When Pink Martini singer China Forbes needed emergency vocal surgery in 2011, the band turned to a fellow Portland singer by the name of Storm Large.
You may have seen her, born Susan Storm Large, on the reality TV show "Rock Star: Supernova," rocking out with Dave Navarro.
"I come from crappy, dark clubs, crawling around with makeup running down my face and half my clothes are torn off, screaming about sex," Large said. "I went from that, to putting on Diane von Furstenberg gowns and singing in Romanian."
To sing with Pink Martini, one of the most eclectic bands in America, you not only have to hit all the notes, you have to sing in Russian, Japanese, Arabic, French and Spanish (with a Cuban dialect), among many other languages. To get a feel for their international reach, know this: Their song "Sympathique" was adopted as an anthem by striking workers in France.
That babel of lyrics, along with a seamless blend of classical, jazz and pop, is why they've sold 2.5 million records on their own label.
Hitting the ground running at four sold-out shows at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Large made such an impression that she's still a major part of the band even though Forbes has fully recovered. This summer, the two singers are taking turns fronting the band on different tour stops, leading up to the release of the new record "Get Happy" in September. Large will carry the load this Sunday when Pink Martini makes its Green Music Center debut at Sonoma State University.
Before the 11-piece mini-orchestra rolls through the Bay Area, Large took time out to chat about fear, metamorphosis and her former life as a hotel maid:
Q: When these guys are not onstage, what are they like?
A: They're all mellow and so laid-back. We're all pros. We've been doing this for decades so nobody's out trying to get laid, hammered or arrested. More often, it's like, "Oh, there's a really neat wine bar down the road" or "The gym's really nice in the hotel."
Q: You've been through that stage already, destroying hotel rooms or whatever?
A: I never actually did that. I was a maid when I was 18, in a hotel, so I will never do that. I'm the person who will clean the room before I check out.
Q: Take us back to when the band came calling in 2011.
A: I was visiting the Bay Area at the time and I started getting phone calls from (bandleader) Thomas (Lauderdale) saying, "I need you to come and sing with the band in Washington, D.C. China's lost her voice and she's been told that she can't sing and I need you to do this."
At the time, I had every Pink Martini record, but I had never, never, never listened to a single song. I did not know a thing about them other than that they were world famous. So I said, "No, I'm sorry, tell China I hope she feels better, but no." And for two days my phone wouldn't stop ringing. Thomas said, "I will do anything. I will do whatever it takes."
I kept saying no way, telling him there's got to be somebody who knows your music better than I do.