STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Two decades ago, singer songwriter Lucy Kaplansky, armed with a PhD in clinical psychology, walked away from an aspiring career in the medical field to pursue her creative dream of becoming a recording artist.
“I was already doing music,” recalls Kaplansky, from her home in New York City. “I left it because I didn’t want it and I went back to school to be a psychologist. While I was in grad school, Shawn Colvin, an old friend of mine who I sung a lot with, said, ‘Let’s make an album.’ So we made this album, but I was going to be a psychologist. Then, when I finished grad school, I had the biggest revelation of my life. Psychology wasn’t where my heart was. I wanted to be a singer, and I went back to music. I practiced psychology for about five years and I actually did both for about five years. It became clear after five years that I couldn’t do both and music was going well enough that I gave up psychology. That’s the long story made short.”
“I never looked back,” adds Kaplansky. “I think it was difficult because I worked really hard to become a psychologist and I think that I was reluctant to face the fact that maybe I wasn’t going to be a psychologist. Once I made the decision, it was so clear that it was the right decision. I never looked back. There is no regret at all. This is so much what I wanted to do.”
While still in her late teens, Kaplansky relocated from the Midwest to New York City submerging herself in the Greenwich Village folk music scene. Opportunities to play with Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin and Richard Shindell followed.
While a psych major at Yeshiva University in 1983, Kaplansky continued to play music. She formed a duo with Colvin. Garnering interest from record labels, she took the stable, secure route by launching her own psychology practice as well as being on staff at New York Hospital. Her heart was never far from music and she did session work for Suzanne Vega, among others.
Increasingly drawn to music, Kaplansky released her debut album, “The Tide,” in 1994. Produced by Colvin, the album featured original music as well as cover songs.
Following the release of her follow-up album “Flesh and Bone” (1996), Kaplansky, Dar Williams and Richard Shindell formed the folk group “Cry Cry Cry” in 1998. The group disbanded after a self -titled debut album release and concert tour. In 1999, Kaplansky’s “Ten Year Night” album garnered critical praise, new fans and national TV performances.
“I feel really lucky,” says Kaplansky. “So many people can’t make a living at it. I had a couple of lucky things that happened. One of them was “Cry Cry Cry.” That introduced me to a lot of people. I don’t have to scrape by.“
“I didn’t know if I could do any of these things when I started,” adds Kaplansky. “I didn’t know if I could perform and that’s something I’ve learned to do. I never made an album, so I learned to make an album. I think these are real accomplishments.”
“I think I’ve written some songs that mean something,” adds Kaplansky. “I’ve made recordings I’m very proud of with a great producer and a great band. They are exactly what I wanted them to be and what I wanted them to sound like. Also, I can do shows that make people connect. I’m very proud of these things.”
With no new albums since “Reunion” in 2012, Kaplansky is moving slowly toward a release that could be out sometime next year.
“I have no specific recording plan, but I do have new songs. I’m very picky about the songs being good enough to record. Otherwise, there’s just no point. When I get a couple more that I think are good, then I’ll make a plan to record. CD’s don’t sell anymore, so one has to change. Does it make sense to make CD’s anymore? I’m not sure. I haven’t crossed that bridge yet. The only reason to make a CD, I think at this point, is to sell them at shows. Is that enough of a reason? I’m not sure. Right now, I’m writing songs and I’m going to put them out in some form and I don’t know what that form is. It won’t be this year. It will be a while.”
Scheduled to perform 90 shows this year, Kaplansky is returning to the East Coast for a series of live concerts that will bring her to the region later this month.
“All of my shows at this point are solo,” says Kaplansky. “Just me, piano, guitar and mandolin. I want people to have fun. Even more than that, I want them to feel something genuine. I know when I go listen to music I want to feel something. It can be joyful. It can be sad or share some kind of genuine emotional experience. One of the great compliments I can get at my shows is ‘you made me cry.’ Not that I want to make people sad. Some of the songs can really touch people because they touch on personal issues – the decline of a parent, becoming a mother. Everybody experiences that kind of stuff. There are some universal experiences that that I hope people can share with me. The shows are going well. I actually have an audience and they come to shows and they come back. That is something I’m very grateful for.”