Tracy Newman is a woman that knows what she wants! She’s broken many barriers and changed the entertainment industry. Making her mark years ago, she continues to ‘wow’ many and challenge the Hollywood more than ever. Splash Magazines gets up close and personal, about her past, present, and what keeps her going.
The following has been edited for continuity purposes.
-You've been said to have 're-invented' yourself, would you agree? How so?
I don’t think of it that way. I like to think I planned ahead. People think I’ve re-invented myself because I left a successful TV writing/producing career (According to Jim) to become a singer/songwriter. But I was a singer/songwriter before writing for TV. I had been working in TV for 17 years, and it was time to move on. There’s kind of a burnout rate, when you’re working those long TV room hours. I started practicing guitar and getting my “chops” back while I was working at According to Jim, and when I felt ready to start getting out there and performing, I left the show.
- You've also crushed the 'Hollywood' cliché of making it after 30. That's gotta be invigorating! How did you feel knowing you broke the mold that Hollywood has set forth?
It was great. Here’s a tip, though. If you’re an older woman, and you want to break into TV comedy writing, partner up with a funny man who’s 10 years younger than you. Jonathan Stark really makes me laugh. I was about 46 when he and I started writing spec scripts together. A few years later, when we joined the writing staff on Cheers, they got two for the price of one, and probably filled an unwritten minority quota – me being an older woman. Another tip: Take classes at a place like The Groundlings. The people you meet in class could be the future of your industry.
-What was it like working as a writer on Cheers, The Nanny, and other hit television shows?
Exciting, funny, exhausting, sometimes humiliating, (when you pitch bad jokes,) and sometimes like getting paid to go to college.
-You've also won an Emmy for co-writing the historic “coming out” episode of Ellen DeGeneres’- which is a HUGE milestone! How did you feel at this point in your career?
First of all, there were many writers who contributed to that episode. I can’t say that enough. Many writers deserved to win that Emmy. And they know who they are. That said, of course, I’m deeply proud to have been a part of that historic moment. I know how important it was for Ellen to do that. Career-wise, for the team of Newman & Stark - I felt like it kind of “made” us, if you know what I mean. It gave us a great calling card, so to speak.
-What's it like to be in 'constant creativity'?
I’m not. If I were, I’d probably never rest. When I’m working on a song, which isn’t always, I can’t turn off my brain. That’s not always pleasant, but when I get something the way I want it, I’m completely exhilarated. There’s nothing like it. I usually felt the same way about writing for TV.
-I feel like you are a genius! A woman that is a motivator, and an inspiration not only for myself but for many. What goes on in your head? What is YOUR inspiration?
Now? I don’t know, really. Maybe just entertaining myself. When I wrote for TV, it quickly became about the money. I loved the work, but after the novelty of it somewhat wore off, it was like any other creative job where you work long hours and take the work home with you. We were well paid for what we did. The money in TV, at least when we hit our stride, was superb. I know how lucky I was and am.
-What was the turning point? What made you leave that part of entertainment and turn to singing/song writing?
As I said, I was kind of burned out on TV. I was tired of being told what to write. When I write songs, I’m the final word. I enjoy that.
-You've just released your second album, 'I Just See You' what's the meaning behind the title
A few years ago, I was in a songwriting group, which was called Group Therapy. It was run by a wonderful man – the late Marty Martin. He used to give us an assignment, we had two weeks to write the song, then we had to perform it for the other writers, without any excuses, or set up or anything. One assignment was “what do you see when you look in the mirror?” I wrote “I Just See You.” It started out as a funny song, but when I understood what I was writing about, I took it in another direction. This song talks about the value of a long-term relationship.
-What can we expect to hear on this album? How would you describe it?
Many of the songs on this CD were written in the songwriting group I just mentioned. “Fire Up the Weed” is an audience favorite, and gets a lot of Internet radio play. It’s about the secret to a good relationship. “Table Nine” is on there, too. It’s a tribute to my favorite country artist, Merle Haggard, sung from the point of view of a 21 year old waitress. As I’m writing this, that song is #1 on the Top 50 True Country Internet Radio Airplay Chart. Very cool. Another audience favorite is “Carpool” about driving teenagers to and from school in a carpool.
-How did the band 'reinforcements' come together?
I was doing a solo gig at a place called The Talking Stick. I was singing my song called “Laraine” which is about my sister, Laraine Newman from the original SNL cast. Two people in the audience started harmonizing with me on the chorus. I invited them up on stage, and they became the original Reinforcements. Gene Lippmann and Lorie Doswell. Gene is still with me. Rebecca Leigh took her place a few years ago. A wonderful bass player named John Cartwright joined; and terrific drummer, Doug Knoll, too. I also have a singer named Paula Fong with me now. We’ve grown!
We’ll be at McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Pico in Santa Monica, Sunday, July 21, at 8PM. That will be amazing. I’m also putting out a kid’s CD soon, for which my talented artist daughter, Charlotte Dean is doing a coloring book. I’m loving this project!
-One thing no one would know about you? Quirky trait?
I make Jell-O Cook & Serve pudding every few days, and eat it every night. I even bought a case of 24 boxes of the butterscotch flavor from Amazon a few months ago. I’m almost out!
Thanks so much for the interview Tracy!
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