I love NYC for so many reasons. One that I think of often: how lucky I am to meet, cross paths with, and sometimes just experience extremely talented people. I caught up with Broadway musician David Geist who played in Cats, Miss Saigon, The Lion King, The Boy From Oz and a host of other shows. Today, David lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and brings his music to Pranzo Geist Cabaret. We talked about the importance of fashion for performers and what it’s like walking away from New York’s classic all black attire to embracing the wonderfully vibrant colors and designs of the Southwest.
1. When you moved to Santa Fe, did you have to give up your black neutral NYC wardrobe?
Absolutely, not! I’m an urban fellow and my style reflects that.
2. You recently released a new CD called Inside the Flame. What were you trying to capture with CD’s artwork?
The “flame” aspect represents our creative force. That to me is fiery, emotional, wild, unpredictable, raw and powerful. I wanted the artwork of my CD to capture this and one of Santa Fe’s premiere art designers Jasmine Quinsier helped me achieve this and more!
3. How important is style when you’re performing your Cabaret show? Do your patrons prefer you in a tux, suit or casual wear?
I think costuming is crucial in any kind of performance. When I am doing shows that are mostly American Songbook-oriented – I will wear a lot of black and white – to give the feeling of being of in New York during the old black & white movie days. No tuxes, but very dressy solids to give-off the strength of skyscrapers in a Metropolitan whirl. When I’m doing shows that have more original compositions, I may wear something very flowing like a beautiful Tibetan shirt to give a relaxed emotional aspect, that will help an audience let go a bit more in their minds.
4. Your Cabaret room Pranzo Geist Cabaret is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. How has the Southwest fashion affected your own sense of style?
I bring a certain experience I got from the city to this desert oasis called Santa Fe. At first I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but as soon as I got here I realized that there was an appreciation for classic Broadway musicals. There are a lot of folks who live here who also came from places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and they want to be reminded of their urban beginnings so I’m sort-of the go-to-guy for that. Sometimes I when I’m driving to a gig in very sophisticated clothes surrounded by all these mountains it may feel incongruous. But as soon as I enter the cabaret room and start to perform this glorious music, it all comes together in one swanky package. In a sense, the southwest has helped me represent and an elegance that wants to be celebrated here.
5. Who do you think was more stylish – Gershwin, Porter, or Irving Berlin?
Probably Cole Porter because he came from a wealthy family, went to Yale and lived in Paris. Porter was very much aware that he was part of an upper class that he loved to poke fun of. Gershwin and Berlin were more part of American’s immigrant story and their music reflected that. All these men had impeccable taste regarding their style, as did most men who lived in the first half of the twentieth century.
6. Do you model your own style based on any past or present day artists?
I love how Elton John treats his shows like they’re parties he’s dressed for. The rockers have more style. I think the cabaret-concert world is starting to catch on that people like to see their artists having a ball! Lang Lang is a great example of that.
7. The southwest is known for vibrant colors and homemade jewelry. In terms of fashion, what catches your eye in New Mexico?
This strongest aspect of New Mexico is the preservation of Native American culture. We have festivals that celebrate this and it is rich and gorgeous in its art, fashion and storytelling. Photographers and painters come from all over the world because of our relationship to the sun and its light. The hues of purple, orange and lavender skies are no joke here and I’ve been completely inspired by our majestic red mountains. You can’t live here and not be influenced by this. I paid tribute to this on my latest CD with a piece called “The Letter”.
8. What is one outfit you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing at your show?
A cowboy hat and some turquoise - maybe if I was a blues musician!
If you plan to visit Santa Fe, include a night of great food and really great piano at Pranzo Geist Santa Fe. David Geist's music, including his new album is also avaialble for download. Click David Geist itunes to shop.