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BWW Interview: Linda Eder on Heading Back to Feinstein's/54 Below and More - Would She Return to Broadway?

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BWW Interview: Linda Eder on Heading Back to Feinstein's/54 Below and More - Would She Return to Broadway?

Linda Eder indisputably has one of the greatest voices of our time. As a masterful interpreter of song with an awe-inspiring belt, Eder - who was launched into Broadway fame originating the role of Lucy in Jekyll & Hyde - has recorded an incredible 17 solo albums, and has been wowing audiences from concert stages since she began performing professionally at 19.

After gracing the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below in December 2019, Eder is back for the new year, returning to Feinstein's/54 Below to dazzle audiences for three performances in March! Eder spoke to me about the process of putting together her shows, her relationship with her passionate fan base, what she's surprisingly shy about, and if she'll ever come back to Broadway.


You just recently performed at Feinstein's/54 Below in December, what is it about that space that keeps bringing you back?

I don't know, you'd have to ask them! They keep asking me to come back! [laughs] Well, it's a great room. It has really good energy and the food is really good. There are just two small cabaret style rooms that I play and they both happen to be affiliated with Michael Feinstein and one is here in Manhattan, and the other is in San Francisco at the Nikko. And those are pretty much the only rooms that I play like that. I've been asked to play other rooms in Manhattan similar to that, but I don't because I stay loyal to that one room.

How do you build a show like this one? How do you go about picking the songs that you want to sing?

Well, you know, a lot of people who play rooms like this in Manhattan, and coming from the theater, they're very much cabaret artists, they kind of pick a theme and they'll tailor the whole show around that theme. But, I'm not a cabaret artist, I don't consider myself that. That's a craft in and of itself. I'm just a concert performer. That's what I've done all my life. I may have elements that are cabaret, and some stories and things like that, but I'm really just known as a concert singer and have these different albums. So, people know 'my' songs. I always have to do a certain number of 'my' songs that they consider my standards, that if I don't do them... that's always my fine dance that I have to work out because obviously I'm always wanting to do new things and learn new things. But when you become associated with certain, I guess you could call them 'your hits', you sort of have to do a number of them, otherwise you're going to disappoint a section of your audience. And then there are people in the audience who, like me, want to have some new things. So, I change it up. Sometimes it's based on whatever the latest album I'll have put out is. Then several songs from that will come into the show... I didn't put out an album last year, the latest one came out the year before. That's been the driving force of the show for a while, and I'll still be keeping some of the songs in... It's a combination. I go back and I pull out some songs from my past, because like I said, I've been doing this for a long time! I have a lot of songs I've recorded over the years and sung in shows, so I can go back and take some of those and then add some new things as well.

How do you know when a new song is the right song to add to your show?

Well, that's something that obviously the audience will give you the ultimate answer. I've been doing this long enough that I kind of know what works for me and what doesn't. What song I think I could take and make a little bit mine by doing my thing to it. Lyrics are important to me more now than they ever used to be. As you get older you live more life and you think about the lyrics more. So, it's really that. I really rely on just my experience of all these years of singing and knowing what works for me. What feels good in my voice and what emotionally feels good to me.

Your last album, If You See Me was released in 2018 and featured standards and Broadway hits. Where would you like to go on your next album?

Well, I have a couple in mind. Actually three, three different projects that I've been working on. One of them I don't want to talk about because I may or may not do it, going back to the question of 'Does it work for me?' So, if I do that album it will be sort of a surprise, I'll announce when it's coming out and when it's done. BWW Interview: Linda Eder on Heading Back to Feinstein's/54 Below and More - Would She Return to Broadway? Another is, I like jazz more and more as I get older. I think I'm learning more and more how to be jazzier and how to sing jazz. Jazz to me always felt very - I was always intimidated by how personal it was. To feel confident, to take a melody and put more of a twist on it, put more of a turn with the runs and the phrasing, to be a little jazzier, to me that always felt like exposing myself because I was always really shy! I could hear the runs in my head, but it made me shy to think about doing them. But as I get older, I just like that more and more. And I play with some of the best jazz musicians in the world. For instance, David Finck, who's been my bass player all these years, is one of the best jazz bass players in the world. I really, really enjoy that. It's time to make a little bit more of a jazzier kind of an album, so that's something I've been slowly working on. And then I also put an album out a few years back called Retro, which was songs that, I've done so many demos of these great songs over the years that Frank [Wildhorn] had written for me that never made it into a show or never made it onto an album, but I have all these songs, and that album did really well. And I called it Volume 1 because there's a lot of material there, so I'm thinking about putting out Volume 2.

Is there a song you want to sing that you haven't had the chance to sing yet? What do you need before you can sing it?

Well, it's funny...when it came time to make my last record I actually asked fans to help me make the decision because I wanted to do songs that I knew they wanted to hear. I asked them to send in their favorites and then we calculated all the results. And songs like 'As If We Never Said Goodbye', that was the number one choice, so that's why that's on the record. Over half the material were fan picks. They give me good ideas. Because when you've been doing this business for this long, it's sometimes not even my primary focus anymore. I'm a horse person, I spent twenty-something years away from my house too much because you're just traveling all the time, and I'm a homebody to begin with, so I'm catching up and enjoying being home. And sometimes it takes work for me to sit down and say 'I've got to do some work, I have to work on music' or even just putting this new show together, I literally have to force myself to come in and sit down at the piano and work out the keys for certain songs that I want to give to my musical arranger. This is work for me nowadays. I need impetus to get me moving on that, and that's why turning to the fans for help was a good thing, because they gave me great ideas and took some of the workload off me.

Your son Jake wrote a song for you on your last album, has he written any other songs for you since then?

Not for me, but he's going fully into music and he's incredibly talented. It's not something that we pushed or even encouraged. But he's just so naturally gifted in writing, he writes the music, he writes the lyrics he plays the instruments, and his voice is amazing even though he's only been singing for a few years, and I know what voices are like, and it will just continue to grow... So, he writes a lot, and he's recording all the time. But that particular song came about just because he was playing the piano, and he wrote the melody, but he wrote it for himself. He never wrote a lyric to it and I asked him if I could have it, and then I flipped it all around and made the verse the chorus and the chorus the verse. And then I wrote a bridge musically and then I put lyrics to it. That really, truly was a collaboration for the two of us! And I was nervous but happy to play it for him when it was finished. I didn't let him hear anything until it was completely finished. It was great to see him smile, and to know that he actually really enjoyed what I had done because, as I said, he is very musically talented, and being so he's already very opinionated about music!

What is your vocal training regimen?

BWW Interview: Linda Eder on Heading Back to Feinstein's/54 Below and More - Would She Return to Broadway? I do everything you shouldn't do! Basically, I'm self-taught. And of course, I sang all the time when I was young and was building my voice up, and then I was always working solidly. But I have to force myself, the same way I have to come in to work, I have to force myself when I'm not doing shows because I don't want to do as many shows any more. I do relatively few throughout the course of the year. I almost have to remind myself to sing. Because it is a muscle. But like I said, I've been doing this since I was 19 years old, I'll be turning 59 in February. That's a long time already singing, and I have so many things that distract me. But the physical joy of singing is still there. I just have to make sure that I'm alone because I still to this day don't like it if anyone can hear me singing and warming up! I know it's so stupid, but I was always very shy about it. I could sing onstage, I could sing in the studio, but I couldn't stand up in someone's living room and sing. If people can hear me even to this day when I'm trying to warm up in my dressing room I don't like it. I really can't warm up in hotels which is hard because I walk down the hallways of hotels and I hear other people singing, warming up in their rooms and I get embarrassed for them, so it's a bizarre thing. Right now my kid's around too much, he has a big, huge studio above and he's always up there working, and I'm worried he'll hear me, so then I'm thinking 'You have to get out of the house now so I can sing!' [laughs] ... And I take good care of myself in general, physically. I'm not a drinker really, I certainly have never smoked, I don't do anything that would really harm a voice... The one thing that's different now as I'm older is I just spend a lot more time warming up, and I warm up really slowly, and I start to prep myself early in the day, make sure that I've drunk water early in the day because later on it's not going to do any good.

You have a very passionate fan base, a lot of whom became your fans during Jekyll & Hyde. What would it take for you to come back to Broadway?

Well, I've been asked quite a bit lately. And someone just asked me again, they were just going to give me the lead in, it wasn't a Broadway thing, but it was a pretty big thing that they wanted me to do, and I was so flattered but I just don't want to do it because eight shows a week has never been good for my voice. I'm a big, full-on belter. I don't mix the high belt notes the way really trained Broadway singers do, and their voices are wonderful, and they can really survive eight shows, but it's not necessarily what gives people the goose bump factor. When someone knows you have that big belt, that's what they're waiting for. And if I were to go up there and not do it, they would be disappointed because they know it's in there. So, every night I was out there belting the top of my head off and it's very hard on your voice. And because I want to be able to keep working... I love the amount that I work now. I have plenty of time to be home and catch up on all the things I've wanted to do in my life, but I still work enough to satisfy the creative side of me and get that audience feedback, which obviously has fed me my whole life. And that really is the reason, it's just too hard on my voice. I think if I were to do it, it might damage it in a way that I wouldn't be able to continue singing until I'm too old to want to do it, you know?... It's sad because I miss it, I miss the camaraderie, but again, I don't like doing things eight times a week, and I don't like being in it for that long cause I get bored. I'm a creator, and I've always been artistic. Whether it's art, writing or music, I like to create things. And that's the real fun of it. So once something is set, it just keeps running, running, running, and that part was really hard for me. It was actually hard for me to keep doing the show every night. I loved hanging out with the people every night! That for me was the fun of it! Not actually the being on the stage part, because I had a lifetime of concertizing and being center stage all my life, so I wasn't craving that. Yes, it was nice, but I really just liked playing with everybody.


Don't miss the chance to see the inimitable Linda Eder at Feinstein's/54 Below on March 5th, 6th, and 7th. For more information visit: https://54below.com/events/linda-eder-4/

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos


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