Recording our upcoming album, Get Happy, was no small feat. It involved months of planning, long hours in the studio, and fruitful collaboration with some of the most creative and accomplished musicians working today. We feel extremely lucky to have worked with such brilliant artists as Rufus Wainwright, The von Trapps, Meow Meow, Philippe Katerine, Norman Leyden, and Phyllis Diller. Their broad talent brought diverse and engaging ideas to the album, and made the recording process even more rewarding for us.
These musicians are all part of the Pink Martini family now, and we would love for you to get a taste of their luminous personalities and talents. That’s why we’ve started this blog series. Over the next month we’ll introduce you to some of the lovely people with whom we had the good fortune to collaborate on Get Happy.
We’re starting the series by featuring one of our long-time friends and cohorts, the dazzling Ari Shapiro.
Ari first recorded with us in 2009, singing “But Now I’m Back” on our fourth studio album, Splendor in the Grass. You probably recognize Ari from his radio work: He’s been the White House Correspondent for National Public Radio since 2010. Before he was chasing high-ranking government officials around the Potomac, Ari worked as NPR’s Justice Correspondent for five years. He also graduated magna cum laude from Yale University, is a member of the less-scary-than-it-sounds Scroll and Key Society, and a Portland native. In case you couldn’t tell, he’s kind of a big deal.
As NPR’s White House Correspondent, Ari is used to asking the questions. For this post, we thought it would be fun to turn the tables on him and make him the subject of an interview. He was a great sport and, as you might expect, gave a great interview.
Pink Martini: How did you come to start singing with Pink Martini?
Ari Shapiro: I grew up in Portland and have been a fan of the band since high school. I knew them when they were a teeny band playing in now-defunct bars around Portland. After finishing college I became friends with them and would throw parties for them any time they were in town.
One year I threw a barbecue that turned into an all-night sing-along around the piano. The next day Thomas called me and asked if I wanted to record a song on their next album. I hesitantly agreed, we recorded it at Kung Fu Bakery, and I thought it would be a one-off type of thing. It wasn’t.
PM: What’s it’s like to work with the band?
AS: It’s such a refreshing change. It feels like I’m using a completely different part of my brain. [When I’m working with Pink Martini] I’m surround by phenomenal talent that is different from my daily life in D.C. Layer on top of that going from Athens, to Istanbul, to Paris, and it’s just unbelievable. It’s like the Amazing Race, but no one goes home.
PM: Have you heard the new album in its entirety?
AS: I have. I love it. Even though there are more contributors than any other albums, it sounds and feels more cohesive. It has a great progression and flow. I especially love the China and Storm combo.
PM: What’s your favorite song off the new album?
AS: “Pana Cand”, the Romanian song. It’s devastating.
PM: Do you find there’s a disconnect between people that know you from your work with NPR and those who know you from your work with Pink Martini?
AS: I think there’s a lot of overlap between NPR and Pink Martini fans, at least in the United States. In the states it’s safe to say that more people know me from NPR. The bar is lower because everyone knows this is not my day job. [laughs]
PM: Is there anything you would want Pink Martini fans to know about you that they might not be able to find from a Google search or a Wikipedia entry?
AS: There was a time in my life when people stopped guessing that I was from Portland and started guessing I was from, I don’t know, Connecticut, or something. I love Portland so much, so that was really hard for me. Performing with Pink Martini helps me keep one foot rooted in Portland, not just geographically, but aesthetically. Pink Martini is a distillation of what I love about my hometown and why I’m so proud to be from the Pacific Northwest.