Linda’s fans have been very excited in anticipation of the release of her latest record, and Linda has once again been so gracious to sit down with the EDER-tors of THE VOICE and give the fans her personal insight into the making of SOUNDTRACK.
VOICE: When were you first approached by Verve about recording a new album?
LINDA: Actually it wasn’t really that long ago because we had to do this all so quickly. It was the end of May when Verve suddenly came to me and said that it was time to do another record. They wanted to put it out in October, so basically we had to make the record yesterday! [All laugh!]
VOICE: Was it your idea to record movie themes?
LINDA: As far as doing a themed record, that was Verve’s idea. They said they wanted to have a themed record because sometimes they sell better. We knocked around different ideas, and I chose movie themes because I just had more ideas for a record like that. Also the record is more varied that way. If you pick one composer, you can make new arrangements and change it up that way, but it’s so much easier to get more variety by not using one composer. Plus I really like movie songs! Most songs from movies are chosen because they are kind of like hits automatically, and that definitely helps.
VOICE: Was it difficult choosing a title for the album?
LINDA: We were all kicking around ideas, and I wasn’t really crazy about any of them. I actually went on the Internet and just did a search for words associated with music, film and cinema. I kept looking at the results, and then I found the word “soundtrack.” I started thinking I kind of liked that as a title because I liked the idea of having a shorter title. Other titles we kicked around were longer, and others were so cinematic that they didn’t sound like music to me. Ultimately, we settled on the one I came up with, SOUNDTRACK.
VOICE: How much time did you have to choose the songs and put everything together before the rehearsals and recording sessions began?
LINDA: Not much! [All laugh!] A few weeks! At first we were all putting lists together, and then we would have conference calls with four people on the phone at once throwing out ideas. Ultimately, they let me pick the songs I wanted, so I would say half the songs on the record are from my list and half are songs I approved of from other people’s lists. The process was done literally days before we began working. We got the final list maybe about a week before we actually started working on it.
VOICE: Was this the first time you ever put a record together this quickly?
LINDA: Yes, definitely! Absolutely!
VOICE: If given the opportunity, would you like to record another album that quickly again?
LINDA: Actually I would. The way we recorded it quickly was really okay, but I would have liked to have had more time leading up to the actual recording sessions to think about arrangement ideas. The way we did it was kind of fun because we were there at the recording studio with the band, and that made it very easy to become a band in every sense of the word. We rehearsed for four days straight. I’d start singing… we’d kick out an idea… and I was able to give them my feedback immediately. I’d say something like “maybe this tempo would be good… slow it down… speed it up.” Then everybody would just start playing and we’d track it. It was a very organic way of putting together an arrangement. You got people’s input right away, so you didn’t waste a lot of time on an idea that wasn’t really going anywhere.
VOICE: That makes a lot of sense.
LINDA: And because we played together live for four days where I had a mic and everyone was amped, it was like becoming a band in a week. That was really kind of fun! Then we had a long weekend off and tracked after that.
VOICE: Did you find it was more stressful preparing and recording with so little time rather than having more time to sit with things?
LINDA: I don’t know if it was stressful. It was frustrating only from the sense that you begin to think that maybe if you had a little more time, one or two songs would have been different or maybe an arrangement would have been done in a slightly different way. But I could say the same thing about every single record I ever made. Choices maybe would have been a little different. On the whole, I’m happy with what we chose to record for SOUNDTRACK.
VOICE: Because you were rehearsing and recording within a small time frame, was there a special routine you followed while recording this album to keep your voice in top form?
LINDA: I would drive up to Woodstock to the studio every day, and that actually was a good thing because I could warm up for an hour and a quarter in the car without any distractions. Every morning I’d be driving up there, playing the radio, and warming up slowly. That definitely helped.
VOICE: It’s great that it worked out that way.
LINDA: Yes. Keeping my voice in shape was the problem because I don’t have the stamina I used to have when I was twenty! It was actually harder this time because I had to sing every day, but my voice held up well. I would have liked to have had a full week off before I started doing the vocals rather than just having a few days, but I also knew that I was going to be able to go back and fix some lines if there were any things that didn’t work. That wasn’t the ideal because you don’t get the same quality, so most of what you hear on the record is all one take. There is one song that we rerecorded at Billy’s studio, but I used a different mic and it has a slightly different sound than the original. I got better vocals, so it paid off.
VOICE: Is the way you kept your voice in shape for the recording similar to what you do when you have several concerts in a row?
LINDA: Well, it’s really just about warming up now-a-days. I didn’t really warm up when I was young! [All laugh!] Now I definitely need to warm up!
VOICE: Have you seen any of the movies associated with the songs you recorded?
LINDA: Most of them! One of my favorite songs on the record is the song “Falling Slowly” from the movie ONCE, which I never saw. I just fell in love with the song. Some of the older movies like THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG I haven’t seen, but I think I’ve seen almost everything else.
VOICE: Can you recall seeing any of the movies and thinking… I’d really love to record that song one day?
LINDA: I’ve always liked “Valley Of The Dolls,” so that song I could hear myself recording. That’s sort of the type of song that I used to always do, so I could definitely hear that. Then there’s “Everything I Do.” I love Bryan Adams! I’ve always loved that song, and I’ve always wanted to record it. I think maybe in the last ten years or so I’ve listened to a lot of the songs on the radio because most of them are radio hits too. I really wasn’t doing that much pop kind of stuff until the last few years, so I didn’t think of recording that type of song until more recently.
VOICE: Were there any songs you knew you definitely wanted to include right from the beginning when you were making your list of choices?
LINDA: Yes! “Everything I Do” and “Falling Slowly” were definite ones. As for the rest, I really had to sit down and think about it because I had never really given any thought to recording a movie themed album until that moment when I was approached by Verve. I got the ideas fairly quickly for the songs I liked. Some I got by going on the Internet and looking first at songs that had won an Academy Award, and I went on from there.
VOICE: Who put the band together for SOUNDTRACK?
LINDA: The band was actually put together by the producer, Peter Collins. Billy Stein was an obvious choice because he’s so talented and he does records all the time. The rest of my regular band would all have been great. Some of them do a lot of records and some of them don’t, but the producer had his own ideas so I didn’t have much say there.
VOICE: Are most of those on the record mainly session musicians?
LINDA: They play with people too, but they definitely do a lot of records.
VOICE: Most of the musicians who played in the band for the recording sessions are probably not familiar names to many of your fans. Can you tell us a little about the band?
LINDA: Jerry Merotta, the drummer, runs the studio up there at Woodstock and is quite famous. Fun guy and really, really talented! I had never heard of the string guitarist, Peter White, before, but he’s amazing… really amazing! I can see why Peter Collins wanted him. Ben Butler played electric and acoustic guitar. He was somebody we had looked at to play in the band for THE OTHER SIDE OF ME, but he wasn’t available at that time. He’s great! The bass player was Lonnie Plaxico. The producer wanted a certain sound on his upright, a really gritty or biting sound, probably so it would cut through. I think Dave Finck is an amazing bass player and I was hoping the producer would go with him, but I guess Dave didn’t have quite the sound on his bass that the producer thought he wanted. It was a mistake in hindsight. Dave is an amazing player, and we have worked together so well for so many years. Things would have gone faster in the studio. Ultimately, we ended up realizing that we didn’t want upright on the majority of the record.
VOICE: Had you worked with any of these musicians previously?
LINDA: No, I hadn’t worked with any of them with the exception of Billy Stein.
VOICE: Did you have to do a lot of rerecording after you realized you didn’t want to use the upright that much?
LINDA: The guy who saved us by coming in and rerecording nine tracks in a day was Tony Levine. He’s amazing! He plays for Peter Gabriel. When he came in, it was like wow… the sound on his bass… the way that he plays… the nicest guy too! He lives up there right near the studio. Initially, we actually tried to get him for the record, but he was going to be on the road with Peter Gabriel and wouldn’t be able to do the rehearsal part of it. I knew that wouldn’t have mattered. We could have gotten anybody to play the rehearsals. Tony could have walked into the recording sessions and played it like it was nothing. He’s that good. Those are all the things you learn as you go.
VOICE: Will anybody from this new group of musicians be part of your regular band?
LINDA: No. We tried to get Ben Butler for the show that’s coming up in October, but he’s on the road right now with somebody else. Eventually he’s somebody that I’d love to use, and he wants to play the show too.
VOICE: So basically you’ll be performing with the TOSOM band?
VOICE: Did anybody besides Kim Scharnberg work on the arrangements for SOUNDTRACK?
LINDA: Really it was just Kim, and there were parts that we added along the way also. I didn’t go down to Nashville for the additional sessions with Kim. I trusted him to do good work so I didn’t feel like I needed to be there. In hind sight, I wish I would have been there because I’m so darn opinionated about everything. I think I have good instincts, and I probably could have saved them some time if I had been there. There were a couple of solos and a few other different things that were changed and ultimately parts that were not used. This may not have happened if I had been there. Who knows?
VOICE: Kim is so talented!
LINDA: Yes, he is! He wrote some beautiful string arrangements! Then the cellist came in with ideas of his own also, so some of it is what Kim wrote and some is what the cellist did on his own. These musicians are all virtuosos, so they are used to coming in and just playing. That’s how Peter Collins works… you play and you give him choices and see what he likes. There was a trombone solo on one of the songs that I didn’t like at all. I just didn’t think it fit, so Peter brought in Willie Nelson’s harmonica player and it was perfect! Then I do a song called “Help” from the Beatles, which I did for Jake. Billy ended up doing the solo in that song. We didn’t like the solo we had, so Billy played a really neat part on that. I think “Help” turned out to be one of the better songs on the record. The arrangement is really cool!
VOICE: What were you thinking when you learned you would be recording SOUNDTRACK at Woodstock ?
LINDA: Hmmm… I guess all I thought at first was, “Good! It’s close to my house!” [All laugh!] It only took me an hour and a quarter to drive there, and I was driving in lovely scenery. I was going up there to be in the woods in a beautiful old house. It was actually a church years ago, but most of it felt just like an old house. It has a wrap-around porch and an early 1900’s looking kitchen where the caterer made all this great food for us to eat. We hung out on the porch, and we ate out there too. It rained every other day, but we still had plenty of sunshine. It was just a very nice environment. Even if I were to go into Manhattan to make the record, it would have taken me an hour and a half between the drive and the parking just to get to the studio. And I’d be in Manhattan and not in a beautiful scenic outdoor location. I really like the location they chose to record the CD.
VOICE: How familiar were you with the events that took place at Woodstock forty years ago?
LINDA: I haven’t been a student of Woodstock, so I’m not too familiar with it and don’t know a lot about it. I know there’s been quite a bit about it on TV recently and also there’s a movie because of it being the 40th anniversary.
VOICE: Did you have a chance to go into town while you were there?
LINDA: We did go into town once to eat at a restaurant there. My relatives from Austria were in town at the time, so they came up to be able to be with me. They were booked to come long before the record was planned, and then the record interfered with the time I got to spend with them. But they came up and we went into town for dinner. That’s when I discovered that there still are real live hippies in the world! [All laugh!] They were walking around everywhere.
LINDA: Oh, yes! Totally! I would say more than half the people walking in the streets of the town were hippies!
VOICE: Was it strange recording in what used to be a church?
LINDA: It was kind of strange in a way because the church part of it where people would sit during services is where we were all set up. The benches were removed, but there were the same light fixtures that were hung when it was a church. When you looked up at the balcony where the choir would be, you saw all the percussion instruments stacked up there. [All laugh!] The main door looked exactly the same as when it was a church, but on either side of the front door they had built two isolation booths. One of them was where I did my vocals, and the other was where the bass player would be. In the middle was the spot where we rehearsed and where the piano, some percussion, and the rest of the instruments were set up for the recording sessions. A little bit into the main room where the altar would have been, they built a raised up room and made it soundproof. That is where they put the control board. It was definitely an interesting set-up. It was a little bit strange being in what used to be a church, but I figured maybe it was a good thing!
VOICE: Are there any interesting or funny stories you’d like to share about your time at Woodstock?
LINDA: I don’t think there were any crazy funny things that happened. This wasn’t really funny, but it was very interesting. As we were recording one song, I sang my final word, and then you hear the band come in for their final hold note. Right at the perfect time, there was a big, long rumbling of thunder because there were a lot of storms going on at the time. I think it’s still on the recording if you listen carefully. If you had head phones on, you might be able to actually hear it. It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed!
VOICE: What was the reaction?
LINDA: Everybody kind of thought it was really weird.
VOICE: Maybe it was a sign from up above!
LINDA: Another unexpected thing that happened was that I started crying at the end of one song. I was singing “Everything I Do” at the time. I got to the very end and only had the last two lines to sing, but I couldn’t go on. I had to put my hands over my face and walk out of the studio. The band all kind of knew the story, so they were cool with it. I didn’t feel too embarrassed and came back in and sang the song over. I don’t know what happened… it just hit me. You just never know when it’s going to hit you.
VOICE: Can you tell us a little about the process of doing over dubs and background vocals and what makes that your favorite part of making a record?
LINDA: Background vocals are my favorite part of making a record. You don’t have the pressure of doing the lead, and you don’t necessarily have to sing with personality. It’s more about sound because if you isolate the background vocal, it does not sound like you’d want the lead to sound. You try to make it airier so it blends better with the lead. You try to sing in a straight tone. It’s really just about the sound you want to wrap around the lead vocal in a way that sounds good. A lot of times there’s more than one part so I get to work out harmonies. I like to do that and I’m pretty good at it. In “Against All Odds,” that’s me doing the backgrounds, and that part acts almost like a lead in some ways because of the emotional impact. I’m singing more like a lead there, but the rest is just that fun kind of blending… no pressure… just blending. As for overdubs, it’s kind of the same thing. But sometimes an overdub is used to fix a part that is just not good enough. For example, maybe you didn’t have enough emotion in a line or, since you’re recording a song all in one take, you may be a little flat or a little sharp. Sometimes you just think you can beat what you’ve done. With SOUNDTRACK, we didn’t do much overdubbing. It was pretty much all one take.
VOICE: Did you do all your own backgrounds at Billy’s studio or did you have others working with you?
LINDA: I did all the backgrounds at Billy’s studio. It was just Billy and I.
VOICE: Can you tell the fans about your involvement with the mixing process?
LINDA: Before this, I was always there through the entire mixing process. This time I was just as involved doing it from my house. Ideally, I should have been down in Nashville doing this, but I didn’t want to go down there for two weeks. I just didn’t want to take the time away, especially since it wasn’t a record that was totally in my control. It didn’t feel like “my record” like the last one did where everything was really up to me. I was producing then with Billy, and I was involved in every aspect of it and I was making all the decisions. Peter Collins was great to work with and he really listened to me. He was always happy to take my suggestions, so I just didn’t think it was worth it to go down there. In addition to that, they were going to fly me down in the middle of the mixing process when there still would have been many songs they hadn’t even touched yet.
VOICE: How did it work with you being away from where they were actually doing the mixing?
LINDA: I knew that I could do it from home because of the modern age of technology we live in now. They would do a mix down in Nashville and put it up on a site. I would listen to it in the headphones, and I would be able to hear it just as well as if I were sitting right there in the studio with them. After listening, I would make a comment. They’d make the change and put it up there again for me. I’d make another comment, and this would continue until I was happy with what I heard. That’s how we did it. It was great because I was able to be home with Jake and be mixing at the same time without having to sit there for 18 hours a day! Trina, who was mixing it down in Nashville, was great and so nice to work with, and she’s actually the one who really did the hard work. She was sitting there all day doing the mixing, and that is a long and tiring process. Your ears get fried after listening to a mix over and over and over. It was so nice for me because when they sent it to me, my ears would be fresh and I could hear something they may have missed.
VOICE: Did you have input about things you would like to have in the mix as they were working?
LINDA: They were very good about asking what I needed in the mix. For instance, on “Falling Slowly,” I asked my friend, Gene Miller, to do the backgrounds. He’s the one I wanted for this song because he’s really a great singer in his own right. You may remember him from CIVIL WAR. He lives in Nashville and is very well known there for doing a lot of backgrounds. Trina didn’t know that “Falling Slowly” is meant to be sort of like a duet, even though it’s me harmonizing with myself in the verses because that sounded more right to me. You hear Gene in the chorus section because the harmony line is too low there for me to get any kind of bite. Trina didn’t have him loud enough, so I had to tell her to think of the song more like a duet.
VOICE: Did you have anybody else besides Trina to help with the mixing?
LINDA: Yes. There was Dahlia, our A & R from Verve, who’s my champion there and set the whole thing up. She would also get the mix when I did and would listen to it. Then we would all make comments and help with the mixing that way.
VOICE: Did you record any songs that didn’t make the final cut for one reason or another?
LINDA: There are 11 songs we recorded for SOUNDTRACK. We also have a twelfth song because we always have a bonus track. We were going to record more songs just so that we would have a choice, but that was all we could do in the very short time frame that we had been given.
VOICE: Do you have a favorite song off the record?
LINDA: SOUNDTRACK is a very mellow record in a lot of ways. There’s not a lot of up tempo songs on it and I really like it. It’s very easy to listen to all the way through. I guess we’ll talk about it first, and then maybe I will be able to figure out a favorite when we’re done. Right now, I don’t know what my favorite song is. I think we have a few home runs on there. I really love the arrangements and the way they came out. Everybody kind of feels that certain songs are the strongest, but my favorites are never based on what other people’s favorites are. I sing songs for a living, so it’s whatever is happening in my life at the present time that might make me pick one song or another as my favorite. There are a lot of sad songs on SOUNDTRACK, so this record is definitely a reflection of what I’ve gone through recently. I’m kind of afraid that may be the reason why I might pick one song over another. “Everything I Do” came out really well and I’m very happy with the arrangement. I also love “Falling Slowly” just because that had become my new favorite song that I was playing before recording SOUNDTRACK. I love the original version and I love the one we got. “Help” came out incredibly well, and that particular arrangement was not mine. It definitely came from Peter Collins. It was his idea to slow it down and do it in that particular way, and that was a great call! Another one that came out really well is the Bee Gees’ song, “If I Can’t Have You.” Again it’s a jazzy, pop version that works really well for me.
VOICE: There’s something on there for everyone.
LINDA: Yes. The fans who like the standards are really going to like “I Will Wait For You” and “Charade” because they’re done in the style of singing that I am known for to most of my fans. Both of those came out really well. So… after talking so much about the songs… my favorite song… I can’t say. I really can’t.
VOICE: Would you be able to pick a favorite from a business sense?
LINDA: From a purely business sense, meaning what song do I think could be the most commercial song… “Accidentally In Love” comes to mind. It was my idea to do that song, and I think it came out great! The arrangement is really cool! It’s a jazzy, pop version, and I think people will really gravitate to that one. It’s also upbeat, and that’s something I also like about it.
VOICE: How would you say that the songs on SOUNDTRACK reflect “both sides of you?”
LINDA: Really it’s because the record is a nice mix. There are two songs on there that are done in the style of the standards as I just mentioned. Then “Valley Of The Dolls” is done with a very classical string arrangement. People who like the older type of music that they know me for will like those songs. People who like pop versions of songs will like the songs done in that way. Both styles are part of me. I always have that slight inflection of country in what I sing because that’s really who I am. A good example is “Everything I Do.” I do a slightly more country version of the pop version. It’s a little softer. SOUNDTRACK is not Broadway. You’re not going to hear anything remotely Broadway, so that part of me is not there on this record.
VOICE: It seems like there is a good variety.
LINDA: There’s really not a wide range. You’re not jerked back and forth from one song to the next. It’s all very cohesive with the exception of “Valley Of The Dolls,” which is very classically arranged. The rest holds together really well, and that’s why it works.
VOICE: Will you be debuting any of the songs at Town Hall in New York City in October?
LINDA: Yes. The plan is to do a few certain selections from THE OTHER SIDE OF ME and some of the classics that people know me for in addition to some songs from the new record.
VOICE: Will the new songs become part of your “All Of Me” show?
LINDA: Yes. That’s what the record company wanted. They loved THE OTHER SIDE OF ME! That’s why they bought it. For this record, they wanted something between the music I had been singing and the songs from TOSOM. When I recorded THE OTHER SIDE OF ME, I knew it was just such a departure from the music I have been known for, but I also knew it was very important for me to make that record. In order for me to get myself out of the world I had been in, I almost had to yank myself out so far from it to open people’s eyes to “the other side of me” whether they liked it or not. Then coming back in to a little more middle ground I think will make people a little more accepting of this kind of record. It’s a bit hard to explain, but if you don’t like country, you’re not going to like THE OTHER SIDE OF ME. It’s a very stylized thing. To this day, I’m still very proud of that record. It really holds together well, and I gained some new fans who like that kind of music.
VOICE: Digressing from the main topic of this interview which is SOUNDTRACK, can you tell us a little about the work you did for The Children’s Kindness Network Project with Kim Scharnberg?
LINDA: Boy, you know about everything! [All laugh!] Kim asked me to work on this project, and of course I said yes! It was a chance for us to catch up because we hadn’t seen each other and hadn’t spent a lot of time talking and catching up in a long time. Kim came over to the house, we talked for an hour or so, and then we did the recording. It only took us a few minutes. Kim wrote all the music for this project, which is really to teach kids about their instruments and help them to get into playing them. He created these great characters, and I hope this project will be successful. I think it would make a cute animated thing too. I play Olivia Oboe! [All laugh!] It’s about this instrument that doesn’t know where it fits in, and it’s very cleverly done. It’s great to be part of something that’s not just about making money. It’s a project to help kids with music in a cute, fun way.
VOICE: Will you be doing any more “Two For The Road” shows with Michael Feinstein?
LINDA: Yes, we have one coming up. It’s always fun to get back together to sing with him.
VOICE: You mentioned in your most recent letter that you want to slow down a little. Does that mean fans can expect fewer shows in the coming months?
LINDA: Well, yes. I can’t help it, you know. I’m 48! [All laugh] I’ve been pushing it pretty hard for the last 20 years, and I think I’ve realized in the past four years how much I’ve sacrificed. Shows always tend to be on the weekends, and most of the world parties on the weekends. I can see where that can be hard on relationships and how much I’ve missed about being social with friends. Jake is in school about three quarters of the year, but he’s off on weekends. If I’m working, that means he’s with Frank. He’s having a ball, but that means I’m not with him and I can’t change that. I can ask them to book shows during the week, but most venues want you on the weekend because they can do better. When you start hitting that 50 year mark, and I’m getting closer and closer to that, you start looking at your life and realizing how fast life goes. I always knew life went fast, but you start to realize it more and more. I want to enjoy life now. I want to do the shows I want to do for the fun of it and obviously the amount I need to do to survive. I don’t want to be doing shows just for the sake of doing them. I love performing and I want to perform as long as I can. But I don’t want to do it at the expense of family and friends and social life and just life in general.
VOICE: Has the economy affected the number of shows also?
LINDA: Yes. Actually the economy was dictating some of this anyway. This year and last year, I have seen a decline in the number of shows, and it’s really based on the economy, which hopefully is turning around. I know of so many people who are out of work and are just waiting for something to come along. It’s just a tough, tough time. The room where I always played at Mohegan Sun is no longer there. I could always count on that every year for three shows. I would go up there and have a ball, and I could drive because it was close to home! It was a beautiful room too! It’s not open anymore and it’s sad to see that. Hopefully it will reopen.
VOICE: That was a venue where fans enjoyed going too! We certainly had some great times there!
LINDA: But the truth is that people change over time. I used to want a thousand acres with 50 horses and a house in the middle of it! Now I just want less and less and less. The stress of having all this stuff just weighs me down. I want to become light and mobile and free. I really have made a major shift during the last four years because I realized that all the things I had were weighing me down and making me not as available as I wanted to be. I felt like I was sitting on top of a mountain of stuff and I just don’t want that any more, especially since I’m working for all that and not even enjoying it. I hardly ever swim in my pool even though Jake swims in it. I don’t play on the tennis court. I don’t use the things I’m paying for because those things aren’t important to me anymore. The most fun I can have is just being with family and friends. I just want to make up for lost time.
VOICE: We wish you the very best in whatever you choose to do. You deserve every happiness in the world!
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