David Yazbek Talks Breakout Songs, Favorite Recordings & The Broadway Revival He's Dying For
April 20th, 2016
by Josh Ferri
Three-time Tony Award nominee David Yazbek heads to Feinstein’s/54 Below for one-night-only on May 4 for a thrilling evening filled with special guests and songs from his albums and shows— old, new and upcoming. Below, BroadwayBox chats with one of musical theatre’s coolest composer/lyricists about some of the landmark songs he wrote for the stage.
Song I Can’t Escape From (It’s Everywhere!)
“Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego" in terms of how many people know it and feel like it was part of their childhood. "Here I Am" from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels pops up a lot at auditions and there are hundreds of videos of girls in yellow dresses singing it with varying degrees of success.
Song That Almost Wasn’t
When I wrote "Invisible" for Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown I really struggled with it. I thought it got bogged-down in telling the story and when I sang the demo I felt like I was speaking well for the character but not pushing the song forward. Then I heard Patti Lupone sing it for the first time and realized that it would work. It needed to be acted correctly. Her recording of it is my favorite recorded version of any song of mine.
Song I Wish I Could Have Another Crack At Now
"It's A Woman's World" from The Full Monty. I'm dying for someone to do a revival so I can revisit that song. I really wanted it to rock but it always sounded "sassy" at best to me.
Song I Wish More People Knew
Well, all of them but let's say "Monkey Baby Hanging On Chicken Wire" from my last album Evil Monkey Man. I listened to it the other day and thought, "Wow, I effectively created a world with this song, musically and lyrically.” It's harrowing and personal and it scares the shit out of me. I think I'll sing it at 54 Below.
Song That Always Brings Me Joy to Hear
None of my songs always brings me joy to hear. But my gold-standard for a song and one that is almost medicine to me is Jobim's "Waters of March", especially the duet version with Ellis Regina. I could listen to it every day and it makes life worth living. I'm going to put it on right now.
Song That Still Moves Me
"Breeze Off the River" from The Full Monty still chokes me up when I sing it live. I wrote it when my son was 7 or 8 and it addressed a lot of the issues I was feeling at the time about being a father and being responsible. There's one line, "Then you jump straight up and you grab the moon/and you make it shine on me" that gets me every time. He's 19 now and I still feel that way.
Song That Was Hardest To Get Right
That question gives me knee-jerk anxiety. Maybe the finale to Women On The Verge which went through several iterations for Broadway and is, now and permanently, a completely different song called "The View From Here". There was something too earnest and "noble" about the earlier version and I always found it a little embarrassing. Even when my collaborators liked it I didn't. And later, we all decided we didn't like it. But I came up with a major-key bolero, with very rich female harmonies for the new song and it really works. Finally.
Cast Recording Of Mine That Was Perfection
Never perfection. Always stuff that could be better. But I do love the new U.K. cast album of Women On The Verge. It's lean and mean and it grooves. It's not out yet but people can hear at least some of it at my website.
Upcoming Project That Really Excites Me
The Band's Visit, with a book by Itamar Moses and directed by David Cromer. It about the universality of Love and Music. It takes place in Israel and deals heavily in Arabic musical idioms and I'm loving what we've got so far. I've written my best musical-theater song for it. Hope it stays in.
Song I Hope to Be Remembered For
I don't want to be remembered for a song. I want to be remembered as "That guy who spontaneously combusted in the middle of a piano solo."
Don’t miss David Yazbek’s one-night-only concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below on May 4.