She's a Mamet muse and a musician

British actress Rebecca Pidgeon has made albums, but now she’s taking her songs on the road

CorrespondentNovember 8, 2012 

Rebecca Pidgeon.

COURTESY OF BLOSSOM BERKOFSKY

  • More information Who: Marc Cohn, with Rebecca Pidgeon When: 8 p.m. Tuesday Where: The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham Cost: $34-$44 Details: 919-560-3030; www.carolinatheatre.org

If you’re a David Mamet fan, you know exactly who Rebecca Pidgeon is.

In nearly every play or movie the famed playwright and filmmaker has done these past two decades, he has always made sure there is a role for the Massachusetts-born, Scottish-bred, British actress.

For good reason – they’ve been together for more than 20 years. Since marrying in 1991, after Pidgeon appeared in a London production of Mamet’s play “Speed-the-Plow,” Mamet and Pidgeon have been joined at the hip not just domestically but creatively.

But people who know Pidgeon only as Mamet’s muse may be surprised to learn that the woman is also a musician.

“Clearly, I’ve been keeping it a secret,” jokes Pidgeon, 47, on the phone from Los Angeles.

“A lot of people don’t know that I’ve been doing music, and I think that’s because I was just recording records and not really touring and not really publicizing them. Now I’ve started to tour and to try to get them out in the world more than I have been in the past.”

It turns out this year marks her 25th year as a musician. The talent goes all the way back to her days attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, when she and classmate chum Roger Fife formed the folk/pop band Ruby Blue, playing at friends’ houses and parties before eventually releasing two albums and playing all around the British Isles.

But Pidgeon would soon leave the band after finding another partner in Mamet and moving to the States.

Since then, Pidgeon has recorded on-and-off as a solo artist, coming up with songs amid appearing in movies and TV shows and playing mom to her and Mamet’s two kids.

“I think I’m a romantic, actually, though I think that I like that kind of thing,” she says of her folksy, open-hearted musical style.

“But I’m always exploring that and that kind of mystical aspect of love. I just find it really interesting.”

On the six albums she has released (seven, if you count the 2008 soundtrack album she did for her husband’s movie “Redbelt”), she has collaborated with such folk as Billy Preston, Walter Becker of Steely Dan and even her husband, who has occasionally served as a songwriting partner.

“Sometimes I will enlist his aid and quickly show him the song and give him my outline of what the song structure and what the lyrics might be,” she says. “And then ask him to kind of fix it.”

Pidgeon has even had her work remixed by house producer Charles Webster, who took her 2005 song “Learn to Pray” and turned it into a dance-floor banger.

“I thought it was unrecognizable,” she says, saying the idea for the remix came from her then-manager.

“I mean, I didn’t really think of it as my song actually when he did it. I just thought, you know, it’s kind of nice for him to take it and give it a different life and see what happens, you know.”

But Pidgeon insists that she’s focusing more on her music these days.

“I don’t know,” she says. “I just kind of fell in love with it all over again.”

Pidgeon says collaborating with other artists in the composing and recording of her latest album, last year’s “Slingshot,” made her take it more seriously this time around.

“That renewed my love of it, and I learned a lot,” she says. “I took a lot of guitar lessons and singing lessons and stuff. And I just got more and more into it. It just brings me a lot of joy.”

She’s finding more joy now that she’s performing on the road, playing dates with Marc Cohn (for whom she’ll open when they both play the Carolina Theatre in Durham Tuesday).

“I love the immediacy of actually performing for an audience,” she says.

And what does the family think of her new role as a working musician?

“They like it,” she says. “[Pidgeon’s 13-year-old son] Noah thinks that I should get my stuff out there more. He listens to my stuff and he says, ‘Mom, you should be on the radio, instead of all these people on the radio! Why aren’t you on the radio? You gotta get out there and sell your stuff!’ ”

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