In the VIP Lounge with songwriter Stephen Bray
Songwriter Stephen Bray remembers fondly his days at Berklee College of Music, and is thrilled that “The Color Purple,” for which he won a Grammy Award for best musical theater album and was nominated for a Tony Award, is coming to Boston (Nov. 21-Dec. 3 at the Shubert Theatre). “It is a very timely show, since it deals with resistance to oppression and resilience of the human spirit,” said Bray, 60, who attended Berklee in 1978. “Celebrating the resiliency of women right now is incredibly timely, and I am eternally grateful to be part of a team that brought these characters, created by Alice Walker, to life.” It was in Detroit, where Bray was born and raised, that he met and collaborated with a young Madonna, eventually co-writing and producing some of her biggest hits such as “Into the Groove” and “Express Yourself.” Bray lives in Studio City, Calif., with his wife, movie producer Stephanie Allain (right). They have three grown children. We caught up with Bray to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? I have a Maui fixation and try to go whenever I can. It’s magical and feels like home very quickly. If Bali was closer, I’d include that, but it’s a long, long trip from California. Speaking of local trips . . . if they’d let me, I’d vacation at Walt Disney Concert Hall whenever [Venezuelan maestro Gustavo] Dudamel is conducting!
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? If it’s Maui then it’s a Monkey Pod Mai Tai, without a doubt! And that would precede some fresh island fish from one of Maui’s amazing restaurants like Mama’s or Star Noodle.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa to hear the vocal harmonies up close and personal and to witness the topography firsthand. I’ve heard it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet. And I want to go to Austria to spend some time at the Vienna Opera House and soak up those vibrations.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? I have to confess that I always take a mini keyboard and Pro Tools software. Airplane travel is a fantastic time to work up new tracks, edit vocal tracks, and develop arrangements.
Aisle or window? It used to be window so I could be undisturbed when I veg out, but as I get older, I find I like the aisle. I think it gives me the illusion that I have a reasonable amount of space. Either the planes are getting smaller, or I’m getting bigger.
Favorite childhood travel memory? My parents had a trailer and my dad would drive us everywhere — Niagara Falls, Blue Ridge Mountains, New Mexico. . . . We covered a lot of staggeringly beautiful territory, so there are a lot of memories. One thing that stands out is how we all laughed at my mom constantly saying “Oh my God, that’s so beautiful” and then screaming at my dad, “Don’t look! Watch the road!”
Guilty pleasure when traveling? I think cigarette smoking was my last guilty pleasure — unless you count singing show tunes all day.
Best travel tip? I am pretty picky about food, and my wife and I have discovered that Lonely Planet guides are infallible in recommending restaurants. I’m sure there are other sources, but we’ve never been steered wrong in 12 years of travel. And for what it’s worth: early flights are brutal, but the airport experience is so much easier to manage and worth the tired eyes.