Home > NewsRelease > In Conversation With Singer/Lyricist/Choral director Sally Stevens Whose Memoir I Sang That: A Memoir from Hollywood Has Recently Been Published
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In Conversation With Singer/Lyricist/Choral director Sally Stevens Whose Memoir I Sang That: A Memoir from Hollywood Has Recently Been Published
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Monday, November 28, 2022

 

Bookpleasures.com welcomesas our guest, singer/lyricist/choral director Sally Stevens. Sally has worked in film, television, concert, commercials and soundrecording in Hollywood since 1960.

She sings the main titlesfor The Simpsons and Family Guy and hervoice can be heard on hundreds of film and television scores.  

Sally has put togetherchoirs for John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, andmany others for film scores, and was choral director for The Oscarsfor 22 years.

In the earlier years shetoured with Ray Conniff, Nat King Cole and Burt Bachrach, andshe has also written lyrics for Burt Bacharach, Don Ellis, DominicFrontiere, Dave Grusin, and others. 

Her short fiction, poetryand essays have been included in Mockingheart Review, TheOffBeat, Raven’s Perch, Hermeneutic Chaos LiteraryJournal, Los Angeles Press, The Voices Project,and Between the Lines Anthology: Fairy Tales & FolkloreRe-imagined.  

Along with singing andwriting, Sally's other passion is photography, and her black &white photographs of film composers have been included in exhibitionsat the Association of Motion Picture & Television Producersheadquarters in Los Angeles, and at Cite de la Musique in Paris,France.

Her memoir I Sang That:A Memoir from Hollywood has recently been published.

Good day Sally and thanksfor taking part in our interview.

 Norm: What do you consider to be your greatestsuccess or successes so far in your various careers?


Sally:  That’s kindof a tough question, because I’ve been so blessed with so manywonderful projects over the years.

But I would say that after about20 or so years of just working as a singer, when I added VocalContracting to my work, I am sure that’s what extended the activityfor so many years. 

And it also gave me a closer workingconnection to the composers for whom I did choral contracting.

Norm: What has beenyour greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome ingetting to where you’re at today?

Sally: We in the “sessionsinging” world live in a very competitive world, so in thebeginning, it was important to show up every time you got hired forsomething.

I was grateful to havebeen at the right place at the right time, able to show what I coulddo, but in that process I had to be away so much when my daughter waslittle. 

That was more of apersonal “challenge” I guess, but certainly a challenge.  Inaddition, I think the challenge is to say “yes” to whateveryou’re asked to sing, and believe in yourself enough to accomplishit successfully.

Norm: How did you getstarted in singing? Which singing engagement are you most proud of?

Sally: I started singingin my high school years – I knew about the world of session singingbecause my parents were both singers – not influential or vocalcontractors and able to “hire” me, but did teach me so much aboutthe world of singing.

I had an opportunity torecord two songs I wrote, as the artist, for producers Herb Alpertand Lou Adler, when they were partners, very early on before theyboth had such tremendous successes in the business. 

I loved that experience,and going later into more film work, I loved the opportunities to dosolos in the underscore music, for films like Klute, Dirty Harry,and later, The Secret of NIMH.

I loved my travel years inconcert with Burt Bacharach, and I was so thrilled to actually writea lyric for him for a song we recorded with the Houston Symphony.

Norm: You have authoreda memoir, short fiction, poetry, music lyrics and essays. In youropinion, what is the most difficult part of the writing process? 

Sally: For me, I think themost difficult part is editing; once it’s on the page, I’m oftenstuck with it!  But I find that reading a piece out loud reallybrings to my attention what works and what doesn’t.

Aside from that, thebiggest challenge is making myself focus on submissions – readingthe journals and other resources, really targeting the poems andfiction pieces to the right publication.

Norm: You were a choraldirector for The Oscars for 22 years. What did this entail and howdid you get the job?

Sally:  It entailedputting together whatever vocal ensembles, or soloists, were neededfor the broadcast, singing with those vocal ensembles, handlingauditions if a number was to be on camera as for instance when weperformed “Blame Canada” from the film South Park: Bigger,Longer, and Uncut, and there needed to be excellent singers who alsocould sort of “play” characters on screen. 

It involved communicatingwith the musical director to understand what specifically was neededfor the music to be performed in each broadcast. 

I had done some film scorework for Bill Conti, and he hired me to do the Choral Directing thefirst time I participated in that role. 

I had sung with othercontractors on past broadcasts but that was the first time I was “incharge” of the vocals. 

I guess I did an okay job,because I was asked to continue for two decades in that role, evenwhen Bill was not the Musical Director in a particular year.

Norm: What was it liketo write lyrics for Burt Bacharach, Don Ellis, Dominic Frontiere,Dave Grusin, and others?

Sally: It was justamazing! For Dominic, it was special because he trusted me enough togive me my first opportunity to write for film. Dave Grusin and DonEllis followed, and Dominic and I did several other projects togetherafter our first work on On Any Sunday.

For Burt, I had playedhim some songs I’d written, and he had a concept to do an albumabout “life” from a woman’s point of view, a kind of journey insong. Eventually that concept shifted and just became individualsongs by women lyricists. To this day I can’t believe I had thehonor of writing a lyric for Burt Bacharach! 

Norm: What motivatedyou to write I Sang That? How did you decide you were ready towrite your memoir? 

Sally: My second passionhas always been writing, and I accidentally applied to the Universityof Iowa writer’s programs in 1998; I thought I had applied orrequested information for the summer writing festival!  Had tosubmit some writings, and I was accepted into the program but I justcouldn’t stay away from Hollywood long enough to do it, so I beganattending the writing workshops at the summer festival there, withsome wonderful teachers – all genres – poetry, essay, fiction,memoir, “flash” fiction.

In many of the workshopsas we got to know each other, what we did for a living, etc. folks would say “Oh, you have to write a book!” 

So eventually it did beginto feel like a good idea. I just wanted to get the journey, thestories out there while I was still on the planet!

Norm: What were yourgoals and intentions in this memoir, and how well do you feel youachieved them?

Sally: My goal was to tryto create a readable, enjoyable book, to share as much of the journeyas pages allowed, to share information about our business – assession singers, people really know so little about what we do! 

We don’t receive crediton film or TV work, most of the time…occasionally that happens,gratefully. But it’s kind of an invisible world, so I wanted tooffer a peek into that invisible world!

Norm: What did youenjoy most about writing the memoir?

Sally: I have calendarbooks, journals, date books, etc. going back into the very earlyyears – 1965-1969, 1972, etc. – and was amazed to look back onthose years and remember some of the exciting times, the artists Iworked with, the details. 

I had some wonderfulfeedback from two fine writers I had done workshops with, whichhelped tremendously.

Both encouraged me to tryto keep the moments alive, and to use my “fiction” voice as muchas possible (the writing style, not the made-up part of fiction).

Norm: Could you brieflytell our readers a little about I Sang That?

Sally: The first couple ofchapters really start in the present day; the pandemic gave me thechance to write those chapter, to ponder the winding down of thejourney.

Then I dive back intoearly childhood and share a lot of family background, the later highschool years, and then wind into the beginning of the actual work inthe music business. 

I write about the OSCARyears, about the Bacharach years, about the transition to VocalContractor, a bit about the early variety TV days – Danny Kaye TVVariety show, etc. 

I write about the world offilm scoring – what it’s like to be on a scoring stage creatingthe music that brings the emotions on the screen to life. And I writea bit about the dive into photography, some of my exhibits etc.

Norm: What is next forSally Stevens?

Sally: I have a fiction,slightly longer than novella-length book, that is basically a literary writing piece but with a bit of magical realism.

It’s something I havebeen told is filmatic in nature , but each chapter is kind of aseparate adventure with the main characters, so it’s a bit long forfilm unless a few chapters were focused on and chosen.

I would love to get thatbook published, and I would look forward to returning at the firstopportunity to the little town of Iowa City, where the University ofIowa writing festivals I hope will resume perhaps this summer. Aftertwenty years of attending, that little town began to feel like myhome town!  Also maybe get a collection of poetry together forpublication.

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you could invite three singers (dead or alive) toyour dinner table, who would they be and why? What would you askthem?

Sally: Oh, my goodnesswhat a wonderful question to ponder!  I think for sure FrankSinatra.  Maybe Sting… and for sure, my own dad KennyStevens! 

I have learned in the lastyear thanks to a wonderful woman writer who writes about earlyHollywood films, that he did many amazing projects – film,recording, etc. that I never knew about.

It was a part of his lifethat he had to step away from, when it was interrupted by going offto war in 1942; when he returned, the opportunities didn’t comeback together.

The one film I did knowwas Broadway Serenade in which he played the romantic singinglead opposite Jeanette Mac Donald in the musical within the film.

I would love to hear thosestories I never got to hear, and to share some of my own stories henever got to hear.  It was he who kept encouraging me toconsider doing some vocal contracting, and I owe him gratitude forwhat extended my working years by probably several decades! 

AND could I possibly addPeggy Lee to that list?  She was my idol as I was growing intobeing a singer, and the first woman I was to learn was writing lyricsfor film scores!

Thank you so much forinviting me to be a part of this conversation with you Norm –it waswonderful to chat with you about the book!

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with I Sang That.

Follow Here To Learn More About Sally Stevens

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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