A new queen’s taking the Reigns!

Last night I had the spectacular opportunity to attend a “listening party” that was really more of a small, intimate gig at YouTube Spaces here in NYC for an amazing “new” artist you are going to want to check out.

Emily Estefan.

Yes, as in Emilio and Gloria’s baby girl – not such a baby anymore! Emily is an amazing musician in her own right, and I feel fortunate to have gotten in on the ground floor so to speak – being kind of there when it all starts for her. Because this girl is going places!

She’s just released her first album – Take Whatever You Want – which is available pretty much wherever you get music these days. Emily wrote all the songs and performs everything except the horns on the album. And best of all, no auto-tuning! Which means there is not that shock of “I thought she sounded like…” when you see her live like you get with so many performers releasing albums today who depend on that auto-tuning in the studio. It’s a mix of styles and stories, but it’s all Emily.

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But before you think “Oh, Gloria Estefan’s daughter. I know what she’ll sound like and what the music will be like,” STOP! Yes, in songs like Ask Me To there are overtones reminiscent of her mother, she is definitely her own singer. And the songs translate just as well live as on the album.

She kicked off the gig with a song that really speaks to her being her own person with her own thoughts and ideas – “F#ck To Be”. And yes, unless you have the edited single she DOES say the word. But it works.

She moved on to the first song on the album “Ask Me To” which she explained is sort of a letter from who she was then (the album was largely written and recorded three years ago) to who she is now. I’ve loved it from first listen, but knowing the story made it even more.

Ditto “Purple Money” which she explained was sort of born of this having been born with certain privileges and living with that while not taking advantage of it. (Which she did not – she got her contract all on her own.)

She also did some covers like “Where or When” which was spectacular. She had a mega-mix of musical heroes – everyone from Alanis to Whitney Houston to, yes, even her mom with a smidge of “Dr. Beat” in there.

Her original song “Take 5” is an anthem to women’s rights, and it has quickly become one of my favorites on the album. (My other one, which she didn’t perform last night, is “It’s OK” which is sort of a “single and proud of it” anthem.)

During the show Emily played drums, and guitar. She has a band that includes a keyboardist, two additional percussionists (one who, yes, plays the congas at times), a bassist, background vocalists, a trombonist (FEMALE! woohoo!!!), and a trumpet player. And they are fantastic!

The whole evening was amazing from the space – which is totally NYC/Chelsea cool with light wood and exposed brick – to the fact that when Emily got to the stage and saw us standing behind these red rope lines immediately said “What’s up with that? Do we have to have it?” so that it was just a super chill, super intimate evening. It’s not up on YouTube that I can find yet, but I’ll post the link when I do find it.

In the meantime, here are some pics from last night…

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And she was super gracious in hanging out and talking with us after the show.

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So yeah. Awesome end to a snow day yesterday! Thank you Emily for an amazing show! I cannot wait to follow your career as you grow even more in your art!

Definitely check Emily out. And like her album says…Take Whatever You Want from it! 🙂

If I Never Got To Tell You… Music and Its Power

Saturday morning I decided to enter the ticket lottery for “On Your Feet!” because I was really wanting to see it (even though I had tickets for Sunday, I knew it was going to be an emotional show (more than normal)…more on that later). The lottery had reportedly been tougher to win last week (that’s a good thing) and reportedly the seats were pretty much all in the mezzanine (a VERY good thing because it means the orchestra is pretty much sold!!). I myself had lost Thursday and Friday night. So I really didn’t know if I was going to win.

But I did!

And yes, my seat was in the mezzanine, but it was GREAT to see the theatre almost filled!!! (This amazing show DESERVES full houses every performance!!!)

The cast was on fire, and I was in my happy place! When it was over, I started down to the stage door area.

As I turned my phone from airplane mode to on, it popped up.

A CNN notification.

“At least 25 injured in an explosion in New York”

And nothing would load on my phone! The Marriott Marquis is notoriously iffy on cell service in certain places because of all the steel. Intellectually I know that, but I was freaking out trying to get information.

New York CITY? Most likely since they didn’t give a city. But where? How close was I to whatever was going on?

Finally it loaded and I saw the details as we had them then – in Chelsea, so close, but not right there. I immediately left a message on my mom’s cell phone and my parents’ home phone that I was fine and had not been in the immediate area. And recorded an instagram video to post to let friends know. And posted on Facebook that I was ok – as well as responding to some posts either to my wall or tags.

Doreen Montalvo, one of my favorite people in the world, was one of the first ones out. She’s on as Gloria’s mother through October 2, and I LOVE her in this role. She has really been allowed to make it hers when she is on, and it’s wonderful to watch her. Everyone was all “Please be safe” and she was no exception. As we were talking and she was talking to the people next to me, she took my hand and squeezed it. That might have been when a fire truck was turning the corner and honking at someone and I jumped about a mile in the air, but I’m not positive. Then as she was leaving saying she was walking home and not getting on the subway, she hugged me tight and made me promise to tweet when I got home safely.

A little later, Luis Salgado – one of the uber-talented dancers who is first and foremost an amazing human being (who am I kidding? pretty much everyone involved with this show is an amazing human being!!) – came out and came over and hugged me close. We were chatting and he noticed some friends next to me, so he excused himself for a moment to talk with them, then asked if they wanted to go backstage. They started to go, and he looked at me and said “You’re coming too!” So in we all trooped. Ektor Rivera was taking pictures with Ana Villafañe and her guests in the entrance area, but Luis grabbed him to come to the stage with us. It was super cool to see the theatre from that angle. Plus seeing them and getting their hugs really helped to calm me down. They are awesome!!

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Ektor then “kidnapped” me to give me my art. In addition to being a great actor and singer (and all-around fantastic human being) he is an amazing visual artist! Check his work out here!! And I had bought a reproduction – my first grown-up art!! He’d emailed me it was ready and I’d said I would get it at the theatre. Plan was Sunday, but he had it on Saturday. So back we went to his dressing room for the art.

I got the grand tour too – including seeing “the shorts” (if you know the play…or the story of Gloria and Emilio’s first meeting that makes sense) and we chatted for a few minutes. Including Ektor helping translate something Ana says in the date scene that my friend and I could never figure out how to spell to see what it means. Then we headed out.

Ana came out a few minutes later, and it’s always great to see her and chat even if she’s on vocal rest and mouthing the words. We joked about how the bartender had made me sing for my drink that night – I selected “Bojito Is Gonna Get You”, and he said “Ok, but you have to sing…” I protested and said Ana does it so much better than I ever could. But finally gave in and sang the first bit a la the show opening. I think it kind of surprised him that I actually did it. But I still had to pay for it!! 😛

I headed home – I took the 7 to the G so that I would avoid the area where the bomb – and then a second device – was. But it took a while to calm down – the swing from nearly hysterical to being super happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, then being hyper aware of everything on my way home really had me worked up.

Sunday I got up, went to Taekwondo, came home and showered and got ready and headed into Manhattan (again via the G and 7) for dinner at Havana Central and the evening performance of On Your Feet! – which was going to be Luis’ last show with the company. I’d purposely bought A2 because I knew I’d be up close AND I was on the aisle so I could conga with David Baida because I promised him I would! And it was fun!! 🙂

The cast was totally fired up, and the show was amazing!! There are some spots I can pretty much predict I’ll tear up every time and others surprise me. Obviously with it being a musical those moments are usually part of the music. But not always – one scene early on between Gloria’s mother and father – who at that point was in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis and other complications probably due to his service in Vietnam – completely got to me because of the way Doreen and Eliseo were interacting. Beautiful.

The full-out waterworks for me started in Act 2 when Ana sings “Famous” which is the transition into the bus accident (hey, this is a true story…no need for a spoiler warning here!). Following that, in the hospital scene, there is a duet between Gloria’s mother and Emilio that is always beautiful and moving. It is the one original number in the show, and it was co-written by Gloria and her and Emilio’s daughter Emily. The show’s story ends prior to Emily’s birth, but this is a super cool way for her to be “in” the show.

The song’s title is “If I Never Got To Tell You”, and as it suggests, it’s about saying all the things we mean to but never do for whatever reason thinking we’ll always have more time. But as the accident all too painfully demonstrated, you never really truly know. In the song, Gloria’s mom (also named Gloria) sings to her as they have been estranged, Emilio sings both to their son Nayib, and to Gloria, then Gloria’s mom who has been even more estranged from Emilio sings to him as they realize how close they have come to never having another tomorrow.

And the true-life events of the night before in NYC also served as a reminder of that.

And so yes – full-on waterworks. But really in a healing and cathartic way. Which to me is the beauty of music – something as simple as a melody and words can combine to say everything you’re feeling, to break you wide open and let healing light flow over the broken pieces. “If I Never Got To Tell You” is always an emotional point in the show, but last night it was special. Different. Just…MORE.

And I really couldn’t stop crying from that point on – through “I Don’t Want To Lose You Now”, “Reach”, and of course “Coming Out of the Dark”.

And weirdly – but not really given the day – the Mega Mix – the dance party that closes the show and serves as curtain call. I thought I was going to be ok, but I saw tears streaming down Luis’ cheeks and it was all over for me then. He is such a talented dancer and just a warm, kind-hearted human. It’s going to be really weird seeing the show without him in it. But I know the future holds great things for him.

This is kind of rambling I realize. But it’s my attempt at a big huge thank you…

  • To Gloria and Emilio Estefan for sharing their story, their lives, and indeed their hearts with all of us in so many ways. THANK YOU for On Your Feet!!
  • To Gloria and Emily Estefan for writing such a beautiful piece of music in “If I Never Got To Tell You” that simply says it all – and was everything I needed last night.
  • To Ana Villafañe, Ektor Rivera, and the whole cast of On Your Feet! for the magic you make happen in telling a story that is Gloria and Emilio’s but also a little bit of all of us when we struggle to stay true to ourselves and succeed no matter what.
  • To Doreen Montalvo for being awesome and being there on Saturday night!! ❤ ❤
  • To my friends I’ve met through the show! Y’all are awesome!!
  • And finally to Luis Salgado. You have always had a smile and a strong hug for me. I know I tweeted it, but it deserves saying again… They say you never forget your first…so THANK YOU for taking me on my first backstage visit and for bringing light into a pretty dark and scary night Saturday… Thank you for the smiles from stage – and for your kind words all the time. Your son is super lucky to have you for a dad!! Big hugs to him and your wife too!!

There are never any guarantees in life. Don’t lose tomorrow if you need to tell someone what they mean to you. Do it. Now.

Sending love and light to all…