Songstress Lucy Kaplansky returns to Steamboat for Songwriter Series | SteamboatToday.com

Songstress Lucy Kaplansky returns to Steamboat for Songwriter Series

Arty Smith/For Steamboat Today

Lucy Kaplansky will perform at the Chief Theater as part of its Songwriter Series.

— Lucy Kaplansky knows all about crossroads. The extremely talented singer-songwriter has pivoted several times in her life, always following her heart to make big decisions.

“It’s inevitable that as you get older and your life deepens you find more ways of connecting to an even larger circle of people,” Kaplansky said. “I find myself clearer about my priorities, my purpose, my politics and my faith.”

As a young woman, she left her home in Chicago and came to New York City where she immediately began to make connections with other singer-songwriters such as Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega and Nanci Griffith. Before long, her ability to sing beautiful harmonies placed her on a fast track to becoming a musical success.

Then her heart called and she pivoted in a completely different direction, completing a doctorate in psychology. Dr. Kaplansky worked for several years at a New York hospital with chronically mentally ill patients. She also started a private practice.

Still her music called to her.

Grammy Award winner and former singing partner Shawn Colvin produced Kaplinsky’s first album, “The Tide,” in 1994. The rest was a bit of a blur. Recording contracts, rave reviews and extensive touring resulted in Kaplansky leaving her psychology work behind and becoming a full-time musician.

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Since then, she has recorded six more solo albums along with several collaborations with other noted singer-songwriters.

In 1999, she joined Dar Williams and Richard Shindell to form the highly successful trio, Cry, Cry, Cry. And in 2010, she joined Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka to form Red Horse, again to rave reviews and welcoming audiences.

Kaplansky released an EP, “Kaplansky sings Kaplansky”, in 2011, featuring songs written by her father, famed University of Chicago mathematician Irving Kaplansky, including live performances of the two of them performing together in California. This was Lucy’s first venture into 1940s style swing. Last year, she recorded The Pine Hill Project with Richard Shindell.

Kaplansky’s songs continue to flow from the heart.

“I write about what I know, what’s around me,” she said.

These days, she centers a lot on family. This includes motherhood.

She lives in Manhattan with her 14-year old daughter, who she adopted from China, and her husband, Richard Litvin, who is a frequent lyrical collaborator on her songs.

“He’s a filmmaker, so he knows how to tell a good story,” Kaplansky said of her husband. “We have a lot of respect for each other, and I believe him when he tells me something is working or not.

“I’ll start with a batch of songs that I’ve written and songs [by other people] that I just love. I’ll do a lot of songs live first and make sure a song is something I can pull off vocally and emotionally,” she said. “It’s about working your way into it and finding a groove.”

In 2017, Lucy is approaching another crossroads.

“I want to continue to make and record music but what format?” Kaplansky asks herself. “This is a time of transition. Are CDs really worth recording?”

Even more established, famous performers are facing the same issue. With shrinking CD sales the norm, all musicians are reviewing how best to bring new music to their fans.

One of Kaplansky’s ways to respond to the new economics of being a singer-songwriter is to play in a variety of venues.

She will be performing at the Chief Theater at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12 as part of the theater’s Songwriter Series.

“I love playing in small venues,” she said. “It feels more intimate and is more fun. I’m psyched.”

Another way is to continue to team with her musical friends.

In May 2017, she will be touring with Cheryl Wheeler, who will also be playing at The Chief on Jan. 29.

“We’re friends. She’s so much fun,” Kaplansky said. “We each do a set alone and then we do a set together. She’s fantastic and hilarious.”

Steamboat audiences may remember when Lucy Kaplansky played with another of her long-term musical friends, Patti Larkin, at Strings Music Festival in 2010.

“I’ve played Steamboat two or three times before. I remember how gorgeous it is,” Kaplansky said.

Even in a time of transition, it seems apparent that Kaplansky will find her way.

“I have an audience. They keep coming.”

The new songs continue to flow. Her family will continue to inspire her. The vision for her musical future will clear just as it always has in her past. All she has to do is follow her heart.

If you go:

What: Songwriter Series: Lucy Kaplansky

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 12

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: $20; available at All That and chieftheater.com