The EDER-tors of THE VOICE enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with Linda for an in-depth interview about THE OTHER SIDE OF ME soon after she and Billy Stein completed this latest record and as they were beginning to put together The Other Side Of Me Show. Linda was equally excited to talk about this special record. Her enthusiasm for this project was so evident as she spoke to us of her perfect collaboration with Billy and of their amazing journey together as they fulfilled her vision for this new material. Linda truly loves the songs she has recorded, and as she prepared to begin her "Jeans Tour," she couldn't wait for her fans to be able to enjoy this music as much as she does. THE OTHER SIDE OF ME signifies the emergence of the real Linda Eder, the person and multi-talented musician returning to her roots. As she spoke to us, it was easy to tell how happy she is to be able to be herself and follow her dream.
When describing her new sound, look and feel, Linda has said it best. "I have finally been given the chance to strip away the costume and sing without the voice of others in my head. I've traveled a long road to find my way back home and I have found it. THE OTHER SIDE OF ME is my voice."
VOICE: You've been teasing the fans for some time now with little tidbits about your latest album. How would you describe the music you have recorded?
LINDA: First of all, people might freak out when they hear the word "country." When you hear the music, you're going to hear songs that are much more pop and some that lean more toward country, but it's very much pop/country music. If you brought this music to a country label, some songs could work right now on their format because pop/country is so popular nowadays. They call this kind of music Americana because it really is just music that's done with guitar. If you go back and listen to the Eagles and all those old Rock & Roll bands, all you have to do is put a little twang in the voice that's singing it and you've got country music. I'm from Minnesota so I call this music "Mid-Western."
VOICE: So then THE OTHER SIDE OF ME is quite a change from the Standards and Broadway music you've sung and recorded over the years?
LINDA: Yes, it is. When I first started singing as a kid, I tried to sing opera like Eileen Farrell. That's how I trained my voice, and to this day I always love lyrical opera arias sung by a beautiful soprano voice or a wonderful tenor voice. I love that! I always will, and I enjoy kind of "faking" that singing along with it.
VOICE: Was it a very natural move from the music you've been doing over to pop/country?
LINDA: If I was just true to myself, sitting down, picking up the guitar, and playing, pop/country music is what I would tend to write and sing. There would be no outside influences in my head then. No matter what I have done up to this point, whether it be singing a Standard or a Broadway song, I always have the reference of Streisand or Garland in my head. There's no way to erase that. It's always there. Whenever I perform these types of songs, it's mimicking to some extent because I don't come from that world. I'm a Minnesota farm girl. I wasn't born in Brooklyn. I wasn't born "in a trunk" like Judy Garland on the vaudeville stage. It's not me. I have always felt a little bit like I am wearing a costume and that I'm portraying a character. The music almost requires it because the majority of the songs were written many years ago in a voice that is different from 2008. It's been really good to me through the years, and I've become good at it [All chuckle knowingly], but it's not innately me.
VOICE: To your fans, it has always seemed so natural for you to be singing the songs that you have done, namely Standards and Broadway.
LINDA: It's a weird thing for me to live in that kind of world, and I've been doing it now for twenty some years. Every time I do an interview, there's always a part of me that worries about being phony. Generally, reviewers have always been very good to me, but the big reviewers, especially in New York City, Streisand and Garland's home base, seem to want more drama, more "diva," and that's just not me. In a way, I agreed with every bad review I've ever gotten! [All laugh heartily] If I am being honest with myself, I agree with them.
VOICE: Do you ever regret spending the majority of your career so far singing styles of music that are not natural to you?
LINDA: No, not at all. It's not unnatural to my singing voice. I've found my way into this style. It has taken me many years, but I've grown into it and it's been very satisfying. I wouldn't change my life, and I wouldn't take back any of the music I have done. I don't ever intend to stop singing Standards and Broadway songs because I enjoy singing them. It's great to stand up there and do these songs because they're great songs.
VOICE: So then is recording an album of pop/country music something that is natural to you as an artist?
LINDA: Yes. Recording this album is an experience that is like going back to the beginning for me. It's making a record I would have made many, many years ago if someone had said to me, "Just go make a record. Write your own stuff, pick some songs, and make a record." This music is much more what it would have been. The only difference would be that now I have more musical influences. In the past twenty some years, I have been listening to music that I hadn't heard yet when I was first starting out. I also have grown musically over the years.
VOICE: Did you listen to country music as a child?
LINDA: That's a good question! Honestly, I'm so old that I can't remember! [All laugh] I don't think I listened to country as a child although it was on in my house because I think my parents would listen to it. My mom's favorite singer was Jim Reeves, who was an old time country singer. Because my parents liked a lot of styles of music, I was exposed to bigger and broader musical influences. There's no question that country influences were there in my childhood. I just don't remember too clearly what I was listening to except for the big influences of Streisand, Garland and Eileen Farrell. I wasn't into "songs." I was into voices because I was building my own voice and it was like a toy. Certainly as a teenager and young adult, I always loved pop/country music. When I first lived here in New York, we had a country station that I would listen to every night when I would drive home from the city, and then it was gone.
VOICE: Now you can only listen to country music on satellite radio in the New York area.
LINDA: I was stunned when it was taken away and I miss it. I really miss it. I don't have satellite radio! [All chuckle]
VOICE: When did you start seriously thinking about recording THE OTHER SIDE OF ME and how did it come about?
LINDA: My last record of new material was the Garland tribute, so I had moved even further into Standards and further away from anything contemporary. I needed to get back to that. The Garland album was a good idea at the time, and I really enjoyed making it because I couldn't figure out what kind of music I wanted to do. I just didn't want to make a record like I had already made. As far as I was concerned, I had already done the best I could do with the Standards. It's not going to get better it's just going to be more of the same and I didn't want to do that. I needed a change. I actually didn't know what to do. Frank and I weren't working together any more, and I really didn't want to be recording his songs. I really wanted to do my own thing. I didn't know exactly what, but I knew I wanted to do something that was radio friendly.
VOICE: Please tell us about some of the pop/country performers who influenced you. Whose music did you find yourself drawn to as you thought about the music you would choose to record for THE OTHER SIDE OF ME?
LINDA: My favorite artists these days are Sheryl Crow, Sarah McGlaughlin, and John Ondrasik (Five For Fighting) I love his voice and his songwriting Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood. P!nk is fantastic! If I were going to be reincarnated and come back as another singer, I would choose P!nk. I know these choices will probably surprise a lot of my fans who are thinking that I listen to the kind of music I sing. I really don't. Oh, I forgot Bonnie Raitt. I love everything she does.
VOICE: Once you did begin, what was the process like of getting the project off the ground?
LINDA: I seriously started thinking about this record at the end of 2005. I had two big questions to think about. What kind of music did I want to sing and who did I want to work with?
VOICE: How did you come to work with Billy Stein on THE OTHER SIDE OF ME?
LINDA: First of all, it was my dream to produce my own record. My initial idea was to find songs, and whoever brought me the songs would be my co-producer. I thought of Billy because Dave Finck had told me that Billy does some really great pop stuff. Now that he has given up touring, that's what he does full time and I never knew that. I only knew Billy as my second keyboard player, and I had never heard any of his work. I e-mailed him and asked him to send me some examples of his work, and he sent me three or four songs. One of them was a song called "Pieces," which he had co-produced and recorded. The artist was a young singer/songwriter named Shaun Barker.
VOICE: Were you impressed with this song right away?
LINDA: I loved the song, and so I said to Billy, "Okay, that's a great example of your work so do you want to work with me?" That's how he became my co-producer.
VOICE: Did you focus on "Pieces" as a starting point?
LINDA: Yes. I started really listening to "Pieces." I played it all the time. I started thinking, "Can I sing this song? I really like it." I always knew that I could do pop/country, and years ago when I would sing more of a country-ish style song on stage, Dave Finck would say to me, "You know, you should do country." I knew I could do it because I had done demos of country when I went to Nashville early on in my career with a producer there.
VOICE: What was the next step after making a demo of "Pieces?"
LINDA: I was looking for a second song to record, and I found another one Shaun Barker had done called "Prayer For Love" and we decided to also make a demo of that song. Billy and I spent a lot of time on these two songs, working hour after hour until they were just right. Shaun's music is more of an R&B style, but I could hear that one particular song in a more country way. So I decided to record that song of his too. "Pieces" and "Prayer For Love" are great songs, and I think we did really good versions of them. We took them and played them for the label, and they loved them! So that's what kicked it off. Once you have your idea, it's easier to find songs, and it snowballs from there.
VOICE: Did you bring in Shaun Barker for any songs besides "Pieces" and "Prayer For Love?"
LINDA: In addition to those, there are two other songs that have Shaun Barker's name on them. Billy and Shaun had written a song called "The Other Side Of Me," which I heard and thought, "That's really good, but it's not quite there. There's a part that's not quite right." So I fiddled with it; Billy and I worked on it; I changed a little bit in it; and it became "The Other Side Of Me." It's the title of the record and it says so much of what this project is all about.
VOICE: Was that the title of the record from the beginning?
LINDA: Originally, I was thinking of calling the record BACK TO LIFE because I liked that title as well. I sort of feel like I'm back to my life in my relationship with Craig and just with my whole life. You know it just felt like a nice title. But THE OTHER SIDE OF ME sort of took on a better thing.
VOICE: That brings us to Shaun Barker's fourth song.
LINDA: The fourth song that has Shaun's name on it was written by Shaun and Billy for the album. Once we knew what our ideas were, they wrote a song called "Make Today Beautiful." It was always a good song, but it went through so many changes and processes because I kept saying to Billy, "It's still not right. Could you go back to the lyric?" But Billy didn't do the lyric he was writing the music. So I spoke to Shaun too. I'd say, "Try and take another crack at the lyric. It's not quite right in the verse."
So we'd get different versions, but none of them was quite what I had in mind. Then I'd say, "Maybe it's the music AND the verse that aren't quite right. Can you rewrite the melody?" Shaun and Billy, to their credit, just kept plugging away at it, and they wrote an entirely different verse melody.
Next I said, "The chorus isn't bad, but it's not quite right." So I think I wrote one line for the chorus, but I didn't want any credit for it. I told them not to put my name on there, even though I massaged this song a lot throughout the whole process to get it to work for me. I think we came up with a really great song in the end.
VOICE: You are a very talented write as we have seen in all the things that you have written for THE VOICE over the years. Did you write any songs for the record?
LINDA: I actually wrote a song called "Waiting For The Fall," which I wrote as a ballad to begin with. I played it for Billy and sang the lyric. Because I had told Billy that I wanted something a little more "grungy," something a little more up-tempo and "grungy," Billy said, "Why don't we make your song up-temp?" I agreed so we kept my chorus music, and then I rewrote the music for the verse with a different lyric to a chunky kind of groove for guitar that Duke Levine came up with. He's just brilliant!
I took that home and kept listening to it. I made a melody over what we had done, so it was a layering process as well and it came out great! Billy even does rap in it! [All laugh] He was goofing off in the bridge section and started rapping. He used to be in a band and he's pretty good at the rhythm of rapping. He would go in the studio sound booth and sing "jibberish." He was actually rapping as I sang these little bits over the bridge, and it sounded pretty cool. He was surprised when I told him I really liked the rapping in that part. I said, "It really works. It sounds cool! Go into the booth and rap over that section. Just say whatever you want." So he was in there going "eat chicken, fried rice, broccoli," you know, just silly stuff. I took that and wrote lyrics to it. That song is actually pretty funny! I can't wait to hear people's reaction to it.
VOICE: We can just hear that song being played on the radio!
LINDA: I can too! I think some of the songs would be great on the radio! There are a lot of the new songs that would, but there are three or four songs that I think have real radio depth. "Waiting For The Fall" could be played on a really hot format, so we'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.
VOICE: Was producing your own record more difficult that you thought it would be?
LINDA: Not really. Honestly, it was great working with Billy Stein as co-producer! Billy was brilliant at keeping everything organized on spreadsheets. He has worked in the business of recording, so he handled all the business aspects. Billy has made this whole process fun and interesting. We get along great! We don't fight and the band respects him, which is so important. I knew Billy would work his butt off, and he always went above and beyond what was required.
VOICE: How long did you and Billy work on the album?
LINDA: We worked together for one solid year basically from January of 2007.
VOICE: Aside from the business aspect, can you tell us how you and Billy worked together on THE OTHER SIDE OF ME?
LINDA: When it came to the rest of the record, it was really very much a partnership because even though I'm not trained to read music and to sit and physically play the music, I am a musician. I wasn't disciplined enough to keep playing my guitar. I should have. And I wasn't disciplined enough to keep studying the piano. I would have been a kick-ass musician!
VOICE: Your fans have heard you mention that you didn't keep up with piano lessons because you didn't want to practice, but they will probably be surprised to learn that you play guitar. Did you take guitar lessons as a child?
LINDA: I taught myself as a young teenager, just basic stuff. I took a year of classical guitar lessons in 1992, and then I got lazy. Now I am practicing like mad! My calluses are just starting to get nice and thick again. There is a lot of pain until that happens. I'm mad at myself for letting it slide all those years.
VOICE: Do you regret not being able to play both of these instruments better?
LINDA: That's the one regret of my life I mean the one regret of many, but it's one really major regret because it was stupid. It would have been so much easier for me in my career if I had been able to play the piano and sing or play the guitar and sing because I love to write music. I have a talent for writing, but my instrument became my voice. I know what I like and I can hear what I like. My problem is that because I'm not trained in music, sometimes it takes a little while to understand what I'm saying. But Billy and I had no problem working together. We didn't have one single argument!
VOICE: That's unusual in the process of creating something.
LINDA: Yes, especially in making music because everybody has his or her own ideas. We really were so in sync. I totally respect Billy's opinion, and I think he totally respects mine. Ultimately, I'm the executive and so I have the final say, but there has yet to come a point where he really wants to have something and I disagree because I want something else. It's a perfect collaboration!
VOICE: That's wonderful and it will show in the final product. Can you summarize the process you went through in making THE OTHER SIDE OF ME?
LINDA: The process of making THE OTHER SIDE OF ME began when I came up with the idea together with Billy. He and I would sit in the studio for hours that's how we spent hour after hour. My butt's so wide because we spent so much time sitting on that couch and ordering out, while we sat there hour after hour working on the arrangement idea. We'd start with the idea and Billy would do it on synths. Then I would go in the booth and lay down a vocal idea to see if it worked that way. If we liked it, we'd begin adding layers.
VOICE: Did you learn anything new in the process of producing this record?
LINDA: Not really because I had been producing records for a long time, but this record is the biggest musical leap of faith and the most hands on for me. In the past when we did music that was more pop, like songs on the GOLD record and also some of the earlier music I used to do together with Frank, I had to work with two guys (Jeremy and Frank) with very strong opinions. They were both very different in the way they would present themselves, but it was almost impossible for me to say exactly what I wanted and to get it. I knew that every time I wanted something, I would have to fight for it, even if they agreed with me. It was so exhausting and frustrating that I would just give up a lot of times. So even though there are some ideas in those albums that are mine, there are not as many as I would have wanted.
VOICE: Was there any particular record before THE OTHER SIDE OF ME where you had the most input?
LINDA: The record with the most of my ideas is the Christmas record. CHRISTMAS STAYS THE SAME was really mine because at that point Frank was willing to step back since it wasn't his music. He knew I really had a clear idea of what I wanted and also I was using mostly Standards. I could do whatever I wanted to do. At that point, I wasn't just using Jeremy. He had only a few arrangements on this record. There was also Kim Scharnberg, Jason Howland and Chris Hajian. Each arrangement started with my original idea, so that one felt the most like it was my record.
VOICE: The Christmas CD always shows up under lists of fan favorites whenever there is a poll on the message board, so that must be satisfying for you to see.
LINDA: Yes, it does seem to be a fan favorite and that's wonderful, but you have to do something to appeal to the commercial fields too. That's the bottom line. As great as it is doing Broadway and Standards, it's a small field. Those people who love it, love it with a passion, but it's not commercial and it's never going to be. That's part of what makes it special, I guess.
VOICE: That's very true.
LINDA: This new music is the type of music that sounds good playing in your car while you're driving down the road. It grows on you and it's easy to listen to. You don't get tired of certain songs because, let's face it, as much as you like a certain song on any one of my records, you've got to be in the right mood to listen to it. You've got to be ready you've got to be cranked you've got to invest in it. And there are times when you're just not into that mood. This new music has a lot of good messages, uplifting kinds of things in it, and you don't have to be concentrating on it 100% all the time to enjoy it. It even sounds good when you're getting out of your car to pump the gas and you hear it coming out of your car! [All laugh]
VOICE: Are you looking forward to performing certain songs in concert more than others?
LINDA: That's the interesting thing, and it's what Billy and I are working on now. We're starting to put together the show. I'm thrilled that Billy has agreed to do the show with me because I didn't know if he'd say yes. All along through the process of making the record, I've been hinting at him to come back on the road, and now I think he's excited about it. I'm thrilled because I wouldn't want to do it without him. We have to find out what songs would be good to do live. Some songs are great on the record, but they may not have enough energy or translate themselves with enough "umph" when done live.
VOICE: Will you be changing any of the arrangements for the show?
LINDA: No, we're not changing the arrangements. We're going to use tracks on some songs because some have layers of 15 guitar parts and you can't do that live. But if a song is good, you can do it on the piano up to full orchestra and it's still going to hold together. So our goal is to get enough of the organic and acoustic as possible off the tracks, but there will be tracks running on some of the songs. Maybe over time we will wean ourselves off those more and more.
VOICE: Have you considered practicing your guitar skills to be able to play when you perform this material?
LINDA: My goal is to play rhythm guitar on several of the songs during the live show. I've been practicing every day. I will start with just a few and hopefully build on that as long as they don't kick me out of the band!
VOICE: What songs can fans expect to hear you playing on in concert?
LINDA: That remains to be seen. Some are easier than others. I sing in some hard keys for guitar.
VOICE: Do you have a favorite song off the record?
LINDA: Right now I have three favorite songs. There's one on there by Robin Lerner, who wrote "This Kiss" for Faith Hill. I've known her for a while because Frank has worked with her on different projects over the years. Right now she's working on making a musical based on the movie, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, which hopefully will come to Broadway. Bruce Grakal, my attorney, knows her as well and has been dealing with this show. He actually went to the reading of it in LA, and he told me that there is a really good ballad in the show. They had made a demo of it, which they sent to me, and we loved it! It starts off like a perfect pop/country song, although their version is a little slower than ours. It was not a traditional size chorus and it never repeated anything because it was formatted for the Broadway show.
VOICE: How did you work with the song so it would fit the record?
LINDA: We kept thinking that we had to have something else, so we asked Robin to write another verse. We wanted to repeat the verse, repeat the chorus, and have a bridge, and it came out so cool. It's just two guitars, the bass, and a tiny bit of piano that's it. It's a beautiful song called "If You Believe," which I think could be played on country radio right now, even my version. It sounds like it belongs on country radio.
VOICE: Besides "If You Believe," what other two songs are your favorites?
LINDA: I have to say I really like my song, "Waiting For The Fall." I had it blasting in the car today, and it holds up really well. The third song I love is "The Other Side Of Me" because it's just got a really cool groove. I guess my favorite just depends on the day.
VOICE: The fans are anxiously waiting for the release of THE OTHER SIDE OF ME. Congratulations! We wish you great success with the record and with the live show in the not too distant future.
LINDA: Thank you! I'm excited to get the music out there for the fans.
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