Renaissance Women JUDY WHITMORE Opens Up About Her Newest Album, ‘Can’t We Be Friends’ and Much More!
Get to know the renowned vocalist, pilot, best-selling author, psychologist and theater producer , Judy Whitmore.
Just last week on November 18th, she released her debut album, “Can’t We Be Friends.” On this collection, she dives headfirst into the Great American Songbook and reimagines 12 staples with fearlessness, fire, and finesse.
Ahead of the album, she put out the lead single “My Favorite Year” on September 23rd. On this track, she uplifts the Michele Brourman and Karen Gottlieb’s heartfelt classic over cinematic strings with a combination of tender intuition and dynamic delivery that takes you back to the memories of your first romance.
Recorded at Capitol Studios alongside collaborators John Sawoski and GRAMMY® Award-nominated producer Michael Patterson [Beck, The Notorious B.I.G.], together, they’ve created a love letter to the Great American Songbook featuring classics such as “It Had To Be You,” “S’Wonderful,” “Can’t We Be Friends,” and many more.
Born in New York City and raised in Studio City, California, Judy is named after the legendary singer Judy Garland, a friend of her grandfather who played violin in the MGM Studio Orchestra. Judy’s first foray as a vocal artist and performer began during college when she sang background vocals for Capitol Records in Hollywood, where she returned to record Can’t We Be Friends. Although she had a promising career ahead of her, Judy’s journey took a detour. Although she had a promising career ahead of her and dreams of being a full-time singer, Judy’s journey took a detour, as most women’s did at the time. Marrying young, she and her husband first settled in Beverly Hills and had two children, but soon moved to Aspen, Colorado to raise their family in a more rural environment. It was here that she befriended her closest neighbors, Annie and John Denver. John coaxed Judy into confronting her fear of flying by inviting her to board his private plane, Windstar One. The experience was so powerful that it inspired Judy to earn her commercial pilot’s license, eventually working search-and-rescue missions for Pitkin County (Aspen) Air Rescue, which later influenced her best-selling novel, Come Fly with Me.
Judy’s passion for the performing arts would never be too far out of sight. In 2014, she co-founded the cabaret group, ACT THREE with her brother Billy (a featured vocalist on Can’t We Be Friends) and her neighbor Lynn. The trio brought timeless standards to life at legendary venues including Carnegie Hall and the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Their journey to Carnegie Hall was chronicled in the award-winning documentary film, Once Upon a Dream. Through all of those accomplishments, Judy always felt that something was missing. She knew it was time to get that magical box of dreams she had stored away all those years ago, embrace that music career she’d always dreamed of and soar on her own. In 2018, Judy ventured onto the stage alone with her show-stopping, cabaret-style vocal act. She garnered critical praise from The OC Register and Los Angeles Times, who noted, “[she] has a bit of a Judy Holliday comedic edge” and “tackled some tough ballads with style.”
Check out these latest videos by Judy Whitmore:
“Can’t We Be Friends”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8i19p3CVz4&feature=youtu.be
New York Medley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzfZ4ml682o
My Favorite Year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Og5HHxpWxQ
Connect With Judy Whitmore Online Here: WEBSITE
Learn more about Judy Whitmore in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So how are you keeping busy and musical these days during the pandemic? How are you staying connected to your fans? Are you finding that social media is even more useful now?
I’ve actually been very busy during the pandemic. I have frequent zoom meetings with Nick Petrillo, my music director, and Peisha McPhee who technically is my vocal coach, but who also is my mentor and “career advisor.” We’re working on a song list for a new jazz album I’m going to record as soon as everyone has the vaccine. Choosing songs, deciding on tempos, creating arrangements…it all takes a lot of time. And currently we have a lot of that! I stay connected with everyone via Instagram.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? What do you think motivates you day in and day out? How has that drive changed since you first starting writing songs?
I’ve been playing the piano since I was six years old. I hated when my mother used to call me into the house because it was time to “practice.” My teacher taught classical music but around the time I was nine, she let me choose a popular song to learn. It was a total paradigm shift. I switched to pop music and never needed anyone to remind me to practice again. Playing the piano was my happy time. By the time I was twelve, I was the entertainment at my parents’ parties. Their friends would stand around the piano with their cocktails, and I would play the piano and sing. It was so much fun. I wanted to do that for the rest of my life
How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?
When I was growing up we lived in Studio City and then Beverly Hills. There were celebrities everywhere. Dionne Warwick was my neighbor. I used to play her song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” all the time. I didn’t know exactly where San Jose was, but I wanted to be like her, driving a convertible up Pacific Coast Highway on my way there.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Was your family and friends always supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing?
Our house was always filled with music. My grandmother, my mother and my aunt were all pianists, and my grandfather was a violinist in the MGM orchestra for twenty-five years. He loved telling stories about working with all the MGM musical stars. So, its no surprise that while my friends were listening to Elvis Presley, I was listening to Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. When I was very young, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else when I grew up except to sing like they did. As it turned out, I had several careers on my way to becoming a performer. I wrote a best-selling novel in 2013 and then a cookbook and a children’s book. I’m working on a new book now.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell your younger self about this industry?
The biggest surprise to me was when I started to trust my own instincts. Up to that point, I relied on everyone else to decide what songs to sing, how to sing them, what the arrangements should be. At some point I realized I had expertise to contribute to these decisions. The biggest challenge is to keep my music fresh. The great American Standards I sing are timeless, and have been recorded by so many others. My job is to do these songs in a new way.
Let’s talk about your recently released single, “New York Medley.” Where did the inspiration for this track come from? How did you go about choosing the Songbook classics, “How About You,” “Manhattan” and “Autumn in New York” in it?
I was born in New York City, and I still spend a lot of time there. It’s such an exciting place with so many restaurants, theaters, and museums. I feel totally alive there. The “New York Medley” is my love song to the city I adore.
What was it like making the music video for “New York Medley”? How creatively involved with the process were you? What was it like having your brother be a part of it?
It was so much fun doing the video with my brother, Bill. John Sawoski wrote this arrangement for us for our cabaret show, “Two For the Road.” Bill and I are great friends and we love performing together. I was so lucky to have Danny Knust as producer and editor of the video. He’s so talented and working with him was a joy!
Tell us about your new single and music video for third single and title track of the album “Can’t We Be Friends.”
I chose this song as the title track not just because the arrangement by GRAMMY® and Emmy Award-winning composer Michael Patterson is terrific, but because it telegraphs a message. There are many people who will not be familiar with my work, so I think “Can’t We Be Friends” is a way of extending my hand to them and saying, “Hello. So good to meet you.”
What has been like working on your full-length debut album this year? Did anything surprise you about the process? Were there any unexpected challenges or surprises?
I was surprised how long it takes, from inception to release, to put together an album. It’s been a joyful process and I feel blessed to have worked with so many talented people. I only have one regret. We were unable to have the big “release” party we had planned.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future? Who has consistently been inspiring you and the music that you make?
I would love to record a song with Michael Feinstein.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I hope people will feel uplifted when they hear this album. That was the intention of the composers and lyricists of these great American standards.