Lance Horne (US) talks bringing First Things Last to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival!

Lance Horne is a ridiculously talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, lyricist…everything. The Emmy award winner is on his way to Adelaide this weekend for an unforgettable show at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival – an opportunity to showcase his new album, First Things Last, not to mention some extra special surprises along the way.

His one-night-only show in Adelaide is set to draw out the crowds and before it all kicks off, we were lucky to nab some of Lance’s time amid his hectic schedule collaborating with the likes of Alan Cumming and Jake Shears to fill us in.

Congratulations on First Things Last – how has preparation for live shows with this material been treating you?

Thank you! The preparation have been beautiful and intense. Singing your own songs really brings the emotion that went into the writing them right back to the surface, and finding the right order to contextualise them in a way that can be personal and universal has been a wonderful challenge.

I’ve certainly found some through-lines I never saw before! I’m really looking forward to the final ingredient— the Adelaide audience! You’re a smart crowd and I hope to do you proud.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is of course, a huge way to introduce your work to a whole array of potential new fans; how have you been anticipating debuting First Things Last material in Adelaide?

When talking with the team at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival (who are wonderful), we discussed premiering the First Thing Last material as the perfect means of introduction. I’m a massive Oz-phile, and tour here as regularly as I can with Alan Cumming, Justin Bond, Taylor Mac, Meow and the like, and this was a great way to sing my own songs with a guest or two.

In the meanwhile, I almost accidentally released another album, A Little Single. I will be presenting a very broad spectrum of work from the first album with a little highlights from the second album, and even a track from the Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs that we wrote together and premiered at Carnegie Hall a few months back.  I have basically tailor-made a one-night-only party of songs for Adelaide, and I really cannot wait to share it!

What do you hope the Adelaide audience will take away from the show – if there was an image of Lance Horne-the artist that you’d love to leave with them, what would it be?

Lots of people mention my turn-of-phrase (I am a mad punster), and the heart-on-my-sleeve nature of lyrics and lifestyle, and I love that Juilliard trained classical work into me while downtown gave me an edgy pulse (my band closed CBGBs). One of my favourite artists and friends, Aussie’s own Lionel Bawden, described me in text today as “the blazing core of the Earth’s fire, and also the fragile torn heart of the cosmos.”  He knows me pretty well.  I’d love to open hearts and minds; just so I don’t leave them in the same place that I found them, that’s great by me.

Your career is one that has had so many great high points and collaborations – how would you describe your network of friends and musicians in terms of being a thriving and supportive creative community? 

Over the past several years of touring and performing together, my collaborators and co-conspirators have become my “logical family” (coined by Armistead Maupin).  I run the art by them first, and we plant ideas over nightcaps that grow into things beyond our imagination. Alan is my musical husband, Meow and I refer to each other as brother and sister, and Neil Gaiman gave me his love poems to Amanda Palmer to set — maybe we could come back to Oz next year to premiere them? Amanda wrote a lot of her book at my house (we call in the kibbutz), Jake Shears and I put together a Dolly Parton medley there with Kylie… It’s a factory of sorts with a massive Oz contingency staying and creating.

Likewise, Virginia Hyam brought all of us out from New York first and continued to champion us from Sydney Opera House and beyond. Steinway has also been incredibly supportive, allowing me to compose on their pianos in London this year. There is more pressure on artists in the current climate, and my friends are the first to talk me up or talk me down, to quote a lyric from Drew Brody’s and my song, “Wingman”.

Home is more of a concept than a location in our community, and so the high points are my friends themselves, and the shared memories we have from the far-flung adventures across the globe.

In terms of First Things Last, can you talk us through the process of the making of this album a little bit – how long had you spent generating the initial ideas for the project and has the final result mirrored whatever initial outcomes you’d had in the beginning?

Looking back, it was an incredible feat of timing, a major endeavour as my first album.  We recorded it in four cities  with over a dozen guest singers, a jazz band, and a string quartet in 12 days – London, New York, Cambridge, and LA. The generating spans my compositional life— the title itself is a Sondheim-esque puzzle, in that there’s a hidden track at the end of the very first piece I ever wrote.

Songs range from one-offs from planes (most of my music comes barreling down during plane rides or fully forming in the last dreams of the night) to first looks at upcoming musicals of mine, especially The $trip and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.  I asked my favorite performers from West End, Broadway, and TV if they would be up for singing a song— when everyone said yes, there was no way I would let some logistics stand in the way of a good musical party.

Each artist picked the song that resonated with them most (I remember wrestling with Cheyenne Jackson over “Strange Bird”, and I’m glad he won. He really nails it on the album), and timing lined up with my performance schedule in the cities at play with just enough days to jump in with the artists. Thanks to Kickstarter (I’m still getting a few special people their rewards— hang tight and thank you!), we were able to afford Abbey Road in London, and that kicked the entire project up a notch emotionally.

The final result is a travelogue, and feels more original cast album than singer-songwriter ‘and-then-I-wrote’. The cover photo is by track 10’s Al Silber, snapped against the fire exit to the New Amsterdam, and the back cover by Meow Meow from a taxi in Shanghai.

What are you most proud of, when it comes to this new collection of music and what is your favourite part of being able to bring it to audiences?

There’s this song called “American”, which has a life of its own. Lewis Oswald from Sydney designed beautiful shirts with the lyrics on it and Alan and I have sung it around the world, in many places that are very resistant to its message. I grew up closeted in the conservative American West with my ear glued to the stereo for signs of community and inclusion and I hope this collection of music can pay forward some inspiration in these truly difficult times.

After this weekend’s mass murder hate crime in Orlando, I turned the Adelaide playlist upside down, deciding to start it with “American” and premiere a new song that I wrote today. My favourite part will be singing much of this material publicly for the first time, and the inevitable discoveries that come with that, especially while getting to collaborate with an Aussie band – Paul Butler & Jacqui Finlay. Australian artists have a certain presence that makes working here so special – maybe it’s in the water?

I should really just move here, already.

Can you describe how your live shows have changed with this new record in mind (if they have significantly) – what do you look for in an entertaining and engaging live performance?

Touring non-stop the past few years with a vast array of artists has really sharpened my ability to sense the emotional temperature in the room during a performance, so this album release will be much more personal, and will be the last release for this album, so it will also be an emotional night.

We began at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series, played the Garrick in the West End (Graham Norton hosted and I learned so much from him that night), and it’s culminating in the most elegant way here in Adelaide, just as the next album is emerging. I look for moments that are inevitable and yet still surprising. Marilyn Maye, Alan, Margaret Cho, Queenie, Liza, Kiki & Herb, this trumpeter named Riley Mulherker, Paul Capsis.

How is the rest of 2016 shaping up for you – is it looking to be a heavy touring year?

It certainly is. This week’s shows kick off a touring season that lasts through next April.  Alan and I take our Sappy Songs to Edinburgh Festival, sandwiched by US tours, and we are writing and premiering a new work for the Met Museum in December.

I’m doing live performance out at Burning Man again, exploring options on how to get back here for Tropical Fruits at New Years, and working around studio time with Jake Shears on a new music project we’ve been devising in New Orleans. I have an opera cooking for LA Opera, an Anne Rice musical in development and a residence at Public Theater next season with four new shows at Joe’s Pub.  Thank you, Adelaide, for starting the season off with a bang!

Lance Horne performs at the Banquet Room at the Adelaide Festival Centre on June 19th. Find out more about tickets and the event HERE.

Image: JD Urban