After abandoning her first love to become a therapist, Lucy Kaplansky realized she'd lose her mind without music.
Keeping the Beat
Lucy Kaplansky thought she'd drawn a steady bead on the future when she turned her back on music for a career as a clinical psychologist. It wasn't until several years later after she had earned a doctorate and had built a practice that she discovered she had it all terribly wrong.
"I had decided I wanted to be a therapist," says the 41-year-old singer-songwriter by phone from her Greenwich Village home. "It took me years to realize that decision was a lie."
Prior to her medical years, Kaplansky was a player in the New York City folk revival of the 1980s and part of a scene that included then-unknowns Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin and Bill Morrissey. She played shows at Folk City on Third Street and Sixth Avenue where her expressive alto and tender folk-pop tunes garnered their share of critical raves. But something wasn't right and Lucy suddenly opted for the medical books.
She spent the next several years and "many thousands of dollars" in college and graduate school. After graduation she landed a job in a New York hospital and opened a private practice treating substance abusers and the chronically mentally ill. But Kaplansky continued to play and develop her songwriting. She also recorded occasionally with her old friends who were now beginning to make waves nationally. In 1993, Shawn Colvin convinced Kaplansky to record an independent project that Colvin produced.
Kaplansky remained focused on her new career through the early '90s. But while she treated her own patients she was also seeing a therapist and she vividly recalls the moment of sudden revelation that uprooted her life at 33. She told the therapist that she didn't want the fame and fortune a musical career might bring, Kaplansky recalls: "He asked me 'Why not?' I realized I didn't have an answer ... Why wouldn't I want those things?"
So Lucy set about changing her goals immediately. She shopped the Colvin-produced recording to labels and found it a home at Red House Records. Specialty radio shows such as "Prairie Home Companion" took notice and her name spread. Kaplansky's pace soon quickened. For the next four years, Monday through Thursday found her at her practice while Friday, Saturday and Sunday meant playing gigs around the country.
"That was really wacko," Kaplansky says flatly.
She finally closed her practice in 1997 and now devotes all of her energy to her emotionally charged music. Her fourth and latest CD, "Every Single Day," hits stores today (Tuesday, Sept. 11) and Thursday she plays a solo show at Ashland Coffee & Tea. She recently made her fourth trip to the United Kingdom, and during this tour former Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry approached her and asked her to sing on his new album. She also occasionally records with Colvin, Nanci Griffith and John Gorka. A recent stint with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell as Cry, Cry, Cry also helped advance her own solo career.
Kaplansky says she enjoyed her practice but she can't imagine returning there. Her musical career continues to move steadily forward and Lucy is glad she finally allowed herself to enjoy its fruits.
"I loved the patients but there was this other love I was denying myself," she says. "I've never looked back."
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