Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
When it comes to music in the Janesville area, there might not be a more familiar face than Cyndi Meyer.
As one of the original members of Rainbow Bridge, the city’s longest-tenured band, she can be found most weekends performing either with the band and appearing as a solo act on off nights.
Born in Prairie du Chien, Meyer has lived in Milton since the age of 8 and graduated from Milton High School in 1976.
“I planned on going to college after high school, but I chose to study music privately with a local teacher, Charlie Newell,” she said. “He taught me a lot about playing in a band, improvisation, the blues and so much more.”
Away from the stage, Meyer and her husband, Bryan, are co-owners of Meyer’s Farm Markets. The couple have two sons, Corey Arnold, 31, and Dylan Meyer, 25, and six cats between their home and two farms.
1. How did you first become interested in music? My grandma had an old upright piano, and I remember playing it when I was probably around 4 years old. I started taking lessons around the age of 8. I was active in music in high school as I was in band and choir and had lead roles in two musicals. I started playing with a country band my senior year, and later that year, Rainbow Bridge was formed.
2. Your band, Rainbow Bridge, has been performing since 1976. What is the key to its continued longevity? We just keep going. As long as we can still get bookings and people want to listen to us, we will keep going as long as we are able. We try to stay fresh and maintain the same quality.
3. How many instruments can you play? Are there any you can’t but wish you could? I play piano. I can play a few chords on guitar, and I played clarinet in high school. I’m not even sure if I remember how to play that anymore. I wish I could play the fiddle.
4. Do you share a birthday with anyone famous? My birthday is Aug. 17. I know that I am the same age as Donny Osmond, Madonna and Michael Jackson, as we were all born in 1958. (Also born on Aug. 17 were Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Davy Crockett, Mae West and Maureen O’Hara).
5. “Rainbow Bridge” is a term often associated with pets and sadness. I’m guessing that’s not where the band’s name comes from, so what inspired it? Our first bass player named the band after the title of a Jimi Hendrix album.
6. What have been the largest and smallest gigs Rainbow Bridge has played in its 42-year history? We have played some small backyard parties and small bars. I remember playing in Madison once for the state 4-H convention at the Great Hall (on the UW-Madison campus). We have also played the Walworth County Fair, the Dane County Fair and Rock County 4-H Fair. We enjoy playing outdoor festivals.
7. Do your audiences tend to prefer original music or covers? Which do you prefer performing? We do all covers. We play recognizable, sing-along dance music. We never really did much original music.
8. Did the music your parents listened to during your childhood have any effect on the type of music you enjoy today? Yes. My parents listened to classic country mostly. The band plays some classic country, and I also do some in my solo gig. We do a large variety and classic country is one of the genres.
9. You are a founding member of a band that has undergone several lineup changes. Is it difficult when the lineup changes, or is it sometimes good for the overall band to get “fresh blood”? We have had the same core members for the past 25 years or so. It requires getting together with a new person. Right now, we are down to four-piece, which we haven’t been since the late ‘70s. We are enjoying it, although it puts more pressure on me to sing more. We haven’t ruled out going to a five-piece again if we found the right person.
10. It seems you’ve been performing a few more solo dates than in recent years. Is this because Rainbow Bridge is performing fewer dates, or because it gives you an opportunity to just try new things? I started out just doing a few jobs here and there for friends. Then I slowly started getting hired at some local bars. I usually play on nights when the band isn’t playing. I have been getting a few Friday nights here and there. I enjoy it because I can learn songs I like that the band might not normally play. I still enjoy playing with the band.
11. How many songs do you have in your repertoire as a musician? Over the years I have played thousands of songs. Right now, I probably can play maybe 50-100. It’s hard to say unless I sat down and thought about it.
12. Do you have a favorite song to perform? Why did you choose that one? Right now, one of my favorites on my list is “Silver Spring” by Stevie Nicks. It’s easy to sing and I like the piano parts. It’s hard to chose one song.
13. What is your worst habit? Staying on the computer too long and procrastinating things I need to get done ... like practice.
14. Name a popular actor/singer/artist who doesn’t appeal to you. That’s a hard one. I’m not crazy about death metal or rap music.
15. How have live music audiences changed since you started performing back in 1976? Our crowd hasn’t changed much. I don’t think people stay out as late as they used to, but that’s probably because we are all older. I have had someone come up to me and say that we played for their parents’ wedding or “My grandma loves you guys.”
16. What is the farthest distance you have traveled to perform a gig? I believe it was back in the ’80s when we were on the road. We toured down in Louisiana and Mississippi.
17. If you could open for any professional music act, past or current, which would it be, and why? The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac. That is the genre of music that still most fits. I could probably come up with some others, but those are the first two that come to mind.
18. What was the first song ever played by Rainbow Bridge? Do you remember? I remember the first song I sang with the first band I was in. It was “Satin Sheets” (by Jeanne Pruett).
19. Do you collect anything? I try not to. I’m exploring being a minimalist (LOL).
20. People would be surprised to know that I: Am insecure sometimes performing by myself. I haven’t been doing the solo act for as long as the band, and I get nervous interacting with the crowd. I don’t really get nervous when I’m playing with the band.