BWW Interview: Dynamic Irish Actress and Singer, Maxine Linehan, on Her Return to Feinstein's/54 Below & the Transformative Influence of U2
Dynamic Irish actress and singer, Maxine Linehan, will be playing the final performance of her hit show, ONE: The Songs of U2 to Feinstein's/54 Below this Friday, October 13th. Influenced by the band's iconic and poignant sounds, Linehan will be exploring their work in a fresh and enlightening way. Audiences will certainly be in for a treat, as this talented and innovative artist brings the sounds of rock n' roll to New York's most beloved Broadway supper club.
BroadwayWorld had the incredible opportunity to chat with Linehan before Friday evening's performance about the influence of this legendary band; connecting with audiences in a deep and powerful way; and her upcoming musical endeavors!
Your show explores the songs of one of the most legendary bands on the planet: U2. Can you talk about this iconic group's influence on you and your career?
We opened it last month and we're thrilled at the response. It different, as someone said, "You don't often hear rock 'n' roll reverberating off the walls at 54 Below!" (laughs) - so it's a different show and I couldn't be more excited to be back this Friday!
I grew up in Ireland, so U2 has been part of our culture for four decades now. The fact is and it's interesting - I wasn't a huge, huge fan back in the '80's and '90's - I loved their music and listened to them, as everyone did, but I started to see them perform live and every time I went to a concert, fell more in love with the music and the live performances. They are famous for what they do in stadiums - - they are electrifying. I felt a strong connection listening to the different interpretation of the songs, as a performer.
There was a really big change a few years ago when I recorded my first song. I did a cover of "One" - a very famous U2 song, that I put on my album called Beautiful Songs, because I consider it to be one of most beautiful songs of contemporary music. I was hooked from there, because the response from listeners to this very famous rock song done in a much more delicate, musical style was really astonishing. I had people come up to me and ask where the song came from and did I write it? I would respond, of course, with "I wish I wrote that song!" The concerts I've done over the last five or six years, I've always found a U2 song that fits the show, which eventually lead to me wanting to explore the whole songbook and find a full show that was personal to me and take the songs with the deepest meaning and present them to audiences. It's been a real labor of love and something I've developed an intense passion for, which I think makes the show so powerful.
Why is it so special to perform at a beloved venue like Feinstein's/54 Below?
The venue itself is one of my favorites in New York. I've had the great pleasure of performing at Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Birdland, lots of really iconic venues, but 54 Below combines some really wonderful elements. It's the intimate space of having people so close when you are performing music that's so meaningful and moving.
They do such an incredible job there, with sounds and lighting - it's such a special place with a lot of history. For me, bringing music that's not Broadway to a Broadway supper club is really exciting and quite nerve racking. I've become well known for singing The Great American Songbook, so getting to sing a complete different genre is quite a big risk, but am happy to say it's paid off!
How do you hope audiences will respond to your song choices and think about these hits in a new way?
It's very important for me to personally engage in the lyrics of a song - - I need to go to a very deep and emotional place. That has helped me to choose songs from a vast catalog of U2 songs and then put them in the context of my life and my experiences. To be able to take an incredibly famous song from The Joshua Tree and explain why Bono wrote that song and what it's about and then place it in the context of my life gives the audience a really personal experience. Audiences come on the journey with me and understand why I'm singing that song. It's an emotional roller coaster and there's a lot of deeply sad moments, but it's cathartic for people to feel those emotions.
For people to hear the songs - - whether their lifelong U2 fans or never have heard the music before, their enthralled by this music. I've had people who have been fans for years look at songs in a new way and others who haven't heard the music discover some of their new favorite songs. When you get feedback like that, you know that you are on the right track!
You also count Petula Clark as a major musical influence, with your 2011 album What Would Petula Do? Can you talk about that inspiration?
That's one of my other big solo concerts and we've had great success with that. What I do with all of my tribute shows - they are interpretations of songbook, versus impersonations of the artists. It began with Petula long ago, because she was my mother's favorite singer. I was growing up and always listening to her music. She's famous for her song, "Downtown" but Petula's career has spanned seven decades. She's done everything from Hollywood movie roles opposite Fred Astaire to record breaking runs as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and a lot of that is new information when you bring it to audiences. I've had a wonderful time exploring her career and performing that concert.
We actually have a new album coming out in Spring 2018, which is the same album, What Would Petula Do? live from the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris where we performed last year with a 16-piece orchestra - a city where she is a beloved National Treasure. I experience great joy from going back and finding amazing inspiration from these artists and their work.
Who are some of the other artists you'd like to explore? Any dreams you could share, regarding your future musical endeavors?
Funnily enough, in the last couple of months, I've really wanted to start to find my own voice in song and it's something that's been a longtime dream of mine to write my own material and my music, but you have to be at the right place in your life and musical career to be able to come up with the subjects and then the songs. I've very excited, starting next month, I will be teaming up with a number of wonderful writers to start working on my own material. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it and taking that next step!
Catch Maxine at Feinstein's/54 Below on Friday, October 13th at 9:30 p.m. For more info and to order tickets, visit: https://54below.com/events/maxine-linehans-one-songs-u2/
Photo by: Emma Meade