Wednesday, 09 March 2011 22:33 | Written by Raymond Kruijen |
ALANNAH MYLES... THE ARTIST PUREBRED THAT NEVER LEFT
Everyone who loves rock music knows the song ‘Black Velvet’. More than 20 years later after that mega hit single the Canadian artist is back with probably her most personal album ever called...‘Black Velvet’. On the album you hear a fantastic voice in it’s purest form. LazyRocker.com is glad to let Alannah do the talking.
How did your life as musician start ?
@= As a very young girl I remember singing myself to sleep many nights and dreaming of performing for large audiences. It seemed to be my calling from as far back as I can remember. This didn't make it easy when I actually tried to apply the dreams to reality but it was probably what kept me plodding away on the path to success when everyone else thought my visions were just pipe dreams. We had a beautiful piano which my mother would play but for some perverse reason I was denied lessons on it so I began by picking up my mother's Spanish, classical guitar and teaching myself to play from chord books. Other recording artist's music was difficult to learn so I would write my own songs. I sang in musical folk groups in elementary school and later sang in coffee houses or wherever I could get a gig. I packed up my car with equipment and drove around southern Ontario to play in lounges and clubs until I met Christopher Ward who helped me form a band of my own and after years of demoing and rejection from Canadian labels, he invested his money and creativity in my career. When we hooked up with David Tyson as my producer it was a winning team and we dedicated 5 years to demoing and recording 3 singles and a video that had me signed almost immediately to Atlantic Records. We spent 2 more years in production and my very first recording became an "overnight" phenomenal success.
Which music/artists you’re influenced by ?
@= Early on in my musical life I listened to Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Neil Young, early Elton John, The Beatles and many artists from the folk genre. When I formed a band I learned to sing R&B songs by Anne Peebles, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, The Staples singers, very early Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Betty White and many other soul singers. I formed a 3 piece rock band and combined some of my R&B material with other contemporary rock artists from the 80's like Chrissie Hynde & The Pretenders, Peter Townshend, Rolling Stones, ACDC but I always sang my own songs and songs I had written with Christopher Ward.
What inspires you to write songs ?
@= The mood of a song, sometimes the guitar, if I like the celtic blues style that a guitarist plays, sometimes an artist's voice will inspire me to want to sing. Sometimes an empty cathedral or tower with an echo. Often it's whatever comes out of my mouth as I play guitar or on stage when the beauty of the music played by my band carries me away from the songs we're playing. I allow my heart to lead my voice wherever my mind happens to be at the time music is being played. There are no set rules to follow. I like to come from a feeling of innocence so that whenever I sing it feels pure so the music can be interpreted in many different ways. I now record all of my songs on a record with an acoustic guitar track and let my voice go wherever it wants and late copy & paste it together for the best arrangement.
Your debut album can be described as mega seller, with a couple of very successful singles. Do you agree with that description ?
@= There was 4 or 5 hit singles on my first release in various countries. Not one country could make up it's mind which track from my first record would become a radio hit. Black Velvet never reached #1 in Canada but remained #1 for 2 weeks on the U.S. Billboard charts and every other country in the world (except England) but Lover of Mine went to #1 in Canada as a fourth single release when touring and videos gained the public's attention. After 18 months of solid touring around the globe I needed to stop and begin writing and recording my second record. Radio was hungry for more singles so songs like If You Want To & Hurry Make Love were played in various places as if they were a new single. It was an extraordinary time. It was an unusual success because it garnered fans who worked at radio as well as those who listened to radio and went to concerts.
How do you look back at that time of always being in the spotlight ?
@= It's a blur of events sandwiched together like sardines in a tin. Occasionally a specific memory I'd long since forgotten will cross my mind and I reminisce. It took a great deal of focus, will and determination to keep going in a forward direction but by the time it was over there were many pieces of me scattered all over the world to gather together while I tried to learn a new way of life. I'm glad it's in my past and I can now live a somewhat normal daily existence.
With your second album ( ‘Rockinghorse’ ) you deliver another very strong album. It contains also the huge single ‘Song Instead Of A Kiss’, which can be classified as all-time classic. What do you think about that assertion ?
@= Of all the songs I have recorded I am probably most proud of Song Instead Of A Kiss. It never got played in the U.S. as the record company who were misguided, released it as a first single after an entire country had fallen in love with my blues voice in Black Velvet. Then Madonna hi jinxed the core of it’s video for her "Rain" single and everyone thought I was a copy cat. I can still remember the mood I was in and the chair I sat in facing the Santa Monica mountain range in a studio in northeast L.A. as we recorded the demo vocal for the song for which not one note was altered when came time to mix it for the record. It was pure and real and raw emotion. 18 years later, and it has now become one of my best live songs to sing. It is truly a performance piece that was incepted from my desire to create a classical sounding recording with it's producer, David Tyson.
‘A-Lan-Nah’ was your next album. On that one you rock less. You wanted to expose other music paths ?
@= I disagree, the vocals rocked but in the unplugged era where hard rock had become passé the production became more eclectic. I am not a fan of the way the CD was mixed as I feel it loses it's sonic toughness and soul. It was a live off the floor recording in the studio which I had never done before. SO much time and effort had gone into the recording and arranging and mixing of my first two CDs. I would have mixed it far more like my first two records so that the vocals would be right up in your face but I was working with a stubborn Irish man who was known for his pop hits. The songs and some of the performances on the album still outweigh much of my recorded work. I did not receive the support from the label who had just replaced it's CEO at the time and with the request of my then manager, Miles Copeland, was allowed to terminate my recording agreement and was amicably released from the label. Only a real die hard fan of 'Alannah Myles' knows of it's existence.
On ‘Arival’ you switched to another record company. What was the reason to cooperate with another record company ?
@= When Atlantic released me from my 7-8 album deal with the promise of a Best Of record (from only 3 CDs) I made the foolish mistake of not being aware of my own sense of self worth as an artist during the changing tides of the nineties. I had such a difficult time contractually with my first label who left me financially broke and paying pack over 6 million worth of recording and production costs after they themselves pocketed profits in the neighbourhood of 100 million, I thought signing to Miles Copeland's new indie label would rectify the injustice and instead it got worse. There was no label support to push our first single 'Bad 4 You' which many believe could have been a smash hit at radio with a very sexy, classy video and to this day I have not received either one single penny, nor statements to indicate the amount of records it has sold. I had been so badly gouged by Atlantic that I did not have the finances to go after what was legally my due and to this day there is only bad blood, industry piracy and a great songwriting record for me to be proud of. After the promised Best Of CD to Warner Music Group I turned down many deals and stopped recording for 5 years to write while I recorded my current 'Black Velvet' CD.
What inspired you to return to the music scene finally ?
@= I never left. I worked non-stop, writing every Monday of each week for years. We called them 'Songwriting Mondays'. I have many album's worth of unrecorded songs to account for and will work next on a classic, jug band blues record when I am ready to begin investing my time and energy and have put the right deal n place to finance them.
With your new album ‘Black Velvet’ you made your comeback. What means this album to you ?
@= My current 'Black Velvet' CD has been signed to an indie label in Canada and without the financial support or interest at radio to help bring it to the attention of the public, I have had to rely on fate. I own the record that I financed, produced, wrote and mixed with the help of many talented musicians and engineers and am extremely proud of it as one of the finest collections I have ever recorded. All who have bought it agree it measures up to my first & second records with a more contemporary feel.
Was it your intention to show partly another musical side of yourself with this album ?
@= It was my intention to record a collection of songs that would showcase the different styles of my voice sung to beautifully written and produced songs and believe that no matter how it may appear now, it will become a classic styled record that people will talk about for many years. It's not about singles and hits anymore. It's about leaving a legacy behind of quality works on each collection of recordings. I have always and will forever be an album artist. The fact that I had hit singles in my career is the work of the Gods and 99% hard work and dedication to my art.
Let’s have a closer look at some songs on it. ‘Give Me Love’ delivers you another price, you won the ( ICS – International Songwriting Contest ) in 2011. What’s your story about this song ?
@= I wrote this song many years ago after being disillusioned with a particular man and the emotional abuse I'd received in the relationship. I was angry and writing the song was my way of venting that anger in a very cool and unaffected way that would turn something very negative into a positive message. I try to do this with all of my songs. As a result of having won the Grand Prize for the ISC contest in America it is being released as an alternative rock single to radio for which I will be filming a video upon my return from my German tour. I never anticipated it would win the contest because I was under the assumption that rock in America had died. Perhaps it shall prove me wrong.
Your new video ‘Trouble’ breathes an southern feel and handles about the seven deadly sins ? Is this song partly an reflection at hard times in your own life ?
@= Perhaps the song is a reflection of a time in my life where I allowed a belief in the darker aspects of life here on earth, like curses or black magic. But I have learned that negative energy thrives on what we give power to in our minds so the song has basically become a symbol of classic blues with swampy, old Robert Johhson at the crossroads. We have competed a jug band performance video for it that it's director, Allen Saulnier will be submitting to several film festivals as a short film. The video can be viewed below.
Wasn’t it risky to rerecord the song ‘Black velvet’ ? After all the “whole world” felt in love with your ’89 version. And why you rerecorded it ?
@= Contrary to being a risk, re-recording Black Velvet was a challenge after having been legally denied re-recording it by Atlantic Records for 12 years after it's first release. They have done nothing to allow us to be able to license it for films, TV or media thus depriving myself and it's songwriters from a viable income. It was my way of letting people who know the song but do not know my name and uniting the two. It was time to take back what belonged to me. I intend to re-record it in as many incarnations as I possibly can before I die. Think of Sting and Roxanne or Eric Clapton and Layla, or ELton John, Rod Stewart or any classic artist with a song the public have grown to know and love. No one ever complained hearing them recut their own songs. Why should it be any different for me?
Which song tells the most personal story in your opinion ? And why ?
@= All of my songs share a great deal of my personal story in some form or another. The list would be too great to reveal. Songs are like good scripts that can be sung repeatedly if they are thought provoking and an artist can connect to the characters as an actress might.
You’re going to do an tour in Germany very soon. What to expect from an Alannah Myles concert ?
@= A collection of my songs and some well chosen soulful covers sung live with an acoustic band and an incredible line up of talent with emphasis on vocal harmonies, featuring a young new artist from Canada, Donny Anderson who sings like Smokey Robinson.
What are your further plans for the near future ?
@= We shall just have to wait and see what the future holds. The only guarantee in life is that it will change. I'm ready for anything.
What’s your ultimate goal as artist ? And in life ?
@= Though I feel I have already accomplished my goal as an artist, it is my intention in life to be real, to make people who listen to my music feel the emotions I have invested in my work and to help lead the artistic world out of it's perverse propensity for music to become like fast food or technologically perfect but soulless. I have learned to love my flaws. (This is the longest list of questions I have ever received but I will indulge you because they are intelligently asked.)
Can you give a reaction on the following songs and words ?
‘You Love Who You Love’ @= Devotion
Horses @= Strong, beautiful backbones
Grammy Award best female rock performance @= Crowned, knighted or given an honourable title from my peers.
‘Don’t Give Up’ @= Innocence. Hope.
Is there something unsaid you want to say to our readers ?
@= If I haven't said enough already there is seriously something wrong!
I want to thank you for your time and sincerity answers. And we are gonna see each other on your tour in Germany ( Siegburg ).
@= You are most welcome. Thank you for the high quality of your questions. I look forward to the show in Siegburg. Kind regards, Alannah Myles =@=