By Javier Edwards
Produced for promotional purposes in 1998 the CD contains Olivia's answers only, like the Rumour interview the questions are on a separate sheet. The interview is special as Olivia is given the opportunity to talk about the actual music. The CD is a rare find; you may find a copy at record fairs/used market.
How do you feel about the re-release of Grease? Does it seem like yesterday or a very long time ago?
I'm very excited about the re-release of Grease. It actually feels both like a very long time ago and like yesterday. Because when I see all my friends it's like no time has gone at all but when I look at the screen (laughs) I can see that quite a long time has gone by. I know that person but I don't, it's like I know it's me but it's another part of me that's back then.
Why did you accept to promote a film release 20 years ago? Weren't you afraid that the image you projected 20 years ago could cloud the image you want to project today?
I am very happy to promote this movie because it was a big part of my life. It's become a classic. I feel really lucky to be in a movie that's become a classic. I think in the last 20 years it's gained in popularity, there's two generations that love the film. I don't think it has anything to do with my image now. This movie is a 50s movie made 20 years ago, everyone knows that. I'm very happy to be part of it.
After 20 years do you think Grease and its character Sandy Olson have turned into "cult" objects?
I think that Grease and Sandy Olson, my character, have become kind of cult characters I guess. I think in a good way. Cult has a horrible connotation to it but I think there can be good cult followings. A lot of little girls want to dress up as Sandy and little boys dress up as Danny and do the music. I think it's a pretty harmless cult following for this movie.
As we approach the year 2000 how would you like to be remembered? As the sweet singer who sang I Honestly Love You or Hopelessly Devoted To You or as the sexy one that was born at the end of Grease and was portrayed in the albums Totally Hot, Physical and Soul Kiss, or as a singer committed to humanitarian and environmental causes?
I think if you asked how I'd like to be remembered obviously I'd liked to be remembered for my singing. But I would also love to be remembered for giving back, for doing good things for the planet because I think that in the long run that's what counts. The planet for our children, for my child and her future is what I feel I'm here for now. It would nice to be remembered for both.
Do you have plans for a major film again, either as an actress or as interpreter of a soundtrack?
I have no major plans for a film at the moment. But I've been offered a few scripts but the right one hasn't come along. I'm hoping, have you got one? (laughs)
why did you choose a title so similar to that of your last album in the US Back To Basics (1992)?
You know I didn't even realize that Back With A Heart was close to the title of Back To Basics until about two days ago - and suddenly I thought oh look they both start with "Back". But up until then I hadn't even thought about it. Back To Basics was really nothing to do with Back With A Heart; it's a whole different meaning of back. And so I hadn't thought of that.
You have been a versatile and multifaceted singer and have successfully developed an unmistakable identity. How would you musically define this new album? Does it represent a new way in your career?
Well Back With A Heart is a new album but with an old kind of feeling because I've gone back to my country roots, country-pop which is really how I started out. I started out not really realizing I was singing country music because my beginnings were in England and my manager who was an Australian loved country music so he kinda suggested these songs for me. They were written by an Englishman, produced by an Englishman and an Australian at Abbey Road, didn't really know I was singing country per se just knew they were catchy songs and really good. Because in England you have one musical chart and it covers everything soul, pop, classical whatever it is it's all in one chart. So until I got a message from my publisher over here saying "hey girl you've got a country and western hit you better come over here" I didn't really know that was what it was all about. So then I started realizing that there was a whole other market that was just country music. I've gone back to it because I feel comfortable in that genre and kinda feel that's where I fit in right now.
Is it a return to your musical roots or is it just a little bit more of what you have done so far?
I think it's a little bit of both. It's recognizably me and I think some of the songs have a feeling of some of the old stuff I've done plus there's a few that are new. For instance the remake of IHLY even though the song's old the remake of it is very new, it has a new edge to it. Babyface sings on it and David Foster produced it. The two new tracks that I did with John Farrar, who's been my long-time collaborator, always have a new feel. Whatever he comes up with has a new feel to it. I guess it's a combination of new with the old.
In a certain way Back With A Heart is your return to country roots with a 90s flavour, which still does not leave aside your taste for pop ballads. What do you feel about the present scenario of popular music, what do you like and dislike? Do you consider yourself closer in style to the pop genre or Jewel or Celine Dion or Shania Twain/Lee Ann Rimes?
I think that the four women that you mentioned are all wonderful singers and it's really all about the song. They are defined by the particular song they have out at the moment. Celine probably for her big ballads, LeeAnn for her country ballads and Shania has her own sound. But mostly it's the sound of the girls' voices and the songs, it's their sound that you can pick out and the important thing is to have your own sound so you're identifiable. And they all have that in common; they all have their different sounding hits. I don't know where you'd put me in there I'm probably a little bit of all of those or was back then 10-15 years ago. Who would I be closest to? That's a hard one. Someone said I was probably a bit more like Jewel and other people said I was more like LeAnn. I don't know how to answer that question. I think that I'm an individual and they're all individuals and that's why they're successful.
Why did you have so many producers and how was the experience of recording with 6 different producers, four of which worked for you for the first time and are highly-renowned in the Nashville industry? Did you enjoy working with your old friend and producer John Farrar and the big hits' producer David Foster?
It was a great experience making this album because I got to work with so many producers. I got to work with 4 of the top Nashville producers, and John Farrar's tracks we did here. What I loved about it was that I probably worked in every major studio with every major musician that was here. And I actually got to sing the tracks live, because now in pop music you've almost lost that ability to do a track live with musicians. You kinda go in, the producer has laid down the track or he's laid down the drums then laid down the bass. There's none of that real interaction between the artist and the musician so what I loved about this album was I actually went to the tracking sessions. I sat with musicians and sang along, they threw in their ideas and I threw in mine. That was really the exciting part, I really felt part of the process particuarly having written a lot of the songs that was important. I had different ideas that I wanted to get in as well as the producers. And respecting what they wanted I had certain things that I'd like to hear. I think that was really great. And working with 4 different top producers and seeing the different ways they worked, professionals are always the best people to work with they're all so easy, it was really a pleasure. And the track with David Foster I did in Malibu as he lives 5 minutes from my house so I threw on my overboots and went over there and did IHLY at his studio. And John Farrar came to Nashville and did his tracks and I did my vocals back in Los Angeles back at his house, also in Malibu so it was very convenient.
Have you considered promoting this new record with a world concert tour?
I've considered it, I haven't decided yet. My problem with a world tour is that I have a 12 year old daughter who's in school. I probably have to think about it maybe not this Summer but the Summer of next year and she could come with me then. But to go on a world tour that's a very gruelling kinda prospect for me. So I haven't decided. I've done a lot of television promotion and radio promotion. We'll see. I'm going to do a tour in Australia at the end of year, and that's home for me. My daughter will come out and spend some time there and see her friends as well and that'll be fun. For the rest of the world I haven't made plans yet.
Which are your favourite tracks from the 11 ones included on Back With A Heart? How did the idea of re-recording your hit IHLY with David Foster as producer and Babyface in background vocals come to you? What's your opinion about the new version versus the original?
Well let's start with the last part of the question. IHLY was a song that I loved and always have loved and felt very possessive of because I kinda felt it was my signature song. I love that song so much. And so I noticed that a lot of the old songs from the 70s were being re-recorded and I got really anxious every time a girl would record an album I'd go "please don't do IHLY" (laughs). And so when this album was being put together I thought it would be really nice if I could do it again. So I mentioned it to Tony Brown and he liked the idea and I approached David Foster, who I'd talked about this with a long time ago and he'd said he would. And then just my luck he ran into Babyface at a party and asked him would he'd do the vocal backing and he agreed and turned up even. And so I got this really fresh, new sound for the song. So that was the reason I did IHLY and it was not intended for a single it was like a closing track for the album. But it ended up as a single; it was the first track we cut as well. It's really hard for me to pick favourite tracks because I love this album so much. I'd have to pick Fight For Our Love as one of them because I wanted to do a 50s country song. I'd started the song and then Victoria Shaw and I wrote the song together. I really like the way this one turned out it's got kind of a 50s 90s country feel. I love Spinning His Wheels, the one I wrote with Gary Burr, for its simplicity and for its message. I think a lot of women can relate to Spinning His Wheels. John Farrar songs are always great, so both of his songs are great. I've forgotten the title of it (sings a bit) Under My Skin has a really great edge to it. It was really fun for me to sing a song with a little bit of a rock edge to it. He always writes things that are interesting for me and always quite rangy and hard to sing but they're fun. Of course I love IHLY. I love Back With A Heart because it's the title track and it's a really positive song somebody on the mend, which I feel I was as I was writing this album. This album kinda follows me through a lot of different times in my life, I understand that for a lot of people they are just songs, but for me they do follow different areas. Attention is a song that I wrote at the castle about 3 years ago in France. Miles Copeland has a castle there and songwriters go and get teamed up with people they've not necessarily ever met before. The first writing session I had was with Gary Burr I didn't know he was such a famous writer, thank goodness cause if I'd known I probably wouldn't been able to say a thing to him. But this one Attention I wrote with Annie Roboff and Steve Seskin and it was kinda of how I was feeling at that time. I've come a long way since that song was written. But I like all the songs on this album so it's hard for me to pick a favourite. Love Is A Gift is off the soap opera As The World Turns. Victoria Shaw and I wrote that for the soap opera. It's a wedding song if you listen to it it's really romantic. That turned out really nice. Tony Brown produced it.
What are your expectations for Back With A Heart?
I try not to have too many expectations because I think that life never usually lives up to it. I've enjoyed the process. Of course it'd be great I'd love it to be very successful. I want people to enjoy it. I hope it does really well.
Have you ever considered recording songs in different languages for the international market?
I actually have recorded songs in other languages over the years. I've sung in Japanese, I've sung in French, I've sung in German. I've sung in quite a few languages. For this one I haven't thought of it yet. But I have done that.
What do you think about time passing and getting older? Do you have a special fitness regime you can share?
I feel very fortunate to be here. A lot of people freak out at turning 50 and some people freak out at turning 40 and some freak out at turning 30. It depends on where you are in your life and what's going on. I remember when I was turning 40 it was "oh my god", you know it was a big deal. And then the last 10 years I've been through a lot of things so for me turning 50 is a gift. It's how lucky I am to get there. It's just the way you think about things that changes your perception. So now I'm really just happy to make 50 and to be healthy. I stay healthy I eat well but I always did, I don't drink I don't smoke. I try to have fun, I run on the beach, go to the gym. I'm not fanatical about it but I'm conscious.
With your enormous career, what are some of the highlights for you?
Wow I've had the most amazing career and I've had some incredible highlights. I would say the first time that you hear your song on the radio somewhere is exciting. I was driving in America and I heard one of my country songs over the radio that was exciting. The first time I won a music award, it might have been a Grammy, I was on a bus with my band just driving around America working at school college campuses. Receiving my OBE from the Queen of England at Buckingham Place was exciting. Grease was incredible of course, the whole phenomena with the album being such a smash and the film. Dancing with Gene Kelly as well as getting to sing with him, being choreographed by him that was an amazing experience that not many people have had. What else have I done? Singing with Cliff Richard who started me off in my career in England. I recently did a tour with him again in Australia. That was fun. I've had lots, of course I can't remember them any more but I've had lots.
Do you remember you first performance on stage? Where was it, what song did you sing, what were your emotions?
The first time I performed on stage that I remember was in a coffee lounge in Melbourne when I was 15 years old. My sister was married to a man who owned this little restaurant and there was a folk singer that came in on the weekends. I used to sit at his feet and sing harmonies, in the end he invited me up on stage. So then it became a regular thing on Saturday night I'd sing with him. He taught me a few chords on the guitar the only ones I still remember. I think that was the first time I was kinda on my own up on the stage that I remember. Before that I was in a girl group, there was four of us altogether. We used to sing traditional jazz which the popular thing in those days. You're either a rocker or a jazzer in Australia and I was a jazzer. But my mom stopped me doing it because I wasn't doing my homework but I was allowed to go to this coffee lounge as my sister was there. Somebody heard me sing and suggested I went into this talent contest and I won this talent contest and that's how I started.
Do you think your daughter wants to be in show business? If so, do you have any advice for her?
I think my daughter is probably going to be in show business. Although the other day when she was asked she said she wanted to be a vet. Whatever she wants to do I'll encourage her. She's a very talented little actress and a mimic and has a really pretty voice. If she wants to be in showbusiness I'll encourage her. I'd like her to finish school of course and get an education but that's what they wanted for me too! So we'll see what happens.
With thanks to Jim Roy