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Cyndi Lauper talks Nashville, equality ahead of Atlanta concert

Cyndi Lauper will perform hits and selections from her new country album, "Detour," at Symphony Hall on Sunday.
Cyndi Lauper will perform hits and selections from her new country album, "Detour," at Symphony Hall on Sunday.

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Cyndi Lauper will always be associated with her vibrant ’80s pop hits and flamboyant fashions.

But anyone paying attention to her career knows that for years — decades, really — the powerhouse vocalist has been a musical chameleon.

From the pulsing electronica of “Sisters of Avalon” in the mid-’90s to her well-chosen 2003 album of standards covers, “At Last,” to 2010’s self-explanatory “Memphis Blues” to her new country effort, “Detour,” Lauper’s experimental output has dazzled.

And let's not forget "Kinky Boots" — the Broadway smash that earned Lauper a Tony Award in 2013 for best original score. Not only was she the first woman to win the category by herself, but the Tony put her an Oscar away from the rare, coveted EGOT (she won an Emmy in 1995 for a guest stint on "Mad About You" and has two Grammys on her resume).

Lauper’s live “Detour” show pulls into Atlanta Symphony Hall on Sunday. In a call with reporters prior to the tour’s kickoff, Lauper, 62, said she plans to shuffle the set list between classic songs and selections from the new album, such as “Funnel of Love” (made famous by Wanda Jackson) and “Misty Blue” (popularized by Eddy Arnold). She’s also been performing her version of Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” from her 1983 debut, “She’s So Unusual.”

Here are four things we learned about Lauper during her recent chat.

She isn’t a stranger to Nashville:

“I used to go down to Nashville to write with Jan Pulsford. We did the ‘Sisters of Avalon’ and ‘Shine’ albums (in 1996 and 2002) in Nashville. I would play the dulcimer a lot on (Jan’s) back porch toward the woods. It was an unbelievable place. I never was an insider. I was an outsider and was making outsider music compared to what was being done in Nashville.”

Someone get this woman an Oscar!
Someone get this woman an Oscar!

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

She loves Vince Gill and Willie Nelson, who both play on “Detour”:

“It’s almost like angel wings when (Vince) walks in. He’s really a great guy, and he’s a great player and a great singer. Even Willie Nelson came. Oh my God, it was like Yoda walked in. I almost cried, but I didn’t. There’s no crying in rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll scare them. And he was awesome. You go through the 300 songs he’s written. I knew he was a songwriter in the’80s and songs that were hits for people and I kinda revisited all of that stuff again as I was doing this album. You really have reverence for the guy when he walked in.”

She will always be a champion of equal rights:

“I can’t speak for anyone else, but where I come from, you don’t allow anyone else to hurt your friends and family members. You don’t allow people to strip their rights. You come here and everyone is a freaking immigrant, everyone, even Donald Trump. They can try and change the facts and try and rewrite history, but you can’t shove that down my throat. I don’t have amnesia. And I know you can’t ever discount fear and lack of knowledge. But knowledge is power, and the more you give the facts and truth to people and you understand what really goes on … People’s differences in the end might become our strengths.”

Following the success of “Kinky Boots,” she’s hooked on the theater:

“I am going to tackle another musical and I might become involved with (a second one). (‘Detour’) was a special record and I wanted to do it while I still could. I do want to write (for myself) again, but right now I’m focused on this musical. It’s going to take years and years. I don’t want to jinx it (by giving details). I want it to be great. The whole thing that happened with ‘Kinky Boots,’ I was able to use all of the genres from when I was doing my own work. I’m trying to be a responsible family member, wife, mom, daughter, sister and to be a good artist and take care of my family. I think I can have commerce and art together in my life and be the artist I always felt I could be.”


Cyndi Lauper

With the Peach Kings. 8 p.m. June 5. $35.50-$99.50. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,

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