Betty Buckley Walks Us Through Highlights of Her New Album

By Robert Viagis
April 14, 2017

The Tony Award winner’s Story Songs was recorded live.

Tony Award winner Betty Buckley has released Story Songs, a new two-CD album of live performances from several of her sold-out concerts, including one at Joe’s Pub in New York.

The album is filled with Buckley’s unique take on showtunes such as “I’m Still Here” from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, “September Song” from Kurt Weill’s Knickerbocker Holiday, and “Chanson” from Stephen Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife, but she also includes more pop-oriented selections by groups and artists from Radiohead and Peter Gabriel, to Leonard Cohen and Sting. (A complete track list appears below.)

The album also includes anecdotes about her showbiz career, including one on Elaine Stritch and one on her 1776 co-star Howard Da Silva.

Buckley shared with Playbill her creative process behind the selection and performance of some of the key tracks.

“Cassandra” and “Another Life” by Jason Robert Brown — I wrote Jason and asked him to recommend some songs. He sent “Cassandra,” which is a brilliant song that’s part of a new project he’s doing, which he gave me to debut. He also sent me ‘Another Life’ from The Bridges of Madison County, which I love and which I think is one of his best songs. It’s the one that resonated with me the most. It’s sung in the show by a young woman, but we changed some pronouns to make it work for me, as a woman looking back on her life. It’s a beautiful story.”

“Old Flame” by Joe Iconis — I wrote Joe a fan letter on his Facebook page. He has a unique voice in musical theatre—really twisted. I love his sense of humor; offbeat, like mine is. I said I would love to work with him. So when I was putting together my concert at 54 Below he sent me some songs. I liked them, but I had to tell him that none really fit. He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll write you something new!” He wrote me this song that really shows off his skill as a storyteller. I know this lady [the song’s narrator] very well. It’s about a woman who had a marriage and a career, but doesn’t know why she feels unfulfilled and unresolved. She blames the former love of her youth and thinks that his doing her wrong back in the day is the reason for her unhappiness. When she hears Oprah Winfrey’s advice to confront your past, she decides to go to his house and shoot him! We meet her as she’s sitting in his house waiting for him to return. But as she’s sitting there, she begins to think about him and her life, and it turns into a beautiful poem, a profound statement from the soul, about the need for forgiveness. I have a guy like that in my life. I’m now trying to get [Iconis] to do a [stage musical] project with me and Michael Wilson.”

“Too Many Memories” by Stephen Bruton — It’s a story about friendship and how much the events of 9/11 changed all our lives. I can tell you that in the months after 9/11 I felt lost with no sense of direction. A lot of people felt the same. I called Stephen who lived in Austin, Texas—his father was my first drummer. He had a record store called Record Town where we all all went to buy our albums. He was a guitarist and songwriter with a great wide taste in music. We grew up together. So when I called him I burst into tears and asked him to fly to New York and help me find new songs to sing. The result was Deep in the Heart, a show I did at the Bottom Line, and then again at Bass Performing Arts Hall in Fort Worth [where Buckley was raised]. One of my favorite songs from that was his “Too Many Memories.” Stephen got throat cancer and passed away. So this song is for him. It reminds me of him and of Fort Worth.“

Disc 1
1) “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” – Music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, from South Pacific
2) “Cassandra” – Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
3) “High & Dry” – Music and lyrics by Radiohead
4) “Chanson” – Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, from The Baker’s Wife
5) “All Things In Time” – Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
6) “Old Flame” – Music and lyrics by Joe Iconis
7) “Another Life” – Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, from The Bridges of Madison County
8) “Prayer in Open D” – Music and lyrics by Emmylou Harris
9) “September Song” – Music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, from Knickerbocker Holiday
10) “Don’t Give Up” – Music and lyrics by Peter Gabriel
11) “Throw It Away” – Music and lyrics by Abbey Lincoln

Disc 2
1) ”How Long Has This Been Going On?” Piano solo – Music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, from Rosalie
2) ”Practical Arrangement” – Music and lyrics by Sting
3) Stephen Bruton story
4) ”Too Many Memories” – Music and lyrics by Stephen Bruton
5) ”Bird on A Wire” – Music and lyrics by Leonard Cohen
6) Howard Da Silva story
7) ”Both Sides Now” – Music and lyrics by Joni Mitchell
8) Elaine Stritch story
9) ”I’m Still Here” from Follies – Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

In addition to her CD, which was released April 7, Buckley appeared in M. Night Shyamalan’s hit 2016 film Split, which is being released on DVD April 18.