Irish Daily Mirror
Mann, I am tickled Pink with this song
Pamela Sue on putting smiles on people’s faces with new single & her career working with some of the biggest names in music
Forget the usual cliché about getting hit with one of Cupid’s arrow at the first sight of your soulmate. It was more of a case of love at first album for Irish music legend Gerry Leonard and the talented American singer-songwriter Pamela Sue Mann.
The Dubliner had emigrated to the Big Apple to make his mark on the music scene in the early 1990s and quickly built up a reputation as a highly-regarded session player and musical director (MD).
He ended up working with the likes of Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright, Sinead O’connor, Cyndi Lauper, Laurie Anderson, Avril Lavigne, Sophie B Hawkins and even Roger Waters.
Gerry then first met his future wife Pamela after she herself had moved to NYC after graduating from college to pursue her own solo career.
This was only three or four short years before Gerry was headhunted by David Bowie in 2000.
He ended up collaborating with the icon on three albums, co-writing tracks on the seminal Next Day.
Gerry was also MD on the Reality Tour and appeared on Bowie’s posthumously-released studio album Toy.
Pamela would go on to tour and record with artists such as Wainwright, Vega, Donna Lewis, and David Baron.
She was also keyboardist for The Real Mccoy, a German Eurodance band which was an Arista Recording Artist and Viva TV’S #1 Pop Act of 1995.
The band’s song Another Night became a global top 40 hit.
“We met around the Sin-é scene in the city,” Pamela said of the now defunct popular venue that helped launch the careers of many musicians. Jeff Buckley even released the EP Live At Sin-é.
“Gerry was playing with a friend of mine, Trina Hanlon, an excellent harpist, and singer-songwriter. And I went to see them at Sin-é. It was incredible.
“And she said, ‘You need a producer. I said, ‘I do!’ Because I didn’t even really know what a producer was back then. She said, ‘I think I know just the person’, and she introduced Gerry and I.
“He was just finishing with Cyndi Lauper and starting to tour with Duncan Sheik. So I started giving him cassette tapes of all the songs I had written.”
Gerry added, “Pamela is a great songwriter. She finds things that are unusual and writes songs about them. And that’s always appealed to me about Pamela’s songs.
“Pamela said, ‘I want to do a record, I’d like you to produce’. We talked about it. It was like, ‘This is a great project, let’s do it’.
“I think you enter into this very intimate space whenever you make a record with somebody. They need to be vulnerable, and you need to be
vulnerable. So there’s lots of room for romance to take flight!”
But it was actually outside of the studio when Pamela first had romantic notions about Gerry, when they shared a big yellow taxi.
“The cab door opened and the light shined on his very Irish face and into his very blue eyes. And I know it’s gonna sound very bizarre, but I thought I saw into his soul. And that was it, I fell in love with him. It had nothing to do with the music,” she
Pamela had to park (pun intended) her own music career while raising their daughter.
“I was pregnant with Fae and I had signed a licensing deal in Australia,” she explained. “And I naively thought, ‘I’ll figure the kid out. I’ll figure out
what to do and then I’ll go to Australia’. But Gerry was already having such a lovely career touring. And I don’t think I worked that bit into my brain. It wouldn’t be so easy just to be a gypsy family, because I’m just not built to be able to grab the little infant and take her with me, especially when Gerry’s touring.
“That said, we did do a lot of touring. When Fae was very young, she travelled with us quite a bit with Rufus Wainwright, and other artists.
“But it became very apparent that I wanted to be a good mom. I really wanted to be 100% present for Fae. And I homeschooled her, so we could travel and be with Gerry, and I would play shows here and there.
“I had always, as artists do, put complete focus into working on the song-writing and performing.
“I found I just couldn’t split myself like that. I thought I want to be a good mom, so that’s what I focused on.
“And I started doing music again as
soon as Fae got old enough, where I felt, ‘Okay, she probably needs a little break from me!’ And my mom had passed – and all of the songs came pouring out.
“I think it’s not so much a choice for artists – that we have to do our art, it’s part of who we are.”
Pamela, who also has a side project with Donna Lewis called Queentown, said performing as a backing singer with Suzanne Vega had a “profound” influence.
She can say the same about being in the “privileged position” of getting to watch Ziggy Stardust up close and personal.
“With David Bowie, I was able to sit on a couch and watch the rehearsals,” she said. “With Susanna, it was very interesting, because I had this incredible dream where I was swimming in the water and she was imparting some knowledge.
“She really is a deep writer, a poetess. I’ve learned so much from
her song-writing, just by being around it for years.”
RTE 2FM just included Pamela’s latest quirky, charming and extremely catchy single Pink Flamingo on their playlist. It’s a perfect fun summer tune that will have you dancing in the supermarket aisle.
Even the legendary Laurie Anderson has hailed it as nothing short of a “masterpiece”.
Pamela said, “Artists don’t always consciously have a plan when a song comes out. And a lot of my songs have been very introspective and very melancholic, and poetic and romantic, and wistful.
“And now was really a time where we absolutely needed to find some kind of rainbow, some kind of sunshine.”
Explaining the song’s lyrics about dancing in the food aisles, she said: “I was in the supermarket with Gerry and we were all wearing our masks – and some silly music came on and
Fae was a few years old and David Bowie recited The Owl And The Pussycat to her, it was really surreal.
I started dancing. The song came into my head and as soon as I got to the car, I just sang it into the microphone.”
Pamela sent it on to a friend to ask them for their honest two cents on it.
“I said, ‘I wrote this really silly song, it’s embarrassing. That sounds kind of like Eurovision’. And he said, ‘Send me the iphone demo’.
“So I sent it to him. He wrote me right back, and he said, ‘You got to do the song, because it’s so happy, it’s infectious’. I actually wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
“Then Gerry helped to realise the demo into something good enough to put on the radio.
“I am putting together my next album, which most likely will be called Pink Flamingos, and should be released in 2023.”
You’re always guaranteed a radiofriendly song when Gerry sets his mind to it.
As David Bowie once discovered for himself when he called over to Gerry’s home and they ended up penning three new songs together for the Next Day album, all in the space of only a few hours. I asked Pamela what was it like to find Bowie at her front door?
“It was wild. Fae was a few years old, and he recited The Owl And Pussy-cat to her. And he was shaking this wooden snake toy she had, it was really surreal,” she recalled, laughing. “It was incredible. It was absolutely crazy. Gerry, what was it like having David over?”
Gerry nodded, smiling at the warm memories of his dear friend, who sadly passed away in 2016. As the three of us spoke on Zoom from three different cities – Gerry is currently on a European tour with Suzanne Vega – he said: “Look, David Bowie walks into your house and it’s already surreal. So it was pretty wild.
“But then he sits down. And I make some coffee, and then now we’re having coffee. And then my daughter and Pamela come down, and we’re all sitting around the table.
“But he loved that. He had a lot of time for family. David always responded immediately any time I sent something that was familyrelated. If it was details about a gig, or something like that, you could have to wait a week, but if it was family he would come right back.”
Gerry is “not the kind who gets photos” with the likes of Bowie, because he would’ve absolutely hated to “impose upon him”.
But they do have one hilarious snap of Bowie and Fae taken at Pamela’s birthday bash. “We had this crazy dinner at Raoul’s and all these people came, like Laurie Anderson, Lou
Reed, Suzanne (Vega) and Duncan (Sheik), and all our dearest friends were there. And, of course, I was with my daughter because she was so young,” Pamela recalled.
“And we have a photo of him (Bowie) holding her. I think she’s wearing a tutu. And she’s making this face like she’s about to cry and he’s grinning wildly. It’s the best photo in the world.”
Gerry added, “My friend Earl Slick – he played with David – had this photo of David or John Lennon, with his daughter sitting on, I think, David’s knee smiling, and he’s smiling. And it’s just this lovely photo.
“She’s probably five or six years old. And Fae was younger. And then I was like, Oh, I’ll get that photo of Fae with David smiling. It’ll be a lovely family album kind of thing.
“And I had asked David and he’s like, ‘Yeah, sure’. And I’m handing Fae to David, and he grabs her and she just starts bawling, crying, like, ‘Wah’.
“She wanted to come back to me. She didn’t like it at all. And David’s laughing. And she’s like, bawling. And it’s just this very dramatic, very funny photo.”
But there’s a lovely ending to the story. “What’s funny is, Fae actually put it on her phone, as her lockscreen screen for a little while when she started getting into vinyl. And I think it was kind of like, ‘David Bowie. David Bowie. Me!’ Something clicked, ‘This has some currency’.”
Their now 16-year-old daughter – Fae Leoanard Mann to give her full name – also “appreciates her Irish roots”, Gerry said.
He added: “She’s got a curiosity about it and I think that’s something that’ll blossom for her. She just came back from two weeks studying on an acting programme in Trinity, a summer school thing. She might end up going to college there.”
Fae, who already has her own IMDB page with some acting credits, on occasion performed with her parents on stage.
Pamela said: “We used to be able to get Fae to come up on stage and that was really fun. But now she’s got her own thing. She’s got her acting career.”
But the show must go on. Gerry concluded: “We’re starting to share a bill and do some shows together in Rockwood (Music Hall) in New York, that’s been cool.
“Pam does the first half, and I’ll do the second half, because I make more of a racket! It’s been a fun family outing, family gig.
“We used to do a version of (Bowie’s) Andy Warhol at my solo shows and these guys, Pam and Fae, would come up and sing the chorus with me. It was pretty comical.
“We’d all wear sunglasses and sing Andy Warhol together. It was like the public family sing-along.”
No doubt Bowie would’ve approved…