This city of ours has a lot to offer, but the upcoming duo of Cathy Richardson and Sami Grisafe performing back-to-back may take the proverbial cake. Closing out the season of summer sun and ushering in the cooling autumn, these top female rockers will give you goosebumps right down to your bones. Eerie and powerful, I swear each one of these women has a voice that will steal just a little bit of your soul. From fame and established, to up-and-coming, Cathy and Sami are a breath of fresh air in this magical musical town. As a lead singer for one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, [Jefferson Starship], an independent force of nature, and a Broadway alumni, Cathy Richardson has earned the right to call the shots—that she hand picked Sami Grisafe to open for her on August 30th at the beautiful City Winery [1200 W Randolph] should say it all. I was lucky enough to catch up with both of them via email amidst all their independent touring and busy schedules to give you a little bit more insight into the brilliance that is about to explode off the stage.
The L Stop: For some of our readers who just want a quickie–tell us a little about yourself, Cathy – where were you born and raised? Big or small family?
Cathy: I was born in Hinsdale and grew up in Burr Ridge. I have two older sisters and a younger brother so I guess we were a medium sized family.
[for background on Sami, click here ]
TLS: When did you know you just had to sing??
C: When I was very young, about 4, I sang Hello Dolly at a church talent show. I remember everyone smiling and laughing. A few years later. I sang another Barbara Streisand showtune called “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long” and really belted it out and when I was done, the audience spontaneously jumped out of their seats and cheered so loud. I was totally shocked and frightened but my mom was SO excited, “Cathy! They gave you a standing ovation!” Once she explained that only happened if you were really, really good, I was hooked.
Sami: I’ve always loved to sing, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I felt I needed to sing. When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality, I began doing a lot of songwriting and singing became my therapy. I finally found my voice and since then I’ve become very attached to the honesty and release that comes with it.
TLS: I understand that you first met each other during an Evanston SPACE benefit show for the Center on Halsted on May 5, 2013. Why was it important to you to participate in the benefit for the Center on Halsted?
Note: this benefit was organized in place of a Michelle Shocked concert that SPACE canceled following her homophobic remarks made early this year during a concert in San Francisco. SPACE donated 100% of the proceeds to the CoH.
C: I was on the road when I heard about the Michelle Shocked anti-gay rant thing, which happened in San Francisco of all places. Jake at SPACE got in touch to say they were canceling her show and wanted to replace it with some kind of benefit for a Gay cause. I just thought that was righteous and the perfect answer to a really unfortunate situation. The Center on Halsted is an amazing facility and resource for gay people in Chicago, they just do great work.
S: I felt it was important to quickly turn a negative thing into something positive. I thought SPACE’s idea to do a benefit for The Center on Halsted was really wonderful and I wanted to be a part of it. I’m thankful I was able be involved.
TLS: What was your first impression of each other? Did musical sparks fly?
C: My very first impression [of Sami] was, hey, we kind of look alike! She’s very outgoing and friendly and she told me she was a fan and had one of my records, so of course, I loved her right away. There is always this fear when you meet another musician you have never heard, and you like them right away as a person, but you are kind of dreading hearing them because you might not dig their music, and then what do you say? But I heard her sing and I was like WOW, she’s really good! Phew! I’m definitely a tough critic and I won’t say it if I don’t mean it, she has a great voice and spirit.
S: The first time I heard Cathy Richardson I was at a street festival, here in Chicago. One of my friends told me I needed to see her perform, because she would blow my mind. They were right! I was in awe the entire set. I don’t think my eyes left the stage from the first to the final note. One of her fans saw how enamored I was with her music and handed me her most recent CD, Dellusions of Granduer. I listened to that CD on repeat for the remainder of that summer.
TLS: Why did you [Cathy] choose Sami to open your show at City Winery on August 30?
C: After the SPACE show we kept in touch and have been trying to find the right time to do a show together. With my Jefferson Starship touring schedule, it’s hard for me to find time to book my own shows at home so it’s been a challenge to find a venue and opening when we are both available. When City Winery wanted a date and asked me for suggestions for a strong opener, I thought here is the perfect opportunity!
TLS: That’s quite a compliment for Sami! How does it feel to be chosen by the great Cathy Richardson?
S: I am honored to open for Cathy. She has such great energy on stage and her voice hits you right in the heart. I mean, talk about a woman who really rocks! It’s inspiring. I am just as excited to to see her show as I am to perform my set before she goes on. And, City Winery is an incredible music venue. If you enjoy music, food and wine, there is no other experience like it in Chicago.
[The Sami Grisafe Band will be returning to City Winery Mon. Sept 9th for the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality benefit show. To get involved by showing your support for equality for all IL citizens, get your tickets and have a wonderful time!
TLS: Who are some of the artists and bands that most influenced you growing up? I imagine music has always played an important role in your lives!
C: Heart, Janis, Jefferson Airplane/Starship
S: I grew up listening to a bunch of different music: Elton John, Aerosmith, Queen, CCR, Janis Joplin, Garth Brooks, Reba, Tanya Tucker, Counting Crows, Tupac, The Eagles, Ani DiFranco, No Doubt, Garbage, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. My mom was the one who really got me into the storytelling aspect of songs. She would always say, “Listen to the story, Samantha.” I used to love watching my parents enjoy music. My pops would always have it blasting in the car with the windows down. They were also in a band so I learned a lot about music from them. Music accompanies almost every memory I have and naturally, my life influences my music.
TLS: If you could go on tour with anyone right now, who would it be?
S: There are a few I would be totally on cloud nine to tour with: Jack White, I love his innovative approach to music, the way he plays with different sounds. Ani DiFranco, I think she may be the most brilliant songwriter of our time and her energy and honesty on stage is exhilarating. The Foo Fighters, they are the epitome of a solid rock band. They believe in music that comes from the heart, trial and error and telling the truth as a unit. It would be a dream to go on tour with any of these folks, I feel like I would just be taking notes the whole time and it would be AMAZING!
C: Honestly, I would go be home with my wife and kids if I could be anywhere right now!
TLS: Cathy, I know you’re jet-setting right now–What are you doing in Brazil and how are they treating you?
C: I am the lead singer with Jefferson Starship and we are on tour here in Brazil. The Brazilians are treating us wonderfully!
TLS: Tell me about something from your “bucket list”
C: My bucket list, hmmm… for my career, I guess would like to do more acting in film, tv or Broadway, finish my book, stage my album Delusions of Grandeur into a theater piece. For my life, I want to see my kids grow up to become happy, successful people in whatever they choose to do in life and just be there to support them however I can.
S: There are so many things I want to accomplish, but in terms of big-picture ”bucket list” items I would say that being a part of the halftime show at the Super Bowl would rank right near the top!
For Cathy Richardson and Sami Grisafe show information and tickets:
Friday, August 30th
Doors 6pm/ Show 8pm
Tickets: $15 Reserved/$20 VIP
City Winery, Chicago
1200 W. Randolph
For Cathy Richardson:
For Sami Grisafe:
Sami Grisafe Sings National Anthem & Wins Gold Medal:
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.