Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Rändi Fay’s new turn takes route of original songs

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Rändi Fay’s new turn takes route of original songs

The Green Bay singer co-produced the album.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A woman with a husband and three grown children who once was a veterinarian has a new album of original songs. Not many people fit that sentence. That is why you are now reading about Rändi Fay.

Rändi Fay has a bright, clear, cheery, versatile voice that she adapts to many styles and situations. Her CD of original music is another step along her one-of-a-kind path.

As with three previous albums, Rändi Fay co-produced “Falling.” The 13-song CD arrives today, Monday, June 23, online (www.randifay.com) and will see a flurry of activity in its wake.

She also is one of the featured singers in a special concert tonight, Monday, June 23, of the Allouez Village Band at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts in Green Bay. That just happens to fall in the week of her release, which will culminate with an album release party Sunday night, June 29, at the Ten O One Club in Green Bay.

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Falling

Songs (music and lyrics by Rändi Fay except where noted)

“High Noon”

Crystal Tears”

“Take Six,” Rändi Fay and Mick Maloney

“Falling”

“That Beat”

“Running in the Rain”

“After Dark,” music and lyrics by Mick Maloney

“Waiting for Him”

“Popcorn Alley,” Mick Maloney and Rändi Fay

“Carnival Bahia,” music and lyrics by Bob Balsley

“Feedin’ the Blues,” Mick Maloney and Rändi Fay

“I Don’t Know,” Mick Maloney and Rändi Fay

“Road Trip”

Performers: Rändi Fay, vocals; Mick Maloney, bass; Bob Balsley, guitar; Greg Pagel, piano, organ, accordion; Kevin Crocker, drums; Kurt Risch, percussion; Hans Christian, cello; Bob Levy, trumpet.

Producers: Rändi Fay and Marc Golde.

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Curiosity drove my interest in the CD. Main question: Why? Why did she do this album?

I put the question to Rändi Fay after mentioning a line in one of her songs – “This fire in me.”

Response: “To some degree, do I have something to prove, something to share? Yeah, I think you’re right. I think that that answer fits.”

The album is unexpected in ways. The music fits into the broad spectrum of jazz, though with colorful tidbits along the way – a whisp of the Orient here, of a European café in an accordion there, of a catchy bass line here, the joy of a Mardi Gras festival there, of snippets of scat singing here and there. A rainy, happy drive with a dog and a visit to a place called Popcorn Alley shape two of the creative songs. Lyrics dig, or they play. There’s nothing stock about the songs.

“They all are their own little personality,” Rändi Fay said. “It’s like they’re all a child, and I’m glad that they took that on because the mood is different in each one.”

The variety was a choice – versus an album of, say, songs rooted in a standards aura.

“Lots of choices,” Rändi Fay said. “And (producing an album is) really different when it’s original music as well. I guess I do have a template in my head. That’s what you hear. But to try to communicate that and have it expressed the way you’re hearing it – it’s exciting but really hard. It’s like building a house from scratch.”

Instead of moving into an older house that somebody else built, Rändi Fay made the decisions for designing and building each room, complete with furnishings and decorations.

Why did she go the route of original material?

“I guess a couple of reasons. I don’t even know that I would ever say I had this as a goal from since I was 2 years old. It was like it’s just something that is in my heart and that I do. I always had these original songs coming out of my head. I’d sing songs to my kids, making up things about mixing cookies or something. Kind of like Mary Poppins – everything has a song. So I think the songs are just kind of there. I had a lot of people encouraging me to write some down, and I felt like I didn’t have the tools until I finally took a college-level course in music theory. It was like, ‘Oh gosh, now at least I can understand and try to communicate what is in my head in a more clear fashion.’ And so then, once I started, this was really fun and exciting. And it’s interesting because I’m still singing some of the standards and bringing some of those old, beautiful songs into my repertoire, but it’s really fun to do originals. It’s just like an expression of something that’s inside of you. I think that’s probably where it came from. And I work with really, really, really good guys who are very, very helpful in filling out my house. My theory is very minimal compared with what they know, and they really fill it out. So it’s very exciting to work with them as well.”

The group is called Rändi Fay & Limited Edition, with Bob Balsley, Mick Maloney and Greg Pagel forming the backbone. Rändi Fay called them “my funky genius men.” They’ve been around the block, playing across a huge spectrum of music.

Put yourself in this scenario: You write a song, and you think it’s okay, you think it’s good, but you don’t really know. You place people around you who have been performing music, creating sounds and songs, forever. So if you put a song together with them, does that give you a confidence that, gee, if they’re not throwing up on the floor, it must be good?

Rändi Fay laughed at the thought, then ran with it: “I speak in metaphors. This sort of reminds me of when you’re a vet (a field she left due to a hand injury). When I was a vet, an emergency would come in, and we’d all go to work on it, and no one’s saying, ‘Wow, you just treated that animal beautifully.’ You just go to work. To some degree, we got together and sat down and went to work on it. I don’t know of any of (her musicians) are really that forthcoming in praise. I would love them to be more – I’m so insecure – but you’re right, it’s exactly the fact that they are working on the songs and that they’ll play them. I’ll see Bob (Balsley) going off on a riff in the middle of one of my songs, then I know he’s having fun with it. Or ‘Feedin’ the Blues’ – that’s just such a silly song, but Greg is just loving it. He added in that little organ part to give it that Herman Munster feel or whatever that silly little riff is. When I see them being inspired creatively to work with a song, I go, ‘Oh, can’t be all that bad. This is awesome… They’re not throwing up on the floor, so I think I must be okay.” She laughed some more.

Put yourself in another scenario: You sing existing material. If you record those songs, you’re perhaps compared with another person’s interpretation or how your interpretation is different. With original material, is that freeing of such comparison?

Rändi Fay said, “In some ways, it’s similar. There are cover bands whose intention is to exactly mimic the way that another group did it. People say, ‘Oh my gosh, you sound just like…’ Like Project Pink, which is amazing. ‘Oh my gosh, you sound just like Pink Floyd.’ So a lot of bands want to sound as much like the popular song. They want to reproduce it as closely to the song as it was made popular. With the standards, we’re doing our own version – which I think is normal in jazz. I actually find that in itself freeing. I wouldn’t do them the way that we do the versions of the standards if I didn’t love our versions. So I don’t think about that. I just think what we’re doing is the best way. I’m like, ‘This is such a great version.’ Again, I owe a lot to my instrumentalists. I’ll come up with stuff, but they just take it and fly and they make it happen. I mean, I’m just a singer. So with the originals, it’s almost like, ‘Am I getting across what I had hoped?’ That is the challenge there. It is freeing because there is nothing that anybody can compare the music to, but on the other hand, will someone listen to it to listen to it or say, ‘Oh, “Running in the Rain,” what is that? It’s just to get people to have their interest piqued and listen and then to discover whether the song came across as I had hoped. It is a little nerve wracking because I love it. I hope it is being communicated the way that I hear it in my head.”

Rändi Fay has performed on stage in groups large and small, sometimes as part of an existing organization or show group. That evolved into fronting – and getting the bookings for – a band. 

“I’ve been gigging over four years now,” she said. “My first two years I worked with a variety of different people because I was new and people would say, ‘Yeah, I’ll play a couple of gigs with you,’ and then they’d have other commitments. It wasn’t until two years ago June I started playing regularly with Bob and Mick. And then two years ago in the fall Greg came in when Bob was busy. These guys all have commitments. So it really works fantastically that I have this pool, and that’s where (the name) Limited Edition came from. I have this pool of guys that I can play with and they can fit in. They’re interchangeable parts in some ways…

“So I’ve been playing with these guys for two years, and they’ve been instrumental in developing a lot of these originals. And they know them, and they know where I want to go with them, so it’s really great to actually record with the guys that I play with. Now we’re going to be able to play the songs the way people hear them mostly – we won’t have cello on all of them – how they are on the CD, and I’m excited about that.”

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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