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New book leaves Storm Large exposed

Portland singer woos a different audience with her life story
by: COURTESY OF OWEN CAREY 
Singer/performer Storm Large relives a moment in the throes of heroin addiction in her autobiographical musical, “Crazy Enough,” at Portland Center Stage in 2009. Her new autobiography with the same name hits the bookstores in January.

Through her 20 years as a performer, Storm Large got used to stepping on stage, connecting with her audience and instantly hearing their appreciation. As a singer and actor, Large has always known which buttons to press to produce the desired result.

'A musician writes to capture an immediate moment,' Large says. 'I'm writing to convey an emotional thing to a group of people in the dark. I'm manipulative, that's my job as a musician.'

But, when Large sat down to write her autobiography 'Crazy Enough' she found out how hard it is to work without praise.

'It was awful,' Large says. 'I got to understand pretty quickly why many authors are horrible drunks and kill themselves.'

Large, who has been dubbed 'The First Lady of Portland' by Mayor Sam Adams, fought through the doubt and loneliness that come to all writers and finished the book. It will hit bookstore shelves in January and is already available for pre-order on her website, stormlarge.com.

'Crazy Enough' is written with the rhythm and inflections of a classic rock ballad. It takes Large through the world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and growing up with a mentally ill mother.

The story has been told before - in Large's one-woman show of the same name, which had a five-month run in Portland in 2009. Putting her life story on paper and letting readers judge it without her present left the 42-year-old Large feeling much more exposed than she felt while performing the show.

Large has reached a point in her life where she has forgiven herself for a lot of the events that fill the pages of 'Crazy Enough.' But, as she wrote the book, Large often found herself on the phone with friends, crying about how she came across.

'It's going to sound so incredibly insecure, but, I'm not going to be able to convince (readers) that I'm not a bad person,' Large says. 'It just sits there on the page and you are left with your own interpretation of what that means. That's hard. That's relinquishing a lot of control. It's very, very scary and it's very exposing.'

Large worked on the book in the midst of a busy tour schedule. As well as performing concerts, she has taken the 'Crazy Enough' show around the country and to international destinations like Scotland and Australia. She wants to take the show to New York in the fall 2012.

Touring and writing have presented physical, emotional and social challenges. Large has kept the demands in perspective, though.

'It's really, really grueling,' Large says. 'But, when I look in the mirror and I have to put on makeup at six in the morning to do a television interview and I'm hung over and angry that I had too many glasses of wine the night before and I'm tired, I stop myself and go, 'The problems you're complaining about are the dreams most people have for their careers. So you shut the (expletive) up, you put on your stupid makeup and you smile and you be charming.' '

During the past year, Large somehow found time to fall in love. In March she was set up on a date with musician Michael Shapiro. A few months later, they were walking together through Paris. In the Cimetiere Montmartre (the Paris cemetery where many famous artists are buried), Shapiro got down on one knee, placed a ring on Large's finger and asked her to marry him.

The two are looking for a house in Portland for themselves and their yellow labrador. But, it may be awhile before Large is ready to settle down.

'Settling down is not something that's going to happen anytime soon,' Large says. 'I'm looking at the next year and it is full of touring and full of traveling, some with Michael and some without Michael. Because he's a touring musician as well, he gets it. That's very helpful.'

Beautiful stories in life

While she has aspirations for her career that extend beyond the Rose City, Large will continue to remain a part of Portland.

'People call me a Portland artist and that just makes me incredibly proud,' Large says. 'But, being called a Portland artist, that's not important to me. What's important to me is being able to go home.'

Large performed on the recently released 'The Shakers' Sessions' album, sold at Burgerville restaurants, with the benefits going to Parkinson's patients through the Brian Grant Foundation.

'Why should Starbucks have all of that power to sell music?' Large asks. 'I love that little local burger joints are selling music.'

Large will also appear in Portland on Dec. 20 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Dec. 30 and 31 at the Alberta Rose Theatre.

Large may have performed around the world, but, there is always something special about performing in front of her hometown crowd.

'Homecomings are the best,' Large says. 'It's like going home for the holidays, only the family isn't quite as dysfunctional. It's like a huge Thanksgiving feast without the fighting. It's a special vibe at home.'

Looking back, Large was proved wrong when she questioned whether or not her story was worth the telling.

'When you think about it, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and a crazy mother, it is not a unique story,' Large says. 'I didn't lose a limb or a child or a breast. Ultimately I didn't lose my mind like everybody thought I was going to. I kind of did in a way, but, just in the way that everybody does.'

Looking forward, if Large were to tell another story about her life, she hopes that it will be filled with happiness.

'There's so many beautiful stories that happen in every life,' Large says. 'I just want to be there and try to be as good of a person as I can. Remember the stupid (stuff) I did and the good and continue to emphasize the good. Sometimes it isn't easy, but, it makes life a lot more fun and a lot more worth living.'