By Denise Warner
Originally published on Advocate.com November 27 2012 4:00 AM ET
How does a straight jazz singer handle his Dad coming out late in life? "Communication is key-stay connected, stay open," says Marcus Goldhaber, the acclaimed New York City-based jazz-pop singer-songwriter. Goldhaber's third album, Almost Love (Fallen Apple Records), hit stores (and iTunes) last week. His first recording of all original standards, Almost Love is sure to get the praise that was heaped up on the jazzman's first two albums. We talked with Goldhaber about his gay dad, his music, and his childhood.
Warner: I understand you have a special tie to the LGBT community.
Goldhaber: I do, yes, my dad. My father is gay. He came out later in life, around 2000. To hear people talk about their experiences now, as more and more parents do come out after being married for 20 or 30 years, it’s a seemingly safer environment, I guess, and it’s pretty inspiring.
Warner: It's a big change.
Goldhaber: It’s a huge experience, and it impacts everyone. I still haven’t figured out if there is an actual “best time” for having the coming out talk, for a parent, you know? Earlier, when the kids are young, or waiting until they’re older. But the one constant thing I’ve found throughout it all is that communication is key. Stay connected, stay open to each other.
Warner: Are you close to your dad?
Goldhaber: We’ve got a great relationship. And I love that he’s in New York and comes to my shows. We’re very close. That hasn’t changed at all.
Warner: You grew up in Buffalo, New York. My hometown, too — well, Niagara Falls, but it’s really close.What was your childhood like?
Goldhaber: Really? You’re from there, too? Small world. I went to Williamsville South High School, and traveled all over, like to North Tonawanda, and all the surrounding cities because I played volleyball. You mentioned Niagara Falls, and of course, that’s where I went for senior prom.
Warner: Yes! I went to Niagara Wheatfield High School. I remember our teams playing Williamsville and North Tonawanda. Back 15 years ago in Buffalo they were pushing out bands like the Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs. What drew you to jazz?
Goldhaber: Well, it wasn’t like today, that’s for sure. After school there was outdoor time. When I got home from school, my parents pushed us to go outside and play, so I’d be out there playing games and stuff and then I’d come in to do my homework and have dinner. Afterwards my mother would always play piano. She was pianist.
Warner: How did that influence you?
Goldhaber: She would play all these songs from the '20s, '30s and '40s — the songs she had grown up with. I kind of learned them through a form of osmosis. Pretty regularly, she would innocently ask “Do you know this song?” and I would be like, “I’m 12, why would I know ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree’ or the Andrew Sisters?” [Laughs] But these were the songs of her childhood, ones that my grandparents played for her. It was her culture and she was passing that on to me. They were the songs of her generation. So, I fell in love with them over time. When I graduated from high school, I already had hundreds of standards in my head. Some that I didn’t know the titles, or who wrote them, but the melodies were solid and locked into my brain.
Warner: Were there musicians you took to?
Goldhaber: I really took to Sarah Vaughan and Chet Baker. I think between those two, I really had a nice marriage of the great American songbook and the jazz interpretation of it. Remember, too, I was in high school, so I was still listening to groups like the Goo Goo Dolls, the grunge scene, Pearl Jam, Phish, even the The Doors and Grateful Dead. But if you listen to those bands, they all had very sophisticated harmonies. I mean, Phish is a bunch of Berkeley jazz guys, so it’s pretty amazing to me how music manifests. My grandfather was a drum major in the Army. He was a big influence on me. My dad was always sure we had tickets to the Performing Arts Center for the latest shows, my sister was quite insistent that I get into musicals at school. So, I had quite an eclectic mix of music influences in my childhood and that all played into where I am today.
Warner: When did you know it was time to leave Buffalo and head to the big city?
Goldhaber: I made the move right after college and it was very much a move that evolved from the catch phrase: “Well…. that’s what you do.” I mean, here I was with a degree in musical theater, and everyone that I had talked to was like, “What’s next? You’re going to New York, right?” I mean, my friends, my parents, my parent’s friends, the dry cleaner [Laughs] all said, “You’re off to New York now?” So, yeah, I did just that.
Warner: What was that transition like?
Goldhaber: I crashed on a friend’s couch until I could get myself settled and started auditioning and trying out for tons of stuff and luckily, I found work right away. After the shows and rehearsals, though, I would always go out to the jazz clubs just to be around that whole scene, keeping that part of my life alive. I guess about 5 or 6 years of making a living as an actor, singer, dancer, I realized I was missing something. I missed it, all those songs were still in my head, and it gave me a connection to…my childhood, my home. That connection is important to me. So, that’s really where this all began for me.
Warner: Critics have described you as “imaginative” and "exciting.". How would you describe yourself?
Goldhaber: Wow, interesting question. I’d like to think of myself as a communicator, an entertainer, not just a flashy coat out in Vegas, because for me there are two factors when I’m putting a show together. I’m telling a story and I want to feel like the audience gets it. I want them to feel something. It’s about the connection, entertaining them. So, that’s what I aim for — telling a story and hopefully a high level of entertainment.