Singer-songwriter Julie Gold’s recent performances at the Duplex feel more like an intimate party in her Greenwich Village apartment than a cabaret in this downtown landmark. But a cabaret is what Gold delivers as she casts a 90 minute spell over the crowded room from her perch at the piano.
Best known for her Grammy Award-winning song “From a Distance,” Gold’s voice is rough and warm, and often likened to Carole King. Gold’s singular talent lies in backing up her vocals with an effusively charismatic stage presence. She knows how to make an audience verklempt.
Setting the theme of “Love and Everything in Between,” Gold opened with a song she wrote just days before the show, “Love is Love.” Between sets, she says hello to familiar faces, chatting away as if she was doing lunch with the entire crowd—“Where were you at the gym today?” “Remember that time when we saw the geese cross on the Pier?”
Gold invites a special guest to sit in on each of her shows, like the Academy Award-winning a cappella group, The Accidentals, singing their hilariously catchy medley of “White Christmas” and “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
GO: Tell us about your latest gig. Why did you choose the Duplex?
I love the Duplex because it’s within a half mile from my home, and every single song I perform was written within a few blocks from there. I live in the Village. I work in the Village. My people are in the Village. And my inspiration is in the Village. I start with about seven songs and then I introduce a special guest that I’m proud to say is not only a talented person, but also a friend. It’s short, it’s sweet and hopefully it’s a love-fest.
Your latest song is called “Love is Love.” You’ve said the title rattled around in your brain for a while, but it wasn’t until March 29 when the “Song Gods” visited you. What is that experience like?
I was in bed trying to sleep, and I had been toying with the song. The foundation was there, but not the full house. Then, all through the night, the lyrics came to me. It’s like a beautiful visitation of something magical that is indescribable.
What is love to you? You’ve been with your partner, Laura, for four and half years now…
In 30 seconds I should answer that? It’s a feeling of well being. It’s not a judgmental place on the side of the receiver or the giver. It’s an enveloping cloak that when you wear it, it gives you confidence to walk through the world. I waited a lifetime to meet my mate…I’m only half a person if she’s not with me in spirit or real time. It’s a lonely place if she’s not with me.
As a seasoned songwriter and teacher of such, what advice would you give to those pursuing their dream writing songs?
Look, if there was a formula for songwriting, everyone could do it. The fact is there is no method. What I’ve always taught my students to do is to take the most scenic route—musically and lyrically. I truly believe that a good lyric can stand alone and a good melody can stand alone and together they are a dynamic duo. Hopefully they take a person from point A to point B on a very scenic and life-enhancing journey. So, what I always encouraged my students to do is write, write, write. If you’re taking the time to put pen to paper and you want people to listen, then care must be given.
If you had to put together a soundtrack of your life, what songs would you include?
I don’t think there is a song that defines my life. There are songs that I can’t live without: “Song of Bernadette” by Jennifer Warrens; “Across the Universe” by the Beatles; “The Star Spangled Banner.” I also love “Climb Every Mountain” from the Sound of Music.
What’s the story behind your Grammy-winning song, “From a Distance?”
I wrote that in December 1985. At the time I was working as a receptionist at HBO. I took a day off because the piano I used to play when I was a child was being delivered to my studio apartment as an early birthday gift from my parents. I couldn’t wait to play it, but I was told that since the piano had sat on a cold truck and was like a brick of ice, I couldn’t play it for a day. So, for 24 hours I just sort of hugged it and polished it. At that time I had a loft bed. I had to go up a steep ladder and all night long I looked down on my piano. The next morning I came down the ladder, sat at my piano and wrote “From a Distance.” Once it was finished, I kissed the piano keys (a ritual she still practices today) and said, “I wonder if that’s the last song I’ll ever write.”
Nanci Griffith was the first person to record the song, but it was Bette Midler’s recording in 1990 that made it a worldwide hit. The song went on to become an anthem during the Gulf War, ending at number 2 on the Billboard Top 100 Charts…
You know it’s number two! Let’s put it this way. [Number one] would be one more credential that I would love to say, but it was number one on the Adult Contemporary Charts for many, many weeks. I don’t feel cheated, but let’s face it, number 2 is number 2!
What’s it like when you go to a Bette Midler concert and hear her sing your song?
It is out of body! Those are the only words I can come up with. The last time I saw her at Madison Square Garden, they lit the whole audience during the song, and everyone was so into it. I was just sitting there, way up in the bleachers, and I thought, “Did this really happen? Can I really say that this is my song?”
You were born and raised in Philadelphia, moved to New York in 1978, and have been here ever since. What is it about this city?
I adore the diversity. I love that I can ride the subway and be on a car with every ethnicity, every sexual preference, every age and every aroma. I don’t have to travel the world; I just have to take the subway. I love that if I wanted to go out at four in the morning to buy flowers, I could do it. I love that I could be standing on a street corner, waiting to cross, and next to me can be a ballerina or Pulitzer Prize winner. I know the energy of this city is brought here mostly by the people who bring their big dreams here.
Any plans for your fourth CD?
As I write the songs, I make relatively good demos. Right now I’m collecting. When I feel like I have enough beads to string a necklace, I’ll do that.
What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve ever had to learn in your life?
I guess the hardest is when people don’t turn out to be what you had hoped they would be. I’m talking more about business than relationships. But, I think at 52, my hardest lesson is having said “no” to things. I would not advise anyone to say “no” to anything. Say “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way.
And what are you the most proud of?
I love music, and I feel so lucky to have been able to make a life out of the thing that I love the most. I count my lucky stars every day that I can sit at the piano and make music. It’s never lost its luster. It never will.
For more information and tickets, visit www.juliegold.com.