Talks with Donna Lewis

 

Donna Lewis
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In the Pink

 

Now in a Minute

 

Blue Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CEV:  What kind of musical foundation did your classical training at the Welsh College of Music and Drama provide for you at the beginning of this journey?

DL:  Although my training was classical, the tutors were very open to creativity.

Part of my course was composition so I was able to experiment with string arrangements which I loved and was encouraged to explore all genres of music.

I had my first experience singing in a recording studio at the college and the discipline of daily practice and rehearsal time with various musicians was a wonderful foundation.   

CEV:  Were you pretty certain of where you were going with your career during your college days or did that come later?

DL:  I always knew that songwriting and performing was something I wanted to do but it wasn’t until the end of my teachers training year that I was certain.

CEV:  How important was it to you that you got out and performed with local bands and toured around Britain and Europe?  Did this “real life” experience with your music in the clubs change your approach to your songwriting or your singing style? If so In what ways?

DL:  Performing with local bands was a great apprenticeship

I learned what professionalism was all about and it gave me confidence as a singer but it was performing solo in the piano bars in Europe that brought out my individual style as I was able to try out my original songs mixed in with covers. 

CEV:  You also set up a home studio back then. Was this typical for singers like you just starting out and what did this exposure to recording yourself give you in regards to what you could and could not do with your music?

DL:  I don't know whether this was typical for singers but as soon as I started working with a little 4 track and a drum machine and sounds I fell in love with the whole creative process.

Even though I only had a 4 track I pushed the limits extensively creating layered vocals which became a big part of my sound.

CEV:  Could you compare what you were able to do back in the early 90’s in a home studio to what someone starting out can do in 2008. Do you think these new capabilities for recording yourself at home with some pretty high fidelity give singers a head start over what you could do back then?

DL:  Of course the quality you can achieve these days with a home studio is far superior but I think as a singer recording myself in the late 80's and 90's it was all about the performance and getting it right in one take or two. There was no auto tune or anything to make it easier. I used to bounce down a bunch of backing vocals at the same time as recording  my lead vocal. These days you could get away with not actually being able to sing that well.

CEV:  How much of your work that you do now do you do at home as compared to going to an actually studio and laying down tracks with an engineer? Having had some home studio experience does it make it easier for you to step into the studio and communicate just what you want to achieve with your songs?

DL:  I always record my demos at home and also most of my vocals for my own record but I enjoy going into the studio to record certain instruments like drums or a string section.

I wouldn’t say it's any easier having the home studio experience as I can still get indecisive and struggle at times to get what I hear in my head.

CEV:  Tell me about your experience with Doug Morris of Atlantic Records. Did that come right out of the blue and were you surprised when you were offered a contract?

DL:  It did come out of the blue actually.

After years of trying to get a record deal in England Jen Stark, A&R at Atlantic got hold of my music and played I Love You Always Forever to Doug Morris and they wanted to meet me in New York.

I played for Doug at the piano and he offered me a contract there and then. It was very surreal but a dream come true nevertheless!!

CEV:  Was your debut CD, Now in a Minute, music that you had already written or did you start from scratch once you got the contract from Atlantic?

DL:  Most of those songs were already written apart from one.

CEV:  Were you expecting the reception that you got for the single I Love You Always Forever? What were your feelings when you realized that everyone “got” your music and couldn’t get enough of it?

DL:  Even though i knew I Love You Always Forever was a magical little song I never dreamed it would take off like it did.

I was over the moon seeing this'' nursery rhyme'' song of mine climb the charts all over the world. I was in a thrilled daze!!

CEV:  Was your follow up CD Blue Planet easier or harder to write with the success that you had experienced with your debut release?

DL:  Blue Planet was a joy to write because I had spent so much time promoting now in a minute, I was so excited about a new record and i couldn’t wait to get these new songs recorded

CEV:  I know that you have done work with other producers and for other projects besides your own releases. Tell me about some of those other projects that you are particularly proud of and the ones that you had the most fun working on?

DL:   It was great to work with Trevor Horn on the Art of Noise project  because it was so relaxed recording in my studio in Dublin and at his home in England. He was very open to all my vocal ideas and of course he was one of my all time favourite producers.

I had so much fun working with the Bustin’ Loose guys or ''souled out ''as they call themselves. Working in Naples with them was such joy. We worked so well together, made great music and they were great hosts as well.

I really love the song'' should I'' that I wrote with David Torn....he's a genius!

CEV:   Just a few months ago you released In the Pink which is your first studio album in a decade. First off where have you been for the last 10 years and how was it that you kept yourself musically informed of what was happening during your time off?

DL:  During the past 10 years as you know Blue Planet was released, then I left Atlantic and for a while I was enjoying collaborating with other musicians.

I then released an acoustic album only available on my website for the fans that truly loved my intimate piano/vocal songs.

After having a child I decided to take some time off  even though I was still writing and thinking about another record I didn’t want to rush into it.

I don't really keep myself musically informed. I listen to a lot of music but I end up writing whatever  feels right at the time.

CEV:  Did you continue to write during your hiatus and record in your home studio even though you weren’t going to be releasing anything for awhile?

DL:  Yes

CEV:  Did you have an idea of when you were going to return to your musical career and when did you start working towards seriously putting out your next release which became In the Pink?

DL:  I never thought it would be for long but being a mum just took over for a while. It's been amazing!

I think it was meeting Gerry Leonard again and playing him the songs discussing how to finish the record that got us in serious work mode.

He had a couple of months off from touring and we had to get everything recorded in that time.

CEV:  After 10 years off what can fans expect from Donna Lewis on the In the Pink CD? Have you evolved from the sound you had back in the 90’s to something that suits you in 2008?

DL:  I think so. Back then I was obsessed with sequencers and layers of keyboards.

In the Pink has a more organic sound with acoustic guitars and an electronic vibe but it still maintains an ethereal atmospheric sound.

CEV:  With the internet being so handy in terms of communications have you been able to stay in touch with your fans during the last 10 years?

DL:  Yes

CEV:  Ten years is a long time to be away from the music business. Are you worried that will have to start over in some sense and win back your fans who have moved on to the latest singer/songwriters?

DL:  Maybe but all i can do is what's right for me now. I needed to be a stay at home mum and now I have an album I'm proud of. Hopefully, along with the old fans the music will attract new ones.

CEV:  I was also interested to see that you had also surfaced as a vocalist on a Ryan Farish release on a song called Dancing Angel. Could you tell me how this collaboration came about and how you and Ryan worked together to get the song so that both of you were happy with the results?

DL:  Ryan emailed me a few times a while back about working together. Eventually we talked about what kind of track we wanted to write. He asked about the music I was into at that time and he sent me this amazing instrumental track which totally inspired me.

I began writing lyrics and getting some ideas and then recorded a bunch of vocals here and sent him a pro tools file and he loved it!

We made some adjustments over a couple of weeks and we're both delighted with our first song together and we're working on more. We hope to actually meet soon!

CEV:  Do you enjoy working with other artists and producers on projects other than your own? Do you seek them out or do they just seem to find you?

DL:  I do. It's a nice change from your own work at times. I'm less obsessed!

They seem to find me at the moment.

CEV:  Looking back on your career from your current perspective are you happy with how it has gone so far and what are your hopes for the future as you look at what you ‘d like to do with your music in the coming years?

DL:  I feel very lucky to have had that successful album and I've enjoyed the whole process. For the future I'd like to be able to do a lot more live work with the band and keep working on interesting projects  

CEV:  Will you be going out on the road in support of In the Pink and if so how can fans find out where they can go out and see you live?

DL:  I'd love to!

We've rehearsed a bunch of times and the band sound great. We're working on it and we'll let the fans know through the website when that may happen.

CEV:  Any final thoughts you’d like to share with your fans?

DL:  Just to say thank you, thank you for still being there for me!

Knowing that my music still inspires and brings emotion makes me feel I'm doing something right.

Hope to see you all out there sometime!

CEV:  Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Cutting Edge Voices and we wish you a lot of success on your future projects as well.