Monday, September 24, 2012

A Conversation with Caleb Baccus

Concerning my #10 album: Phantom of the Opera

The best part of your description that I saw was the story. As a writer, my favorite part of anything is stories. And you are right; this is a great one. The characters are incredible. On just a glance they seem odd and annoying. But upon closer inspection you begin to relate to all the characters. Which one is your favorite character?

It's hard to say. When I was a teenager, it was undeniably the Phantom. He was an extreme, extreme version of who I was. I was exceedingly smart, talented at multiple disciplines, passionate about music, sometimes had trouble relating to other people, and not that great at dealing with the opposite sex. At none of these was I anywhere near the level of the Phantom, but I could relate. But by my early 20s, I had gotten over that socially awkward teenage stage (and realized that pretty much all teenagers are socially awkward, and I wasn't particularly special in that regard). I still probably like the Phantom the best, though I pity him much more - his character was never given the opportunity to grow beyond that stage. I find myself more amused at the side characters now than I did back then. The two theater managers crack me up every time.

Good call on the vocals. I have had arguments with my friend Carlos Flores about which is better, "Phantom" or "Les Mis" and my point is always I can't find good vocals on any of the "Les Mis" albums. I hate Colm Wilkinson's singing. It kind of hurts my ears. And I don't think I will like anybody's performance of "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" after listing to Michael Ball's.

Yeah, Michael Ball spoiled me on the role of Marius. And I heard "Les Mis" live first, so I heard Valjean sung with skill and passion, before hearing Colm Wilkinson do his tone-deaf Sean Connery impersonation. I still hope to someday hear a good recording, but it is frustrating.

Teenage is an early time to get into musicals for most people today. How were you introduced to it?

I'm not really sure. I'd heard snippets of it as a child, but wasn't that into it. But somewhere around the age of 16, I heard it, and it really spoke to me. It gave me something that said "you're not alone, other people have been where you are." Which is why teenagers love music in general, and why most people latch on to the music they heard at that age. It's a very interesting and turbulent time, when you're figuring out who you are, who other people are, and how to make it all work. I wish I could remember who introduced me to it, but I can't. I delved deeply into other musicals at that time, "Evita" and "Jekyll and Hyde," "Into the Woods" and "Miss Saigon" and about two dozen more. I found a number that I really liked, and a whole lot that I didn't. My friend at the time, Jonathan Fernandez, and I would constantly be comparing notes on which new ones we'd found that we loved, and which ones we didn't. Working at an old movie theater helped; after we closed I'd put the music on the loudspeakers and sing along. Perfect ambience.

I haven't found any musical that really speak to me in the last few years. I don't know whether it's because they're not being written in a style that I relate to anymore, or whether I hit that "I'm too old to like new music" phase. I think it's the former, because I'm still finding new rock and country music that I love, and "new" classical works as well.

You say that you sing all the the male parts loudly when you are alone. Tell me; do you ever try to sing the female roles? Especially the high parts?


In all honesty, I think I can say I've never sung the female parts of that particular work. I do often sing along with female artists I really like (although usually an octave lower), but in this case, I'm usually putting myself in the role of whatever part I'm singing. It's a total immersion for me.

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