Finding her niche in the downtown cabaret scene, particularly among the regular roster of performers at Joe’s Pub, gave Everett the chance to evolve and become comfortable connecting with an audience. She was frustrated with the limitations of acting, and particularly with going to auditions and not getting cast in roles. Performing on her own gave her an outlet to harness her creativity. “I never really had weird body issues — I probably should, but I don’t,” she admits. “You know, I’m the big girl. I had to figure something out, so I sort of kept screaming until someone heard me. Not to be corny, but music and singing is the way I communicate. It’s given me a better understanding of myself.”
Within that same scene, Everett began collaborating with her talented friends. Following the death of her sister and in the midst of a depressive period in her life, Murray Hill invited Everett to play softball in McCarren Park with Medlyn and his other friends. The group of ball players, dubbed Team Pressure, included Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and his wife, Kathleen Hanna, who were already big fans of Everett’s work. Eventually, Team Pressure and the Our Hit Parade family began to overlap: Kenny Mellman joined Hanna’s band, The Julie Ruin; Horovitz collaborated with Medlyn on his rap album, recorded under the moniker Champagne Jerry; and Julie Ruin drummer Carmine Covelli joined Horovitz in Everett’s band, The Tender Moments. These collaborations seemed to happen as a natural progression, and Horovitz’s legendary status was never daunting. “I don’t think of Adam as a Beastie Boy,” Everett says. “I mean, it crosses my mind every once and again. But mostly he’s just a great friend who’s really supportive and excited to do stuff.”
It was Horovitz who encouraged Pound It, Everett’s first album. “I called him up because I was applying for a grant and wanted to record an album of covers,” she explains. “They have a studio, and I wanted to know what the studio process was like. I had no idea where to start.” Instead of just answering her inquiries, Horovitz offered to produce the album himself — and suggested the songs be original compositions. Everett began writing songs with The Tender Moments, first performing them at their regular gig at Joe’s Pub.
Twelve of those songs ended up on Pound It, released last month, which represents a mixture of hard-hitting rock and roll and Everett’s absurdly sexual comedic sense. “There’s some rock, there’s a doo-wop song, a ‘70s power ballad, a tip of the hat to Bette Midler,” Everett says. “I pushed myself and written about a lot of things. There’s a song called ‘Titties,’ one called ‘Fuck Shit Up.’ But there’s also a song about my sister who died of cancer. It’s a special thing and I’m glad I have it. It’s a documentation of this part of my life, which is probably the best days of my life, honestly.”
In addition to Pound It, there’s Rock Bottom, a new show commissioned by Joe’s Pub New York Voices series. It allowed Everett to continue writing with Horovitz, but also with Tony-winning songwriting team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. (The three-night run will see a special encore performance as part of Joe’s Pub’s 15th Anniversary this Saturday.) Rock Bottom brings together a new collection of songs and stories and the grit and the brass that have become Everett’s trademarks. Her star has risen immensely in recent years, and you’re likely to see several familiar, famous faces in the audience for it — all of them equally shocked and astounded as the rest of the room as Everett moves through the crowded tables with wild abandon. (One recent fan is Broadway legend Patti Lupone, who asked Everett to sing with her at Carnegie Hall tomorrow night, an invitation that blows even her mind: “I’m doing cabaret in my panties and Patti Lupone is trying to sing with me? It doesn’t fucking register in my brain.”)
The most astounding aspect of Bridget Everett’s presence, though, is how grounded she is despite her successes. She still has a day job to pay the bills, and she admits, despite what you see under those lights, she still suffers from stage fright. “Right before I go up there, I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’” But the high of performing and connecting with a crowd always wins her over. “I feel incredible,” she says. “I get this euphoria and it makes me so happy, and then I wake up the next day and get ready for the next show.” But what is most inspiring is the genuine excitement she’s experiencing these days, which is evident not just in the grin on her face when you see her live, but also in person; she’s sincerely happy about where she is. “I don’t wanna say how old I am,” she laughs, “but I’m just hitting my stride at this age. As corny as it sounds, I just feel so lucky to be doing what I love.”
All photos by Kevin Yatarola