendarvis, a friend of Luther’s who sang with him, and asked her if it was true. She told me (this is not verbatim) that she just saw him, like moments before and that he was alive. I called up the local DJ and set him straight.

Then a year or so later, Luther had the stroke. Janice and other friends went to visit him, bringing good cheer. She was looking forward to visiting with him again. Then it happened for real. Luther died weeks later in 2005.

His funeral took place at The Riverside Church of New York on the upper Westside of Manhattan.

I sat next to Janice and David Spinozza. Will Lee and Arnold McCuller sat in front of us. It was a solemn and at times awkward. We were happy to see each other but not in this situation.

As they carried Luther’s coffin into the sanctuary, a song blew into the air, voices like angels started. I can’t tell you what the song was or who even was singing it but it was for sure a time for joyful tears as our friend and colleague finally made it home.