Interview with Monica Chapman

Monica Chapman: Jazz Vocalist

Monica Chapman released her new album in January, 2015 titled P.S. I Love You! on itunes, CD Baby and Amazon, produced by the multi-talented, Juno award-winning producer/arranger/pianist Bill King, featuring world-renowned trumpeter William Sperandei. She is honoured to have Dave Young on side (Juno award-winning bassist and band leader who played in Oscar Petersons’ great trios).

Bill assembled an A-list of renowned players on this album including Bill himself on piano, Mark Kelso-drums and Nathan Hiltz-guitar. Bill made stunning arrangements for each song,recorded at Inception Sound Studios in Toronto and engineered by the briliant Michael Haas.

This new album received rave reviews in New Canadian Music, Cashbox Canada, Wholenote Magazine, Earshot Magazine, Canadian Jewish News, Journale De Montreal and many more. It has also been featured on various programs on CBC such as: Ontario Morning, The Sunday Edition, Fresh-Air and Here and Now. Monica Chapman had a great CD Release at Lula Lounge, April 24th; is singing at Relish Bar and Grill as part of the T.D. International Jazz Festival, June 27th; appearing on CHCH T.V. Morning Show, July 24th; Manhattans Music Club, Sept. 19th and the famous Jazz Bistro, October 18th with her superb band. Her new album made it in the top 100 on the Itunes Jazz chart.

Monica is inspired by such legends as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Cleo Laine, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and Carmen MacRae but makes the music she sings very much her own. Her voice is distinct and unforgettable.

Monica was born in Romania and came to Canada with her family at the age of nine, at which time she began to study piano. She attained her degree in Piano Performance (A.R.C.T.) and voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from York University.

Her early interest in musical theatre led to a role with the Toronto Operetta Theatre Company in their production of The Widow in 2004, and performed at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto under the direction of Bill Silva. She also appeared in several musical variety productions in Toronto and across Canada.

….From Classical Music to Musical Theatre….

Monica has evolved into a jazz performer over the past eight years and she appears in venues throughout Canada.

Currently, she is working on her next album with Bill King.

MONICA CHAPMAN, P.S. I Love You Release at Lula Lounge,April 2015.    Photo Credit Randall Cook

Jessica Gilbert: Monica, it’s great to have you back in my special Mother’s Day edition of TSM!

Monica Chapman: I’m thrilled, delighted and honored that you have selected me to be part of your special Mother’s Day edition. Thanks for inviting me back, it’s always a pleasure.

Jessica Gilbert: Since I last interviewed you here, so many great things have happened with you, including the release of two albums! At the time of our interview, you only had Hearts Desire released. Since that you released your debut jazz album But Beautiful, which was a great success in terms of reviews, interviews and airplay worldwide. And at the beginning of this year you released P.S. I Love You! that has already taken off to a really great start.

Monica Chapman: The first album did very well with airplay on CBC, BBC, Jazz FM and worldwide. However, this album is doing all that and more. It’s really being well received with great enthusiasm, as in airplay on BBC, CBC, Jazz FM and wonderful reviews.

Jessica Gilbert: Tell us about the process of making your album P.S. I Love You!

Monica Chapman: It was a year in the making, just like with But Beautiful, and worked very closely with Bill King.

I selected all the songs myself, except the song “Moanin Low.” Lena Horne sang it on her first album at the age of nineteen. I chose songs that really spoke to me and had a great impact on me. It’s a variety of styles – from New Orleans to Bluesy ballads, to Latin rhythms. It’s really great to have this mix on the CD. A couple of the songs, like “I Love A Piano” and “Shaking the Blues Away” had always been with me ever since I came to Canada at the age of nine as an immigrant with my parents. I always loved the great musicals with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Debbie Reynolds, Doris Day, etc. The song “I Love A Piano” and “Shaking the Blues Away” are both Irving Berlin tunes, one of my favorite composers.

I first heard “I Love A Piano” on Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. That song always remained with me growing up, I never forgot it and it was a part of me. Then when I got together with Bill King – producer, pianist, arranger and mentor, he was the one that helped me find my Jazz voice because I come from classical musical theatre background. I knew this would be a perfect song for more reasons than one – it suited him, and I always loved it and makes me so happy. Bill arranged it in a New Orleans style, which makes it uniquely our own. It really turned out well.

I chose “P.S. I Love You” to sing as a love letter to my very supportive husband Larry, who is responsible for my getting into Jazz. And then, of course, another favorite is “From Russia With Love” because that’s my all-time favorite James Bond movie. It got high praise on BBC, where it was played recently, and on other shows too.

Every single song has special meaning to me and is a favorite, that’s why I chose to have them on this album. Every song is doing well because radios are selecting many of the songs recorded, which tells me that they are being as much appreciated and enjoyed as I do.

P.S. I Love You! cover B&W first photo and this CD album cover by Bill King

Jessica Gilbert: How did you select the album cover and title?

Monica Chapman: The picture came from Bill King that I absolutely loved. It invited me in and like a story within a story. If you look, it’s a French cafe with the cobble stones and an accordionist playing in the front and the lights. Everything about it drew me in, and the instant that Bill posted it from his Paris trip last year, I asked him if I could use it for the album cover. So, he said sure.

As for the title…Bill had recommended we use P.S. I Love You as the title (he has always been talented with song sequences), and also because I sing it with special meaning to my husband Larry – it made sense to call the album P.S. I Love You!

Jessica Gilbert: How did your CD release party go?

Monica Chapman: It was amazing! There was so much love in that room that I can’t describe. I was so happy and grateful to have my friends and family surround me, plus new and old fans, and people came from all over. It was a packed house, and the musicians made it so special for me because it was so superb. Every song was sung with all my heart and passion.The audience responded right back to me, and at the very end of the show I got a standing ovation. That was truly such an honor. It was such a great night!

CD Release for P.S.iLoveYou at Lula Lounge,April 24,2015._1Photo Credit Randall Cook

Jessica Gilbert: How did you initially connect with Bill King?

Monica Chapman: Good question. It was five years ago since I’ve been working with Bill King. My husband and I have known about Bill even before he and I got together. We’ve known him for about ten years through shows. He had a group called Divas, some original and young ones. Larry and I went out to see his Divas on a few occasions, and we were very impressed. At the time, I thought nothing about connecting with him because I wasn’t really thinking about Jazz. Although, my husband Larry started introducing me to Jazz, even as far as ten years ago. However, I was still musical theatre back then.

Larry strongly encouraged me to sing Jazz because he felt I had a perfect voice suited for it as he saw great potential. He exposed me to Jazz and I took a liking for it, and therefore wanted to try it. So, Bill was on Facebook as well, and so connected there. I told Bill that I would like to learn more and would he coach and mentor me, and show me the way. So, he listened to my EP Hearts Desire and he saw some great potential there, and was interested in working with me. He sensed that I had something worth developing.

And here I am five years later with two CD’s and am a hard worker. He is an excellent mentor, and exposed me to a lot of Jazz icons – gave me CD’s to listen to and books to read. He really educated me in Jazz and am really grateful to Bill. I’m really excited about everything that is happening as a result.

Jessica Gilbert: You also sing so beautifully in French and love you singing in that language. Where did you learn French and how many languages do you speak?

Monica Chapman: I went to French school in Israel, was three and a half when I moved there from Romania. I grew up in Israel for six and a half years, and my parents enrolled me in a French school because it was the best school in the country. It was run by nuns that were hired by the government to teach at that school, and it was the most idealistic environment you could ever imagine. It would be wonderful if our world would be like that because people of all different religions came to that school, and everybody respected one another. Wouldn’t it be nice to have our world respect and love no matter what color or religion we are – it’s the beauty of the person that shines from within. So, that school had a great impact on me. So, of course, I learned to speak French fluently at a very young age.

I didn’t speak a word of English before I came to Canada. I spoke three languages before English, and that was all under the age of nine. I spoke Romanian at home with my parents, although wasn’t schooled in Romania since I left very young. Then I learned Hebrew, language of Israel, and then French in school. Then when I came to Canada I learned English from scratch in Grade four at school in Montreal.

I have a knack for learning languages, just like music. It comes easily to me…languages to me is like learning music. So, once you can speak four, you can easily learn more. I picked up Italian in university and learned German in high school, but then hard to practice it after high school as didn’t have any friends who spoke it. I can sing in German, Italian and many languages.

Monica Chapman Black and WhiteJessica Gilbert: Any plans to perform outside Canada? And any particular dream venues anywhere?

Monica Chapman: Well, I did sing in New York at the famous Birdland Jazz Club. I also sung at The Salon there. I have also been invited to sing in Italy and the UK. I would love to sing in some venues in Paris. In fact, Larry and I will be going to Southern France for a vacation in June. There’s a lady that plays me on the radio there, so she’s going to interview me. We’re going to scout out some venues when there because that is the best way. If possible, I’d like to sit in and sing a song with other musicians there. Hopefully, that’s how I’ll get to meet people and then next time get booked in.

I would love to be part of the Montreal Jazz festival, as my dream is to be included there.

Jessica Gilbert: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Monica Chapman: Please check out my newly updated website at: www.monicachapman.net that also includes all my upcoming events. I have to say that the best reward I can receive is having been booked recently at the Jazz Bistro – it’s famous and the best venue in Toronto with people coming there from all over the world to perform there. I will be singing with my full band at this event. You can also purchase my music at Itunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

Jessica Gilbert: What are you doing for this Mother’s Day?

Monica Chapman: Well, I’m very excited to be going to Toronto, where my son is studying. My kids have moved out on their own. We’re going to get together with my eighty-one year old Mom, and have a big celebration. We’re going to go out to eat with the whole family.

Jessica Gilbert: Happy Mother’s Day, Monica and thanks so much for doing this interview. I wish you continued success with all to come in your bright future ahead.

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