Every Friday on this blog is “Makin’ it Happen Friday”, where I feature another musician who’s found a way to make a living playing music. I am constantly inspired by others, and hope to pass that inspiration on to you.
I “met” Elli Fordyce on Twitter, which is where I seem to meet all my friends these days (maybe I should get out more!). It was right around the time that her new CD “Songs Spun of Gold” was released and I was very impressed with how she was marketing herself, getting the word out, and getting others to talk about her. She has built a network of extremely passionate and dedicated fans who are helping her in the way all Web 2.0 musicians hope for. Perhaps it’s because this is the second time around for Elli, and at 72 she’s definitely learned a thing or two.
Originally from Manhattan, Elli is a highly accomplished vocalist and actor. Prior to returning to New York 30 years ago, Elli took time away from her musical journey. First it was to devote herself to family. But the next came unpredictably, after a devastating accident on a snowy highway en route to a gig, when her car carrying her quartet and equipment crashed into a disabled truck. A successful year-long tour of “Elli Fordyce And Her Favorite Things” ended abruptly, leaving scars of several kinds. Soon after, Elli stopped singing for 15 years (“Not even Happy Birthday, not even in the shower”) to focus on much needed physical and spiritual healing.
But music was not over for Elli. A ginger-colored Yorkie pup named Dindi (pronounced Gingy, which means “little jewel” in Portuguese as well, as being Elli’s favorite Jobim bossa nova) got her back to singing. Elli discovered that Dindi loved hearing “Dindi” and inspiration was soon renewed. She began studying with Barry Harris, renowned jazz pianist and educator, to whom she gives much of the credit for putting her squarely back on the path she was meant for, and her comeback began.
OWM: How’d you get started in the music biz?
EF: At 18, a friend dragged me to sit in with a local jazz trio. The leader liked what he heard and decided to add me to a cabaret show being put on by the summer theatre’s cast and crew (for which he was being forced by his boss to play). He took me under his wing and coached me a little for the show, then called me up to sing 6 nights a week the rest of the summer.
OWM: What 3 things have helped you the most in becoming a working musician?
EF: In the ’70s when there were many lounges and restaurants all over the US and beyond using traveling groups, I heard a mediocre band with a mediocre vocalist singing mediocre versions of top-40 songs and realized I didn’t have to wait to become as good as I thought I should be in order to go after working as a professional vocalist.
In those days there was enough opportunity that I was able to get many bookings with traveling pop cover-groups, where I continually learned my craft and grew professional skills from performing.
Now, in a tough time in the live-jazz business, I find and use opportunities to expand and hone those skills as a solo jazz artist and in some ways feel I’m just beginning.
OWM: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
EF: Take the step right in front of you, even if you can’t see how you can achieve your dreams. As Jack Canfield said, we only need to see 200 feet in front of us and stay on the road during a long nighttime drive in order to arrive at our destination. If we keep moving in a forward direction, we’ll find support in achieving what we’re after, even when we can’t see exactly how that will play out.
Thanks Elli! Your story and your marketing savvy are both inspiring! And in honor of Dindi, who we can thank for bringing you back to us, here’s Ella singing her song: