I’ve been doing a little summer organizing while down with a sinus infection over the past week. And in going through old files, I came across another interview I did back in 2003 with singer Linda Eder. Up until my hubby moved to Chicago, I’d never heard of Linda Eder. I’d walked to number of CD stores one morning (which I wasn’t supposed to do) and I heard the song Vienna playing in the store. I bought the album (also which I wasn’t supposed to do) to surprise him with when he came home. He was surprised! “You went to a record store”? he asked. I presented him with my find and things took a very odd turn. “Oh, Linda Eder! I love her! How did you know?” Uh…er…because I’m that good. I love Linda Eder, too!
I had no clue who she was. He did, though, and it’s all that mattered. It was a couple years later when I was in my ‘serious’ mode of wanting to do more than online reviews that I thought I’d try to interview the woman whose singing I’d started to really enjoy. Okay, and it didn’t hurt the hubs was impressed that I was able to actually land it! It’s secretly all about pleasing him. He’s trained me well. So for those of you who are fans of Linda Eder, I suspect you’ll enjoy this little trip down memory lane.
As Good As Gold…Her Way: A Conversation With Linda Eder
by Kage Alan
Originally Published on Modamag.com in 2003
There are two things that really strike me about Linda Eder. 1) She embraces her private life and keeps the business part of it as far from her family as she can so that there is a sense of normalcy. 2) Considering the number of comparisons made between her and several other divas, Linda is one of the most grounded performers of her caliber that we are ever likely to meet.
Her music has been featured at the 2002 Winter Olympics, BRAVO and PBS have aired her concerts, Broadway has embraced her after a successful tour of “Jekyll & Hyde” and she’s recently released her 7th solo album, a return to a sound she’s right at home with titled “Broadway My Way”. Intelligent, determined and anything but stereotypical, Linda explains how she manages her career and private life the only way that makes sense; “her way”.
Linda Eder: Well, I think I’ve reached a certain point in my career and I’ve had great success, more than I thought I’d ever have, and I have a certain amount of celebrity status, but I call myself a “minor celebrity”. It’s nice because I sort of can float under the radar when I want to, which is wonderful. I’ve had different moments of my life, like the bigger events, for instance my last day of “Jekyll and Hyde”, where I’ve had a huge crowd of fans around me and I realize if I was a really big celebrity, it’s that sort of thing all the time and it would just be impossible for me. I wouldn’t enjoy that and so I work in a way to hold myself where I am, which may seem strange, but I realized quite early on that fame doesn’t make me happy. It’s not the reason I’m in this business.
I really love to sing and, when you’re a kid, you want to be famous just as much as anyone else because you don’t know anything about it. It’s really born of a desire to perform and to get the chance to perform in front of people because you find out that it’s a fun and exciting part of your life. You also need a certain amount of fame in order to get an audience, but, you know, I have that audience. I have a very loyal fan base and I have a career that’s just going great and I can pretty much pick and choose how many concert dates I want to do per year. I have another theatre life that I can go back and forth with so I’m not bored doing one thing too long and I just would like to flow along “as is”. I don’t want to do more because the more you do, the more it takes time out of your life and that’s the one thing I try really hard to balance, just have my normal personal life and have all my other interests, be able to have time for them, and also keep the career going at the same time. It’s not an easy thing to balance, but somehow I’ve found a nice niche and I don’t want that to change.
KA: What are you most passionate about in life right now?
LE: My son. He’s 3 ½ and he’s everything. Children really do change your life. There was a time when I didn’t think I was going to have children because I knew the commitment it would take and I knew I couldn’t have him when I was younger. Obviously I was too into my career and I’m glad I had him when I was a little bit older because I understood so much more, how fast time goes and how important it is, but he’s definitely the number one priority. He comes before everything.
KA: What are you most passionate about when it comes to the music?
LE: Well, that’s the thing. I’m so not like a lot of entertainers because a lot of entertainers are just so consumed in what they do and they spend most of their day thinking about it, working on it, finding clothes, taking lessons, looking for the next great song… I really don’t do any of that. I just sort of float along and do the bare minimum because I don’t enjoy the trappings of the life of an entertainer. I just like working with my band, I like being on the stage live and doing the actual show and I like studio life, but as far as everything else that goes with show business, I’m not that interested in it, so really I only become passionate about it when I’m actually working on the music itself, like on the stage or in the studio.
KA: You seem to have a very solid rapport with your audience when you’re performing.
LE: Yeah, I enjoy the audience and I think they understand that. I’m there to perform for them, give them all I’ve got, and I think audiences have always felt that from me and it’s genuine.
KA: You’ve done a couple of PBS Specials, haven’t you?
LE: One PBS and one BRAVO. Well a couple of BRAVOs; one profile and one concert, then a concert on PBS. We’ve been talking about (doing one for) the Broadway album. There was actually talk about doing that live, but then that didn’t happen, which I’m actually very glad of because the Broadway album is all new and, unlike the last concert I sold for BRAVO, I knew that show fairly well before we filmed it, so I felt more confident. The “Broadway My Way” was a whole lot of new material and I didn’t want the first thing to be performing and filming it live because it doesn’t gel quite the same. You need time to get it under your belt and make it a part of you. There is talk about doing that in the future.
KA: The album “Gold” marked a departure from your previous albums in that it’s more pop oriented and less big band. Was this something you felt you had to do at that point in your career, something you wanted to try or was it more of a natural progression?
LE: It’s just something people have been asking me to do for years. If you look at the collection of all my different albums, some lean very much towards the big band, but there are a couple more poppy things on it or it’s a poppier kind of album with some Broadway standardesque on it. My first album was very much a poppy middle-of-the-road album. I’ve been able to do a pretty wide range of material and that’s fun. I need to change just to keep it interesting and to keep me motivated to do the next album. To keep doing the same kinds of albums, playing the same kind of material, it’s not as much fun.
KA: Was it any different for you recording an album like “Gold” and then “Broadway My Way” because of the emphasis on one sound over another?
LE: I think “Broadway My Way” is a little more natural for me and the standards are more natural, but “Gold” was done in a very early 70′s kind of Pop, which is better. I mean the one feel I’m the worst at is R&B, so I try to stay away from that kind of stuff. I actually have a good sense of country, so some of the stuff on “Gold” is a little bit country tinged and I love guitar, I like the sound of guitar and I like guitar with the voice, so there’s a lot more guitar on “Gold”.
Pop is a different animal than theatre and so you just have to approach it much more from a… It’s hard to explain. It’s almost like it’s more “driving in your car” music and people are used to me singing the big standards and the big show tunes where I’m just wailing to a back wall. They’ll listen to that kind of album and be missing that (the pop sound), but they don’t understand that sometimes a real successful pop song is one that you listen almost with your subconscious. You know, you drive along in a car and it’s got a groove and it’s got a feel and it never peaks too high or too low and it’s not too overly emotive. It was a challenge because I don’t sing that kind of music all the time and hadn’t done an album like that in a while. It’s definitely not an area I’m as comfortable inside and I work harder to make it sound authentic. I’m really happy with the way it came out. If I’m just listening in my car driving around, which tends to be the only place I listen to music, I might be more inclined to put that album in.
KA: It’s funny you say that because driving around is one of the few times I’m able to listen to anything I happen to pick up.
LE: Yeah, and the other albums I do, they’re exciting and they get your blood pumping and they’re theatrical and that kind of music is great, but you have to really be in the mood to sit down, crank it up loud and listen to it like an audience member, not just like a CD you’re going to put in as background music. You can’t do that. It’s very much performance oriented and you have to become invested in it in order for it to work.
KA: The title “Broadway My Way”…what makes it “your” way?
LE: A couple of reasons. The easiest answer is just the simple fact that I’m the one singing it. (laughs) Actually, it’s just a title I came up with because I had had some things in my repertoire already that I had been developing over the years that were some songs that men would do normally and were successful for me. Some songs, like “On The Street Where You Live”, had a very, very different arrangement from how it was done on the Broadway stage and that’s how we came up with the title as a way of tying together a collection of songs, things that were my favorites. I tried to pick songs that weren’t necessarily on every other Broadway album that you might pick up and then either do something very different with the arrangement or sing a song that women don’t normally do just to give it all a little bit of a twist.
KA: Did you choose songs for the album that are generally sung by men more for variety and fun or perhaps to show that they have more of a universal appeal that isn’t necessarily gender specific?
LE: No, it’s just that when I learned, for instance, “Man of La Mancha”, because I always loved it and learned it as is and it became a huge part of my act, and when I realized that I didn’t have to be afraid of singing songs that had maybe gender specific lyrics or were done specifically by men, it just opened up a bunch of other songs to me and there’s so many great songs out there. Really, I just picked some of the favorites that were at the top of my list.
KA: Do you ever get any resistance from fans, peers or the media for doing those kinds of songs?
LE: You know what? You get resistance to anything you do in life because no matter what you do, there’s somebody out there who disagrees with you. Sure, there are some people who believe that “Anthem” shouldn’t be sung by a woman and unto that I say: “That’s your opinion. In my opinion, that’s ridiculous.”
KA: You were 7 and 8 months pregnant with your son when you recorded the “It’s No Secret Anymore” album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing that before. (laughing) I’m curious as to how that experience was and if there was a reason you didn’t wait until after you had your son?
LE: It just got later and later and we didn’t actually plan to do the vocals that late into my pregnancy. It just worked out that way. You know, my breathing capacity was not as great, but because you’re in a studio, you can stop and rest and take time out in between phrases that you wouldn’t normally do if you were singing it live. My voice was actually in really good shape, so it really worked out fine, though I felt a few times after big loud notes “Am I going to give birth here or what?”
KA: Billboard ran an article about you in which the writer states “can you imagine if they let Diane Warren get to her?” Not that you don’t have your own great songs, but is that a collaboration that’s been brought up to you before?
LE: Diane Warren is one of the most successful pop writers in the world and she really cranks out just an amazing flow of hit songs, so I think it’s just in terms of thinking maybe there’s a great song out there of hers that I could sing. I mean, you need to get on the list. There are so many people out there who are on her list who get the best material that comes off her assembly line. We’re very, very familiar with her work and I certainly wouldn’t object to singing one of her songs. I think she’s great.
KA: Out of curiosity, is there a songwriter out there who you would like to work with?
LE: You know, I don’t even really think that way because there are so many great songs. I have original songs being written for me specifically and I always like to do a certain number of originals and then put a certain number of covers songs on there. There’s so many great cover songs already out there that I like to do that I’ve never felt like there was a shortage of material. There’s people out there who will tell you I shouldn’t sing so many of Frank’s (Ed. Note: Frank Wildhorn, her husband, producer and writing partner) songs and then there are people who will tell you I should sing nothing but Frank’s songs. You can’t really listen to anybody. It’s impossible and you’ll go crazy if you try to figure out by listening to people what the right thing is to do because everyone’s opinion is so completely varied. You just do what works the best for you and what’s most beneficial and it’s just fun and successful (for me) to work with Frank’s music.
KA: You’ve mentioned a few times that you’re not always going to be able to please everybody. Does the criticism ever just get on your nerves?
LE: It really wasn’t a revelation and it was the Internet that introduced that to me. For years I thought that if I really like something that must mean generally everybody did and then you find out that somebody who you think is absolutely incredible, someone else on there absolutely hates them and that’s when you understand there’s no point. There’s no point in trying to defend music or any art form because it’s all subjective. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong and once you let that go, it’s a lot easier.
KA: What’s coming up in your near future and have you started coming up with ideas for your next album?
LE: We’re working on the next musical for me. We’ve been toying with the idea of going back to Broadway with another show ever since I left “Jekyll & Hyde”, though I’ve been happy to be doing what I’ve been doing. I got pregnant shortly after I left and really wasn’t looking forward to going back to theatre because it’s 8 shows a week and that’s tough. I really wanted to wait until Jake was a little bit older and we’ve been developing this musical, “Camille Claudel”, and just finished casting it. The first production of it is going to be at the Goodsby Theatre in Connecticut and we start rehearsals on July 22.
KA: Thinking long-term here for a moment, what’s out there yet for you to conquer and what do you ultimately want to achieve from your career as a singer?
LE: I actually think in terms of Broadway because I really like acting and the part in “Jekyll” didn’t have a lot for me to do or say. There were very few words and it was sung through and it was a part written for me and around me basically, so I just got up there and did me. Even though it took years for it to get to Broadway, I never felt like I grew or adapted very much in the role because I sort of was locked into what I just did naturally the first time I performed it back in 1990, so I’m looking forward to “Camille Claudel”. It’s an actual book musical, it’s a real woman, a very complex woman, and I’ve been studying acting now for this and really trying to prepare. I really enjoy acting and I really want to be successful in a new musical and, down the road, I’d really like to do some straight plays because I enjoy working with other people on stage and I like the fact that it’s different and constantly changing. That’s very much something that’s a goal of mine.
As far as records go, I’ve been so lucky in my life to have record companies that believe in me and let me make whatever kind of record I want to make. It’s very rare, especially nowadays. Record companies are struggling so much with music being downloaded. Again, I’m lucking out in that the kind of music I do and the demographics that buys my albums doesn’t generally download their music as much, so we’re sitting in a pretty good place. I just want to continue to make whatever kind of album I feel like making. Would I love to have a platinum album? Sure, but again, if I do, it might take more time out of my life. I want to sell enough albums to keep the record company happy so I can keep making albums, but I’m so different now than I was when I first started out that it’s not at the top of my list to have platinum selling albums and just be constantly touring. That’s not what I want. I’ve never done records that rely on radio play, which is fortunate because when you do that, you’re a slave to that airplay and you have to really support the record, do promotional tours for that, and I’ve never had to do that and I don’t want to do that. Really just keep the status quo is what I want to do.
KA: Aside from performing live, how do you connect with your fans?
LE: I’m on my website and I’m active on it, they know I’m there, they know I’m reading and I will respond to people, I keep up with it and they know that. I have formed relationships with these fans because I’m so available to them at the stage door and I have been all my life. I don’t just whip through them and scribble my name as fast as I can. I write more than my name, I spend time with each person, I take pictures, I talk to them, I’m interested in them and they know that. It’s the way I’ve always been and I think they appreciate that.
KA: What you would like your fans to know about you as a person, as a mother, wife and as an artist when they think of you?
LE: It’s kind of that old adage that I’d like it to be that when I turn my back, people say nice things about me and I’m not even talking about my singing. I’m just talking about me in general. (laughing) That’s more important to me than anything. I’m also thankful that I’ve been able to give people some pleasure. I mean, that’s what they tell me…that’s what they write to me. Somehow this music that we’ve put out has helped save some lives. I’ve gotten letters from people…certain songs that have literally saved their lives. There are a lot of people out there who have severe problems and it’s said that music is so powerful and I guess that really is true. That really makes me feel good.
For more information about the artist, news and current tour, be sure to visit Linda’s website at www.LindaEder.com. Her CDs can also be purchased from Amazon.com or your local record store.
Kage Alan is the Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner watching, Vangelis listening author of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation,” “Andy Stevenson Vs. the Lord of the Loins” and the first book in a separate series, “Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell.” He was less than thrilled to discover that the folks at DragonCon prematurely stated Gillian Anderson would be attending. She may still, but she’s not yet. Also, Patrick Stewart cancelled. Grrr… I hate the last minute cancellations. Fortunately, it means they’ll usually try to bring in a last-minute surprise to make up for it!