Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bittersweet Descent: Interview with Ted West

Photo by Cindy Clark
Ted West started his career in the entertainment industry as a stage actor, specializing in character work, with roles that varied from Pharaoh to Elvis. A few years back his then-girlfriend was pursuing a career as a recording artist and Ted found himself tagging along to many of the famed Los Angeles recording studios. Fate intervened one day after a producer asked Ted to sing A Capella. Suffice it to say; his relationship didn’t pan out but he returned to the studio several months later to record his own songs at the behest of the producer. 

While it seems like a sharp turn of events, the seeds of West’s songwriting career had been gestating for a lifetime. Like his hero Jim Morison, he carried around a book of poetry he started as a teenager – of which many of the songs on his new album were drawn from. When the opportunity to record presented itself, he dusted off his originals and also mined his record collection for the most influential musical moments of his youth. His covers of Marianne Faithfull and Leonard Cohen showcase a keen ability to crawl inside and breathe new life into the already iconic songs.

  Ted has also gigged internationally – from Copenhagen to Barcelona and has been a regular performer at House of Blues on Sunset. His new album, entitled True West (Out 10-27-15), presents West’s eclectic musicality at its most personal. While the album’s tips its hat to the resurgence of ‘Blue Eyed Soul’, its spiritual overtones are clear. “I’m not really trying to sound commercially appealing” Ted notes. “My heart is really in the performance not the marketplace.”

Interview with Ted West:

Tell us about yourself. How did you get your start in music as a singer songwriter?

Ted: Yea, that’s a long story. If you really want to know it goes all the way back to grade school. I was this shy kid who the teacher asked to audition for a solo in my school choir, and I refused. She gave me the part anyway, to my surprise, and I was too shy to turn it down in front of the class. I didn’t know the words and got confused and sort of botched the performance. I didn’t sing again for years. Later I became an actor, and eventually got asked to do musical theatre roles. I didn’t much care for musical theatre, but I accepted a few goofy character roles for fun. I then moved to L.A. with no intention of being a performer. I happened to meet a woman who was a solo artist and she brought me into the recording studio, where I was introduced to the producer, who asked me to sing. They said I should record, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. Eventually, they coaxed me into the studio, and that led to the recording of my first album ‘Ethereal Gypsy’. It ended up being primarily self produced. Anyway, getting back to the singing, my Mom revealed to me just a couple of years ago that the teacher in grade school who gave me the solo recommended that I go get tested and vocally trained at that time (5th grade). But my father wanted no part of me being a singer, and so I was never told about all this until I was finished making my first album. As far as songwriting goes, I kept a poetry journal for many years, and I always had melodies in my head that went with most of the poems. So I had a lot of stuff already written, and added all sorts of new songs and ideas once I started down the path of record production.

You've been making music for the past 3 years and you've had some popular songs like "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and If Ever I would Leave You" Tell us about your current project. What is your favorite single off your new album?

Ted: Well, the new album certainly marks a transition point from being a cover artist to an original artist. ‘California’ is a pretty care free song about the best parts of being in this state, and it just feels good. I like that one the best right now, but these things can change over time. I’m proud ‘21st Century Worried Life Blues’. Lyrically, I feel like it might be the most important song I’ve written.

Your new album is entitled True West. Tell us about the title. Why did you pick that name and what's the meaning behind it?

Ted: So as you may know, ‘True West’ is also the title of a well known Sam Shepard play. That’s probably where the idea came from. I like the idea of taking a journey to the truth, and the process of self-discovery that comes along the way. I guess you could say there is also an element of spirituality involved in the journey. Part of being an artist is seeking and accepting your own authenticity.

Growing up, who were your music idols?

Ted: The reviews I’ve seen so far have pretty much nailed this one already. Yes, Jim Morrison and the Doors to be sure, and Bob Dylan as well are idols. A couple more that influence the record on ‘California’ are the Eagles and U2. And more recently, Leonard Cohen has become an inspiration. But lately I listen to Pink Floyd the most of anybody. I play ‘Wish You Were Here’ like 5 times a week.

You previous started your career as an actor? Do you plan on pursuing your career in acting or you sticking to music?

Ted: Really, I’m just having a good time making and performing music and have no plans to change that. Understand that as an actor, you are usually being plugged into somebody else’s vision, whereas being an independent music artist allows you to create your own vision — and that’s the funnest part for me.

What is your Top 5 favorite movies?

Ted: Sorry but no big surprises here — I love the ‘Godfather Part I & II’. Stanley Kubrick is a genius, and ‘Dr. Strangelove' still is relevant, as is ‘2001 a Space Odyssey’. It might be fun to do a Halloween show dressed up as ‘Strangelove’. So if I need to round out the list, I think ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ would have to make it based on the soundtrack, cinematography, and amazing character study.

What can fans expect from Ted West in the coming months? A new music video? Possibly a tour?

Ted: I’m open to a music video and have lots of ideas. I’m really just waiting to meet a director who I
think can pull of what I have in mind. I do gigs in L.A., and the next ones are Friday, Oct 2nd, at 7:45 pm at Ebanos Crossing downtown. We have been asked to do another show there on Oct 23rd as well. It would be fun to do a ‘California’ tour up and down the coast — we shall see!

Find more of Ted West:

1 comment:

  1. This is quite a hip tune. I dig the harmonies he does on here that have a full octave gap. Good Singer.