Vivian Sessoms

Vivian Sessoms

Vivian Sessoms‘ singing career started in childhood, singing jingles for commercials. Since then, Sessoms has provided backup vocals for the likes of Joe Cocker, Cher and Pink and been a featured singer alongside a number of notable jazz musicians; all of which has prepared her for today’s career as a successful solo artist. This guest is one dynamic, soulful and sexy singer.

Transcripts

Sandi:                       Welcome to another edition of The 51%, Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein. Vivian Sessoms can sing. Hear for yourself.

                                 [Music playing]

                                 Born and raised in Harlem, music has been part of Vivian’s life for as long as she can remember. It’s in her DNA; her dad was a flautist and percussionist who played with, among others, James Brown. Her mother was a session jingles singer and her great aunt is none other than the legendary Nancy Wilson. As for Vivian, she was singing by the time she started talking and at nine was doing T.V. and radio voiceovers, at sixteen was composing her own music. Sessoms began her professional career in earnest as a background vocalist. Dubbed one of the best in the business, she’s worked with Christina Aguilera, Cher, Joe Cocker, Pink, Patti LaBelle, Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, to name a few. In 2007, as the duo Albright, Vivian and her husband bassist Chris Parks, released a Soul album, Sunny One Day. Today, Vivian is a successful solo artist appearing all over. She’s a regular at Smoke, Jazz and Supper Club and Baz Bar. She recently released a pair of collections. Heart, that’s blues and jazz and Radiant, electronic soul. So, let me just say at the outset that I’ve seen Vivian perform twice and she is fabulous, as you just heard for yourself. There’s a big part of me that thinks we should just bag the conversation and listen to you sing, Vivian; but you know what, that’s not going to happen.

Vivian:                     [Laughing]

Sandi:                       First of all, welcome and I’m so glad that you could come today.

Vivian:                     Thanks so much for having me.

Sandi:                       I read that you viewed your music as the backdrop to your life; it expressed the way you were feeling. How did you know that as a child? What were you feeling way back then?

Vivian:                     I just loved music. I grew up around music and I was extremely interested in everything musical. I had parents who were musicians. As I began to really write in earnest, I just, I kind of was drawn to artists who I think spoke to me or set a tone for things I was feeling, things I was thinking. Also, just musically, there’s just some music that feels good. It feels great, it feels good, it feels like this today or it feels like that today, and I think, as I began to write I began to write with that in mind. Music that can set a mood, not just lyrically;

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     But

Sandi:                       But to also express how you were feeling?

Vivian:                     Yes. It also does express how I’m feeling and I think with everyone, any music that you love and sometimes that you even don’t love; really can express very well how you’re feeling, either lyrically or instrumentally. So, I don’t know if I intentionally set out to write that but I think that when I’m finished sometimes I feel like this feels like a feeling to me. It feels like how I was feeling that day and whenever I hear it I can go back to that place. Not just my own music, but just music that I grew up on takes me to a place sometimes.

Sandi:                       Sure. Well, it’s one thing to grow up in a household with musicians for parents and to appreciate music, and then it’s another thing to have talent.

Vivian:                     [Laughing]

Sandi:                       I mean, so for you, you have this double bonus. How did you know you had talent?

Vivian:                     I still don’t know if I have talent. [Laughing]

Sandi:                       Oh stop. If you had no talent, we couldn’t be bothered with you.\

Vivian:                     But, I just love music that much, that I’m really driven to perform and create. I absolutely, it’s like breathing I think.

Sandi:                       It was like breathing to you back then though, I’m talking about even when you were a youngster.

Vivian:                     That much is true.

Sandi:                       You needed it like you needed food.

Vivian:                     Yes. Yes.

Sandi:                       And you were encouraged by your parents. They weren’t necessarily stage parents, right? They took their cues from you?

Vivian:                     I think my mother became a stage mother, but I don’t think they ever wanted me to go into music. I don’t think they did. I think they wanted me to, I think they really hoped that I would go into something else, and I think that’s because they knew that the music business was very difficult. I just was so, it was so attractive to me that I don’t think that they really could have steered me into anything else.

Sandi:                       Again, and the bonus is, it’s one thing if you want to be a singer and you can’t sing or you don’t have any talent.

Vivian:                     Yeah. Yeah.

Sandi:                       But, here how could they stop you?

Vivian:                     Well, my mother for a while tried to not allow me to do certain things.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Tried to dissuade me; but then I would sneak and go places and do things and then I remember, at one point I came to her and I had said that I wanted; I visited the Amas Repertory Company and I don’t know how I came to visit that. I think I went with a teacher who was, who kind of took me under her wing. She introduced me to this and they had auditions and I just pleaded with my mother for weeks to let me audition for this.

Sandi:                       Explain, what is that?

Vivian:                     Amos Repertory Company was a company that was run by Rosetta LeNoire and it was actually the Eubie Blake Amas Repertory Company. It was in honor of him. It was for adults, young adults and children and they taught piano, acting, dance, and voice or chorus (something like that) as I remember.

Sandi:                       You went there after school?

Vivian:                     I went there during the weekends.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Vivian:                     Every Saturday, all day.

Sandi:                       How hold were you?

Vivian:                     I think I was, maybe, ten.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Vivian:                     I may have been nine. I just really wanted to go, so she finally gave in and let me audition. That was one of the first things I did, but before that, or maybe even around that time; this same teacher, in school we all do plays and what have you, and one of my teachers, Judy Evans, who I became very close to and am still close to today; she sort of took me under her wing. We put on a production of The Whiz, after my math teacher spoke to Judy and said they’re having auditions for The Whiz and you should take Vivian.

Sandi:                       The Broadway Whiz.

Vivian:                     The Broadway Whiz. You should, someone should get her there and audition for the understudy of Stephanie Mills and that was another thing that my mother was really against. I think that actually happened before Amos, but my mother was really against that. I think she thought that Broadway was much too much; but she did finally relent and she took me to that audition. I had several call backs and in the end I didn’t get it because I was really young, but that really kind of fueled me and I was very excited at that point.

Sandi:                       There was no turning back.

Vivian:                     Yeah. I think that was it.

Sandi:                       So, they knew too, that they were just going to have to

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       Obviously they knew that you had talent too, so this was not going to be an exercise in futility, as it were.

Vivian:                     I think it was always a kind of thing of around the house, but it was always this way, so this is why I say I don’t really know or think that I thought I had talent because anytime there was a gathering at my house everyone sat around and sang all night. We sat around and sang and told jokes and it was very lively in my house. It was nothing to be at Christmas and for my grandmother to say let’s sing some songs now, come on Vivian and come on Cadova, which was my mother. Everybody did that, all my aunts and, you know, so to go in front of strangers and be auditioning

Sandi:                       Was no big deal.

Vivian:                     It was a big deal, but it began to make me feel like maybe this would be something that I would want to do, to grow up and do. I always loved music, but now I was beginning to understand that maybe I could go other places.

Sandi:                       Did you see much of Nancy Wilson when you were growing up?

Vivian:                     I did. When I was growing up I saw her all the time.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Yeah. She’s a tremendous influence in my life and of course I was always looking at her and I was always looking at my mother, but I was too young to put together that maybe I wanted to do that, I mean, somewhere inside of me that was going on.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     But then going on auditions began to make me understand, like, wow maybe I could be a singer one day.

Sandi:                       You also obviously learned to play the piano.

Vivian:                     Somewhat. I’m not an accomplished pianist by any stretch.

Sandi:                       But you use the piano to compose your songs?

Vivian:                     I do occasionally I will sit down at the piano to compose a song, but honestly to be honest I don’t really sit down at the piano anymore because my husband plays and he can play guitar or piano.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     If we compose that way, I will usually show him something very basic and then he will really play it.

Sandi:                       And you write the lyrics?

Vivian:                     No, I write music as well.

Sandi:                       Ah Huh

Vivian:                     I will play what it is that I want to show him and then he will just play it much better than me. [Laughing]

Sandi:                       [Laughing] Well, they’re good for something aren’t they? [Laughing]

Vivian:                     They are good for that, at least he is.

Sandi:                       So, you basically began your career as you got older, as a backup singer?

Vivian:                     No. I would say that I began my career doing jingles because

Sandi:                       But that was so young.

Vivian:                     That was at eight or nine. That was after I did that audition.

Sandi:                       But you were still in school.

Vivian:                     Yeah. So, I was doing for years jingles as a kid.

Sandi:                       Sing a jingle. Do you remember one of them you did?

Vivian:                     Hot soups the thing to stay in the swing. It’s part of a teenage life. We’ve got a plan, open up a can and give us the Campbell’s life. {Sandi joins in}

Sandi:                       Alright, we’re on tour together.

Vivian:                     [Laughing]

Sandi:                       I do remember that. Oh, that’s great! So, you had to be rich.

Vivian:                     I don’t know if I was rich, but I made a lot of money and I didn’t understand that, what that meant at that time, but my mother was; she then became a stage mom.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh

Vivian:                     She took my money and saved it and did things with it and so

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Vivian:                     Not rich, but, she had a little fun for me.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh. That’s wonderful. Did you enjoy that? Was that fun to you?

Vivian:                     It was thrilling to me.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh.

Vivian:                     It was absolutely thrilling to me and I

Sandi:                       You’re nine years old and you’re singing a Campbell’s jingle.

Vivian:                     I was nine years old.

Sandi:                       Crazy.

Vivian:                     I was singing McDonalds and Campbell’s and Disney and all kinds of commercials and jingles and I had a, the casting director who I went before for The Whiz is the one who actually sent me on all those jobs. She sent me on jingles and auditions for many years, many, many years; probably until I was about fifteen or sixteen years old, she did.

Sandi:                       Why did they stop?

Vivian:                     She stopped because I sort of became uninterested for a while. I got very…

Sandi:                       You became a teenager?

Vivian:                     Yeah. I became very interested in what was going on at school and all that kind of stuff and I didn’t; I thought, maybe I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.

Sandi:                       Sure. Sometimes even the lure of that kind of success gets pushed aside when, is this boy going to ask me out or whatever.

Vivian:                     Well, it was, yeah, and it was strict too. It was having to learn a lot of things for auditions and things and I didn’t; you know, I wanted to not do that after a while. I sort of moved away from it, just for a short time.

Sandi:                       So, after that, on this path, you move into backup singing. Correct?

Vivian:                     Yes.

Sandi:                       So, how did that happen and who did you first appear with?

Vivian:                     I think the first real tour I went on was for an artist, and I probably was singing backup before this.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Mind you, the very first backup thing that I can remember doing was for Vanessa Bell Armstrong. That’s the first thing that I can remember, but it may not have been the first. The first tour that I went on was for an artist named Grayson Hugh, who I’m still friends with today. That came about because at this point, I had decided to go on amateur hour at the Apollo. I think, if I’m not mistaken, the people who put me on that tour saw me at amateur hour at the Apollo. They came backstage and they said to me, we think you’re talented and we’d like to sign you.

Sandi:                       Mm

Vivian:                     They signed me to a production deal which they were shopping to record companies and another one of their artists was this artist Grayson Hugh. They asked me, when they completed his record, if I would be interested in going on tour with him.

Sandi:                       And how were you, do you remember?

Vivian:                     I think I must have been like twenty-one or twenty-two.

Sandi:                       Alright. Not so, not that young.

Vivian:                     Mm Hmm. That I think was my very first official tour.

Sandi:                       And if you remember, was it just the biggest high or was it the biggest drudge?

Vivian:                     It was a high, but it also, I was green. I didn’t know anything, so it was a huge…

Sandi:                       Scary.

Vivian:                     It was a little intimidating. Everyone there was very seasoned and so it was, but I learned a lot and I made great friends; some of whom I’m still very friendly with today and close to.

Sandi:                       So, you cut your teeth on that one.

Vivian:                     I really did cut my teeth. I really did. It was Grayson’s first tour too. He, as an artist, it was his first tour. He might have done some side things, but it was my first real outing and everyone else there had been around.

Sandi:                       Were you with other singers?

Vivian:                     I was with; I was the only solo singer/background singer, but the other people in the band sang. There was a fabulous keyboardist named Val Ghent, who now plays with Ashford &Simpson, she was on that tour.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Drummer Larry Abberman and some other people that I can’t think of right now.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Most of these people, Val I’m still very much in touch with, Grayson very much so, some of the other people still vaguely.

Sandi:                       And did that lead rather quickly to other gigs and other connections.

Vivian:                     It did. Yes. Yes it did. I think my next, maybe not my next tour, but my next really big tour after that was Keith Sweat: who I grew up with, oddly. That was the first band I was ever in was with Keith Sweat actually, if you can believe it or not.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     That was before I ever went on tour, I was fifteen. A girlfriend of mine, who was older than me was dating one of the guys in the band and said the girl singer in this band just left, you should audition. I asked my mother and again, she was like, no. Absolutely not. Where are you to go? They play in night clubs, you can’t go in night clubs. I was like, maybe if you take me.

Sandi:                       Mm

Vivian:                     I convinced my mother that she should let me be in this band and she had to take me to every gig because I was fifteen.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Vivian:                     On Friday and Saturday, but she would do it.

Sandi:                       [Laughing] That’s crazy.

Vivian:                     Thinking back on this now, because my mother was extremely, I mean, she was really strict; Very strict, like, I wasn’t even allowed to say the word boyfriend. That I had a boyfriend like my other girlfriends at sixteen and seventeen. My mother was like, you don’t have a boyfriend. You have no such thing, and she would take me to these night clubs so I could play with this band.

Sandi:                       And boy, keep a steady eye on you.

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh.

Vivian:                     Until I was about seventeen. I stayed in that band for a longtime but that was before Keith Sweat became famous.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh

Vivian:                     So I was in that band with him.

Sandi:                       We talked before that we’ve both seen 20 Feet from Stardom.

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       The fascinating documentary that looks into the world of the backup singer- it focused on Mary Clayton and Lisa Fisher and of course the incomparable Darlene Love, and you said that it rang true for you too.

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       Talk about that.

Vivian:                     I don’t think there’s any singer in New York who has seen that movie who doesn’t think that, you’re killing me softly right now.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Vivian:                     Singing my life, absolutely.

Sandi:                       Uh Huh

Vivian:                     Absolutely.

Sandi:                       But what was so interesting in that movie to me was listening to Lisa Fisher say, and people loved her and giving her recording contracts or whatever and her saying, I don’t want to be in the spotlight. That’s the whole point of my being in the background.

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       I want to be a background singer. That didn’t obviously ring true for you and do you think it rings true for a lot of backup singers? Is there that desperate need to kind of push up to the front of the stage?

Vivian:                     No. I don’t. I don’t think it’s true for every background singer. I think, for some people, it’s a lot of pressure and it’s a lot of stress. There’s a lot of things that go along with the business that absolutely make it too much of a heartache and too much; it’s just, it can be a lot of anguish.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     You have to really be prepared for that, and I don’t think everyone wants to deal with it and I think for some people, you can still have the beauty of music and performing and the comradery without that part of it if you don’t want that part of it. For some people it could be really just a push to want to be in the front, but I think for some people it’s really that you just have something inside that you really have to say and you have to, you have to find a way to get that out. Sometimes that’s the platform is to be center stage and it sounds, in a way, like it makes you self-absorbed to say that. When you say front and center or center stage, but I think for some people, or maybe it doesn’t sound like that but for some people you really just have something inside of you that needs to come out. I think for all singers that is true, but for some singers it’s in a particular way. Like you need to write and you want to people to hear that or you need to sing a song. You want to perform it a certain way. You have some; you know, a feeling.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     For some people that is less important than just being able to make music period and being around other musicians and singers and that feeds you.

Sandi:                       Is there a dismissive thing about being a backup singer?

Vivian:                     Sometimes, I think so. Sometimes I think that it’s that way for musicians and singers being a side man.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     You know what I mean? I think that really always depends on who you’re working with and the tone that they set.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm. So, you must have had experiences of working for some really great people and then, again, working for some ego maniacs.

Vivian:                     I have. I have. I’ve had experiences of working with people who are absolutely wonderful and make you feel welcome.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     And I’ve had experiences where people make you feel awful.

Sandi:                       And you’re stuck, aren’t you? When you’re on a tour with somebody like that and it’s waking up every day and thinking, I can’t believe that I’m here with so and so.

Vivian:                     It’s a tough call sometimes.

Sandi:                       Do you have a favorite? I won’t ask you who you can’t stand, although we wish.

Vivian:                     Yeah. I could never answer that. [Laughing]

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Vivian:                     But I can say that I have walked away feeling like I can’t stand anyone but there are definitely people who I absolutely adore. I can say, Joe Cocker is someone whom, I absolutely adore him.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     I absolutely adore him. Patti Austin: just lovely, lovely, lovely. Cher was fabulous.

Sandi:                       Really?

Vivian:                     Fabulous to work for. I mean, yeah, just fantastic. People who get it and have made you feel like part of a family and part of something. Patti Austin, for me, is just like a big sister. She’s just warm and hilariously funny. I didn’t work with her; I think I maybe only worked with her once or twice, but Chaka Khan, immediately when you met her, just felt like a big sister.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Vivian:                     Just fantastic.

Sandi:                       But the interesting thing is, if a group of backup singers- I’m guessing because I know nothing about this- usually threes, right? Here are usually three of you?

Vivian:                     Sometimes. Very often it could be two.

Sandi:                       But you don’t come as a package deal, correct? You come from here and this one comes from there, so you’re putting three people together who sound good musically;

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you gel or jive on other levels. I can’t, as I think about it, when it works it must be fabulous; but it may not always work.

Vivian:                     Right.

Sandi:                       You’re living with these people, especially if you’re on tour. It’s not like you can go home.

Vivian:                     But you do have a job, and your job is to make it work. First and foremost is to make it work.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     So, of course, you have people every now and then that maybe it’s awkward, but I have set people that I like to work with and when I’m lucky, I get to work with a lot and that’s very often. In fact, my closest friend in the world, one of my closest friends, Jenny Douglas-McRae, is someone I work with all the time and I’ve worked with her for several artists: with Pink and with Rob Thomas, and we tend to end up together a lot. I have a few singers like Kim Davis who’s now out with Sheik. Jenny’s out with Pink. We work together quite often and people will hire us because they’ve seen with other people.

Sandi:                       Mm

Vivian:                     I have guy friends: Mike Davis and John James, we all; my guy friends who we work together a lot and sound incredible together.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm. Now, you’ve performed as a featured vocalist for the likes of Chris Botti, jazz musicians Herold Mayburn and Peter Martin.

Vivian:                     Right.

Sandi:                       Talk about that.

Vivian:                     Chris Botti, I got recommended to by his guitarist, Mark Wickfield and subbing for his cousin, Asi Smith, who is another amazing singer and she was going to be off doing her own project. The funny thing about that is I; my mother in law called me one year about November and said hey, you have got to see this concert. This guy, Chris Botti, on television; he on channel 13, he’s amazing. I turned it on, I was like, hey I know that guitarist, that’s Mark Wickfield. I was like, I watched that concert and I was just in awe. I said to my husband, wouldn’t it be great if I could work for this guy. This is my kind of music. It’s just; have you ever seen him?

Sandi:                       Yes. I have.

Vivian:                     He’s wonderful. So, I said to my husband, wouldn’t it be great if I could get this gig and a few months later Mark Wickfield was hanging out at a place I was performing and we did some things together and a few weeks later he called me up and said hey, do you want to sing on this Chris Botti gig and I was like…

Sandi:                       [gasping] Oh, really?

Vivian:                     Yeah. Exactly. It was a thrill, it was absolutely a thrill and Chris Botti very often plays with an orchestra, so to be able to…

Sandi:                       Is that dying and going to heaven?

Vivian:                     It is dying and going to heaven. I don’t know if I’ve heard a sound like live strings playing on the stage with you.

Sandi:                       You gave me chills, you really did.

Vivian:                     It’s another, I don’t know if I can really put it into words. It’s extremely moving.

Sandi:                       Visceral, huh?

Vivian:                     It actually just does something to you right here.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     It just gets you in the center of your stomach and you just, I sometimes cannot sing, like I have to breathe and just be like, these strings behind me are killing me.

Sandi:                       [Laughing] Oh, isn’t that wonderful.

Vivian:                     Fantastic. Yeah. Fantastic experience and with Herold Mayburn, another experience. This man is like the funniest, first of all he may be in his seventies, maybe a few years older or maybe and he has these hands, they’re enormous and he just

Sandi:                       Dances up and down the keyboard, huh?

Vivian:                     Jus the gentlest touch.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     I got called to play with him last New Year’s Eve and I said to him, I said Mr. Mayburn, if you want to tell me what you know; and he said, no you just tell me what you know.

Sandi:                       Huh

Vivian:                     Tell me your keys and don’t worry about it. I said well, I don’t know because I pick some funny keys sometimes; just tell me what it is and we’ll do it. Don’t worry about it.

Sandi:                       So, he’s just following you?

Vivian:                     That was it.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Vivian:                     That was it.

Sandi:                       There’s a marriage in that sense, when that happens.

Vivian:                     Yes.

Sandi:                       And you know when it’s working.

Vivian:                     Yeah.

Sandi:                       Just as much as I suppose you know when it isn’t working.

Vivian:                     Just as much. [Laughing]

Sandi:                       Speaking of working, you worked with a guy named Chris Parks.

Vivian:                     Yes.

Sandi:                       Correct?

Vivian:                     Yes.

Sandi:                       So, how and when did the two of you get together? Was it love at first sight? You know, let’s get personal about you and you’re husband.

Vivian:                     No. It was not love at first sight. I don’t know if we really liked each other; and he hates when I tell this story, so I’m glad he’s not hearing, he would say that’s so not true.

Sandi:                       Well, one day ask him.

Vivian:                     One day you’ll ask him.

Sandi:                       Maybe.

Vivian:                     Another mutual friend who’s a musician introduced us, Chris Menolke, Jazz Bassist; we were touring together. When we came off tour, he said I’m recording an album and I want you to sing on it. I said, okay, no problem. I’d just bought my first car and I’d just moved into an apartment when I came off this tour.

Sandi:                       Here in New York?

Vivian:                     It was in New Jersey.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Vivian:                     I had just moved here. I was living in Harlem and I just got my first apartment in New Jersey and I was painting and I just got this car and I really didn’t know my way around that well and I forgot that the session was that day. So, I came over in my paint clothes in my car and I was driving. I was lost for an hour and a half and I got there and I did my thing and I think, Chris was, he was very professional so he was a little

Sandi:                       Little superior?

Vivian:                     Snappy, a little superior perhaps.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Vivian:                     He was a little snappy like I got these other things to do and I got another session coming in and so forth and so on. He’s like, this is what it is and I was like, okay. So, we did the session and

Sandi:                       What year was that?

Vivian:                     That must have been in 1996 perhaps.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Vivian:                     Or something like that. My friend Chris called me up and he was talking about the session and he was, I think you know Chris’s girlfriend, she came home after and we told her that you had been there and she was, oh I know Vivian Sessoms and he was telling me a funny story; he was like, oh yeah, she’s really pretty, and he was like, no not this girl.

Sandi:                       [Laughing] She’s a singer who also works part time as a painter.

Vivian:                     She’s a singer who works as a painter. She paints houses or whatever. Anyway, about a year later, he called me up and said I’m working on this video game and I need voices for it, voice characters and I thought of you, would you be interested in doing this and I said, yeah okay.

Sandi:                       So, this is a whole year later?

Vivian:                     It’s a whole year later, and of course, I wasn’t painting. So, I came and I had on a dress, it was summertime so I remember I had on sandals and a dress and I had my hair up and everything.

Sandi:                       You were looking pretty hot in other words.

Vivian:                     Well, I don’t know if I was looking pretty hot, but I know I came to the door and I rang the doorbell and I saw somebody peek out the blinds and walk away and they never came back.

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Vivian:                     I rang the doorbell again and he came to the door and said can I help you? I said yeah, I’m Vivian and he was like, I didn’t even know who you were, I thought you were selling something, I’m so sorry.

Sandi:                       [Laughing] This is Chris Parks.

Vivian:                     Yes.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Vivian:                     Anyway, we sort of, kind of struck up a friendship and we would; he’d call me for sessions and things like that and in one of those sessions I said I’d like to record an album and I wondered if you’d be interested in working together. He said, yeah, I think so. So, we started exchanging music and talking about ideas and things like that and this went on for about two or three months, we were just sort of trying to get a feel for each other.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Then one day I called him, and no answer. I called him a few weeks later and no answer. This went on for weeks and weeks and then months and then like years.

Sandi:                       Really?

Vivian:                     Over a year I didn’t hear from him and then another year. Then, I got a new phone or an organizer at the time, because we still didn’t have cell phone I think, weren’t so popular, we had them and I was putting all of my numbers into this new organizer and I said, here’s ten numbers that I haven’t talked to these people in over a year, year and a half, two years.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     So, I’m going to call them before I

Sandi:                       Right, before I make them permanent.

Vivian:                     Exactly.

Sandi:                       Yeah.

Vivian:                     I called all these people and he was the last one on the list. I dialed him and he answered. I said, well, live and breathe, Chris Parks.

Sandi:                       Yeah, where the hell have you been?

Vivian:                     That’s exactly what I said. He said, you won’t believe this, but I have just been through all kinds of hell. I broke up with my girlfriend, it was awful, it was really harrowing and I was really messed up for a while so I

Sandi:                       Kind of faded away for a while, huh?

Vivian:                     He said, I went into therapy.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Vivian:                     For a few months, which I couldn’t believe a guy was telling me that they went into; first of all a guy going into therapy and then telling me but I thought it was very together of him.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     Then he said, then I got a call to work on an album in L.A. and I went there and one thing led to another and before I knew it I had worked on four or five albums and I was just there for eight months and I wasn’t here. I know that you called me and I’m sorry and I know I left in a bad way but it was when I was going through that break-up and it was so bad. I just wasn’t in the right headspace, but I still really want to work with you. If you give me another chance we’ll work together.

Sandi:                       Ohh. What a great story.

Vivian:                     I know.

Sandi:                       And the rest is kind of history?

Vivian:                     We went out after that for like two months and then he asked me; I asked him actually, on a date.

Sandi:                       And then?

Vivian:                     Actually I asked him on a date and we went out on a date and that was it. We sort of became best friends and then we were just inseparable.

Sandi:                       Isn’t that wonderful? You literally make beautiful music together.

Vivian:                     [Laughing]

Sandi:                       Figuratively and literally. That’s such a wonderful story.

Vivian:                     It’s kind of a crazy story, but yeah.

Sandi:                       You tour all over these days, right?

Vivian:                     I do.

Sandi:                       Would you say Jazz Smoke and Supper Club is basically your New York City home for performing?

Vivian:                     Smoke does seem to be becoming my home.

Sandi:                       I see that you have a residency here; a term I’m not used to.

Vivian:                     I had a residency there. They’ve been very, very good to me. They’ve been absolutely amazing.

Sandi:                       And you sell out the place, don’t you?

Vivian:                     I sell it out; pretty much, yeah. I maybe have had one table here or there, but it’s amazing. I do three sets, so that’s; it’s tough, but it’s a very well-known and very respected jazz spot.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Vivian:                     It’s also a great neighborhood hang.

Sandi:                       Now, you have several CDs.

Vivian:                     I’m about to release two CDs. My first one will be Heart, which is a jazz CD; and then the second follow-up is going to be Radiant, which is a follow-up to Sunny One Day: that’s something that Chris and I

Sandi:                       Sunny One Day is your…

Vivian:                     Sunny One Day is my current CD which I released in 2007. I’m long overdue, but I just sort of have been sitting on the music for a little while because I had been touring so much and I hadn’t been home, so this is my first year home where I’ve been really doing a lot of my own performances so I’m going to release their first record next year.

Sandi:                       Oh, that’s wonderful. I bet you’re very excited.

Vivian:                     I’m very excited.

Sandi:                       Well, what a great way for me to say how excited I was to have you with me today and have a conversation with you and I wish you nothing but continued success. You’re a terrific performer you’re a really classy woman.

Vivian:                     Thank you.

Sandi:                       You’ll take us home, as they say.

Vivian:                     Okay.

Sandi:                       We’ll have some Vivian Sessoms to close out this program.

                                 Join us again for another edition of The 51% Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.

[Music Playing]

Narrator:                 Thanks for listening to The 51% Conversations with Creative Women. For show comments and suggestions please follow us on Twitter at #sandikleinshow. You can also find us on Facebook at The 51% Conversations. The show is produced and recorded by Chad Dougatz at the Hangar Studios in New York City. Sandi Klein is our executive producer.

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