“I go to a lot of estate sales as I’m intrigued by anything with a little dust on it.”
“Having bought and listened to records since I was a teenager, I’m huge fan of vinyl. I find as an adult now (oh god), I’m most creative working while listening to creepy, slightly sharp (or flat) horn solos from the ’40s or jazz noire compilations from all the fabulous European companies that are helping to keep vinyl alive.
My current record player was bought at the Melrose Flea market in Hollywood and is a Vintage 1972 SE -990 Panasonic that came with matching speakers. It’s been a total gem and an integral part of me discovering myself in the City of Angels. There is nothing more relaxing than cooking or hanging out with my dogs, Louis Armstrong, and Pearl Bailey with lit candles and listening to my favorite pianist, Vince Guaraldi. My most favorite records lately have come from a website called Fantastic Voyage. They have all the rarities that inspire and fuel me to do what I do in life.
Growing up in Kansas City as a kid, I did a lot of professional theater and my mom and dad would drive me to do 2PM matinée and 8PM performances all the time. In the car we listened to this fabulous radio station called Fish Fry Friday that basically changed my life. Lyrically the way songs told stories in the ’50s and ’60s has really stuck with me.
On my debut album, which just came out and was produced by David Foster for the legendary Verve Records, I had the absolute joy of getting to record an old Ruth Brown song that its writer, Mike Stoller, personally said I should cut. It’s called “I Can’t Hear a Word You Say” and the story in it is basically the classic tale of a “Hollywood player” trying to sway you into “coming up to his pad” with the promise that “I’ll make you a recording star.”
The story is much the same in Hollywood in 2015. They just had such a colorful way for telling a beginning, middle, and end of a song, with a sense of humor and even theatrics. I’m obsessed with everything from Ruth Brown, Peggy Lee, Aretha, Dinah Washington, Tom Jones, The Coasters, to Stephen Sondheim and Cab Calloway, to the old Disney albums that fill my library.
I’m the weird lady blaring the “dueling banjos” song from the movieDeliverance on Halloween when I answer the door. The way it sounds on the speakers, well…there is nothing more magical and terrifying.
Seriously, thank you for asking me to tell a little of “my vinyl experience.” I have loads of stories about old dead people who I will continue to tell our future thespians and vinyl wizards anytime.”
Brenna Whitaker’s self-titled debut release is in stores now via Verve Records.