It’s always good to keep things on the fresher side and that’s what New York based singer/songwriter Will Van Dyke is doing keeping it fresh. Today Will Van Dyke released his solo debut album The Mayor, his love letter to NYC. WVD is best known for his work on Live from Lincoln Center (1976), One Small Step for Melvin (2014) and The Devil’s Bitch (2012). WVD has done it all and his amazingly raw talents are displayed in the video “You’ll Never Hear The Sound” An established musician in the theatrical world of New York City, VAN DYKE was looking for collaborators when an email from lyricist and playwright Jeff Talbott appeared in his inbox. Like Elton John finding Bernie Taupin at the right moment, these two paths crossing would launch a strong and lasting songwriting partnership that culminates in today’s release.
The Mayor is out now on all digital media outlets. Billed as a collection of songs that combine personal stories with folklore-like fables, THE MAYOR accentuates the creative chemistry that VAN DYKE and Talbott have been building for the past eight years. From the first line of “You’ll Never Hear the Sound,” the story of a chance encounter that helps a man take control of his own destiny, you can feel the power of VAN DYKE as an artist finally lending his voice to his music.
In talking about the song VAN DYKE explains, “I really wanted to start the EP off with a musical journey as much as an emotional one. So, this song starts very acoustic, but gradually builds in the power-pop flare that this whole collection really embodies.” The songwriting duo knew the song was the perfect way to start the record off. “A sung story about a person finding the strength of their own voice is the ideal introduction for a singer/songwriter doing the exact same thing,” continues Talbott.
The idea of creating THE MAYOR began with the song “Grab a Slice,” a heartfelt ballad which explores the streets of New York during the pandemic. Powered by a vulnerable and heartbreaking vocal performance, you can feel the pain of seeing the city that never sleeps struggling to keep its heart beating, as well as the hope of what will come when that heart starts pounding again.
“Wasting Time” features Tamika Lawrence, another Broadway veteran with her own thrilling side music endeavors. Lawrence and VAN DYKE worked together on Rent in 2011, and have maintained a close musical friendship over the past decade. Their understanding of each other’s musicality is palpable on the track, and is supported by Talbott’s yearning and powerful lyric.
Talbott’s email was not the first such missive to change VAN DYKE’s creative career. Born in Atlanta, GA and moving to Boston around high school (with a very brief stop in Rochester, NY between), VAN DYKE was 18 when he moved to New York to attend NYU. He grew up studying classical piano, but loved theater as well as rock and roll, and was confused and unfocused upon his arrival in the city. “Being gay, and dealing with all the things that come with that, it was not until I got to New York that I realized how the things I loved could intersect,” says VAN DYKE. Then he wrote an email of his own that would change his whole life and help define the path he would take.
He reached out to established composer Andrew Lippa, who, through an internship, shepherded VAN DYKE into the theater industry and gave him the push he needed to start writing. At 22, he hit the road with the first National Tour of Wicked playing the piano. After a brief stint on a National Tour of Grease starring Taylor Hicks, he landed his first Broadway gig, The Addams Family. Jumping from The Addams Family to Rent led him to Kinky Boots, where he was part of the music team with Cyndi Lauper. The relationships built on Kinky Boots led to the musical version of Pretty Woman and working with Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. Currently, VAN DYKE is the music supervisor of Little Shop of Horrors, for which he also served as orchestrator and arranger. He was nominated for a Grammy® Award in 2020 for his work on the Little Shop of Horrors cast recording.
VAN DYKE and Talbott began their collaboration during VAN DYKE’s time at Kinky Boots, and quickly established themselves as a team to watch. VAN DYKE says of their collaboration, “Jeff takes all of these ideas, fleshes them out and brings these stories to life with me. He also brings his own tales to the table, and we keep rediscovering that the stories we tell together are so much more exciting than the ones we were telling on our own.” In addition to writing songs and musicals with VAN DYKE, Talbott is an award-winning and nationally-produced playwright. Their music has been recorded by Billy Porter, Jonathan Groff, Kate Baldwin, Wesley Taylor, Tamika Lawrence, among many others.
When VAN DYKE and Talbott first met over chicken and waffles, one thing that drew them to each other was a shared vantage point from which they view the world around them. Both men are perpetual optimists who seek to find the best in everyone, and understand that kindness is the best possible answer to almost every problem. This concept is on brilliant display in the title track of THE MAYOR, which tells the story of a group of friends and what it means to have a found family. This closing track on the EP is an infectious call to arms to not just appreciate the family you’re making, but celebrate it every single day.
WILL VAN DYKE and his band will be performing at The Bitter End in New York City on Thursday, July 22. It marks their first performance together since January 2019. Tickets are available on The Bitter End’s website.