JP: What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?
FG: Wow, well I love singing, and performing, but also writing songs…so I guess just all of it. I’ve been home a while (not literally, but with my focus on getting kids settled in their various little-kid activities) and not spending time on creativity. That part of me gets mad, and starts rebelling. Have you ever read the Vein of Gold?
JP: I haven’t actually read it, but I’ve heard good things about it. Do you use this book? It’s a book about creativity right?
FG: Yes, it’s a book about how to find the vein of gold running through your life; what’s important to you; what your individual angle on life is, and how you can bring this perspective to others in a meaningful way. It’s a great book!
JP: What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?
FG: Hmm… Well, I guess it’s, again, having the time. And self discipline. I feel like if I give up there will be no one to cheer me on. To make me continue with it… And that scares me. Also the feeling, like, “who needs this anyway, just another singer.” But then I remember a classmate who came up to me at my wedding (this was in Moscow, in Russia–and she was from my acting class) and said “please don’t stop singing. It would be so sad. You make people so glad with your music.” So, that sounds sort of egotistical to tell you, but anyways…that’s the thing I like. But we were talking about discouragement… hmmm
JP: What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc)
FG: I’m working on some songs I would like to record this summer. In fact I plan on recording them. And it’s not a secret. I just have to raise the money, or find it somehow. So I can get a clearer idea of my style to people I have just met.
JP: What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
FG: Um… I did an impromptu version of Summertime at a Russian Orthodox church once, with a band who called themselves a “Crazy Russian Folk Band” (The Red Elvises -JP). They’re cool, though. Or I used to sing very weird lullabies that I would make up on the spot to the kids when we were still living in Moscow. The windows were open, because it was summertime, and it was very hot. But I didn’t realize it. I’m sure the neighbors looked at us weird in the elevator because of that. Although I thought it was just because I was American.
JP: That must have been interesting. Did they look upon you as an outsider?
FG: I felt so. But it was partly my doing. I didn’t know what topics of conversation were accepted, and so I didn’t like to take walks with the local mothers and their baby strollers. Things like that may have made me feel standoffish.
JP: In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?
FG: First of all, I stopped being a music snob after leaving the United States. In Moscow I was listening to the radio. And also it seems that Europe in general doesn’t have this mortal fear of listening to something someone else listens too. And I really enjoyed the Russian Rock style. Sort of a Rockabilly almost. And then I liked the Russian underground (well it wasn’t once I was there) but former underground music like Tsoi, and Grebenchekov. Also Vysotsky. They are sort of classics there for people who like good music.
But then, I started listening to Country because that was one of the only stations that I could pick up when I arrived back in America. Well, and also I really got into the Dixie Chicks. They have more of a Bluegrass feel. Actually I am pretty sure they were a Bluegrass band originally… Anyway, I like different kinds of music,and being Russia, life was hard enough that I didn’t want the hardcore music, but more melodic and bluesey stuff to calm the soul. And I think having kids made me like calm music. When my oldest daughter (who’s 8 now) was –I was pregnant with her, I suddenly started liking Celine Dion. That passed though… thank Goodness, I guess. (laughs)
JP: When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?
FG: Well, I’m writing a few songs right now. Hope I am not jinxing it by telling about it. You know how that goes, if you start talking about a project before it is too formed, it–the energy to create it–sort of dissapates. Sometimes at least. So that’s all I’ll say about that.
JP: As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people…and why do you think that is?
FG: It really makes me appreciate people who write good lyrics. And the courage to do that. I am never sure if the words I wrote down make sense to anybody but me; and when I listen to Bob Dylan or Paul Simon, I realize that they could possibly have felt the same way too. Not to compare myself to them. I just like their lyrics. And I happen to have just read a book about Songwriters. I think it was called Written on the Heart or something like that. Very interesting.
JP: Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)
FN: Wow, that’s an interesting question.i think I like music that’s more different from mine, so I don’t get confused by what I’m writing (note from JP: the rest of this answer was not intelligible due to outside noise)
JP: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?
FG: I like The Klezmatics… their album–what’s it called… Avenue? (note from JP: It turned out that this was the album “Wonder Wheel”) Something… anyway, it’s words by Arlo Guthrie–no, Woody Guthrie–set to their music. From when he converted to Judaism to marry his wife. I guess his father-in-law never accepted him as a true convert, though, in some way. It’s got some beautiful songs like “take off, take off your shoes, this ground you’re standing on is holy ground. ” Or something like that. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
JP: Are you Jewish?
FN: Yes. Well, my mother is, so by birth I am. I was going to church for a while with my husband. I didn’t know anything about Judaism, and I was baptized in the Russian Orthodox church. I like it a lot. But after a while, I started asking questions, and I found myself to be Jewish. And I don’t feel comfortable singing in Church about some things, and drinking the wine. So, I go to Synagogue.
JP: What’s the saddest song you’ve ever heard?
FG: Saddest song… um I don’t know. Maybe the song I sang at my brother’s memorial service. Because my father started crying. And I didn’t expect him to. I’m still sad about that, and don’t want to sing at a memorial service again. Well, maybe I would. But it was with a close relative like that.
JP: what’s the happiest time you ever had in your life?
FG: I think the happiest time I ever had in my life, was… well every time I think that I have a family. My four children. Each one of them; and that they are healthy and happy and wonderful creative people. I love them so much.
–Interview by Jill Pressario, July 2009 by phone in Los Angeles, CA
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