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INTERVIEW: Leslie Vincent on Psychedelic Songs and About Last Night

Leslie Vincent (right) with her band between takes at Future Condo Studio in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Laura Buhman.

Your new album About Last Night drops on July 22. How long has this album been in the works?

I’ve been dreaming about the album since the summer of 2021 when we started performing our interpretation of “Stars Fell on Alabama” which Matt McIntyre originally brought to the group to play around with. Our take on the piece was so cool, I knew we had to record it. 

One of the tracks, “If I Were a Bell”, is a classic song from the musical Guys and Dolls. How did you first encounter and first sing this song?

Of course, as an avid musical-theater performer I’ve known “If I Were a Bell” for ages. I never thought about incorporating it into my jazz sets, until a post-rehearsal jam session where we decided to keep playing for fun. Someone called out this tune and we thought it’d be funny to see how fast we could reasonably do it. From there, I fell in love with the song and it became a regular part of my repertoire. I love musical theater and I’m always looking for ways to incorporate sprinkles of it into my jazz work. 

Leslie Vincent’s new album About Last Night drops on July 22. The album art was designed by Matthew Pfahlert.

Another song, Johnny Mercer and Harold Allen’s “This Time the Dream’s on Me”, was first popularized by its inclusion in the movie Blues in the Night, which hit theatres just weeks before the United States entered World War 2. Others have come to know it from covers, notably by Ella Fitzgerald, who recorded it twice. How do you know it, and what guides the interpretation that listeners will hear on the album?

I know it from the Alison Krauss cover, which was on the soundtrack for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

When Ted [Godbout] and I met about arranging this version, I told him I wanted it to feel like a sunrise. (Fun fact: I actually captured wave sounds on multiple vacations to add to the ending but they didn’t make the final cut.) I wanted the piece and the end of the album to feel like a deep sigh of relief, a bright light, a feeling of being taken care of, and that hard times for ending, even if just for a little bit. 

The album recording process used a large set of musical resources – the classic piano/bass/drums combo is variously mixed with trumpet, guitar, clarinet, string quartet – so, which came first: the album title, the song list, or the choice of instruments and musicians? 

Good question! The base formation – the piano, drums, bass, and horn – were always at the forefront of my mind during the planning process. Other instruments came to light during the arranging and recording process.  

As for the songs, I spent quite a while compiling pieces that could take listeners on a journey. While we were recording, the album title just popped into my head one day. After that, I couldn’t shake it loose. It was like, the whole concept just came together in a flash. 

A promotional image of singer-songwriter-actor Leslie Vincent. Photo by Michelle Bennett.

You’ve included an original song, “Psychedelics With You” amongst the 10 songs on this album. Tell us about its creation – is there a special story behind its creation or your choice to open the album with an original song?

There are actually two originals on the album: “Psychedelics With You” and “Icetown Blues.” Both originated from a Song-A-Day project I do every year where (as you can guess) you write a song a day. Of course, how they started is different from how they ended (“Psychedelics” was written on the ukulele, and “Icetown Blues” was something I created a capella). 

I always knew “Psychedelics With You” would kick off the album — it just has that sound.

What’s a favorite musical (or personal) moment from recording this album?

The days with the full band were so much fun. We laughed a lot and ate so many snacks; it felt good to share space and create together. 

You recorded this album at Future Condo Studio – what drew you to use this specific space?

I was originally drawn to Future Condo Studio because it has a beautiful Steinway piano. Ted and I talked a bit about wanting that sound captured on the record. 

Tell us about creating promotional materials (e.g., photo shoots, packaging design) for this album.

Creating the visual aspects of this album was such a wild ride. Michelle Bennett did the photos and we had schemed this whole elaborate “night-after-a-party” setup. But once we were in the studio (Studio Apparatus) it was clear we were gonna go in another direction. In fact, after she took the picture that became the album cover, my friend Addie whispered to me, “Isn’t it cool to know you already have the shot?” She knew that was gonna be it.

Matthew Pfahlert did the art direction and graphic design and that was such a treat. He sees things in a beautiful way — when he first sent initial concepts for the cover, I wrote back within minutes in all caps because I loved it so much. 

I’m not great with visuals so it was amazing to see someone else able to translate my vision. 

Recording equipment at Future Condo Studio in Minneapolis. Photo by Laura Buhman.

What are some of the highlights planned for the launch party concert at Crooners on July 22? 

I am so excited about the 22nd! Along with the album songs, I’ll be doing a few “newer-to-me” standards and some old favorites. I also decided to collaborate with local artists who are creating pieces inspired by the album so there’ll be a visual component to enjoy before and after the show. I wanted to explore ways for art to inspire art and I think it’s gonna be such a neat aspect of the night.

What’s one song that you want to record in the future, and why?

Oooooo, there are so many! 

Mostly, I want to keep writing and recording my own material. I want to keep exploring what I have to say and what kinds of music I can make! 


Basil Considine