It’s February. Now that the rodent prognosticator has done his Spring thing, it’s time to talk about love as Valentine’s Day approaches. As with anything worth its salt, love comes with all manner of glorious and painful moments. Montreal’s multi-talented singer-songwriting team David Sherman and Nancy Lee have created a musical play, Lost & Found, a fictionalized story based on their own autumn romance. We recently chatted about their story and how Lost & Found came about. Their repartee was too fun not to include, so I tried to keep some of that spirit in the writing.
Stephanie Weiner (SW): Tell me about your story. How and when did you two meet?
David Sherman (DS): I don’t know, when did we meet? (laughs)
Nancy Lee (NL): We met on February 9, 2012 (laughing)
DS: I remember exactly where we met, I even remember what you were wearing.
NL: We met in a little cafe in St. Isodore, there was an open mic there and David was promoting his CD, If I Can Run, and that’s how we met. And the rest is history, as they say.
SW: Happy Anniversary! Tell me, how did the idea to create Lost & Found come about?
DS: I guess the genesis came about when we did a sold-out dinner show, there were a lot of people there and a few people came up after and said, you tell all these stories about where all your songs come from, why don’t you guys try and put it together into a play? As you may know, I am the playwright in residence at Infinitheatre, and Guy Sprung was one of the guys that suggested, you know, why don’t you try and make a musical? So, we did that.
At first it was a very off-the-cuff exercise, we did a show with an audience that was brought in and we strung our songs together and did our show with a little bit more ambitious story telling. Then we took it a step further. We started having fun making fun of ourselves and it evolved from there and turned into a real story. So, Nancy and I sat down and took this kind of fun, make believe script that we made up on the spot as we were doing it for a live audience and said, ok how are we going to make a story with this? What are going to be the main points… the main dramatic points and narrative arc? And, of course, character journeys and all the stuff that goes into a true drama.
It’s more than a love story. It talks about some pretty important issues without being weighty. It talks about how we relate to each other, about alienation, loneliness. And credit has to be given in great measure to Guy (Infinitheatre’s Artistic Director), who championed this show. He has always been incredibly encouraging and has given us faith and confidence to do something that is out of our comfort zone. We’ve been working on that for over a year, we’ve had three productions in front of live audiences as part of the development.
SW: What is it like for you both to portray characters who are in part telling your story? Where is the line between David and Nancy, and Victor and Tricia?
NL: The similarities are that Victor and Tricia, like us in real life, meet kind of in the middle of nowhere, coming from each different, you know, difficult circumstances. That’s about where the reality ends and the fantasy begins. Although, our songs are drawn from real life experience, the emotions that come out are real, but other that that it is a fictional story.
DS: Except for the fact that, see, Nancy and I have toured a lot and performed a lot. We have a very good time on stage and because this is not a carefully scripted play and because we wrote it, we have a lot of room to move within the script. So we have a lot of fun being ourselves while playing these characters, we can joke around on stage and still be within the story, but we’re doing what we normally do on stage- which is just have fun. We’re playing fictional characters but we’re very comfortable in those roles because we are together. It’s always fun to play with Nancy on stage. Even though we’re doing a play, we’re actually doing a show. And it’s important to mention that we have some of the best musicians – you know Stephen Barry (bass), Andrew Cowan (Guitar) and John McColgan (drums). Erik West-Millette, we have a great musical director, we have a fantastic team. So, as Eric says, all we have to do is “sit back and ride the cadillac.” We feel privileged with this amazing supporting cast.
SW: On the theme of love, in your song Light in Your Eyes you sing “True love is a long lost art.” What do you think is the key to the art of true love?
NL: That’s a really good question! I think to some degree, true love doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s clear sailing all the way. Love is always a work in progress. It’s always about how you nurture your relationship minute by minute and day to day.
DS: When you know, would you let me know? (laughs) I can tell you that the reason I think Nancy and I get along so well on and off the stage is it takes a lot of mutual respect. It takes the ability to negotiate, it takes the ability to discuss, it takes the ability to compromise, and we’re very good at that. And I think at this stage of our life, I’ll speak for myself, don’t sweat the little shit, and in the end it’s all little shit. So, if Nancy tells me: You know what, David? It’s gonna be better to do the song maybe in this key instead of that key. I’ll say: ok baby let’s try it.
Nancy is a far more experienced musician and I’ve been a writer a long time, so we trade off our skills and have a lot of respect for each other’s skill. So I think that’s all part of it, plus she’s sexy as hell.
NL: Flattery will get you everywhere, darling.
DS: That’s something else about our relationship, after every show we’re happy. We go on the road, we have a really great time. We may stay or play in the shittiest holes, but it’s always ok because we’re together. We’re always on each other’s side. That’s a part of being in love, looking after your partner. We’ve been told in a lot of shows that our relationship, that our affection for each other comes through. The play is really about that, too. I think people will really see that we have fun together. It’s not bullshit. I think we’re really lucky to have met each other at this stage in our lives. She’s a lousy cook though, (laughs) so I do the cooking.
SW: Thank you, I can certainly hear your affection for each other in the way you speak. Who would you say is the more romantic of the two of you?
NL: I think we’re both pretty romantic.
DS: Nancy’s better at the birthdays and anniversaries and all that stuff. We’re both pretty romantic though, that’s why we do the songs, that’s why were doing the show.
NL: By the way, my birthday is coming up next week…
DS: That’s right, could you send me a reminder? (laughing)
SW: That leads well into my next question. You write some really beautiful and honest lyrics that tell a story. You can hear love and life in the words you choose. What is your process for writing?
NL: It’s different I think for both of us. I know for myself I tend to hear a melody and maybe a phrase here and there. And David really does, I think, begin with the words, he’s very prolific at that.
DS: Actually, that’s not true.
NL: I lied! I lied! (laughing)
DS: Usually, I start with the guitar, and I hear melodies in the guitar. I guess I hear mood in the chords, and from that comes words, then comes polishing. I’ve tried to write down words first, but I’m not usually very successful at that. What Nancy has done with lyrics I’ve written is a wonderful job of taking my lyrics and putting melodies to them.
NL: I agonize over every word. We have different ways of working, but we work well together.
SW: If there were just one thing you could tell our readers about Lost & Found, what would it be?
DS: Easy. Come and see it! Go outside, put on your coat, see real, live people in three dimensions in the beautiful landmark Rialto theater. Hear 100% of the sound coming at you from the stage, not like with earbuds. There’s parking and great restaurants at the corner of Bernard and Parc.
NL: It’s a love story and it’s fun and it’s entertaining and the music is good.
Lost & Found at Piccolo Rialto Theater (5711 Ave. du Parc) from February 11 to February 21. Wednesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., February 15 and 21 at 2 p.m. $25 reg, $20 students/seniors, $17 groups of 6 +, 2 for 1 Valentine’s Day when purchased in advance, both matinees are Pay-What-You-Can.