talks to... Ann Hampton Callaway

How long have you known Barbra & how did you first start working together?

I began communicating with Barbra in 1995, after she heard and liked a song I wrote for her called “At the Same Time”. I had written the song on August 16th, 1987 and little did I know that it would be ten years to the date, August 16th, 1997, that she would finally record the song. It was thanks to my friend, the wonderful songwriter Amanda McBroom, that I was able to finally get the song to Barbra directly via Jay Landers, her 
A & R man and producer. I will never forget talking to my dad on the phone and then getting the beep on my line from Jay Landers’s secretary who had Barbra on the line. I said, “Let me tell my dad I’ll call him back”. I told him whom the call was from and literally started hyperventilating from all the excitement. When I got back on line, Barbra had gotten disconnected so I had a moment to compose myself when they called me back. When I exchanged my first words with Barbra about some lyric rewrites for her, I was too cool for words, trying to remain as dignified as possible. We had a very interesting conversation about what she was looking for in the rewriting of the bridge of my song. It was important to her that the words be “simple but profound” and understandable to the listener upon first hearing. She was warm and expressive about the message she wanted to convey. Two years later, when I was in LA recording my Christmas album, which was produced by Jay Landers, I was invited to meet Barbra in person during the recording session of “Higher Ground.” I will never forget the joy I felt driving my rented white convertible in the 105-degree weather to her recording session. I thought of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs “A Quiet Thing”, which starts “When it all comes true, just the way you planned, it’s funny, but the bells don’t ring. It’s a quiet thing.” I felt at that moment a combination of awe for this beautiful opportunity to meet an artist who had inspired me, but also a sense that I had earned that moment by working so hard at the music I was moved to create all my life. I was privileged to spend 45 minutes during her recording of the song “Circle” and we spoke about all kinds of things regarding music and people we’d both worked with. Jay Landers was very generous with praise about me to Barbra and at the end of our visit, she complimented me on my singing that she’d heard on my demo of “At the Same Time”.

Tell us about Barbra's "Wedding Song" - how did that come about?

Barbra fell in love with some melodies by the composer Rolf Lovland. She was preparing to record “A Love Like Ours” and thought that his melody “Heartstrings” would be very lovely for the CD, so she asked that I write the lyrics. My only instructions were to write a positive love song. I spent five weeks writing lyrics to this melody with the title “Heartstrings”. Barbra saw the final lyric and said, “This is too literal. Don’t write a song called ‘Heartstrings’; write any title that inspires you. So one Sunday, I went into the city from Croton, where I was living at the time, and I drove in to make sure my mother was okay because she hadn’t answered her phone in several days and I was worried that something had happened to her. When I found out that she was okay, that her phone had been out of order unbeknownst to her, in my relieved state I headed back north and decided to stop by The Chart House in Dobbs Ferry. It was a pretty July day and I sat outside at one of the tables overlooking the Hudson River. I’d brought my lyric sheets with me, as they never left my side during this writing period. Now when I perform “I’ve Dreamed of You” in my show, I always tell the audience how distressed I was that I hadn’t finished the lyric by this point. I say that my lyric writing for five weeks had been so pathetic that I made Hallmark Cards look like Aristotle comparatively speaking. So that was my cue to do what all partly Irish girls do when they’re in trouble: succumb to alcohol! I sat there in the afternoon light and pretended that the Hudson River was the Pacific Ocean and that The Chart House behind me was my Malibu compound and that I was Barbra writing in my journal about James. I suddenly thought she was supposed to be getting married sometime that year and wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could write the song she would sing at her wedding. Well, two white wine spritzers later, I had a wedding song! I drove back home to Croton (very carefully) and faxed the lyric to Jay Landers. He called me right back and said he thought it was excellent and “very Bergmanesque”. He said he would get the lyric to Barbra and maybe we’d have an answer by the next day. Well we had an answer that Monday and, much to my surprise she loved the lyric and said the only rewrite she wanted was turning “cannot” into “can’t”. What a relief after the hundred revisions I’d done for “At the Same Time”. Barbra then requested that I record a demo of the song that she said she wanted to play at a “party” she was giving on Wednesday. Tuesday, I drove into the city and recorded the demo with an arranger/producer Jay recommended named Irwin Fisch. I sang and played piano and Irwin layed down the strings and the woodwinds. That night I Fed-exed it to Barbra’s home and stopped by Jay’s apartment to play it for him. He was very pleased and moved. The next day I went upstate to a spiritual retreat in the Catskills and spent the day chanting and meditating. At nine o’clock that night I checked my messages and the first message was from Marty Erlichman, Barbra’s manager. He sounded panic stricken and said that Barbra was getting married in three hours and had just gotten the tape of the song and loved it so much she wanted to
Ann Hampton Callawaysing it at the reception. He said “Call back immediately so we can get the TV tracks” (the instrumental recording she could use as her backup). I was in a state of shock. I stood in the phone booth realizing that since it was 9 p.m. I had probably lost the songwriting break of my life. Ah, but the next message was an answered prayer. I heard the reassuring voice of my great ally Jay Landers, saying that since no one could reach me all day, he personally went to Irwin Fisch’s house who happened to be home and recorded the TV tracks, audio faxed them to Sony Records in LA, messengered them to Barbra’s home and then Barbra stunned everyone and sang the song at her star studded wedding. Marvin Hamlisch told my manager that it was one of the most touching moments of the night and that everyone cried when she sang the song. When Barbra returned from her honeymoon, she decided she’d like another verse to the song for the recording and asked me to call her so we could discuss it. She told me what she wanted and then I had to ask the question. I said, “Barbra, how could you be that spontaneous and sing a brand new song on your day of days?” She paused for a moment and said “Well you know, Ann, you expressed exactly how I feel about James and thank God you sang the song in my key. By the way who was that pianist? He was very good.” And I told her it was me. I think she got a kick out of that. So as you see, the song was a miracle on so many levels. And if I hadn’t gone into the city to make sure my mother was okay, I wouldn’t have stopped by that lovely setting and written that song just in the nick of time. I see all my Barbra songs as blessings and miracles.

Is it true you used to listen to Barbra as a child? Did you have a favorite album?

The first album my family got of Barbra’s was “People”, which continues to be one of my favorite recordings she’s done. I memorized all the songs and was so moved by her passion, her gorgeous voice, her intelligent delivery of lyrics and her uniqueness. And when we went to see her in the movie “Funny Girl”, that that was one of the moments in my life when my dream of what I wanted to do with my life became much clearer. I identified with her character, a strong woman who didn’t quite fit in but knew she had a special gift. Barbra has given me and countless others not just the gift of her singing and powerful artistry, but also the gift of her indomitable spirit. When she asked me to help her with her patter for her last concert, I was so moved by hearing in our conversations the saga of how she always listened to the voice inside of her, no matter what producers or the public seemed to expect. That is what gives her art its ring of truth, her tenacious and sometimes misunderstood integrity.

"At The Same Time" - which Barbra sang at her Timeless concerts, was written 10 years earlier, how was it hearing her sing it, finally?

When the CD arrived at my home one sunny Saturday morning, I played it and just wept. I couldn’t believe she had finally recorded it. That the voice inside of me ten years before was right to say that it was Barbra’s song. I was so thrilled to have my hero singing a song I’d written, particularly one which had meant so much to me and had had such a history prior to getting into her hands. Here was an anthem for world peace I had sent to Reagan and Gorbachev on the eve of the first summit which would lead to the end of The Soviet Union. My letter to Gorbachev had unbeknownst to me been published in a book in Russia called “Americans Write Gorbachev”. Hundred of Russians had gotten my address from the letterhead and written me to say that these words reflected how they felt as well. I later performed the song in Moscow for Gorbachev acapella at the podium he spoke at for 300 students of peace and had seen tears roll down his cheeks after my performance. I had sung the song with Liza Minnelli in a big benefit in New York. Governor Mario Cuomo had called me in Chicago at 8 a.m. one morning to thank me for sending him the song and declared it the theme for The Decade of the Child. But not until Barbra recorded the song did I feel it got the life it needed. Knowing how many millions of people were able to hear those words was immensely moving to me. I love Barbra’s commitment to trying to help make the world a better place. That is one of the reasons we were able to develop a bond- we share common values and the mission to put them into our music. I am eternally grateful that she decided to share the song with the world. And ironically, it seems more timely than ever.

SignatureWhat are you impressions of Barbra today?

I think Barbra has finally found some personal happiness which makes me so pleased for her. You can hear it in her voice, the love that she has found. She has decided to live life on a more intimate level, while continuing to do recording when she is inspired and speaking out on issues she cares about. Many superstars get so caught up in the pressures of being a celebrity that happiness on a human level eludes them. I hope Barbra has a very satisfying artistic AND personal life.

How often do you speak to Barbra?

I haven’t had the pleasure of speaking with her in a while. We exchange cards at holiday time and gifts from time to time. I worked on additional lyrics for her new film music CD coming out, but my communication was with Jay Landers. The last time I spoke with her in person was after her amazing last concert at Madison Square Garden. I got to spend about an hour with her afterwards and it was the most open she’d ever been with me. She seemed to be in great spirits and enjoying performing more than she ever had before. I’ll never forget the thrill of her acknowledging me so graciously to the audience that night in front of 40,000 people.

What kind of album would you like to see Barbra do in the future?

“Barbra Sings Ann-dards”!!!!!!!!!! Besides that wild fantasy, I hope that Barbra does more movie musicals, even new ones that haven’t been written yet. It is a form I think she is brilliant in and I’d like to see much more going on in that realm, especially after the success of “Chicago”. I’d also like to see her do a sort of “New Standards” CD of songs by new songwriters the world hasn’t gotten to know as well as they should, with a few duets with up and coming singers who deserve more recognition. I’d love to see Barbra do mentoring with younger people. I think it would excite and inspire her.

Would you like to sing with her?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. Oh, and YES. I had once dreamed that Barbra would call me up and ask me to sub for Celine Dion who couldn’t do the concerts with her and I would give her my gracious diva consent. I do think if we ever got to sing together that we would have an incredible blend and a wonderful time together. I’d even like to get Barbra scat singing and doing improvs with me. I’m currently developing a talk variety TV show and if it all comes to be maybe Barbra will be kind enough to be a guest on the show and that dream will come true.

In "Sibling Revelry," you and Liz Callaway, your sister, do a duet medley - including Barbra's duets with Donna Summer and Judy Garland -- was that fun? Who did which roles?

Liz and I always have a ball doing those songs and clearly the audience loves our remembering those great singing moments in our act.

What projects are you working on now that would be of interest to Streisand fans?

I have an active touring schedule which you can find out about on my website I frequently sing songs of mine that Barbra has recorded and people seem to enjoy my version of these songs as well. I also can be heard regularly on Sirius Satellite radio on stream 75 in “The Fantasy ballroom” doing these and other songs. At some point, I may do a tribute to Barbra in one of my upcoming acts. My sister, Liz Callaway, and I are both interested in this project. And I am keeping my fingers crossed about my pending TV show as it would give the kind of music Barbra and I love a better chance to be heard by fans around the country. And for those who enjoy my songwriting you can still hear me singing my theme to the sitcom “The Nanny” regularly in syndication on “Lifetime”. Last of all, for fans of my song” Christmas Lullaby”, which Barbra recorded on “Christmas Memories”, you can hear my rendition of the song on the holiday album I recorded with Peter Nero and the Phillie Pops, due in stores this October.

ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY is one of the most widely acclaimed singer/songwriters working in pop/jazz today. She also received a Tony Award nomination for "BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL" for her work in the Broadway musical hit, "SWING!", and won the "THEATRE WORLD AWARD for "OUTSTANDING BROADWAY DEBUT." She has received national attention from television audiences for her song "The Nanny Named Fran" which she wrote and performed for the CBS television comedy hit, "THE NANNY." Another of Ann’s compositions, "At The Same Time" was recorded by Barbra Streisand for her CD, "Higher Ground" which debuted nationally at #1. Ms. Streisand asked Ann to write lyrics to a Rolf Lovland melody, which she entitled "I’ve Dreamed Of You" and was sung by Barbra Streisand to James Brolin at their wedding and was recorded for her CD "A Love Like Ours." She also performed these songs on her live double CD "Timeless." Ms. Streisand asked Ann to write a new Christmas song, which Ann entitled "A Christmas Lullaby" that was recorded for Streisand’s holiday CD, "Christmas Memories.

© / Craig Hall 2002-2012     Contact Us