Cyndi Lauper will never stop having fun with a new album, Memphis Blues, out this month. With more than 25 million albums sold and 13 Grammy Award nominations, this singer, actress and LGBT-rights activist continues to show her “True Colors.” Don’t Cry No More
Jerry Nunn: Hi, Cyndi. I just went to New York and my friends saw you at an LGBT event.
Cyndi Lauper: Yes, the GLSEN [ Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network ] Awards, a very important organization. It is very similar with what we do at Give a Damn. It brings straight alliances into understanding and educating people about hatred in the community.
JN: What can the average person do for your Give a Damn campaign?
CL: Share a story. When we start to talk together that’s when we will understand each other better. Dialogue is always good. Everyone should tell their own story. Some of these real stories from real people are very moving and compelling.
JN: People can go to the website wegiveadamn.org to get more information?
CL: Yes, and look at our “Damn” videos and contribute their own “Damn” video on there.
JN: Let’s talk about your new CD. You went blues this time out and traveled to Memphis to record it.
CL: Yep. Blues is rhythm and the basis for everything. This isn’t pure blues; this is more Memphis blues. There is a difference.
JN: You have lots of guest stars on this album, such as B.B. King and Jonny Lang.
CL: I do. I wanted to make a special album. I want to make music that you can pick it up and listen to all the tracks. I want them to be interesting. It’s like when I pick up albums, not that I want to compare myself, but albums like Fats Waller or Louis Armstrong when I was little. I enjoyed those records so much. I loved the interaction between the musicians. So I am going with that. I loved all the laughter. I loved every note on it. I loved all the solos. It’s live.
JN: Sounds like a rewarding project.
CL: There are a few things here and there. The horns are overdubbed. I don’t like the horns blaring while I am singin’, you know?
JN: Well, sure. Now are you coming to House of Blues in Chicago, which is a perfect venue for you.
CL: Well, you know people have traveled from Mississippi to Memphis then took Highway 61 up to Chicago, so to actually take this Memphis record to play it in Chicago is great. I ain’t driving on that highway. I am flying there from New York. [ Both laugh. ] No, maybe I will be driving but not up from the South. I will look at my schedule and tell you but it is not 61. Maybe I will film it on my flip and put it on the Internet!
JN: Are you doing classic Cyndi songs at the show or maybe blues versions?
CL: Yes. It is going to be fun. I just did something last night that was so funny. I kill myself.
JN: What happened?
CL: Well, it’s not funny; it’s good because these are great musicians. It is fun to do a blues version of some old songs. All of them are going to be like that, you know? We just did a blues version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Charlie Musselwhite was doing a lot. He is so great. It is going to be really good.
JN: Sure, I have seen you many times in concert. You are just amazing.
CL: Good. Sometimes I am all right.
JN: How was your whole Celebrity Apprentice experience? Do you want to do more?
CL: Oh yeah, I am hooked! I signed with Mark Burnett Productions so I am going to try to do my own.
JN: [ Gasps ] You should! I thought that when I saw you on there. What else do you have coming up?
CL: I am writing for Kinky Boots the Musical. It is a Broadway play that Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell are working on. Jerry is the director, Harvey is the writer and I am the music maker.
JN: This is similar to Kinky Boots the movie?
CL: Yes, but other things happen. It is really interesting how Harvey is writing it. I was very excited when he told me the story. I kept asking questions. I found myself asking questions because I was intrigued by his story. [ Laughs ] I am a sucker for stories!
JN: Then you can go on tour with the show and come back to Chicago.
CL: Well, I am not in it. I am just doing the music. There’s no part for me.
JN: I mean you can present it to Chicago and come opening night like Elton John did for Billy Elliot.
CL: Wow, that’s awesome!
JN: Before I let you go, I just want to say thank you for all you do for your LGBT fans. I saw you at the Gay Games in Chicago and you blew everyone away.
CL: Did you happen to notice that Abraham Lincoln was playing the violin?
JN: Of course, and you were dressed like a gay Statue of Liberty!
CL: I wanted everyone to scream laughing but also get what I was saying—that everyone needs liberty.
JN: We do. Thanks so much for talking to me today and see you at the House of Blues.
CL: All right, kid.