This Thursday, the cosmopolitan band Pink Martini visits Santa Barbara for their Holiday Show, an eclectic concert of festive classics and jovial tunes. The globally-minded repertoire includes refined renditions of songs from their multi-denominational album Joy to the World and recent releases like Get Happy and Dream a Little Dream. It kaleidoscopically mixes many genres: big band jazz, sultry Latin music, cinema scores, and old-fashioned pop. With a spine-tingling powerhouse voice, the lead vocalist Storm Large accompanies Pink Martini in diverse styles and languages. In an interview with The Santa Barbara Independent, Storm discussed holiday music, tough guy tattoos, and multiculturalism.
Known as a unique “little orchestra” that plays grand music and soulful rhythms from around the world, Pink Martini represents many cultures and human experiences. As a singer, you perform in diverse languages. How, would you say, does Pink Martini translate the lyrics into the universal language of art through your performance? When [co-founder] Thomas gives me a new song to learn, he provides an excellent translation, and sometimes even a language coach to teach the best pronunciation. Every language expresses love, pain, joy or grief, in whatever song I’m singing, in whatever language, it’s just a matter of being honest in the feeling I’m expressing.
What kind of songs can we look forward to hearing in your Holiday Show? Of the songs in the Joy to the World album, what is your favorite song to perform and why? I have many favorites…Christmas music is so inherently joyful for me, as well as for the audience. People just have so many good feelings around the holidays. It’s a marvelous reason to sing.
When did you start singing with Pink Martini? How did you and the band find each other? China [the co-lead singer] lost her voice in 2011 and needed vocal cord surgery, so Thomas asked me to fill in. Thomas, China and I were already friends, which is good for them because when I said yes, they THEN told me that my first show with Pink Martini would be in four days, at the Kennedy Center….for which I had to learn 10 songs in 5 different languages. I somehow managed, and the rest is history.
What type of vocal training have you had? No training, sadly…but singing with Pink Martini has been the best informal music education I could ever have asked for.
Personal question, may I ask what the significance of your “Lover” tattoo on your back (which often shows during your performances in beautiful backless gowns)? When I lived in SF a million years ago, I was kickboxing at a tough guy gym with a bunch of tough dudes. They all had Olde English style writing tattooed on their bellies and backs, and I thought it would be cool to get a super tough-looking tattoo that said something sweet. I love it, it’s the perfect metaphor for my life.
The type of music Pink Martini performs is inherently dramatic and glamorously passionate. And as co-lead singer, you are both a musician and a performer. What advice would you give to aspiring voice artists to improve their performance? Honesty. Feel the love you’re singing about. Recall and embody the loss your heart has ever suffered. Be present, and be honest.
Finally, Pink Martini is a successful international musical sensation, especially well-equipped to ring in the holidays with multi-denominational music. To what would you attribute Pink Martini’s unique vision? We are very inclusive of language, culture and religion, musically. Thomas wants anyone and everyone to feel welcome and encouraged to jump up and dance. It’s really the perfect recipe for “Peace on Earth and Good Will” we hear about so often during the Holidays, but sadly have witnessed quite the opposite in the world of late.
Pink Martini will perform Thursday, December 3, 8 p.m. at the Arlington, 1317 State St. For tickets, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at (805) 895-3535 or see artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.