Call Redialed: NEW Will Reynolds Interview: New Music, New Concert + 2018 Fred Ebb Award
It’s been seven years since my last interview with composer Will Reynolds, so his upcoming debut at Birdland Theater seemed like the right time to catch up!
In the past seven years, Will has been busy working on several new musicals & became the recipient of the 2018 recipient of the Fred Ebb Award, which recognizes excellence in musical theatre songwriting by a lyricist/composer or songwriting team that has not yet achieved significant commercial success.
At his Birdland concert, Will will be premiering all new songs, including selections from his musicals RADIOACTIVE and THE VIOLET HOUR (recently developed by MTC), written with collaborator Eric Price. Special guests include trumpeter and Birdland favorite Benny Benack III, Broadway stars Kirsten Anderson (MY FAIR LADY), Aisha Jackson (FROZEN), Adam Kaplan (A BRONX TALE), and soul singer-songwriter Chris Ams (FAVORITE STATES band).
Will’s Birdland (315 West 44th Street) debut takes place this Monday, March 11 at 8:30pm. Click here for tickets!
1. It's been seven years since our last interview together. Back then we were talking about Love Story and a concert of your own music POEMS and MOON SONGS, presented by Libra Theater. What has changed for you the most in these seven years? Oh my, that can’t be right. :) There’s been a lot of changes, but the biggest thing is that I’m now a married man. I actually had just met artist/singer Chris Ams back when we did our first interview, and we got married two years ago this month. We are finally getting around to going on our honeymoon. Better late than never!
2. Speaking of your own music, on Monday March 11, you are premiering an all new show at Birdland Theater. What made now the right time to showcase your new music? Beyond my work from musicals I’m developing, I’d been collecting a growing set of stand alone tunes, and they finally hit that critical mass where I actually started to feel unproductive because there was this backlog of work that had yet to be shared. I’m also looking to (finally) put out an album, so it is time to start testing material!
3. What excites you about this upcoming concert? So many things. If I could pick one, it has to be collaborating with trumpeter Benny Benack III. I’ve never had a jazz artist solo on my work, so this is incredibly meaningful for me. We had an incredible session this week and I can’t wait to share what we’ve got cooking.
4. What is making you nervous? It's Birdland! A legendary venue I've always dreamed of playing. Plus, when I say "New Songs," I really mean ALL new songs. It's exhilarating that they've never been heard by an audience before, but definitely a little nerve racking!
5. One thing I want to highlight is that in 2018 you won the Fred Ebb Award which recognizes excellence in musical theatre songwriting by a lyricist/composer or songwriting team that has not yet achieved significant commercial success. What was the first thing to come out of your mouth when you found out you won the award? My collaborator Eric Price and I had been calling back and forth one night in early November working on something for our upcoming reading of THE VIOLET HOUR with Manhattan Theater Club. He’s uptown, I’m in Brooklyn, so we do the majority of our writing together “long-distance.” I had just gotten off the phone with him, and two minutes later he calls again saying we’ve won the Ebb award. I think the first thing I said was “You’re joking and that’s not funny.” And I actually didn’t believe him until I had spoken with the amazing folks at the Ebb Foundation myself. He was not joking.
6. How do you feel this award will help advance your career? Two very tangible/immediate things - one, I was able to buy a new piano, as I’d be playing on the same keyboard I’d had since COLLEGE. The piano is now named Fred. Second, the Ebb Foundation has partnered with Manhattan School of Music, and in April they will be doing a month long workshop of our show RADIOACTIVE, directed by Sammi Connold and choreographed by Emily Maltby.
7. What's the most challenging part about being a songwriter? Since it’s been seven years since POEMS & MOON SONGS, I’d say my biggest challenge is matching the commitment to the creation of work to the commitment to sharing it. I’d so much rather keep writing. It is another set of muscles to continue to put it out there.
8. Has there been a time you thought about giving up? If so, what kept you going? All the time. NYC is tough. Show biz is tough. Balancing a handful of different jobs to make it all work is tough. I’ve recently taken a big step into my work as a teaching artist and am on faculty at Pace University. Coming to work with these young artists every week, being able to pass this art form down one hand to the other, that makes it all worth it. Also, when I just shut off all the things the bleep and buzz and just make music for myself…that absolutely fills up the well.
9. In our interview seven years I asked who you wanted to work with. At that time you had said Stephen Sondheim, whom you got to work with the following January. What that experience everything you dreamed it would be? A quick story. During our sitz-probe (the first time the actors sing with the orchestra), Sondheim pulled me to side after I’d sung my featured moment in “The Flashback.” On the fly, he changed a note in the melody. It showed off more of my falsetto, and made the character, as he said, more “poisonously sweet.” That change was put into the show, was captured on our cast album, and though it is a single note in his body of work, I’m a part of it’s story. If you had told high school Will that story, he would have said “you’re joking and that’s not funny.”
10. Now I want to know, who do you hope you get to write music for/who have you already gotten to write music for that makes you just smile so wide? In 2013 I got a call from Broadway conductor extraordinaire Andy Einhorn that he’d introduce a few of my songs to a certain singer and that certain singer would like to record one of them for her album. That singer was Audra McDonald, and the song was “Tavern,” which is from POEMS & MOON SONGS and is a text by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was in the studio when she recorded it, and got to hear her sing it live on tour. She introduced me to the audience that night, and again, it is another major case of “you’re joking and that’s not funny.”
More On Will:
Will was most recently seen in THE DAY BEFORE SPRING at the York Theater. He can also be found on your favorite streaming device as Frank Churchill in EMMA (www.streamingmusicals.com). Additional acting credits include: DADDY LONG LEGS (Off Broadway, directed by John Caird), PASSION at Classic Stage Company (directed by John Doyle, cast album on PS Classics), Tony Kushner’s THE ILLUSION (Signature Theater, directed by Michael Mayer), EMMA at the Old Globe, LOVE STORY at the Walnut Street Theatre, BIG RIVER at Goodspeed, A ROOM WITH A VIEW at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue, and the North American Tour of MAMMA MIA! Film: THE GOOD SHEPHERD (directed by Robert De Nero).
Will is the composer/creator of THE GREENWOOD TREE (based on the Sonnets by Shakespeare), recently developed by the Stratford Festival in Canada. His song cycle POEMS & MOON SONGS has been produced as part of the Lincoln Center Songbook Series, and the song “Tavern” (text by Edna St. Vincent Millay) was featured on 6-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald’s album GO BACK HOME. Will is the arranger and music supervisor for STU FOR SILVERTON (music by Breedlove), first seen at the Intiman Theater in Seattle (with an exciting update soon to be announced.) Will was a Dramatists Guild Fellow and is a Carnegie Mellon School of Drama alum.