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After taking a year off from music to serve as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year, Minneapolis singer Cade Bittner is back with his debut full-length album, I’ve Gotta Be Me. Ahead of the album’s release party at Martin Patrick 3 tonight, we chatted with him about his creative process, his personal connection to the Great American Songbook and what it’s like to work with musical theater legend Shoshana Bean.

What has it been like to work on your debut album?

I have been working on I’ve Gotta Be Me for a little over a year. When I was recording, everyone would ask me when it was coming out, but the process of making an album takes so long. It starts with an idea, then you form your team, and the largest part comes with every logistical element: when is everyone available to record the music, is the studio open, when can I record my vocals, when can I fly to New York City to record, when do I shoot the cover and promo photos, when are the mixer and master technician available… The list goes on and on.

I initially wanted to hire a videographer to document the entire process from start to finish for a web series, but my son was 2 years old at the time and I honestly couldn’t handle one more thing. People are very curious about the process and have no idea what it takes to release an album. It is a true labor of love, and I truly love the process. I am dangerously organized and always have a clear vision of exactly what I want.

What was your experience like creating music with stage icon Shoshana Bean?

Working with Shoshana is simply magical. We recorded the duet “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again,” which was made famous by Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand in 1963. Shoshana and I have been friends for 15+ years, and I have always wanted to record with her. She, undeniably, has one of the best voices in history, and recording with her was a dream come true. It was fascinating to see how fast she works and with how much precision. Vocally, she’s flawless. She was starring in Waitress on Broadway at the time, so recording a duet on top of eight shows a week was a big ask. She didn’t even hesitate.

The first time I heard the final track, I cried. Her voice and the way she sings cuts straight to the heart. She has that special gift that only legends possess. When Shoshana sings, you feel it. My son, Parker, will randomly say to me, “Can we listen to you and Shoshana, Papa?” And of course I happily grant his wish. One of my biggest reasons for recording this album was for him. I wanted him to grow up with a connection and love of the Great American Songbook.

Photography provided by Cade Bittner

A lot of tracks on this album are a part of the Great American Songbook. What is your earliest memory from this canon of music?

I grew up on a farm in Indiana, so my introduction to this music was not until we moved to Minneapolis when I was in high school. My first memory was in 1996 when I watched “My Funny Valentine” performed onstage in Babes In Arms at the Guthrie Theater. I remember hearing it and feeling very emotional, so I decided to record it for this album as a little homage. The production starred Kristin Chenoweth, who I could not take my eyes off of. I knew I was watching a star and someday the whole world would know it. All these years later, she is not only a star but also a friend of mine who inspired me to record “Smile” for this album.

All the proceeds from this album benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. What is your personal history with this organization?

A friend of mine who serves on the society’s board nominated me for Man of the Year. I put this album on hold for a year to focus on building a team and brainstorming, and over the course of the 10-week fundraising competition leading up to their annual gala, I raised nearly $200,000 and was named the 2018 Man of the Year.

Not only did the experience change my life, but it also changed the place I operate from. I decided that I only want to do things that leave a positive impact on the world. So I found a way to marry my love of making music to my newfound love of philanthropy. And because of that, all proceeds from this album will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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