Singer Deborah Silver’s lifelong passion for jazz music truly shines through when she’s performing the classics on stage. Last year, Silver recorded 13 tunes from the Great American Songbook for a new album entitled The Gold Standards. The record went on to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Traditional Jazz Album and Heatseeker Album charts, and also placed on the Top 200 chart alongside some of today’s biggest artists. On August 19, Silver will appear in concert at The Colony Hotel’s Royal Room in Palm Beach. Tickets cost $40 for the show or $75 for dinner and the show.
Silver recently sat down with PBI to discuss her life as a musician, performer, and mother.
PBI: When did you first discover your love for music?
Silver: I grew up in a very eclectic world of music. My mother was an opera singer and before my father went to Harvard Business School he was in a band. Throughout my entire life, I listened to everything from Broadway to rhythm and blues to opera and, of course, the wonderful standards I ended up recording on my second album.
What are some of your earliest memories of singing?
My earliest memory is when I was a toddler, so probably about 4 years old, I would sing the Wayne Newton tune “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” and I distinctly remember standing in my pajamas and my mother giving me fake roses and I would sing that song. My second memory after that was actually singing two songs. One was “Cabaret” when I was 6 or 7 years old. The other was “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I had the album and I would put it on my record player, and I would play those two songs when I would clean my room, make my bed, and do all the things little girls do.
When did you decide to pursue singing professionally?
I sang in my high school choir because it was a fun thing to do and [not because] I was ever thinking of performing. Then, when I got to college, I started singing and landing leads in musicals. After college, I ended up performing professionally in shows. I think the whole thing really turned around for me in college though. It’s kind of crazy because I really hadn’t had any professional training. I wasn’t ever considering show business as something to study while I was in college, but as soon as I got out that was the field I went into.
What vocal artists or musicians most inspire you and your work?
It’s a mixture of a lot of people. I love the pizzazz and the big voice that Judy Garland had. I really love watching her daughter, Liza Minnelli, as a performer. The pure vocals of Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington really inspire me. I have always loved listening to R&B groups such as Earth, Wind & Fire and the wonderful late singer Luther Vandross. I was so influenced by a lot of R&B styles growing up in Mississippi, [so] whenever I sing it’s always going to have a little bit of a bluesy and R&B flavor to it. I can’t help myself; it’s just the notes that I hear and that come out of my mouth.
It’s almost been a year since the release of your album The Gold Standards. How has your life changed due to the album’s success?
When I perform, a lot of the audience members are people I’ve never met. They come up to me and tell me how they discovered my music and most of them come because they heard me on the radio. I think my life has changed so much because I’m able to meet so many different people I never would have met in my life otherwise, but it’s the music that brought us together. It’s all completely thrilling and I’m just really appreciative and thankful to every single person who has ever listened and followed along.
Why do you think people continuously go back to the classics from the Great American Songbook?
The music works in any decade. The reason they’ve lasted for so long is because they’re not dated. These composers were able to make songs that you can put into almost any century and make them fall in love with any kind of style. That’s why I try to put in my own style. I like to [put] my own Silver spin on them and bring them into the current times.
Who would be your dream duet partner?
It would be fun to perform with Harry Connick Jr. because we are both from the South. I am from Jackson, Mississippi, and he is from New Orleans. We [lived] like three hours apart. I think he would be fun personally, but musically I think our voices would work well together on an album.
What can guests expect from your upcoming live performance at The Colony Hotel on August 19?
When I perform, sometimes it’s a whole different show than what you [expect]. My CD is very relaxing and it’s something people can listen to and relax together as a couple or when they’re reading a book or stuck on the freeway in traffic. But my show is really high energy and upbeat. I get the audience involved. I take them through the standards on my CD—I do Broadway, I do country, I do the old blues, and I even have a Beatles piece in my show. It’s very eclectic; there is a song in there for everyone.
What are some of your favorite songs to sing live?
It’s funny because my favorite songs tend to switch a lot. Lately my favorite song to perform is “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” I do a really upbeat jazz version of it. It’s actually a different version than what’s on my CD.
Any pre-show rituals?
Just getting those eyelashes on. That’s always the hardest part of a show.
What is your greatest non-musical talent?
Being a mommy, hands down. That is my first and foremost love and duty, responsibility, job, whatever you want to call it. It is the most important thing in my life. I have two children, Madison and Spencer. Madison and I started a charity organization called SLAM ALS together. It’s a follow up to the Ice Bucket Challenge. We are trying to keep the fun in it and raise money for a cure because my sister was diagnosed with this horrendous disease. My son, Spencer, plays many instruments and has actually accompanied me in a few of my shows with just him on the guitar.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.