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ENTERTAINMENT Performer David Edelfelt talks risk, new album
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Felicia Darnell
2017-10-31

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Vocalist, cabaret performer and North Side music teacher David Edelfelt will be ringing the release of his new CD better Nov. 3.

Accompanied by Beckie Menzie on piano, Edelfelt will perform songs from his first recorded album in four years. A mix of Edelfelt's characteristic mix of jazz, pop and show tunes, better is Edelfelt's answer to his own personal challenge for himself, which is to look inward for self-improvement and radiate being better outward into the world. The CD also includes a 12-page booklet with every lyric of each song; the booklet itself offering a master class in being better.

Windy City Times: With looking at how this is your first time back in the studio for your first album in four years, how did that feel getting back into the swing of recording?

David Edelfelt: It was wonderful, but it was like, "Oh yeah, I remember how to do this." It was a reminder of how many stages there are in the recording process and how it is to just focus on where you are. I can't be thinking about how I'm going to sing this phrase or that phrase when I'm still working on the arrangement. And I can't be thinking about how the instruments are going to come together when I'm just working on the basic track. It's just a reminder to stay in the present which is a lesson I'm learning over and over again.

WCT: I think that interesting that you bring up lessons, because the theme of [better] and trying to make things better philosophically and literally, what does that mean for you in terms of living in the present and making things better? If your goal is to make things better aren't you living in the future a little bit?

DE: That's a great way to look at it. I certainly understand that. For me, the answer is no. One of the things when I first came up with the concept of the album, certainly when I decided what I was going to call it, at first I worried that the title would be misleading because first of all I certainly never wanted anyone to look at the picture of me on the cover and the word "better" and think "this guy thinks he's better than somebody else of even trying to be. It's not about hierarchy, it's not about competition, and it's definitely not about trying to become the best, or better in the future. It's just what can I do today.

And this is a question I've asked myself for a number of years in various ways. What can I do today to be better? What can I do to be better than I was yesterday? And so it's definitely not about future for me, it's just about deciding in the moment who I am and who I want to be. In the album notes, I make the observation that the word "better" begins with "be," and for me being better or choosing to be better is just always about who do I choose to be today in the moment.

WCT: Well, also the first part of "better" is "bet." Trying to make yourself better and improve yourself is a bit of a risk. How do you feel about balancing risk when you're trying to improve? You could fail and not improve, or be worse.

DE: For me, it's not like that at all. I like to say the stakes are really low. To me, there's no risk because the only risk would be if you're trying to be better than someone else, and failing. The only risk is if you're trying to be the best and if there's some investment in being better than you were and if you're not you fail. For me, it's not like that at all, it's just about "Am I trying?" "Am I making conscious choices?" And since the stakes are so low, it's OK. The concept of better to me is permission to be human. I don't have to be the best. I'm just trying to do a little better, just a little at a time. If somebody's trying to lose 50 pounds in a month, and they don't do it, then that was a risk and they fail. But, if you're just trying to make better choices in your diet and you lose two pounds in a month then you're doing better.

WCT: Is there a special way that you connect the city with your music? Or did you just want to do it here in a big way?

DE: The biggest connection to Chicago with the CD are three composers that are from Chicago, only one of us still live here, being me ( there are two original songs that I wrote ). Two songs that are favorites of mine are written by people who lived and had careers in Chicago for a long time before they split for the East and West [coasts]—the East Coast being Ann Hansen Calloway, who's the composer of the song "At the Same Time" which she wrote in 1987 with the idea that one day Barbra Streisand might record it and 10 years to the date of her writing it, Barbara Streisand did indeed record it.

The other song on the disc is called "Rain, Sun, and Snow" and it's written by a previous Chicagoan named Eric Lane Barnes, and he was a composer and director and performer in Chicago for many, many years and he has moved out to Seattle, where for many years he's been the director of the Gay Men's Chorus out there and very involved in LGBTQ music on the West Coast. I'm thrilled to say that these people who are so gifted and wrote these beautiful songs are friends of mine, and it's such a joy to be able to share the work that they have done, interpret it, give it my own twist.

WCT: How are you hoping listeners will be inspired by your work? Or is that not something you thought about?

DE: Well, one of the things that I have learned in the years I've been performing is that if I'm focused on the result, I'm stilted in my efforts. I've not put this album out with a goal in mind, other than what I try to do with all my art which is to share it and say "Here's what's been a gift to me, and I hope it's a gift to you," and if it is, I'm thrilled. If it's not, that's okay. I'm sure some people will listen to the album and just go "Hey, I like that song" or "Oh, he has a nice voice" and that's fine. And then there are some people who will read the 12-page booklet of lyrics that I spent a lot of money making sure every lyric of every song is written out in this lyric book, because the words are so important.

And I hope there will be people who listen and follow along with the lyrics and really be moved and either learn something, or probably be reminded of something that they already learned once that is in some way something that makes them better. Which can be learning how to receive love, like in "Nature Boy." Or learning that relationships can be messy which is the message of the song "Being Alive." Or, in the song "I Am Changing" the message is we don't do this alone, we need mentors or coaches or guides along the way to change. To me, every song , I don't think there's one song on the CD that does not have a message, at least for me. Maybe not everybody, but hopefully [some listeners] will get the lesson and read along with the lyrics.

Celebrate Edelfelt's new album after four years of writing, resting and seeking clarity at Davenport's Piano Bar, 1383 N. Milwaukee Ave. on Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m .Purchase tickets at DavenportsPianoBar.com .


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