It's worth your time to watch the faces of the America's Got Talent judges as they a) ponder the name of contestant Storm Large ("that's my real name," she says, good-naturedly to these folks who, honestly if they knew anything about music would already know who she is); b) realize that the chick can actually sing and not just sing — belt and wail and wrestle a tune to the floor like her life depends on it; and c) Storm reveals she's 51 years old and Sofia Vergara says, "You look great!" Yes, she does. She is great. Period.
Storm Large Sings an Unbelievable Cover of "I've Got You Under My Skin" - America's Got Talent 2021youtu.be
Storm Large shouldn't need any introduction at all, but please take your time getting acquainted with this omnisexual goddess-songstress because she is headed to Chandler Center For the Arts. If you don't live in Arizona, don't despair. Storm tours widely and frequently and you'd be doing yourself a huge favor to see her play live either with Pink Martini or one of her own shows. Here is my conversation with her:
America's Got Talent 'wildcard'! Did that bring you a whole new audience?
Storm: Yeah, that was very, very interesting. Strange, strange crook in the road.
I see a lot of people in the comments on YouTube saying 'I never knew about this woman. Where has she been all this time?'
Storm: I know. Actually, it wasn't the massive [exposure] you would think, I mean, I definitely got — in that first audition they aired — a massive thrust ... I was on Good Morning America and people were like, 'Who is this woman? Blah blah blah blah.' But I've been a professional musician for 30 years, so I have tens of thousands of fans who are just like, 'We've known about her for a long time.' It was funny. They're very protective and defensive. And then America's Got Talent kept saying, 'She's been waiting for her big break for 30 years,' and my fans are just like, 'No she's not! I saw her at Carnegie Hall twice! She's fine!' I got a lot more attention 16, I think 17 years ago when I was on Rockstar Supernova because I was on television nonstop for three months.
But I mean, America's Got Talent is a massive, massive machine. And so when they called me and were really keen on having you on the show, I was like, Oh, I don't need to be on TV. I'm fine. It seems awfully greedy, actually of me.
The look on Heidi Klum's face when you cracked open "Under My Skin" was priceless.
Storm: It was really fun. And I honestly didn't expect to go much further than the audition because there's so many incredibly talented, beautiful, beautiful souls and wonderful people I hung out with backstage. One of my dearest friends, Jimmy Harrell, who went all the way to the finals, where the best singers I've ever heard in my entire life. ... And then thankfully I got released back into the wild where I'm more comfortable. [Laughs]
Storm Large Sings a STUNNING Rendition of "Take On Me" by A-Ha - America's Got Talent 2021youtu.be
I've seen you perform live and you do roam free and it's special, and it's not just your singing. It's the way you tell stories. It's the strength of what you're saying, and your connection with the audience. Tell me how you've gotten by during this rough pandemic.
Storm: It's been very existential for all artists, especially performers, and as a musician, especially when you're just beginning, you are trying to cobble together any gig, trying to get any audience to come and and trying to get the word out. And you're working three service jobs, all of which disappeared for the first complete year. And so I can't imagine the desperation of young artists starting out. I, fortunately, have been working a long time, and I'm always saving catastrophically for an injury or illness. And so I was all right. I mean, I'm broke but I'm not on the street. I'm working again. But for me, it was very existential. It was: If I can't do what I do, I mean, I'm not an artist in some altruistic sense of [femme voice] 'Oh, how do I express myself or else I'll just fade away!' No.
I have a big, lonely heart and art and music and performing live has always been my salvation. It's my service, it's my connection. It's how I make others feel connected and thus myself connected and purpose-driven. Because I can make people feel better. I can make people remember, forget, heal, forgive—and it's universal.
I did a little bit of virtual stuff, online stuff. Thank God, we have the technology to at least do that. The first year, my best friend growing up, her father passed from COVID and she was like my sister. She was surrogate family and so I just got in my car and drove cross-country from Portland to Massachusetts and helped her that whole summer with with the details and just support.
And she supported me and it was, you know, a tough time for everyone. And so to be useful in any way was a great gift. And then the second year started to lighten up a bit. We started to get our fingers around it and more vaccinations and more understanding. And so I started playing live again a little tiny bit in dribs and drabs. And now we're back to the races. And the thing that I hope most people get out of [the pandemic] is how connected we really are. How the best way to get through it is to remember it's not just happening to you. It happened to all of us, which sucks. But it's also good because it hopefully will encourage a little bit of empathy between warring factions, typically disagreeing people, that we're all human and we're all frail, and none of us do well with uncertainty.
You're born in the year of Woodstock. You've been a survivor your whole life. You wrote a great memoir about dealing with your mother's mental illness and how that affected you. I think you were better equipped than many to deal with this pandemic. What's your ultimate psychological and philosophical takeaway?
Storm: All the bullshit layers have been peeled away and the frailty and the corruption in all government on all sides, no matter how you've ever voted; a lot of people are white knuckling around their own beliefs. Thank goodness there's a humongous younger generation. They're like, 'Yeah, no. It's all crap. It's all bullshit. And we have to hold them accountable.' And now we can because there is no hiding. There is no lying. I mean, there's a lot of lying, but there is no kind of denying the truth anymore. And that's that's what is adding to the panicked power grabs that we're seeing. But I do hope it's the death of the old guard. But yeah, I can't go back. There is no, 'go back to normal.' No. You know, normal got all those young, unarmed Black people killed. Normal is people dying in emergency rooms because they don't have insurance, losing their homes because they don't have proper insurance. And, you know, fuck normal. Normal is absolutely unjust and imbalanced, and normal is what got us here. So I don't want that anymore.
Can I ask you a little bit about mental health? Because that's one of the other things you've always been completely unflinchingly honest about. And yet it's only now trending as a real concern.
Storm: I know people whose lives have been absolutely saved by medication. I have considered it. I have not taken that step. I'm doing everything to avoid it just because I have distrust in Western medicine because it's absolutely destroyed my mother. But my mother was a very special case. But mental health, when I first wrote Crazy Enough, 10 years ago, people were starting to be open about it. But it really is such a life-changing, life-saving trend and it's a point of pride to be transparent. And when I did the first Crazy Enough performance I was worried it was going to seem to be navel-gazing, why would anyone want to hear a stupid, sad story, they just wanna see boobs and hear rock 'n' roll... and then what ended up happening was so many people to this day come up to me and say 'I feel less alone, it saved my life...'
Another thing you've been honest about is your sexual orientation. Wikipedia says you are bisexual but I have heard you dislike that label for you. Tell me more.
Storm: I had a big argument one time with a gay publication and they said, 'So you say your sexuality is omnivorous?' And I said, yes, my technical term for my sexuality is 'opportunistically omnivorous.' And he said, 'What does that mean?' And I said, Well, it means I'm lazy, and if it tastes good, I'll eat it. And he said, 'So you're bi.' And I said, No, I am what I have told you that I am because that, my friend, is equality. That's what we're all fighting for: I get to say, I get to be. I am a consenting adult and I can receive affection and attention and love and sex. I was like, You know, this morning, I jerked off. So today I'm I-sexual so you can write that down. And he wrote down — in parentheses — 'she's bisexual.' Because he was just just snippy and he wanted me to be filed in a container...
My physical yearnings are very emotionally based and very sensually based. I can get sexual gratification from any type of body, any type of person. I am stimulated in certain ways, and that is private and that is personal. And many lesbians find bisexuals completely annoying because women fall in love really fast and ... you're a risk. You're an emotional risk. So I understand the emotional hesitancy to totally embrace someone who may break your fucking heart. I get that. And maybe super-gay-identifying people won't totally admit that that's where it's coming from. I had a woman get really angry at me because she thought I was queer and saw me making out with a guy and called me a breeder and then said she didn't like my band anymore. And so I said, So how is that any different from a frat boy finding out that you don't like dick and calling you a disgusting dyke and he can kick your ass? ... I will always fight for sexual freedoms as long as it's consenting adults, victimless, and it fucking feels good because, my God, life is hard. And if you can fucking feel good, God bless you!
And have you found love?
Storm: I have a lot of love in my life. I don't have a partner, a singular partner, but I have fun where I can. I would love to be in a love relationship with a singular person. I'm kind of wired to be monogamous. But my job is not really conducive to that at the moment. But I've never ruled anything out. Really, the trick is to just really love and honor yourself, and whatever comes is wonderful.
Tell us about the tour. Which Storm Large are audiences going to get?
Storm: They're going to get the pie-eyed optimist. They're going to get the hopeful heart. They're going to get the cheerleader for your higher self. The reminder that better times are ahead. Just as we've been through dark times, the light is coming and we're on our way.
And are you going to be rocking it out or being a lounge goddess?
Storm: [Laughs] Oh, I always kick some ass. I can't not.
February 18, 2022 at 7:30 pm
The sublime, subversive Storm Large returns to Chandler for a truly unforgettable night. Weaving together songs born of French cabaret, jazz standards and a handful of originals, she creates her own singular interpretations. * This show is recommended for mature audiences.
Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue. Tickets and info: chandlerarts.org
Storm Large Sings a STUNNING Rendition of "Take On Me" by A-Ha - America's Got Talent 2021youtu.be