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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Spencer Day is jazz's next big thing

by Albert Rodriguez SGN A&E Writer

Move over, Michael Buble; there's a new kid in town - just as cute, just as talented, and ready to take jazz to a new cool. His name is Spencer Day, a Utah-born singer-songwriter raised by a single mom in rural Arizona who's settling into his new digs in Los Angeles. Full of enthusiasm as the release date of his debut album, Vagabond, looms (set for early September), Day arrives in Seattle this week to introduce everyone to his assets, a worthy catalog of jazz standards and pop gems with an occasional surprise. The young, ambitious musician reminds me a lot of Peter Cincotti, who went from playing the Algonquin Room to appearing in a Spider-Man film in a matter of months - Day has the goods for a big career, and he comes to the Emerald City to prove his case. He'll appear July 28-29 at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley (www.jazzalley.com), performing one set each night with a full band. Visit www.spencerday.com to ear-sample songs from his forthcoming CD.

From a hotel in Costa Rica, here's what the adorable, totally non-conservative, and star-bound Spencer Day got off his manly chest when he slipped inside The Music Lounge.

Albert Rodriguez: You're a Utah boy, right?

Spencer Day: Yes, originally of the LDS farmboy ilk.

Rodriguez: How did you feel about your former home state playing a prominent role with Proposition 8?

Day: It's definitely made me less proud of Utah. It's really divided a lot of people, even within my family - my brothers and sisters are mostly on my side of the fence, and vehemently opposed to it. It's just coming from a place of fear, and when people are afraid of the unknown, it's very easy to play on that. I actually went door to door, and went back to Arizona, where I'm from, to try to talk with relatives and I sent a lot of e-mail blasts on why this is very hypocritical, especially for the Mormons - people who were chased out of so many towns and not free to practice their religion - and there's actual passages I included from the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, which talk about how any religious organization should not have ties politically.

Rodriguez: I seem to remember my childhood LDS friends being steered away from secular music.

Day: You're definitely encouraged away from that. To a degree, that lack of access to culture is what shaped a lot of my musical experiences early on because & well, at least where I was from, the video store didn't even carry R-rated movies. Early on, your options were either Disney movies or MGM musicals, so those MGM musicals were my gateway to learning about really great songs at the young age of 7.

Rodriguez: Do you have a specific liking or interest in Seattle when you see it on your tour itinerary?

Day: It's definitely, hands down, one of my three favorite cities in the United States. Each time I'm there, I want to move there. And each time I'm there, I luck out with picture-perfect weather, so I haven't experienced the eternal winter that you guys are known for. I love every part of it. I love Capitol Hill, I love downtown. What's the museum in the park, the Asian Art Museum? That's a beautiful building.

Rodriguez: Who is your all-time favorite Seattle artist?

Day: I feel like I should say someone more original than Nirvana, I just feel that's the answer everybody gives. I do love the Fleet Foxes, I can honestly say. I've been loving that CD. Death Cab [for Cutie] is great, too.

Rodriguez: Being so new to the music scene and having never headlined a Seattle show, how would you pitch yourself to those who might consider checking you out?

Day: I say probably that there's something for everyone. I know some people say, "I don't like jazz" or "I like jazz, but I don't like pop," but I feel like we're playing some good quality music with good musicians and we pull a lot from the great American songbook and jazz, and then a lot from contemporary pop aesthetics. Generally, when people come out to see us, they seem to like it. It's a great date show, songs about relationships and some pretty universal themes that I hope a wide group of people can relate to.

Rodriguez: So your songs can be interpreted for all types of relationships?

Day: I like them to be that way. I write a lot of things from personal experiences of mine, but there's a lot that I just imagine. There's certain scenarios that I've never been in that I can relate to the emotion of what that would feel like were that to happen, and I think that's equally powerful. The lyrics I tend to like the most are the ones that leave it a little open-ended for you, they don't spell out how you're supposed to be feeling every step of the way.

Rodriguez: Set up your Seattle concerts for us. You'll play songs from Vagabond, your first CD. Will you have a full band, or are you solo?

Day: It's a full band. Yair Evnine, who's coming with me from New York, has played with a lot of great people - he's actually doing a project with Tim Robbins right now. He plays guitar and cello. I'll have a bass player and drummer. Also, a fantastic keyboard player who's from Seattle, so this will be his kind of homecoming - he's been in LA for a few years, and his name is Micah Hulscher. I play piano as well, and he'll join me on piano and organ. And then I'll have a special guest vocalist from New York, who just finished her run in Rent - she's one of the leads in Rent - and she'll be singing background vocals, along with the other guys in the band, and doing a few songs of her own.

Rodriguez: Are you fan-friendly? Do you make yourself available after the show to meet concertgoers and sign autographs, or do you retreat to your dressing room for a gin and tonic?

Day: After all the gin and tonics we've been having in Costa Rica, I'll probably be drinking carrot juice. I'm incredibly social and I'm really touched to meet people after. It's my first headlining gig in Seattle, and I want to mingle.

Rodriguez: Are you looking to move into other mediums, like film or live theater, or are you wanting to keep it strictly music?

Day: I've kind of fallen in love with acting in the last year and a half. It's like a veil has been lifted and I suddenly understand what it is, and it's so incredibly fun to play make-believe. I'm actually looking at a few scripts right now while I'm down in Costa Rica. I would love to do some film and acting, score for the Broadway stage and act on the Broadway stage. I'm at a point where I really want to do it all, if I can.

Rodriguez: Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr., who you've been heavily compared to, have big Gay followings.

Day: [Laughs.] Well, I'll join the ranks in that sense, for sure!

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