Singer blends music and psychology
Ever since Lucy Kaplansky was in grade school, she dreamed of being a singer.
After graduating from high school in Chicago, Kaplansky pursued her dream in New York, performing at open mikes and occasional gigs.
One year later, Kaplansky switched gears and attended college, only to leave the classroom environment months later to jump-start her singing career. Then she reversed the pattern and returned to college for a much longer stint, earning a Ph.D in psychology from New York City’s Yeshiva University in 1992.
The next five years, Kaplansky put her singing career on hold and threw herself into psychology work: she worked with chronically mentally ill adults in a New York City hospital, at a private substance abuse clinic and in private practice.
Kaplansky periodically dabbled in the music world, however, as friends with record label contracts invited her to join them. She harmonized on CDs, including Shawn Colvin’s Grammy-winning “Steady On,” Nanci Griffith’s “Lone Star State of Mind” and “Little Love Affairs,” and John Gorka’s albums.
After Red House Records President Bob Feldman heard Kaplansky’s solo tapes, the psychologist was back in the music business, this time full-time and for keeps. Red House released her first solo CD, “The Tide,” in 1994 to great reviews, and six months later booking agency Fleming Tamulevich & Associates signed her. The gigs started pouring in; so many, in fact, that Kaplansky had to give up all her psychology jobs in 1997 to make more time for music.
She has zero regrets over the career change.
“I haven’t missed psychology ever. That’s an honest answer. I’m meant to do this,” Kaplansky said. “I can’t imagine going back ever happening. I wasn’t cut out to do that.”
But a Ph.D in psychology does make Kaplansky an expert on explaining why she detoured from her music dream for several years.
“It was a revelation, literally, one day in my own therapy – that the going-back-to-school, being a psychologist was a way of running away from what I really wanted to do, which was to sing,” Kaplansky explained. “I was scared.”
Now, five years into a musical career, Kaplansky is still afraid, albeit to a lesser degree.
“There’s different things that scare me – I have no idea how long this career will last. It’s a very unpredictable way to make a living. I just do it anyway, whatever happens will happen,” added Kaplansky, who “feels lucky every day” for being able to make a living through music.
The New York City resident is grateful for how far musically she has traveled the last few years. This includes performing an average of three times weekly throughout the country and releasing four solo CDs.
Both “The Tide” and her second album, “Flesh and Bone” (1996), appeared on the Gavin Report’s Americana and A3 charts (reaching the Top 10 and Top 20 respectively), and earned honorable mention awards from the Association for Independent Music.
Kaplansky’s third CD, “Ten Year Night,” sold twice as many copies as the first two releases and was awarded the Association For Independent Music award for Best Pop Album in 1999.
Even though music now is her livelihood, Kaplansky could never completely walk away from her doctoral subject.
That’s because she writes about various aspects of the human experience, from love, intimacy and loneliness to regret.
“I don’t know if I could stop thinking like a psychologist,” she stated. “Becoming a psychologist, that training changed the way I looked at the world, affected it globally. I think I have a lot more insight and wisdom of what goes on in people, certainly what goes on in myself. I write about people.”
Her writings just happen to be encased in the Americana genre, combining pop, folk, rock and country.
Currently on a 10-day West Coast tour, Kaplansky will perform solo at tonight’s KVMR nightLIVE! concert at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. She appeared once before in Nevada County in 1996, performing with Gorka.
Tonight, she will share songs from her four albums and newer originals, including “Land of the Living,” which she wrote a few months after 9-11.
That song is an eye-witness account of what New York was like in the aftermath of that infamous day.
“I was in my apartment that looked south to the towers,” Kaplansky recalled. “I saw a lot of it happening. It was incomprehensible, like watching a movie, I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing. Now I look out and see the gaping hole and it’s still hard to take in what happened.”
Kaplansky performed “Land of the Living” on the sixth-month anniversary of Sept. 11 on the CBS-TV “Early Show.”
Ironically, her fourth CD, “Every Single Day,” was released on Sept. 11, 2001, a date which she had innocently been excited about ever since she finished the last song on the CD.
“Weird” is how she now describes the CD release date coincidence.
What’s not weird anymore is how Kaplansky feels on stage.
“I’m excited, it’s fun up there,” Kaplansky said. “It’s an amazing gift to me when people come up to me after a show and say they were moved. I like to make people laugh.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Lucy Kaplansky in nightLIVE! concert
WHEN: Tonight at 8
WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley
ADMISSION: $14. Tickets at BriarPatch, Herb Shop Records, Book Seller and at the door.
BROADCAST LIVE: on Community Radio Station KVMR-FM 89.5.
The history of the building that now houses JJ Jackson’s in Nevada City has a long and storied history.
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