Hi Alannah. Welcome to Anylouder . How have you been ?
I’m mending a badly broken leg with months of rehabilitation ahead bringing a necessary but temporary halt to my recording career. Other than that I’m doing well.
How did it all start for you ? How did the debut album happen ?
Wikipedia Article does an excellent job of telling my story accurately.
How did ” Black Velvet ” happen ? Take us through the writing process of the iconic number .
Black Velvet pays homage to the 50’s heart throb, Elvis Presley who died twelve years prior to it’s release. The song found it’s inspiration from it’s originator, Christopher Ward, a former Much music VJ and with whom I was living at the time. After attending the 10th anniversary vigil around Presley’s grave site in Memphis, Tennessee in 1987 celebrated with a busload of ardent Elvis fans and filmed for a Much Music special on the life & Times of the King, Christopher brought the song he’d written to play for me & producer, Dave Tyson. During album pre-production in a square cut log settlers’ cabin on my family’s farm I was mesmerized before he’d even reached the chorus. Dave added chords to a bridge, I added my blues licks in the studio, Kevin Doyle created a magical mix and with some uncanny force of Universal wanderlust, the song was played on every radio station in the world, a global sensation was born.
Did the Grammy win change your outlook towards your career ?
Hailing from Canada and it being my first album, winning a Grammy may have been a jewel in the crown for Black Velvet but was never my goal or even remotely anticipated. In some way deep down I believed it was one day possible, but hearing my name called in the same breath as fellow nominees, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Melissa Ethridge came as a completely unexpected surprise.
My outlook after winning, and again after being nominated for a second Grammy in 1992 with ‘Rockinghorse’ remains the same. To write, record and sing great music that motivates me emotionally. If it sends the hairs on the back of your neck upright and it stands the test of time, awards will appear. Awards need to be earned for their magnificence. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Are you interested in movies or sports ? What do you do when you’re not doing music ?
I’ve become a movie freak. I love watching really well made films. Especially a sci fi, spiritual thriller or classic period piece.
When I’m not writing or recording music I’m single handedly running my label, merchandise sales from my website and more accounting than I’d care to admit.
Since the first album till now what has changed musically and personally for you ?
Musically, I’m bored very easily. Never afraid of a challenge but I could never accept a music judging role. I’d be too hard on the talent suggesting a great many contestants think about taking up some other more suitable vocation. Not many voices being played on radio have any inspirational affect on me. Most sound like little tiny mass produced baby voices or they sing more licks than the song has notes. I call it the vocal Olympics. What’s changed since I first began recording most is autotune. I never had to use it. I never used it when I had it. Now anyone can use it and become a rising star.
Personally, no one can ever prepare one for the life altering responsibilities of being a famous person or being famous for an artistic endeavour. I can hide where no one can interrupt the privacy of my world but fans who meet me are often shocked I’m not still black haired and leather clad.
Out of all the artists you’ve worked with , what has been some of your favorite moments ?
I’ve met many artists in my lifetime. From very early on in my early twenties I became friends with Mike Meyers who created his character Wayne for the now famous movie, Wayne’s World in my living room with Black Velvet’s writer, Christopher. I dated U2’s producer Daniel Lanois when we were all struggling musicians just prior to meeting and living with Christopher for 8 years. I’ve often wondered what direction my career might have taken had I remained working with Daniel but I think I made the right choice. There were many other artists in the beginning of my burgeoning musical world who seemed to be on the same path when entering the music industry. Some became more famous than others.
Some of my idols were Chyssie Hynde who when meeting me poolside at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles immediately welcomed me into her circle openly without judgement and Bonnie Raitt who paid me a superb compliment for my bluesy vocals. I was surprised to learn from Joni Mitchell and Carol King and Cher that they actually knew my music.
In my first year as a rock queen I fell in love with a well established British rock God. I can only imagine the offspring that may have transpired from that relationship had I the patience to give a man when so career driven.
What is your vocal practice routine ? What advice would you give to young girls to get better in the art ?
The advice I’d give to any young talent is Study! Take improvisation classes, on-camera technique, modern jazz dance, acting, vocal coaching, put together photography portfolios of yourself. Practice your instrument until you love the sound of what you’re playing enough to inspire song ideas and record them. Always have a recorder on hand and collect the ideas as they come or they will be lost forever. Write, read poetry and learn how to compose the written word. Get up in front of an audience as much as possible to round out your stage presence. Tape yourself periodically to recognize body movements or annoying facial habits that make you appear awkward and stop doing them.
Love what you’re doing and everything you with your gift over time will love you right back.
Then when you have the record, the band or the musicians assembled and you’re ready to go out and pound the pavement to sell it. Here’s a trade secret that works for me before every show.
I spend an hour in a hot tub full of lavender, geranium and eucalyptus essential oils to open my nasal cavity and calm tired, swollen, sometimes raw and overused vocal chords from travel and sleep deprivation. While lying there I warm up my voice singing only low notes beginning with a new version of Amazing Grace each time. If there’s no bathtubon sight stick an oil lamp in your dressing room and breath in the oils. Always bring a humidifier with you on the roador write it into your rider especially in the dryer regions of the world to prevent a singer’s most dreaded affliction called “Vegas voice” from the dry desert air drying out the vocal chords. Wet climates are better. Give the vocal chords a nice moist home and for heaven;s sake don’t drink alcohol or you can say goodbye to your range. I may on certain extreme circumstances have lost my range but I’ve never lost my voice.
Any plans for touring India ? Are you familiar with Indian music ?
I have no plans to tour. It’s too hard on my body. Maybe one day after I record another album of my version of the blues. But I doubt it.
I love India’s culture. It was East Indian fashion that inspired me to dress in a shroud of raw silk, tassels with red rubies framing my face for my 1992 Song Instead Of A Kiss video from my second Rockinghorse album or pierced my left nostril for it’s purely Indian aesthetic beauty.
Tell us a bit about you future projects ?
I’ve been writing songs for the last 10 years in preparation for a blues album no one would ever think of creating. I’m challenged to create a collection that is unforgettably hooky and will make people stop and listen regardless of whether it’s played on radio, or if I’m not signed to a major label or how many copies it sells. If it’s great it will always find it’s home in the hearts of those ready to listen.
Thank you for your time Alannah .Leave a message for your Indian fans .
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to introduce my music to new fans in India.
Interviewed by : Ashiqur Rohman