The young singer who loves to go with the flow of inspiration and whimsy during performances acknowledged that his record-label handlers a few years ago brought in a consultant to fine-tune his live performances. Initially, they hoped Chicago-based artist Susan Werner might reign in bluesy-jazzy singer and keyboardist Spencer Day a bit.
But with Day’s spontaneous humor, lush vocals and love for giving different audiences what they seem to want to hear, the respected Werner came to a smiling conclusion: Basically, let the amoeba-style Day be the shape-shifter of sorts that he is on stage.
“In the end, her only real advice to me was, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing,’” said Day, 37, speaking by phone from Palm Beach, Florida, where his 75-minute, mixed-bag cabaret show played last week. “People want spontaneity. And I’m far too off-the-cuff to ever be robotic.”
Day, who has wowed audiences ranging from The Monterey Jazz Festival to the Hollywood Bowl, brings that same performance, accompanied by a bass player and guitarist, to the season’s second half of Cabaret at The Commons, which has averaged 225 to 250 people per date in downtown Columbus.
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Day’s show will include some of his own material, including harrowing heartbreak, and cover tunes from five releases — plus some material from the yet-to-be-released “Angel City,” about his three years in Hollywood before moving to his current home base of San Diego.
If you’re expecting him to imitate Robert Palmer on the bluesy, power pop smash, “Addicted to Love,” think again. Day’s version is slower, more thoughtful and deliberately paced.
He also avoids mimicking Marvin Gaye on the classic, “What’s Going On” and instead offers an incredibly slow, emotional and moving smooth jazz rendition perfectly punctuated by his soft, electric piano.
“I always try to throw in a few covers people will know, but ones that are done in a way they are not quite expecting,” he said. “I don’t really want to sing anybody else’s song unless I feel I can put a stamp on it that feels truly unique and allows me to arrange a new melody.”
Katelyn Phillips, marketing director for the organizing Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, mentioned that ticket sales for Day are stronger than for the two previous Cabaret acts that drew well.
“We really pushed the marketing early (last month), encouraging people to think of these concerts as Christmas gifts,” Phillips said.
Day, raised as a Utah farmboy, acknowledged that his time in Hollywood, “which is very intoxicating and inspiring,” hardly allowed him to be himself.
“I realized I was ready for a more low-key and simple kind of life, though San Diego is not exactly the country. But it’s about as opposite from New York (where he maintains another base) as you can get.
“But there’s still nothing like New York for inspiration and artistry.”
He finds inspiration from artist favorites including the late David Bowie, k.d. lang and Chris Isaak. But he’s also been listening to plenty of the late classical composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Other influences range from trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker to singers Ella Fitzgerald and Julie London, stars from an earlier era whose musical careers were riding high 60 years ago.
“I’m really all over the map,” he said. “I also love hip hop.”
And of course, he loves his smorgasbord best presented in spontaneity.
So Mr. Go With the Flow rarely worries about having to detour from a script or set list if the need or inkling arises.
“Even when something goes wrong, if you handle it right, audiences love that,” he said. “They really feel like they’re connecting with something right there in the moment. And that can become one of the best and funniest things of the night.”
Who: Bluesy-jazzy singer and keyboardist Spencer Day, appearing with a bass player and guitarist for a 75-minute acoustic set list of original and cover tunes ranging from pop to jazz to Great American Songbook.
What: The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s Cabaret at The Commons series.
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28.
Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.
Tickets: $15, $30 and $50, plus $15 full meals are available if reservations are made by Jan. 27.
Information and reservations: 812-376-2638 or thecip.org.