Cyndi Lauper’s country covers LP Detour doesn’t drop until May 6th, but the singer gave a sneak preview of songs from the LP on Thursday night during her appearance on the musical web series Skyville Live. The episode, titled “Girls Just Wanna Have Friends,” also included strong performances from country’s Kelsea Ballerini and indie pop singer Ingrid Michaelson, both of whom stepped into the spotlight while Lauper watched from a table just below the stage. The 300 or so spectators in the crowd also included Detour producer Tony Brown.
Lauper opened with her swaggering rockabilly take on the 1959 classic “Heartaches by the Number,” delivered in her patented New Yawk accent with a touch of Southern twang. It was a fitting way to kick off the pop diva’s performance — in its day the Harlan Howard-penned tune was a huge crossover hit, reaching the Number Two spot on the country chart for Ray Price and becoming a Number One smash for pop crooner Guy Mitchell.
Lauper strummed a mountain dulcimer for a sweet version of her Eighties smash “Time After Time,” accompanied by Michaelson. After shaking off what she called some “fangirl nerves,” Michaelson soloed on her 2014 pop hit “Girls Chase Boys” and the 2007 debut single “The Way I Am,” before introducing Ballerini, who bounded on stage, excitedly telling the crowd, “When I started on this journey, I wanted to write good songs, let my heart lead, and have fun,” and noted that Lauper was an inspiring embodiment of those qualities.
Ballerini opened with “Peter Pan,” then hearkened back to traditional (and huge crossover) pop-country with the ballad “Make the World Go Away,” a hit for Eddy Arnold which was later covered by Martina McBride.
Noting that writing songs and eating pizza with three of her guy friends was “the story of my life,” Ballerini introduced her her smash debut hit “Love Me Like You Mean It” by saying that its inspiration came from her belief that “girls should be loved correctly.”
After Michaelson returned to the stage for the soulful “Time Machine” and moved to the piano to sing a delicate version of the huge Elvis Presley hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Lauper took the spotlight again. The star said relatively little throughout the hour-long performance but noted that her country album is named Detour because it is just the latest in a career full of detours, adding that those who have followed her a long time “know I have a lot of those,” a reference to such projects as the 2003 LP of jazz standards, At Last, and 2010’s Memphis Blues.
“I always come to that fork in the road,” she explained, before joking, “What can I say? Go fork yourself?”
Lauper also noted that before the rise of country music’s popularity in the early 20th century, “blues and country walked hand-in-hand.”
Following a peppy version of the iconic Patsy Cline hit, “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Lauper explained that her fascination with wanting to learn a variety of instruments was inspired by seeing the film Harold and Maude, and that her lessons on the Appalachian dulcimer lessons came courtesy of the late David Schnaufer, whom she would visit during trips to Hendersonville, Tennessee, north of Nashville, where she was writing music for a dance record.
Lauper finished with two of her most beloved tunes: “True Colors,” and, naturally, “Girls Just Want to have Fun,” during which Ballerini and Michaelson joined her onstage.
That spirit of collaboration has been a common theme of past Skyville Live episodes, which have included Martina McBride and Gladys Knight, as well as Little Big Town and Chris Stapleton in tribute to Gregg Allman.