By Rachel Galvin
When you think of Cyndi Lauper, you may picture the edgy bohemian with big, bright red hair, flamboyant styling and adorable New Yawk accent. But Lauper has transformed through the years, since being thrust into the mainstream scene in 1983 with She’s So Unusual, changing her style in fashion and music. Once known for her pop music hits like “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “Time After Time,” she has moved on to embrace other styles, including Blues, in her last album Memphis Blues.
Now, in her newest album, Detour, she firmly embraces Country. The album is a collaboration with the likes of Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Jewel. This 11th studio album was recorded in Nashville and includes all covers of classics like Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall To Pieces; “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana and Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas,” and many others.
The Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning singer likes to employ a wide variety of genres within all her original songs.
“I think it was an eclectic sound to begin with. It’s all a mixture,” said Lauper of her early music during an interview with The Observer. “It’s Jamaican, it’s street and Motown-ish, all mixed together but in a pop format. [If it makes you happy], then that is the kind of music it is.”
Creating happiness is key to her musical choices. In this latest album, she is returning back to her roots, to music she listened to as a child.
‘[I cut my teeth] listening to all the Rockabilly Rock & Rollers … Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline,” she said. “[For this album], I picked songs with stories I could relate to.”
Lauper added, “I thought country would be hard, but once I found myself in it, I was ok. I think that all of it is the roots of the music that I play. It’s a singer’s record. I really love music and feel blessed. My favorite right now is this but I did love the Blues, and they are very close. This is same time period as [songs within] Memphis Blues.”
Cyndi, who has been a songwriter, singer, actress and well-known LGBT activist, also recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with Harvey Fierstein, who worked with her on the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots.”
“Right next to Gary Cooper!” she enthused. “It doesn’t get better than that.”
Her advice for people trying to get into the business?
“Keep going and do what you were put on this earth to do. If it’s singing and writing, don’t stop and there’s plenty of gate keepers, look beyond their shoulders and see where you are going. Make a map, make a plan and stick to it. Sometimes, you might take some detours, detours that are good. Don’t do the bad ones,” she said.
Cyndi has had struggles in her life, within her childhood and while navigating through stardom. When asked how she handles challenges that have arisen, she said, “Sometimes, I just write down on a piece of paper what I would like to happen. Every time I put a ‘but’ in there, I turn that paper over and start again until there are no ‘buts’ or ‘ifs.’ I think the written word is very powerful and I’ve actually done it and been able to turn things around for myself. It’s a mindset. I always believe in life there’s a lot of people that want to do things but they always say ‘but’ and they always think ‘but.’ They can’t send mixed messages. They [have] to just keep their aim true. I think that the people who succeed in life are the people who don’t quit. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there, you don’t quit.”
She added, “There are trappings that come with music. If you are lucky enough to become successful, fame comes along with it. There is no handbook for that. Nobody writes, ‘Rule No. 1… when you’re famous …’ They don’t do that. Your path is your own so try and accept yourself for who you are and you’ll accept others too and try and find happiness in everything you do because life is short.”
Lauper didn’t always start out on this particular path. In fact, she didn’t set out to be a lead singer at all.
“I actually learned to sing in the clubs and learned to be a front person because I wanted to be a background singer. I had my heart set on being like Merry Clayton. [When I was singing in a band], the platform shoes I was wearing kept falling. The only manager who would manage us said he would only manage us if the girl in the back who keeps falling, but sings pretty good, would come up front and be the lead singer. So that’s what happened,” she explained.
Her son, “Dex” (Declyn), is now getting involved in doing Hip Hop. She has seen how the industry has changed. She isn’t sure if she started out today if she would make it the way she did in the ‘80s.
“I don’t think I could be on all those [reality] shows. You get tortured.” said Lauper (who has had her own reality show called ‘She’s Still Unusual’). “It’s a different ballgame because of social media.”
She wonders if singers in the past had to go through the same steps as singers today if many of them would have become famous.
“Would [Bob] Dylan do it? Would he make it through?” she wondered.
She added, “When I started in 1983, I was more of a performance artist. [I would get questions like] ‘Why can’t you wear jeans and a T-shirt like Katrina and the Waves? After awhile, it wore me down until I did Diva Glam thing with Lady Gaga. It [woke me up], saying wait a minute, I could dress the way I dress without feeling like a freak because there was somebody there who [dresses that way too]. I hope that I told her ‘Don’t listen. Be who you are.’ She is a performance artist. Bowie was the first performance artist. To come back now and do this album and have a little performance art I can do, I am so grateful.”
As for Lauper’s future following the tour?
“I am going to tackle another musical … she said.
Cyndi has a Boca Raton spot on her tour. See her perform, with The Peach Kings, at Mizner Park Amphitheatre on June 11. For more information on her career, visit www.cyndilauper.com.