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#ArtistTalk: Jessica Latshaw – The Subway Performance Seen Around the World

Jessica Latshaw was riding the subway in New York City with her ukulele on one of the first days of 2012 when she began an impromptu performance with a fellow subway passenger. A member of the audience on the subway car recorded the session on his phone and posted it to Youtube and changed Jessica’s life forever.

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Dylan Furlano: You gained an extraordinary amount of support and fame because of video on YouTube.com of you singing on the subway in NYC. Did you have any idea of what that video would lead to?

Jessica Latshaw: I had no idea whatsoever of what that would lead to. None. I thought it was a cool moment on the subway with a drummer and some kind listeners. Even when the guy (Matt Schwartz), who took the footage with his phone, asked for my name, saying he wanted to tag me on Facebook, I honestly thought that maybe my parents would watch it and like it, but that’s all.

DF: How has it been making the jump from your ordinary life to this new-found life?

JL: The first week, I barely slept or ate. There were just round-the-clock responses to make to all the people reaching out to me via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Then, I teamed up with a manager (Mark Adelman of CA Management) and a publicist (Pamela DePalma of DePalma Enterprises) and got some much-needed help. It’s pretty awesome and strange to be recognized on the street as “the girl from YouTube” or “the subway girl”–even today, I went to see my doctor in rural Pennsylvania and the first thing he asked is, “Why don’t you have your ukulele?” which was a bit of two worlds colliding. Also–there’s still quite a large amount of ordinary mixed in the with the extraordinary. Last week, I headlined a sold out show in Wilmington, DE, at a great venue. The audience demanded three encores and were just fantastic. It was magical. And a complete contrast to how life felt directly after, while I was driving my beat up little sedan alone, hungry, and exhausted. I just thought to myself, “This is what I signed up for–not always feeling comfortable—but sometimes life feels transcendent. Like when I’m sharing myself with an audience. That’s worth just about everything, I think.

DF: You are acclaimed for your ukelele playing. How long have you been playing? Do you play any other instruments?

JL:  Oh my gosh, “acclaimed.” I guess I am, but the funny thing is that I just picked up the uke in the early fall. I am much more comfortable on a piano, having played that for many, many years now.

DF: You recently performed at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. What was that like?

JL: It was a trip. A great trip, but a trip. A designer (courage B) dressed me–which was my first experience wearing a designer dress. It was immediately stolen once I took it off, but hey! at least it was mine for a few hours, right? And the audience was so lovely–so intent on my music–it was dreamy to play for them, really. And walking that infamous cat walk with my ukulele in hand was pretty fun, to be perfectly honest. I hope I get to do it again.

DF: Have you always wanted to be a musician?

JL: I don’t know how much “wanting” has to do with it–I always have been. Some of my earliest memories are of making up songs and singing them to my animals where I grew up in southeast Pennsylvania. I didn’t know that other people didn’t do that; to me, it was normal.

DF: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

JL: Well, I am also a dancer. I have done the Broadway tour of A Chorus Line, as well as doing Fame! the musical over in Korea, and the Will Rogers Follies here in North America. I wouldn’t say I am not a dancer now, actually. I guess I just call myself an artist and sometimes it comes out through music and sometimes through dance. And–a writer–that’s something that I love to do, too. My blog (thislifeinwriting.com) is this special little place I’ve carved out on the worldwide web and I really enjoy sharing my thoughts and stories there. I’d like to publish books someday, too.

DF: As you mentioned, you recently got off a revival tour of A Chorus Line. How has it been switching from that type of performing to the performing you are doing now?

JL:  Well, I must say I miss the regular paycheck that A Chorus Line gave me! That was nice. And I do love acting and telling somebody else’s story–it’s an absolute privilege!–but, there’s something so special about getting to be yourself on stage. When I sing my songs and share my stories, I feel so alive. It’s like falling in love, really; when every part of you is devouring life and you don’t ever want to close your eyes because you can’t believe how beautiful the colors around you are and even the sad parts of life feel redeemed in that moment.

You can follow Jessica through her blog thislifeinwriting.com or on Myspace.  Check out the video below that started it all.  As of this post, it has over 1.1 million views and counting.

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