Tracy Newman [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And once again, it is so great to be back and sharing some wonderful words with you all. Today we have an absolutely wonderful guest gracing our digital pages. It’s Tracy Newman! I was initially intrigued to have Tracy on the site based on my love for comedy and comedy writers specifically. I was previously aware of Newman’s work as an acclaimed writer in the world of television. Emmy Award winning, and with an obvious eye for proper good entertainment, I happened to notice that one day it just…..stopped. I was intrigued to say the least. Her credits dissipated over ten years ago. How could this be? What happened to the co-founder of the beloved Groundlings Improv Theatre? Well, what I would learn was not astonishing at all, it was actually insanely exciting.

Turns out, Tracy is even more talented and multi-faceted than I previously knew! It turns out, she did not simply dissipate into thin air. Not by a long shot. Tracy returned to her original passion….music. And let me tell you folks, she is damn good. Seriously, I have listened to her second album with the Reinforcements, I Just See You front to back more times than just about anything in recent months. It’s incredible.

And as time progresses, Newman only continues to thrive. It certainly appears that there isn’t much in the world of arts and entertainment that this insanely powerful can’t NOT do. And that is just one of the reasons that we are so excited that she decided to take some time out of her life to answer a few questions with us here today. So with that, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Tracy Newman!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something you had wanted to do since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I’m not sure I ever thought about it. When I was about 8 years old, I liked to sit in a rocking chair and sing along to Judy Garland and various Broadway show albums. When I sang with Judy, I’m sure I was shouting, but I loved it. At 14 I started learning chords on guitar… I had cousins who were in the 1950s folk scene in LA. We had hoots in my garage… my parents weren’t into it, but they were generous with the space. After high school, I went to the U of A and met a lot of folk singers, like Bud & Travis, and a guy named Michael Cooney. I really learned a lot more guitar and songs hanging around them. I did radio shows and busked on street corners in Tucson. I got good. When I came back to LA, I hung around The Troubadour a lot, and got to know everyone. I don’t know when I decided I wanted to perform.

I just drifted into it. People would ask me to play somewhere, and I never said no. I was not a great singer or guitar player, and not a particularly great entertainer, but I was completely myself and comfortable on stage, which appealed to audiences. I was given a lot of opportunities to succeed in show business, which I consistently screwed up. After I started singing in coffee houses and small clubs and traveling with Hootenanny ’63 (we played every major concert hall in the country, twice, that year, including Carnegie Hall,) I think I was officially hooked.  I went to New York in late 1964 to become a “star.”

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work to date?

I guess Hootenanny ’63 was my first real paid gig. Like a salary and traveling expenses and a per diem. Also, I played clubs like The Golden Bear and made a bit there, too. And at one point, Barry McGuire and I were a duo and played a Mexican restaurant in Westwood, called El Toril. (This was before the Christy Minstrels and Barry’s big hit record, “Eve of Destruction”.) I think we got paid, but I don’t really remember. In New York, I actually worked for money all the time. I played The Bitter End a lot, and a midtown bar/restaurant called Tobo’s, for about 6 months, 6 nights a week. I was paid there. I got $30 a night, plus tips from customers. Also, I did a PBS show for children on an existing series called What’s New. I don’t think I got paid, but the shows did well. You can find those on YouTube in black and white.

I learned so much during my 2 years in New York. Especially from doing that PBS series, I really learned the show biz edict “the show must go on.” Each show was half an hour and I had to memorize the whole thing, plus camera cues. The director didn’t want to do any edits, (Brooklyn College TV class,) so if I made a mistake 25 minutes into the show, we started over! That only happened once.

Many other exciting things happened during my time in New York, but that’s it for now. I’ll just say that many things had to do with the following: Ed McMahon and the Tonight Show, Bert Knapp, David Fisher, Tim Rose, Rodney Dangerfield, The Improv on 44th and 9th, etc.

 

 

In doing a bit of research for this interview, I managed to check out your album A Place in the Sun, and I have to tell you that it is FANTASTIC. You can now consider me a fan of the songs of Tracy Newman. With that, I noticed that you went full on into the world of music while According to Jim was becoming a hit series. So what primed the drastic change? What made you decide it was time to follow your original dream?

First of all, thank you for your comments about my first CD! As for leaving TV to do music – My partner John Stark and I had been writing TV from about 1989 to 2002 and I was burned out. We had had a great run, but it was time for me to move on. John is 10 years younger than me, so he still had a lot of energy for it, but I really missed playing guitar, writing songs and performing. After we created According to Jim, and it got picked up, John knew I wanted to quit TV writing, so we decided I would wait until the show went into syndication, so my future might be financially secure for a good deal of time. I knew I wouldn’t make any money doing music. I was 62. But it felt so good to get on stage at the Kulak’s Woodshed Open Mic, in front of 10 people and a dog, and sing my little heart out for no money. It was a relief. I was scared to death to perform, but at least I was risking something and felt very alive. I hope I’m making sense here.

If you were to create a new dramatic series about the founding of the Groundlings Improv Theatre, who would you cast as the key figures?

I wouldn’t do it, but  I guess the key figures would be Gary Austin, Tom Maxwell and me. Plus my sister Laraine, Archie Hahn, Phyllis Katz… oh my God, a whole slew of brilliant improv people. I don’t know. I would just be overwhelmed! The current members of The Groundlings main company are so amazing. I’m sure I could cast most of the show with them. I’m so proud of my part in the creation of The Groundlings. I love being a “founding member!”

 

 

We always like to ask our statue holding friends this one particular question: Where do you keep your Emmy? And does its physical location have any sort of symbolism or purpose?

I have bookshelves on each side of my downstairs TV. I keep the Emmy (and my Peabody Award) and a few pix of my daughter and now my grandson, to the right of my TV. I’m not sure about symbolism, but it seems like the right place.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Tracy: I have a company called Run Along Home which is about music for children. So far, I have released three CDs – I Can Swing Forever, Shoebox Town and Sing with Me. My producer is Edward Auslender, and the COO is Leanne Summers. The CDs are available on all major platforms. You can say “Alexa, play Tracy Newman songs,” and you’ll get all of my songs for kids. For my adult songs, you have to ask for Tracy Newman and the Reinforcements. I love Alexa! And Siri, too!

Ron: What was the last thing that made you smile?

My grandson. During this COVID-19 self-quarantine time, I haven’t always been able to see him. He’s two-and-a-half. So, the other day, I got to hang out with him at his house all afternoon. At one point he came running to me yelling “I’m so happy! My Nana is at my house!” That made me smile, to say the least.

 

 

Check out more music and other works from Tracy Newman from her WEBSITE.

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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