It was Lorrie Rivers, which floored me. You see, I’d met Lorrie at college in upstate New York years ago. I had never heard her sing. I had only known her as a phenomenal actress and had forgotten, somehow, that she grew up in South Carolina.
As we reconnected, I was blown away by Lorrie’s post-college flurry of artistic activity. Not only had she started a new career as a chanteuse, but she’d continued her acting, performed around the world, written and produced screenplays and sang in Washington D.C. at the Grits and Granite Ball during the last presidential inauguration.
Lest you think that Lorrie’s being an old friend makes me biased, rest assured I am not alone in my praise. Columbia’s Free Times said "… Lorrie Rivers is a versatile vocalist whose latest work finds her writing her own modern-day jazz-infused tunes that would put Norah Jones to shame" and The State Newspaper called her "a singer who has the kind of voice that can be found in dreams"
Right now, she splits her time between South Carolina and Los Angeles, expanding her film career while nurturing her connections to friends and collaborators here in Columbia.
Q: You grew up near Columbia - when did you return and how has the arts scene changed since you were in high school?
A: I actually grew up in Irmo and came downtown as often as possible. After college in New York, moved back to Colatown in 2001 (I think?) and then split my time between here and Italy for a year, then moved to London for a year, then to LA. I was actually really blown away when I got back here. The first night (after driving cross country for three days) I went out with some friends to Conundrum, which is new to me. As I was deliriously watching/listening to the bands, my thought was "…this is just as good as anything I've heard in London or LA...” I'm not sure if it's just because I know more of the people in the arts scene now than when I was in high school or what, but between First Thursday, Alternacirque, Dr. Sketchy's, Conundrum and countless other organizations and proactive peeps, this place is exploding now!
Q: What was Maya's Wonderland, for folks who missed it?
A: It was the most funnest frickin’ show I've ever done. The tagline was "Alice in Wonderland in a Vinyl Bustier." We really wanted people to have a full, interactive experience. To feel like they were in a sort of "Wonderland." We were in an incredible space – 701 (701 Center for Contemporary Art) - and filled it with fantastical pieces like huge mushrooms and marionettes everywhere. It ended up being a combination of a preshow carnival (including a Marionette show by Lyon Hill, belly dance by Natalie Brown, tunes by DJ Deftkey, kissing booth, tarot readings, a pie eating contest, and cornhole ...yes...cornhole) and the show.
The show itself was a set of original songs I'd written and recorded a few years ago. Electronica - sultry kind of stuff. We had a full band and Deftkey on the live electronic parts. And the kicker was we spend a lot of time writing/shooting a loose video narrative to link the whole show together and provide visuals during songs, which got to be a little tricky as far as synching the live stuff up with the video, but so worth it. Wade Sellers of Coalpowered Filmworks masterminded the video (Lyon Hill contributed to content as well). Live performers during some of the songs as well doing belly dance and modern dance... So many incredible people involved. In short, it was a fantastical multimedia show/party/carnival for playful grownups.
Q: Where can people hear you sing?
A: That's a tough one right now. I will probably be doing a few open mics around with my ukulele (her name is Madeleine)…You can look for a new album in the next year. So many song ideas right now I'm bout to burst. Need to find an accordion and an amazing producer. Anyone?
Q: What acting projects are in the works?
A: Oh, boy. Yeah, a couple there. Mainly, I'm working on rewriting a script with an incredible writer/director in London [Smita Bhide, winner Best Feature Raindance] who wants to produce it. Yeah, I know, that sounds more like a writing project, but ultimately, I'll be acting in one of the lead roles in it. So there's that in addition to a few other scripts/web series that are in the works with parts for me to play as well. Excited about all of them. Sigh. I wish I had a clone. Or an evil twin.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: All over the place. ee cummings, hiking, movies, Miyazaki, songs, paintings, live shows … really anything that's wildly different or fantastical or that makes me squeal or makes my eyes tear up and my heart beat faster. Right now I'm getting so much inspiration from friends. My friends … amazing artists and just amazing people. I find that when I sit down with them I leave our time together on fire to work on my own stuff. Lots of times with so many ideas for new projects I don't know what to do with myself!
Q: If you had friends visiting South Carolina for the first time, where would you take them?
A: For music: Conundrum and White Mule. For drink: Art Bar, the Whig. For dinner: Rosso. For movies: Nickelodeon.
And to the gardens at the governor's mansion. I'd never been there before last week and they're beautiful! If it were warm, definitely down to the river walk as well and to the river down next to the zoo. Huge rocks that tell stories and Spanish moss everywhere. Oh, and probably to see my mema's house. Big traditional southern home with a wraparound porch and lots of land in a teen-tiny little town in northern South Carolina. It's all about the porch swings and the rocking chairs.