You are here
Home > Arts > INTERVIEW: Antonia Bennett on a New Album, Opening for Tony Bennett

INTERVIEW: Antonia Bennett on a New Album, Opening for Tony Bennett

Singer Antonia Bennett performs at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on Sunday, July 28.

This Sunday, legendary singer Tony Bennett brings his I Left My Heart tour and classic vocal style to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Also on the lineup? His songstress daughter Antonia Bennett, who will open the program with a six-song set. It’s one of several ways that the pair choose to spend quality family together, along with the adoptive family of backing musicians and roadies who join them on the road.

Antonia Bennett, the daughter of Tony Bennett and actress Sandra Grant, decided to follow her father into show business at an early age. She took her vocal training seriously, both inside and outside the family, pursuing formal studies at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Then she started performing regularly with her father, who at 92 years of age is embodying the “work keeps you young” ethos. For a decade and a half, the two have shared stages across the world, usually with Antonia providing the opening set.

When not touring, Antonia lives in Los Angeles and juggles raising a daughter, recording a new album of original songs…and heading the musical lineup for gigs like February’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival – the country’s largest jazz festival west of New Orleans. Antonia spoke with the Arts Reader‘s Basil Considine about her musical and extramusical life.

It seems like your father never stops touring. Are you always on the road?

I do the majority of shows with him, but my home is in Los Angeles. I usually have time off in-between groups of performances and come home to spend time with my family.

I don’t mind going anywhere, because I live in a place with perfect weather. I used to live in New York and sometimes miss living there, but I don’t miss having to get around in the snow. To be working in a city with that kind of weather is different, though, because someone’s usually picking you up and dropping you off, so you don’t have to be outside in the cold for long.

These cities have so much to offer, and I love both places. LA, for me, has been a great place to be creative. Even though I’m in a city, I can walk outside and there’s good weather to clear my head before I go back inside to create. NYC is also a great place to be creative, but for me it’s more a place for inspiration. Here in Los Angeles, you have to plan things in advance; in NYC, it just spontaneously happens. The best of both worlds is to go back and forth, which I’ve been lucky to have. I get to go back there a lot.

It’s been five years since your 2014 album Embrace Me came out. Do you have any albums in the works?

Actually, I am recording an album right now. I did some vocals yesterday, and I have another six tracks or so to be done. They’re mostly original tunes.

Is songwriting something that you focused on in your formal musical studies, or something that found you (or you found) later?

I didn’t do a lot of songwriting at Berklee, except when my harmony teacher would tell me “Write me a piece with this progression”. So I didn’t do much of it at all until I got out of school, and now I songwrite on a regular basis and work with songwriters.

Antonia and Tony Bennett (pictured) have regularly toured together since the 2000s. Photo by LarryBusacca.

What will we hear in Minneapolis on Sunday?

Mostly that will be from the American songbook – six songs in a set.

What does a typical day in your life look like when you’re not on tour?

I have a 3-year-old daughter. She’s in camp and started preschool when she turned two, so I get her off to school in the morning and have 6 hours to do anything I need to do for myself. If I have a songwriting or recording session – or returning phone calls or cleaning – it has to happen at that time. I do all of that kind of stuff, so that when I pick her up I get to be with her, whether that’s taking a walk to the park or anything else. That shapes my day.

Your resumé includes a particular item that I don’t believe your famous father’s resumé includes – having recorded a featured song for the videogame Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Does this sort of thing happen often?

I love doing session work – I get to meet different musicians and sing things I wouldn’t normally sing. It’s also another way to exercise my musicianship. I actually was just called in for that session – a trumpet player had written some arrangements for me does a lot of session work and recommended me…

With all of your other travels, do you have the time and space for full-family gatherings?

My two brothers have a different mother and we didn’t grow up together, but I see them on the East Coast (one’s in New York City and the other in Jersey). My sister and I grew up together and were raised in Beverly Hills, then both of us left and went back east. My sister stayed, but I went to Boston for college, then moved to New York, then moved back to Los Angeles around ten years ago now. We get together on holidays and big shows – Radio City, Hollywood Bowl, etc.

Do you have any favorite venues to perform in?

There are so many terrific, wonderful places, it would be hard to pick one. There are a lot of different reasons to like a place, and a beautiful theatre is always a great place. There are beautiful theatres scattered across the country that I like, but even more so liking a place has to do with the people. I’ve been traveling for so long with my dad and played so many beautiful places, and I’m lucky that I get to see my friends who live far away when we tour.

I tend to gravitate to the places where the people I love are, and so I have some really good places in Rome, Atlanta, Boston, New York… You also have places that just have really great theatres like Boston – but also Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA, or the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, which is simply beautiful and looks like a Simply Red video on the inside.

How do you juggle parenting with being out on the road?

I have a very capable husband who helps take care of my daughter when I’m on the road. I also don’t go out for 3 weeks or 3 months at a time – we go in and out, come back home, and so on. Everyone asks “When is the tour over?”, but we don’t think of it that way…the way my dad tours, we just never stop.

Do you keep a suitcase packed and ready to roll?

Sometimes I just do the laundry and repack, but most of the time I try to unpack everything. Otherwise, it gets musty if it sits in your suitcase all the time.

I have one of those really oversized suit bags and put everything on hangers, then I have a whole separate piece of luggage for shoes and cosmetics – so it’s just two bags. Everything comes out in every city I go to, that’s how I roll.

Once you’re done with your opening set, what happens next?

I usually go to the ladies’ room and then watch from the wings. Some venues, I can take a seat in a box or balcony to watch, but I don’t want to distract from the rest of the performance.

Antonia Bennett performs with Tony Bennett on the I Left My Heart Tour, which plays the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN on Sunday, July 28 at 7 PM.

Basil Considine