An interview with Linda Eder

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by Amber Morrison

I must confess that I am a music snob.  I own thousand's of cd's, dozens of vinyl records, and know the lyrics to hundreds of songs.  If there were a lip sync battle at a local club I believe I would win hands down.  What most people don't realize is that I was in the music industry for a long time.  I started writing lyrics when I was ten, taught myself to play the drums, worked as roadie for regional bands, and worked my butt off to become a stage manager.  I was also offered a songwriting contract in 2004 that I turned down for reasons that are a whole different story.

The point is, I am picky when it comes to the music that I listen to, but if I'm a fan of someone it's for good reason.  I always take suggestions of people or bands to listen to from friends and when one of my gay friends suggested I listen to a woman named Linda Eder, I did so not expecting much because, again, I'm picky.  But, man can this woman sing.  Her voice is pure, authentic, and the octaves she can hit are amazing.  So when I was determined to get an interview with her I didn't care if it was by phone or by email, I just wanted to pick this woman's brain and find out more about her musical background and what makes her so unique in the world of music today.  I wasn't disappointed by her answers. 

As a music snob I always want to know what songs people would pick if they could only listen to those songs for the rest of their lives.  Eder has over 200 hundred songs to her name and if I could only listen to 10 of her songs for the rest of my life there's no way I could narrow it down.  All of her songs are that good, that emotional, and that amazing.  So, what were Eder's choices?  “That is always a hard one.  I go in streaks and listen to one artist over and over until I can't listen anymore and then I move on to the next one for a while.  I think I would pick several instrumentals.  I love orchestral pieces.  There is nothing like a gorgeous orchestra,”  she says.  But, she did name some people who are great artists and entertainers as her favorites including, “Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Gavin DeGraw, Alison Krauss, Sarah Bareilles, Pink…to name just a few.”

Having recorded over 200 songs and numerous albums.  I was curious how Eder picks her songs for her sets each concert.  She says, “Planning sets is never easy because I have to do three things…plan for a new listener, satisfy an established listener, and please myself.  These three goals are always at war.  Like any performer who has had success and has been performing for a long time, you have songs that  you have become known for and I always have to keep a certain number of those songs in the set.  A concert is usually about 21 songs long so that doesn't always leave a lot of slots to fill when I have plugged in the “standards.”  Some fans want to hear the same songs all the time and some want new songs.  I know that I can never satisfy everyone, but I try to do as much as I can and still make it fun for me.”

A typical performance day for Eder isn't as glamorous as one might think. She says, “…I don't want to do anything to strenuous.  I don't want to eat something rich or exotic or filing.  I try to fly on the day before the show because over the years I have noticed that air travel is not that good for the vocal chords.  I need to drink a lot starting in the morning and that can mean multiple trips to the bathroom, something that is not always convenient on an airplane.  Mostly I drink water and slowly warm my voice up throughout the whole day.  People always comment that I never drink during the show.  That is because it does no good by that point.  You have to be internally hydrated before you ever hit the stage.” 

Eder's version of Bridge Over Trouble Water is an amazing work of art to listen to and it brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it.  Eder did an entire album of cover's called “Soundtrack” and her version of some of the covers are better than the originals.  I was curious if people suggested songs that she should cover or if she picks them out herself.  “Yes, people suggest songs all the time.  Usually it is just their favorite song and not because they actually thought about whether it would be right for me.  I love to sing other artist's music but when it comes to adding it to my show or recording it, then I have to consider two things.  Can I bring something to it?  Is it a lyric that fits “me” with a story I want to tell.” 

Every artist has defining moments in their career and Eder is no different.  Hers start with family and ends -thus far- with her stint on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde.  “If my parents had moved back to Europe after I was born.  I am first generation and my dad was only planning to stay in America for a certain length of time.  They ended of staying  Meeting my friend in high school choir who played piano and starting an act together.  Winning Star Search (think American Idol without the condescending comments for those who aren't old enough to remember).  Meeting Frank Wildhorn (who has written many songs for her and is the genius behind the Broadway show that starred Eder, Jekyll & Hyde).  My first record deal.  Opening on Broadway.” These are just a few of the defining moments in a long illustrious career.  

Eder is also a heck of a songwriter herself.  Her single, Waiting for the Fall is one of my favorites off of her “The Other Side of Me” album.  Why-in the 200 plus songs Eder has performed and recorded have there not been more of her original songs?  “ I write mostly pop/country and that doesn't fit with my known audience.  I have to split myself in order to do both.  But, I enjoy it and I continue to write and am planning to release some more of my songs in 2018 as part of a project I have been working on.”

Eder has in her past few albums taken the lead in producing the albums herself.  I wanted to know if this led to more creativity and freedom or if it caused more headaches.  “I have become a complete control freak and I love the freedom recording my own records gives me.  I have three cd's now and am working on a fourth.  It was nerve wracking at first, but it truly did bring back the fun.  Flying by the seat of your pants is exhilarating!”

As if flying throughout the country and recording albums wasn't enough, Eder has started offering Master Vocal classes to students.  She often gives credit to her high school choir teacher for getting her to be less shy with singing and showcasing her amazing vocal talent.  I wanted to know if she found herself handing down the same lessons she learned and what advice she gives to her students who want to make it in the music industry.  “I do find myself passing along some of the things my choir teacher said to me.  Life has a way of coming full circle.  As for getting into the business, the number one thing I tell them is that if it is not an all consuming passion then don't do it.  Find your passion.  If it is your passion then go for it no matter what anyone else says, but if you also have other interests and talents then develop them at the same time because 10 years from now or sooner,  your passion can change.  It's a tough business and you have to be able to feed yourself.” 

Eder is, as I've been told by my gay friend who suggested I listen to her music, a huge hit with the LGBT crowd.  Gay men in particular flock to her shows and she is often backed by the Gay Men's Chorus throughout various cities in the U.S.  So what is her appeal to the LGBT community?  “People ask all the time why my music appeals to the gay community.  I say 'I have no idea, but if it didn't then I am doing something wrong'…and I don't analyze it.  I am just very grateful for it.”

My mom and I have a tradition that typically occurs around Thanksgiving each year.  My mom asks to “borrow” my two Eder Christmas cd's so she can start her yearly Christmas tradition of listening to Christmas music and becoming our family's Clark Griswold.  This year she was too sick to carry on the tradition so I took over the tradition for her.  I played Eder's cd's and I put my tree up early.  I decorated my mom's house to the best of my ability and I tried my best to put my mom in the Christmas spirit.  Eder's music will always connect a melody with a memory each year around Thanksgiving until well into the new year.  For that I'm thankful.  When I told Eder this she responded with something that I wanted to share because it is the true reason I'm a music snob and why Eder is on my list of top artists I love.  She does it for the music.   Not the fame or fortune.   She said, “There is no greater purpose for music than to help us in our darkest, loneliest, most painful moments.  There is no better compliment that I can receive than to know that my music has helped someone in some way.  It makes me feel like no matter what…I might have done a little bit of good in the world.”