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18 Dec 2009

Please, Eltonites, get up, stand up to receive one of the greatest musicians of the world... the fabulous... Cindy Bullens!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello Eltonites. That's another great day for the community. We have here, on my side, one of the most talented rock stars I've ever seen. I bought her "Neverland" and couldn't stop to listen it. Well, what more could I say about Cindy Bullens? Her energy and inner strength are enviable. Some said "she had Springsteen as a songwriter and the Rolling Stones as a backing band" and that's it. It's a joyous day for EltonJohnAllSongsList and the open doors are wide open to receive the charismatic, incredible and powerful: Cindy Bullens.

Thank you Cindy for being here. So happy to have you. I was trying that for a long time so imagine how happy I am today. Let's gonna start, then.


At what age you decide you wanted to be a musician, Cindy? And what were your early musical influences?

When I heard Little Richard’s “Trutti Fruitti” at age four, I knew that rock n roll was what I wanted to do. I was lucky to have an older sister and brother who listened to lots of music. My very earliest influences were The Everly Brothers (in the mid 70’s I got to sing on Don Everly’s solo album), Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, later my siblings listened to more folk-like Dylan and some early bluesmen including John Lee Hooker and Lightning Hopkins. Later, when I got a little older, it was the rhythm and raw energy The Rolling Stones and musicality and harmonies of the Beatles. Joni Mitchell was a big influence later on.

Great artists all!!! You arrived in Los Angeles in 1974 with little more than a desk of songs, your guitar, and a deeply desire to make music. And you met Elton. How you got involved with him and how you ended up recording and touring with him?

In September of 1975 I crashed a party at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood. I knew the owners and used to hang out there to see if I could maybe sing on a session or do errands for the clients. I knew Elton was going to be there that particular evening—it was a press party for the release of Neil Sedaka’s new album on Elton’s Rocket Records. I just showed up. The owners of the studio told me I couldn’t go into the party room, but I did anyway. After a little while Elton walked up to me and asked me who I was. I really thought he was gonna kick me out, but he didn’t. He introduced himself to me and we just talked small talk for a few minutes. Then someone came and got him and moved on. A few minutes later a woman walked up to me and asked me what I did—meaning for a living. I said I was a “singer”. She left and came back a little while later and asked me what I was doing “for the next two weeks”? I asked why and she told me that Elton wanted to know if I wanted to go “on the road” with him! Two days later I was rehearsing with Elton and his band and a few days after that I performed with him in San Diego in front of over 20,000 people!. I stayed with him as a back-up singer for three tours in 1975-76, and sang on the “Blue Moves” album and the single “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”.

Wow!!! My God, what an experience!!! And have you been an Elton fan before? Remember the first time you heard Elton’s music and what moves you to buy his music, in that case?

Yes. I was a huge fan of Elton’. My favorite album in the world was “Yellow Brick Road”. Of course, “Your Song” was the first song I ever heard of his.

At the time, there was nobody like Elton John. First of all, he played the piano not the guitar. But he also combined great melodies with provocative lyrics (Bernie Taupin’s).

So you sang with Elton John on three major tours. While Elton explained his desire to “be a part of a good driving rock’n’roll band”, Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray had been fired from the band and left Davey Johnstone in an awkward position. Caleb Quaye was back, we had talented James Newton-Howard, Roger Pope on drums, Ray Cooper on percussion and Kenny Passarelli on bass. Also, the three backing vocalists. How do you value that experience from a personal point of view?

Incredible!--from both a personal and professional point of view. My fantasies about being a “rock n roll star” were broken after seeing how difficult life could be for Elton. He couldn’t go out on the street, or go into a theatre or a store without being mobbed. I also learned a huge amount about being a professional in this business both on stage and off. I will be forever grateful to him for allowing me to be a part of his experience.

The debut of the new band was in the Wembley Stadium gig, in 1975, where Elton played “Captain Fantastic” album in his entire order for the surprise of the public. What do you remember of that gig?

I didn’t play that one. I started after that.

Upps, sorry. ”Rock Of The Westies”, for example, it has been reminded for the Dodger Stadium concerts, where he wore the Dodgers’ uniform with number one in the back. Songs from the set list included a mix of “Street Kids”, “Let It Be”, “Curtains” or “Dixie Lily”. Also, it was the return to the Trobadour Club in L.A. to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his triumphant debut there. Any anecdotes you could share with us?

The concert at Dodger Stadium was a magical experience! Everything about it was amazing! There were movie and music stars backstage, the atmosphere was electric. Elton was particularly “on” that evening and the band was completely in sync. There were a lot of memorable moments, but the one that stands out was singing “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” while the sun was setting over the stadium, with 65,000 people igniting their lighters. It was truly a “spiritual” experience.

Elton had his golden age era in the 70s, specially the U.S.A. Elton John Day became a common celebration in 1976 and majors like Frank Rizzo, in Philadelphia, presented him with the keys of their cities and he got his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Were you there? Also, one time, John Lennon told him: “if you die someday, I will throw my radio out the window”. It was that really?

I was there in Philadelphia. We sang “Philadelphia Freedom” with Billie Jean King on stage with us.

You had been in Eastern Studios in Toronto, Canada, for the recording of the multi-platinum album Blue Moves, on my favourite track “Crazy Water” and on Elton’s 1976 No. 1 Pop single "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." Do you remember how many songs you'd been recording for this album session? And some of the titles that didn't see the light? With Bernie Taupin battling alcoholism and Elton burned out by rock’n’roll lifestyle, it was really a blue period for the two.

I won’t answer any questions about either Elton’s or Bernie’s personal lives.

But I was there in the studio in Toronto, though I don’t know about “lost” tracks. I think I sang on three tracks.

Understandable, thank you. What do you remember about how it was the impact of Elton’s bisexual confession in 1976?

I remember it was kind of a big deal to the press, but as far as I could tell, not to any of his friends.

You also provided vocals for "It's Raining on Prom Night" and "Freddy, My Love," in the motion picture, Grease. In 1978, your performance on the soundtrack earned her a Grammy Award nomination. That was not the only nomination. You dedicated your debut solo album “Desire Wire” (United Artists, 1979) to Elton and scored a breakthrough hit with the fantastic song "Survivor," which earned the second Grammy Award nomination for best rock vocal performance. Why did you not return with new material for a decade, releasing a self-titled album on MCA in 1989? That was a long time!

Very simply, I got married in 1979. At the same time, US, the record company that released “Desire Wire” dissolved and I signed with Casablanca Records. Unfortunately, the only one who believed in me there was Neil Bogart and he left because of his illness. So I was not happy and decided not to release my third album “Reckless”-which remains unreleased. So after realizing my career was not expanding, my husband and I decided to have children. And I didn’t want to tour with my little babies so I basically “quit” the music business for all those years.

Apart from Elton, you performed with Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Bryan Adams, K.D. Lang, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, etc. A great list of names. And in the 90s, you concentrated on songwriting, composing songs for blues singer Sarah Brown, country trio Dixie Chicks and R&B legend Irma Thomas, and co-writing the Radney Foster hit "Hammer And Nails'. Have you been privileged to meet those people, haven’t you?

I definitely feel privileged to have worked with those incredible artists. Some of them I only performed with for a song or two—others I have recorded with, a few are good friends. But I certainly feel very lucky to have crossed paths with them all.

Another ten-year gap preceded the release of “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth”, a heartfelt collection of songs inspired by and dedicated to your daughter Jessie, who died of cancer in 1996. The album featured contributions from friends like Bryan Adams, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Beth Nielsen-Chapman and Rodney Crowell. The collection's high point, however, was a touching vocal duet with your other daughter, Reid, on "As Long As You Love (Scarlet Wings)", a really touching ballad . I was so impressed for the courage involved in this project, the energy and tenderness, and surely it should be difficult to find a more emotional album than this one. That is a must have in our collection eltonites!

I believe that “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth” is my legacy.

Not before that album and not after have I or will ever write more pure songs than these. I am truly humbled with how far these songs have traveled and how many souls have been touched by this music. And it keeps going. I receive emails and letters about “SBHE” from all over the world to this day. I even do special “Jessie” concerts, singing only these songs-for folks who ask me. One day I would like to record the vocals in Spanish and release it. Thank you for your acknowledgement of this album.

Oh, please, do it, Cindy. The Jessie Bullens-Crewe Foundation was founded in 1996 to honor the incredible spirit of this girl who died too soon - she was only eleven years old. Jessie’s parents, you and Dan Crewe, started the foundation with the hope of fulfilling Jessie’s deep desire to help people in need and to make the world a better place for everyone. That is so nice and generous, and we could find more info on www.jessiefoundation.org. But which areas benefit the foundation and how we could help?

The Jessie Bullens-Crewe Foundation (and the Jessie Fund) help kids with cancer and their families in any way we can. The foundation funds pediatric cancer research, psycho-social services (therapy) for the families, and special training for pediatric cancer care providers. For the last five years, we have put on a festival in my home of Portland, Maine called Baystock Music Festival. We have had Delbert McClinton, James McMurtrey, Dr John, Blues Traveler, Black Crowes, Guster and many others perform. 100% of the ticket sales go to the Jessie Fund. Of course, I perform every year as well. Any contributions are welcome and go directly to help kids with cancer.

Thank you. The Foundation is doing a great job! In the summer of 2001, you collaborated with Tony Award-winning producer and director John Wulp on “Islands”, a musical about life on North Haven. The musical received much acclaim as a unique story and project, and as a result the original cast of "Islands" debuted to a sold out audience at the New Victory Theater on Broadway in September of 2001. That same year, it was released “Neverland” the album that brought you back to the bare bones fun of your rock 'n roll roots. You self declared “when you come to see me play live, playing the same Les Paul or Stratocaster I played 20 years ago, you will know I'm a rock-and-roller”. Why this remark?

Writing the musical “Islands” was an incredible experience! All those songs were written on piano so I wouldn’t fall into my “guitar driven” sounds. I found I could write any type of music I wanted. And I did. I loved it. We performed it in New York City two weeks after 9/11 happened. It was a truly inspiring experience. “Neverland” was the first CD of mine that was co-produced with Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Reckless Kelly, Ray Davies, etc). Ray is one of the most talented producer/engineers that I know. I love his raw, upfront sound and I wanted that for my songs. We became very close friends and I love him dearly.

About the “rocker” bit, I guess I want to be thought of as a rocker because that is the energy that I feel when I write and perform. I used to get upset when someone called me a “folksinger” because of some misguided thinking. Now, even though I still have the same “rocker” intensity when I perform—even solo, I have come to appreciate the depth and breadth of “folk music” and would be proud to be in that genre. Though nowadays, I guess my genre is “Americana” --which I love!

Your sixth solo album, “Dream #29”, in 2004, featured Sir Elton John playing rollicking piano on the title track, also a duet with roadhouse bluesman Delbert McClinton and a guest vocal by the World Champion Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. It was nice to see Elton involved in one of your projects. How it developed the idea and how it was to be with Elton on the studio again?

I was absolutely thrilled that Elton agreed to play piano on the title track! He was performing his show “The Red Piano” in Las Vegas at the time I was recording, so I took the Protools files to Las Vegas and recorded Elton playing THE red piano in the theatre at Caesar’s Palace. It was SO cool!

And when I Ray Kennedy and I were recording in Nashville, we thought Delbert would do a great duet with me on “This Ain’t Love”. So I called him and he came in. I had already recorded my part when he did his—but after he was finished, I had to go in and re-record my part better, because he is just too good! Tim Wakefield is my good friend and loves music. So before a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park in Boston—we recorded his vocal in a little studio by the ballpark. He had never been in a real recording studio before and he loved it! He did a great job too!

Oh, I really like your official website, specially the road diary. Could you explain us, please, what we fans could find there? That’s on www.cindybullens.com

Well, right now my website needs updating! I have been so busy touring with my trio The Refugees, that I have neglected my own site. But my fans can read about what I am doing, listen and buy music, sign up on my email list, and download pictures. There will be more to come soon (I hope!)

Great!!!! What would you like the future to have in store for you? What other recent projects have you become involved with?

As I write this (late November 2009) I am in the middle of recording a new Cindy Bullens album of songs I co-wrote in Nashville in the 90’s, called “Howling Trains and Barking Dogs”. I am about to start recording The Refugees 2nd CD in Los Angeles in December and January. I’ll be performing here and there till Spring when it gets busy again-The Refugees will be in Germany in April and doing festivals throughout the summer and fall of 2010. I will also being touring solo in support of my own CD. There are a couple of side projects I am working on—but I don’t want to talk about them yet.

Finally, could you tell me your five favourite Elton's songs in running order, for my AllSongsList, where I’m trying to find the best of Elton’s songs ever?

Very hard!

1.Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
2.Candle In The Wind
3.Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
4.Tickin’
5. Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Thank you. Would you want to add some observation or suggestion, or something you want to say to other eltonites?

I will always have a huge place in my heart for Elton John. He is a very important part of my own story. Elton is an extremely smart, generous, funny and complex person. His musical talent is unquestioned. He personally took me under his wing when I first started working with him—guiding me, teaching me, looking out for me. His influence on my own life both personally and professionally is great. I will always be grateful for that one night, the night that I “crashed” a party and he walked calmly up to me and introduced himself.

And you are part of this story, Cindy. We haven't forget you and we won't. I would like to thank you for sharing your time with us. To have you is like a Christmas gift for us, eltonites. I wish you all the best, thanks for being in the music business and rock on, Cindy!!!

Oh, before you go, I have a surprise for you. Some people on my side would like to tell you something, with the pretention to make you smile. Hope you like it!!!

Reid Bullens-Crewe, singer: "Cindy Bullens' name is not often recognized but her presence is constantly shining in the public's eye. You hear her in the grocery store singing with Elton or catch a glimps of her in a promo on tv for someone else's biography. But Cindy's talent is rare and pure and deserving of the highest of acolades. Her music has both moved people to dance and to tears as they listen to the words she has written that often express the emotions that they cannot. I am awed by her tenacity and humbled by her talent and proud to be her daughter."

Deborah Holland, singer, member of The Refugees band: "Cindy Bullens is kick-ass, smart as a whip, hysterical, a friend who would go to the ends of the earth for you, and one of the finest songwriters and natural musicians I know. I'm a lucky son-of- a bitch to be able to be in a band with her!"

George Marinelli, guitarrist: "Cindy and I have been friends since the mid '80s. Love what she does, who she is, and what she stands for. But I especially love it when we're both playing guitars together. Pretty great combination. I hope we get to do it again soon. Luvya Cindy!!"

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!!..................................................

jack rabbit said...

Thank you. Cindy Bullens is a special people and a great artist. That's easy then ;-)