Q&A with Singer Storm Large

Storm Large (yes, that’s her real name) exudes confidence. She’s the singer for Pink Martini and she’ll say exactly what’s on her mind. She’s not afraid to be tough, especially when it comes to her music. But she can be easily misunderstood. There’s a softer side to Large. She’s been through a lot. Insecurities from her past have shaped her into the artist she is now. Large may have a rock ‘n roll-don’t care-reputation, but no doubt about it, this chick’s got soul.

Pink Martini performed at 8 p.m. on Jan. 15 at Tacoma’s Pantages Theater at Broadway Center. Pink Martini is based out of Portland and is known for playing an electric ensemble of music from around the world. We had a chance to chat with Storm. Here’s a bit of that conversation.

Pink Martini has been called the “perfect band for people who love all kinds of music.” What kind of music do you love? What’s your favorite stuff to sing?

Oh, I don’t have a favorite. That’s like asking a guitar player who their favorite guitar player is. You know? There are moments of every song that I love. I grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music. Mostly punk rock music but then Clockwork Orange, it opened my eyes to Beethoven and then hip-hop music came into my life. Metal. But always classical, and beautiful singers. Jazz singers and stuff. So, just anything would really catch my ear for any number of reasons. So (Pink Martini) is kind of the perfect ADD band for me.

So, what are you listening to right now? What’s on your playlist?

Rihanna, Macklemore, Blurryface. Lorde, I listen to a little Lana del Rey. Oh, a lot of Christmas stuff. A lot of Rat Pack Christmas stuff. Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, you know and Ella Fitzgerald.

Have you been working in music since you were a little girl? Did you sing as a kid?

I sang as a kid but I’ve been a professional musician for only the last 25 years. So more than half my life I’ve been a musician professionally, but I’ve always been a singer.

Are there challenges to being a woman in the music business?

Are there challenges with being a woman anywhere? Yep.

Ha, that’s true.

There are challenges to being a man too, but the challenges of being a woman are unique … I’m a business owner; I have another band that I’m president of; I’m the lead singer, I run everything. You know? I’ve always carried myself as a leader and I’ve always done my work without feeling like “oh these guys are holding me down.” I’m bigger than a lot of guys. I’m big, I’m loud, I’m strong and I’m smart. And a lot of guys don’t tend to oppress me.

How do you have all this confidence?

I’ve been beat up a lot, and I’ve worked really hard. I got hot really late in life. Like in my 30s I lost a lot of baby fat and I suddenly was considered attractive. I was always kind of this dirty rock-and-roll — shave my head — didn’t think that I was pretty at all. I was told that I was ugly all the time. I was fat; I didn’t have any boobs. I was punk rock and I was loud. So when I suddenly became attractive I was kinda like “Wow. OK. This is kinda like a super power. A temporary super power. So I’m going to use this for business and for my entertainment.” But it’s kind like a drag queen right now. I put it on and I take it off. And I don’t take it terribly seriously because it doesn’t last. But now, when people are judging me negatively, they look at me and they say, “Oh this hot girl has had everything handed to her. Must be so hard to be tall and beautiful and have a beautiful voice, oh yeah, I’m sure you’ve struggled.” And that makes me so violently angry. Because I f*%&ing work harder than most of the people from my past who are judging me for being some kind of sellout or judging me for trading in my looks for whatever. I’ve worked harder than all of those people and that’s why I am where I am.

Where do you think that work ethic comes from?

Um, probably a really insecure place of never feeling good enough. Never feeling love. Being the fat kid who was a total outcast. Nobody liked me. I wasn’t popular. And when I was little my mom was mentally sick. And so I didn’t get a lot of attention because everyone was paying attention to her. So, I found a way to have positive attention, which was singing. So, I’ve kinda hung on to that. I didn’t think that I was ever going to really make a living but knew I was going to be somewhere in entertainment because I could make people happy with just my voice.

You mention your mom. I know in your book, Crazy Enough, you talk about visiting her in mental institutions. (Large’s mother’s diagnosis changed often). Do you have any wise wisdom for people who have someone in their family with a mental illness?

The only experience that was helpful for me was writing the book so many people came up to me, like every day at shows, someone would say, “that was my mom, that was my sister, that was my dad.” And really all I can say to those people struggling with mental illness either in themselves or in their families is you are so not alone. There are so many people. And the conversations are finally becoming a lot more open, less shameful, less secretive … I think if you feel less isolated, there will be hope.

How do you think the music scene is evolving in the Northwest? Do you have any insight on what you think it happening to the music scene out here?

You know, I wish I did. I’m on tour 200-250 days a year. And I don’t get to see any music hardly ever. Usually, if there’s a band playing with us, which is rare, I get to see them. I almost never get to go see music. It’s really, really, really, really depressing and sad. If you come to the show in Tacoma bring me a bunch of CDs!

Oh, really?

Please do! Or just make us a compilation flash drive or something of what’s going on in the Northwest that I’m missing.

What do you like about Tacoma? Do you ever get to see the city at all?

I’m usually just performing for the night. We used to always go to Shakabrah (on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma) for breakfast … But one thing I can say for sure is last time I was in Tacoma I hardly recognized it. It’s really just gotten rebuilt and beautiful. It’s amazing.

is the managing editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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