When Storm Large was a kid, she considered herself “a fat, punk rocker, loud mouth, asshole runaway and kind of a dirtbag.”
But she also knew she had one talent, an undeniable set of pipes that made even the parents at her third-grade recitals go, “holy shit.’”
“It was a gift that made people smile,” Large told Philadelphia Weekly during a recent interview. “No one was happy to see me when I was a kid. But I had this thing that I could do that would make people happy to [hear] me. That was love for me.”
Still brash and bold in the best sense, the 49-year-old singer has come a long way since the days of elementary school productions. The “very late bloomer” gained national attention as a finalist on CBS’ show Rock Star: Supernova in 2006. Performing solo and with the band Pink Martini, Large has stunned crowds with her killer vocals and evocative interpretations of classic hits.
Large will now sing many of those same tunes alongside the Philly POPS in “Storm Large: A Crazy Kind of Love,” Nov. 9-11. In a fusion of rock, punk, metal, pop and jazz with a cabaret-esque execution, Large will take the stage with Philly POPS’ 65-piece orchestra, conducted by Michael Krajewski, and perform a medley of reinterpreted songs from Led Zeppelin, Elton John, George Michael and more.
Receiving praise and that long-sought-for validation from a strong fan base and reviews, Large’s childhood still rears its head. It was a troubling past that she revealed in her memoir Crazy Enough, published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster, which was named Oprah’s Book of the Week. Large also transformed the memoir into a musical that had a sold-out 21-week streak at the Portland Center Stage and then a cabaret, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Adelaide Festival in Australia and Joe’s Pub in New York.
In the memoir, Large details her life growing up in the ’70s in Southborough, Massachusetts, her relationship to her mother who suffered from manic depression, requiring multiple hospitalizations, and her need to please her father. Large explained to PW that she was also sexually assaulted as a child, but people silenced her when she tried to come forward, relegating the attacks to “that’s just what guys do.”
Large coped by turning to drugs, sex and punk rock – a music genre she found welcomed tough, angry and talented women.
“I was desperately lonely and desperately sad and I would have loved to have been anybody else, anybody else to have an easier time,” Large recalled. “[But no matter who hurt me, I knew] you’re going to want my mother fucking autograph one day. I don’t know what that was, because I had zero evidence that I was going to amount to anything. I had zero evidence that I was even going to survive my teenage years.”
Without much to ride on, something in Large’s “heart” drove her, wanting to show the naysayers wrong. She went onto graduate from New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1989 and then played in a number of bands, including Storm & Her Dirty Mouth and then Storm & the Balls.
When first hitting the professional music scene, Large explained she set a “really low bar” for herself, but as long as she could make someone, anyone happy through her music then that was enough.
“When I started getting on stage and singing professionally, even in the dirty, shitty clubs and playing for beer and hot dogs, I was like, ‘I’m probably not going to be famous because I’m not pretty, I’m not cool,’” Large recalled. “‘But at least I will have someone to have sex with, I’ll have something to drink, get a place to stay probably.’ It was really that rudimentary.”
Then Rock Star: Supernova came, fast-tracking her to stardom. Throughout her career, Large has channeled her hardships through performance, honing her craft and learning to reaffirm her own self-worth.
“[Artists] are storytellers of culture. We call truth to power … and we’re the winners of the hearts and minds,” Large said of the importance of arts, an outlet that pulled her through the dredge of life. “… Making a thousand strangers in a dark room understand a broken heart and understand that they’re not alone in the world. There is value in that. It can’t be monetized, but it can’t be denied either.”
When asked about her greatest accomplishment, Large could not pin it to just one memory.
“There’s a lot of great things I’ve gotten to do that I’m so fucking grateful for,” said Large. “I can’t even believe I got to sing at Carnegie Hall. I can’t believe that I led a Conga line around Royal Albert Hall. I can’t believe that I was on Ellen Degeneres’ television show. I can’t believe I gave a piggyback ride to Tommy Lee. I can’t believe half of the shit I’ve gotten to do, it’s been marvelous. It’s been amazing. Miraculous, if you knew where I came from. So the best is yet to come.”
A Crazy Kind of Love | Nov. 9, 8pm. Nov. 10-11, 3pm. $35-$153. Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad St.phillypops.org/stormlarge