An Interview with Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack is a classically trained pianist, an evocative vocalist, a gifted song stylist, and, at 75, still a wonderful performer. She’s won Four Grammys, and been nominated for nine more. And it turns out, just like the rest of us she’s a big fan of the ‘Burg! She’s performing the Mahaffey Theater, this Sunday January 29th, at 7pm

We had a chance to ask Ms. Flack a few questions about her life, her music and the music she loves to listen to. 

You have such a wide repertoire. Does your classical training influence your approach to, for example, the blues? How? 
My classical background influences how I hear music.  How I write, how I interpret, arrange, play and sing.  It’s like how having a strong background studying science in grade school will forever color how you see the world, right?  It is the base on which i have built myself as a musician.

 
At the Mahaffey, will you be singing any new songs? Will you be doing any classical pieces?
I am excited to say that I will be performing one or two new songs from my new album (my first in 8 years) of Beatles songs titled Let It Be Roberta,  due out on February 7th on Sony ATV. This is such a personal and passionate album for me on so many levels. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you which songs, but you’ll know them when you hear them.  And I will not be performing any classical pieces but if you listen carefully, you will be able to hear the classical influences throughout my entire repertoire!
 
You’ve written and sung so many beautiful love songs. Do you have any favorites?
I have to say that I still love Killing me Softly and First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. They are both songs that touch me deeply and have meant different things to me at different times of my life, which has changed how i perform them. Musically they are such beautiful works and I am so blessed to have had hits with songs like these. Singing them over and over is a pleasure as a result.

I do love some songs that are not as well known. The Soft and Gentle Rain is one you might hear in my set as a prelude to First Time. It is a song that is so delicate and beautiful. It touches my heart. Disguises, written by my friend Stuart Scharff is also a favorite. Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne that was on my Killing Me Softly album is up there too. And I have to say that Here Comes The Sun which is on my new album is one that I love to perform because of how people react to it when I sing it.

 
Who does Roberta Flack listen to?
Everyone. Music is good if it comes from your heart. I always say that love is a song.  It is the universal language that conveys emotions and life’s experiences regardless of where in the world you live and what language you speak.  As a result, I love Lady Gaga, Eric Clapton, Little Richard, Gladys, Aretha, India Arie, Tony Bennett, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones- the list is endless.
 
Have you ever been to St. Petersburg? Are you looking forward to coming here?
I have been to St. Pete many many times. I love Florida.  I used to live in Miami- did you know that? I have a lot of friends and fans in St. Pete and am very much looking forward to coming back.

 

Written by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey is the founder and editor of I Love the Burg and That's So Tampa. In addition to regular contributions to each blog, he's been featured as a commentator to Bay New 9, The Tampa Tribune, The Tampa Bay Times, The Tampa Bay Business Journal and The Business Observer as well as national outlets including The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Bailey also serves as the CEO of RKC.me, a Tampa Bay-based digital agency.