July 10, 2013
The former TV writer now writes honest reflections of her life and performs with her folk band, The Reinforcements.
Posted by Erika Maldonado (Editor) , July 10, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Tracy Newman, singer/songwriter, remembers being a fixture at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica in her 20s. The landmark shop was the premier spot in Los Angeles County to buy guitars, she said. Sitting in the store’s rows of chairs with an array of guitars on display in the ‘70s, she never knew who would show up to jam out alongside her. Among them was a teenaged Jackson Browne who performed his original songs well before he topped Billboard charts.
“I sat there with my mouth open thinking, oh my God,” said Newman, 70. “His writing was so staggeringly poetic and good. I thought to myself I can never be that good, but I’ll be different. I’ll be as good as I can be and nobody can do that.”
She has done just that. Her two albums A Place in The Sun and I Just See You have earned several songwriting awards. The modern folk singer returns to McCabes located at 3101 Pico Blvd. on July 21 with her band, the Reinforcements, at 8 p.m.
Newman is no stranger to success. At 55, she and her writing partner Jonathan Stark won Emmys for writing the coming out episode on the Ellen Degeneres Show in 1997. Working for television for 20 years, she always held on to her first love of music. K.D. Lang, who guest starred on that episode performed a song that Newman wrote.
Newman and Stark went on to create According to Jim. Once it went into syndication, she returned to performing and writing songs. She’s been at it for the last 10 years.
“Working in TV for as long as I did, there’s always somebody over your shoulder, said Newman. “Even when you’re the boss they always want something changed. I feel a tremendous freedom in having the final say with my material.”
Constantly rewriting and improving TV scripts is a skill that she carries with her as a songwriter. She reads through old journals, attends writing workshops or sits at a coffee shop and people watches to get inspiration. Her age and experience have given her freedom to express herself, she said.
Songs like “Carpool,” a song she wrote from an old journal entry, chronicles her commute in L.A. traffic that she endured to take her daughter Charlotte to an arts school, when she was a teen.
“I wonder what’s making her so mean/ Then I remember the way I was at 16/ She’s treating me like I treated my mama/ I’m getting my share of overdue karma/ Oh yeah. It’s all coming back to me now.”
They’re collaborating for Newman’s latest project, a children’s album with songs that Newman used to sing to her at bedtime. She’ll be in town visiting from Seattle for her mother’s performance at McCabes, Newman’s favorite venue in L.A.
“I treat my music career the same way I did my television career,” said Newman. “I’ll keep doing it and keep getting better at it. Any failure you live through teaches you that.”