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INTERVIEW: LEE AARON – September 2019

| 17 September 2019 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “On September 20th, multi-platinum Canadian music icon Lee Aaron will release her first official live album, Power, Soul, and Rock N’ Roll – Live in Germany via Metalville Records. The album will be available as a special CD/DVD set as well as on all digital platforms. And now, Lee Aaron reveals a special trailer for the album, which can be seen on her official YouTube channel. Power, Soul, and Rock N’ Roll – Live in Germany is the concert experience Lee Aaron fans have been waiting for and proves, without a doubt, that Lee Aaron is still very much at the top of her game and, undeniably, one of the world’s greatest rock vocalists.” We spoke with Lee about the live collection, new music, and much more…

Toddstar: Lee Aaron, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for us. We really appreciate it.

Lee: No problem. I’m looking forward to talking to you.

Toddstar: Well, this is fun for me because I was able to interview you right around the time Fire and Gasoline was coming out and not too long ago I was trying to get an interview lined up with you before Roxodus, which never wound up getting off the ground up there around Toronto.

Lee: Yeah, there was a lot of disorganization. As it was coming into the 11th hour the bills weren’t getting paid and all kinds of crazy stuff before that actually went up in flames, right? I know that I had been approached by a publicist for Roxodus about doing interviews, but then nothing ever came down the pipe. So it was kind of weird.

Toddstar: Well, good news for anyone who enjoyed Fire And Gasoline and knows your catalog will be able to enjoy a brand new live set, Power, Soul, and Rock and Roll.

Lee: Actually, you’ve missed a studio album in there somewhere. In 2018 we put out Diamond Baby Blues as well. This live set came from that Fire And Gasoline tour, so it’s more relevant to talk about that.

Toddstar: Lee, what can you tell us about this album that your fans may or may not grab the first or second time they listen through the disc?

Lee: Well, it wasn’t like we went in thinking we were going to go to Europe and we’re going to make a live album, DVD compilation. The only thing that had transpired really was that I’d been in touch with a recording company in advance of Bang Your Head Festival who had come in with an offer to record audio and video for that one. I thought it would nice to have something live from that festival. So I had done a financial deal with them in advance for them to do the recordings, thinking that I would probably do something with it. I wasn’t sure what. And then while we were on tour that Summer in Europe, a smaller company showed up in Nuremberg while we were doing our sound check and said, “We record a lot of acts that come through here at Hearst Club and we’re not asking for anything. If you like it, we can work out some kind of deal.” We agreed to let them record the Nurnberg show and ironically in the end, the audio quality and some of the footage from Nuremberg was at least as good, if not better, than what we had done at Bang Your Head. We were sitting on two shows the following year – two fully audio and visual recorded shows from Europe – and we thought, , “What are we going to do with this?” That’s when we thought, “Well I’ve never actually had a live album.” At one point in time when I was on 10 Records, a subsidiary of Virgin. Unfortunately that label lasted only a couple of years. But at that time we had tried to record a live show, but then the label went under and with it the tapes went into some warehouse and it got lost forever. So I ended up never putting out a live album. So, it started out as an audio album. I had everything done and mixed by Christmas of last year, and Metalville approached us right away about that they thought it would be a good seller, they were very interested and they said, “You know, you add a DVD, they always sell better.” The idea was spurred to make a DVD out of it as well. I ended up hiring a guy who’s done a lot of work for Def Leppard named Frank Greiner here in Canada, and he put together the visual components. He pulled footage from both shows and put them together, and I’m really happy with what he did in the end. The only other thing I want people to know is that it’s not just a blast from the past. All along I knew that I wanted it to be half old and half new. I wanted people to be able to revisit the past through a new lens because we don’t play those songs exactly the same way with the new band they were played originally. I wanted it to include half new material because there is a new creative period in my life. We have a new studio album slated for next year that we’ve pretty much finished writing already. I just want people to know that I’m still vibrant, I’m still current, I’m still doing this, I’m still making new music.

Toddstar: You definitely are. I talked about Fire And Gasoline a little bit, you mentioned Diamond Baby Blues, and now you’re talking about new material that’s coming out in 2020. It seems like forever ago for some of us who listened to 2preciious and other projects; now you’re coming out just guns a blazing. What’s it like for you now in this second phase of your career to be putting out new material and not having to rely on a catalog to get you through?

Lee: The truth is I feel very blessed in a weird way to have the history that I do because new bands right now putting out new material are working for peanuts. Because of my history and my catalog, I’m actually able to get onto larger festivals, especially in Canada. I don’t tour the way that I used to. I’m not out there grinding it out six nights a week all year long. I accept selected shows throughout the year. I’ll go out and do a weekend here, a weekend there, a block of shows there, then I’ll take a few weeks off, then I’ll go out and do a little bit more. I’m very fortunate in that way. Because of my former notoriety and career, I have a platform to release new music, whereas if you’re a new band out of the gate, it’s much harder. I’m grateful for that. Truth be known, you can’t make any money making records anymore. The industry to support it is not there. People do not buy physical product the way that they used to. It’s a completely different world in the digital landscape of things. Am I making new music to make money? Absolutely not. Am I making new music because it’s fun and because I don’t have to worry about writing radio hits and being under the umbrella of a massive record label that’s your investor, putting tons of money into you, and controlling the artistic vision of where things go? I don’t have to live under that anymore. I can just make music because it’s fun and I can make the records I want to make, and I just think if I get excited by it and I think it’s pretty fucking cool, then it should resonate probably with somebody else too. That’s how I used to make records in the very beginning when I was like a teenager and I starting my career. We’d be working in the basement and we’d be like, “Aw man, we just wrote this riff, and it’s just really fricking cool.” You didn’t worry about whether it was going to be a radio hit or not, you just worried about whether your friends liked it. It’s kind of fun for me to be able to make music like that again with that as my inspiration. I’m not worried about having to please the radio gods.

Toddstar: Is that one of the bigger differences for you between when you were doing this in the 80’s and doing this now? Is not having to worry about what cable channel is going to run the video, what radio station is going to spin the single, and just getting out there and, for lack of better terminology, pimping the music yourself?

Lee: I’ve found it is helpful to have even a smaller label involved. We did this through Metalville because they have a built-in booking agency and a promotional network together. I did all of that myself on Fire And Gasoline where I hired independent promotional firms myself, and honestly it was a huge headache. It’s kind of nice to be plugged into a label that has access to some of those things. You still have to be willing to make the phone calls, to do the interviews, to accept the shows. It’s not a direct signing. I’ve licensed this album to Metalville – I’m still the mother label and I still have full artistic control over the creative work.

Toddstar: Do you like having that control more so now than back in the day when you were releasing albums when you were on Attic back in the 80’s and early 90’s? Is it a game changer now having the licensing and control over everything now?

Lee: It is a game changer. I can’t echo enough my sentiments about making music. I feel like I’m making music these days for all the right reasons. Not because I’m trying to make a corporation money. That’s kind of how it was. Back in the 80’s when people were sinking a half a million dollars into recording, producer, marketing, they were basically investing that amount of money in you. They were going to have a lot to say about how things went, who would be the producer. I remember when I did writing sessions, my co-writer at that time was John Albani. When we would write albums, we would come off the road for like six months to a year and just go into basically wood shed mode to come up with tunes for the new album. As we were being paid out of publishing money, so we would get a monthly salary to write songs for the label and every month we’d have to come into the label with demos and play them the demos so they could see how things were progressing while we were being paid our soon to be unrecouped advance from the label. We’d bring in songs and they’d go, “Well we like this one and that one’s okay, but,” and then they would play us like the latest Bon Jovi hit, or the latest this or that hit and go, “But you know, we’d really like to see you do something like this.” We were constantly being pulled in a lot of directions artistically because the suits didn’t really have artistic vision. They saw money. “This is a hit on the radio right now, can you write something like this?” We were constantly being pulled in directions like that, which didn’t really feel very good honestly, and it wasn’t always that motivating. Strangely enough, quite often what would happen is during those writing sessions of multiple months, we’d end up writing like four or five songs at the very beginning that were really cool, that we thought were really cool and inspiring, and then we’d get pulled in a million different directions, we’d write a bunch of crap for about six months, and then at the end of the writing sessions when we were sick and tired of trying to please them we’d go, “Oh, screw it, let’s just write what we want.” In the end, most of those albums are the first few songs we wrote and the last few songs that we wrote because they were the ones that sounded the most authentically Lee Aaron.

Toddstar: It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to write, if Lee Aaron is not writing it it’s not going to sound like Lee Aaron; it’s not going to have that passion and fire behind some of those classics that you did right for you. Back when you were doing previews for Fire And Gasoline, we talked a little bit about “Tomboy” and the fun you had doing that video because you did that with your daughter and her friends. Are you still the cool mom?

Lee: Back then when we did “Tomboy,” she was 10. She’s now turned 15 and it’s a whole different ball game. People warned me about this age. It’s like all of a sudden you’re not cool. Actually, I have to say that I am somewhat dealing with the moody teenager that selectively asks for my input or involvement because she’s figuring out who she is. But she does come to me once in a while. The other day, she asked me, “What do you think looks better, Mom? This or this for picture day?” And I went, “Wow, you’re actually asking me what looks better?” “I need your fashion advice.” So she’ll still come to me. So, just I’ve taken a step back. I try to be the cool mom. I try to be just open and available for her, and to just always be sending hopefully the right messages about life.

Toddstar: Lee, when’s the last time you were star struck? You’ve been at this a long time, met a lot of people, toured with a lot of people. When’s the last time you were kind of taken back and just in awe of somebody?

Lee: Well, I didn’t get to meet them personally, I just went to concerts. I recently saw Jack White in The Raconteurs, and Jack White just does it for me. I just love his bluesy influenced but totally eccentric and reckless way of approaching music. I’m kind of in awe of him because that’s exactly what I would like to do, and that’s what I’m trying to do with the band on this next record. The other time I was recently somewhat star struck was when I saw Mavis Staples at the Orpheum here in Vancouver, and I was in awe of this woman. She just had so much absolute command of her craft and of her audience. She was able to play music where everything was not etched in stone. She vamped out at the end of some songs and got the audience going, she got her band going, and she just had absolute command of her band, her craft, and her audience. She was incredible.

Toddstar: That’s one artist that I’ve never seen that would definitely be on my bucket list.

Lee: Mavis Staples? She’s incredible. I was blown away.

Toddstar: Conversely, how does it feel to you when you get somebody on the other side of the coin that is star struck when they approach you?

Lee: How do I explain it? It’s uncomfortable sometimes for me because I think of my musician self not as a star, or a rock star, I think of myself in terms of music craft more, and that that’s really only one side of who I am as a person. Does that make sense? I’m also a wife, I’m also a mother, I’m also a teacher. I work with exceptional children here in my local community. That’s my way of giving back, and I actually have quite a bit of training in that. I have a degree in that as well. And I work with kids with learning exceptionalities and gifted kids, and I teach them how to learn, and I really enjoy that part of my life. I do that when I’m not doing music. I think of myself in a weird way – just a regular person that happens to have a music career too. So when I’ve met people or run into people that are literally shaking when they meet me and I’m like, “Whoa, take a pill. Calm down.” You know? “It’s all good.”

Toddstar: I’d like to hit you with a question I’ve hit you with before. Are we ever going to get Lee Aaron in Detroit or even close?

Lee: I really wish I had a better answer for you. It’s complicated. It’s just, you know, you might be a fan, but that doesn’t mean that there’s 600 fans in Detroit that are there that will come and see me. An agent’s not going to bring you in unless they think they’re going to make money. I would love to make it there. I know that I am doing something coming up in 2021. I’m doing a Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2021 out of Fort Lauderdale. We just booked one of those and I’m like, “Okay, well at least it’s out of Fort Lauderdale, so it’s in the United States.” Touring for me right now is just made a lot more sense to go into the markets where I’m strong, which is central Europe and Canada. I know that even in my heyday because of political dealings with the record labels and whatnot, I never ended up with a proper release or a foothold in the States. So, it’s hard to get there. You have to go where your market is. To give you some background into my focus in the last few years… We were on the European tour in 2017 and we had an agent that wanted to bring us up to the UK, so he booked us a show in London and the place that he put us was this awkward venue called The Underground. It is poorly attended in the Summer because it’s so hot and it’s under this building. Classic Rock Magazine actually came and reviewed it and they said it was an excellent show, but like many shows that had run in that venue throughout the summer, it was poorly attended. I think we might’ve had 120 people. Because it was grueling to get on a plane, and come up there, and take different flights home and I said, “I don’t know why we did that? We should have waited and tried to get on a festival.” These days my modus operandi is wait two years and get on a Summer festival where I could be seen by 20,000 people, rather than go into a tiny, dark, damp little nightclub and barely break even. Usually festivals are very well advertised. There were a lot of people that didn’t even know we were playing there. I think there’s a better way to do it.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy and I know it’s late, but I’ve got one more for you if you don’t mind before we cut you loose. Again, you have Power, and Soul, and Rock and Roll coming out September 20th on Metalville Records. If somebody was to pick up this album and listen to one track, what in your mind would be the one track they should listen to that would grab them and compel them to listen to the rest of the disc?

Lee: I don’t know, particularly because there’s quite a wide range of my career on the 13 tracks. The track that I feel I’m particularly tickled with my own performance and the band’s performance is “I’m A Woman.” Metalville was asking for one live track a couple of years ago when they were doing a Best Of anniversary sampler for the label. I gave them that track, selected it from the live tracks that weren’t mixed yet, and I remember hearing it and getting chills thinking “Wow, we were really on fire that night.”

Toddstar: I’m going to recommend they listen top to bottom, but I wanted to know what you thought was going to be the one that would make them want to embrace the whole disc. I cannot thank you for the time once again. I can’t wait to wrap my head and ears around this album when it drops on the 20th and I look forward to new material from you in 2020.

Lee: Well, it was a pleasure talking to you again Todd.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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