Singer Liam Forde is feeling sentimental
Working out his goals for his debut album, great to be here, Liam Forde goes straight to the point. “I want to spread the romance around me,” says the singer-songwriter of his brilliant collection of original songs that blend ’60s jazz, pop and swing influences from Burt Bacharach to Michel Legrand.
“I couldn’t really write all this music until I realized that I’m extremely sentimental. I like melody. I like poetry and tenderness. And then the other part is that I just wanted to do something that felt like it was me, as completely as possible, and then just see what happened, because I could never begin to control that.
Forde embraces this tenderness and spontaneity in his live number, which he will perform at the Ainslie Arts Center on Friday July 22, for a cabaret-style one-night concert presented by Monumental Theatre.
Familiar to DC audiences thanks to acclaimed roles in Studio Theatre’s Jumpers for goal posts and the pot-mouthed puppet struck Hand to God, the latter of which won him a Helen Hayes Award for Lead Actor in a Play, Forde finds a special sense of freedom in forging an intimate bond with concert audiences.
“When you do a cabaret, you feel like you’re having a really big party,” he says.
An ardent dinner party host – “I’m having one tonight,” he said on a recent Zoom call, pointing to a shelf full of fresh veggies – Forde says he just loves feeding and caring for the people.
“I like this aspect of cabaret,” he says. “I love taking responsibility for making sure everyone feels comfortable, everyone feels relaxed, that we’re all having a good time.”
Forde spreads joy, romance and hints of melancholy throughout the ten tracks of great to be here. He describes the album, for which he composed all the music and lyrics, as a deeply personal window into “what it feels like when I feel attractive, alive and confident. When I feel grateful. When I feel nostalgic, melancholy, sympathetic. Sorry.”
Largely written and recorded during the pandemic, the songs draw inspiration from various moments during those months of uncertainty.
“I felt like I had all this music I wanted to release, and I wanted to boldly bring out my aesthetic,” he recalls. “And I was just wondering, what’s stopping me from doing it?” I think one of the answers is time. And so I finally had all of this time on my hands. I was definitely not going to audition. None of us were. So I strapped in and did it.
The songs tell lively stories of romantic summer nights, or all-day strolls through the streets of Paris, or, in the curious “Mrs. Dudley,” of a retired garden slug who travels and makes cannabis cookies The plaintive “Geraniums,” Forde wrote “when I was deeply alone, in the trenches of solitary confinement in February during lockdown.”
“Plaza Hotel”, Forde’s piquant ode to the famous Manhattan landmark, derived from a more optimistic inspiration – the late and great Kay Thompson, who resided at the Plaza and immortalized the place in her Eloise books.
“Talk about a renaissance person,” Forde marvels. “She wrote songs. She was a vocal arranger. She was a vocal coach. She was a movie star. She was a radio star. She was a children’s author. I think she directed fashion shows. She was a ghost writer. Not to mention, quite eccentric.
And, for Forde, she was a beacon. “I do all these things. You know, my bread and butter is mainly as a voice teacher. I am a vocal arranger. Composer, singer, actor. So I felt very inspired by her. And she had this goofy sophistication that…I felt like it was in my blood too.
In addition to “Plaza Hotel,” Forde will evoke Thompson in concert performing his signature arrangement of an Irving Berlin song.
Accompanied by sound great to be here producer-drummer Zack Eldridge, and other musicians who played on the album, he’ll review all of his originals and Great American Songbook selections, plus a few other surprises.
“I’m going to sing a song by Michel Legrand,” he said. “I’m going to do a Beach Boys song.” And then, of course, he’ll gossip, unscripted. “I just think it’s going to feel like a big party where everyone’s invited, and I can’t wait.”
“Liam Forde in Concert” will take place Friday, July 22 at the Ainsley Arts Center, Episcopal High School Campus, 3900 W. Braddock Rd., Alexandria. Tickets are $50. Visit www.monumentaltheatre.org.
great to be here is available on all music streaming services. Visit www.liam-forde.com.