Eleanor Fye Interview

Eleanor Fye Interview

Eleanor Fye Interview

Singer-songwriter Eleanor Fye seems to have nine musical lives-from cathedral to coffeehouse, recital hall to recording studio, jazz club to jam session-and has found her voice in the balance of all of them. Eleanor's music reflects a well-traveled soul that has been through the darkness and come out the other side with wisdom, a smile, and a kick in her step, ready for the next big adventure. There is nothing naïve in her optimism, just a down-to-earth radiance that is peaceful and self-assured. Her music both moves you and makes you want to move; you never have to wait long for an invitation to dance. The thirteen songs from her second studio recording, "Love Stays On," evoke a variety of emotions and environments, while her smooth and soulful voice fluidly streams through it all. One minute you're on a grand-piano concert stage, then in a tiny basement jazz club, then on a boat with the wind in your hair, next in a loft boudoir, then joining in a bucket-and-sticks front-porch jam session. Her work invites mentions of a certain British band (a solo trumpet line pays tribute to "Penny Lane"), or the pop/rock chanteuses of the early 70s, while effortlessly incorporating an eclectic array of styles-gypsy jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, zydeco, gospel, and folk.

Eleanor started piano lessons by age 7, and voice lessons at age 14 - and has been performing professionally since her teens. Moonlighting in music for years, she sang professionally for cathedral choirs, movie and videogame soundtracks and trailers ("Ghost Rider," "Halo3," "Age of Empires 2") and professional-level chamber ensembles from Austin (Conspirare) to Seattle (The Tudor Choir). She is one of the rare classically trained singers able to alternate easily between unaffected pillow-talk sultriness, power-ballad strength, and coloratura vocalise while still sounding like the same person. Her piano playing ranges from expansive jazz/rock percussiveness to smart-girl, indie-pop charm.

"Love Stays On" was recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles, with a crew of formidable players including gypsy jazz guitar greats John Jorgenson and Gonzalo Bergara and Nashville A-listers, bassist Michael Rhodes, drummer Marcus Finnie and cellist John Catchings. Jorgenson contributes a variety of beautiful guitar treatments, from the gypsy jazz he's most recently known for, to fingerstyle and acoustic country-pop on a few tracks, and his signature mandolin on the title track. Bergara brings his native lyricism to the song bearing his hometown's name, "Buenos Aires," adding guitar and bandoneon lines that put you right in the milonga with your legs entwined in a tango.

With "Love Stays On," Eleanor shows that, inscrutable as it may be, love has its way of freeing the will to let joy and inspiration rule. Her music is an adventure played out on the boats and beaches, the back porches and bedrooms of the heart. And long after she's left the stage, like another good creature with nine lives, she'll leave you with a smile.

Interview with Eleanor Fye

Question: How did it feel to hear your song played all over the airwaves?

Eleanor Fye: It feels great, especially when I notice that it has a little different feel and style than the stuff alongside it. It's exciting when people have heard it, too, and they quote my lyrics back to me. Very cool.

Question: Did you have any pre-conceived ideas about the music industry?

Eleanor Fye: I was mostly involved in the classical side of things for a long time, in a pretty esoteric area (in early music and church music). One of the prevailing attitudes was that people in popular music were not "real" musicians or that they were not as good somehow as classical musicians. I think people don't always have time to listen or read beyond the bounds of their expertise. So I used to joke that Monteverdi and those guys were Renaissance rockers - they just played in churches, not necessarily in bars. But a lot of those early composers adapted secular song forms as well. Once I started doing soundtrack sessions for movies and videogames, I discovered that there was a whole other world of real talent out there. I mean, I had always been a fan of Top40 rock, and people like Elton John and Freddy Mercury. But then when I finally discovered singers like Bruce Dickinson and really listened to Led Zeppelin, for instance, it was a revelation. So much musical range packed into very compelling sounds.

Question: Do you write your own songs? What's your inspiration?

Eleanor Fye: I do write my own songs, and I also cover a lot of tunes from the Great American Songbook and classic pop and rock. I think I always had compositional tendencies, and would sit at the piano and improvise for hours. I even composed a couple of choral pieces. The inspiration to write popular songs first came from massive heartbreak, and writing things down was the only thing that made me feel better. Initially, the songs just sort of presented themselves. But then I've learned to live with a more open heart, and anything that gives me joy or grief inspires me. That's a pretty wide door, so I can find meaning in a lot of things. I think if you gave me a keyword, I could pretty much find something to write about.

Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?

Eleanor Fye: It's quite a variety, from classical to jazz to indie pop. I had a friend remark that I seem to listen to a lot of female singers, and I guess that is a professional habit. I'm really inspired by discovering new acts on the radio or the Web or through friends, and I have been particularly inspired by the NPR music programming in the States. Especially lately, I resonate with the acts that have a diverse set of influences or artists who are multi-instrumentalists. I appreciate the pure forms, but I tend not to be a purist.

Question: What's next? Tour/Album/Single?

Eleanor Fye: My answer is D: All of the above! I am booking a "home fires" tour for the NW region later this spring, and will be booking little tour-ettes around the US this year. I'm also scoping out my next project and who will be involved in that. And in the meantime, I'm putting together a single that reflects the current direction of my sound.

Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel?

Eleanor Fye: I'm inherently pretty shy and a real homebody when I'm home, so I am happiest when I have a cozy, intimate environment in which to perform. When I had the impression, either in classical or popular modes, that I was being encouraged to just produce more and more loud singing, I realized that was not what I wanted to do. So I changed my approach a bit along the way and had to let go of what was not working for me in order to figure out what worked for me. That was very difficult at times. Also, I realize that rejection is a reality of any genre and any part of the business. You have to develop a thicker skin and just keep at it. I feel fortunate to have a strong instinct about where I'm headed, and good intuition about people. So I get disappointed, maybe discouraged sometimes, but that's just a challenge to find a different way for myself. A friend of mine once said, "If you're not winning, change the game." I interpret that loosely, but that's how it feels occasionally.

Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?

Eleanor Fye: Tough call. Both have their charms. Last year I would have said recording, hands down. The studio is my happy place, and that's where I was. I love the blend of art and technology that represents. But now I'm coming to terms with the whole live performance thing and creating a new sound with other musicians. That's the bomb! And it's so fulfilling to play for people and see how listening happens, how people can instantly connect to words and music. I love that even my slower tunes make people want to get up and dance and smile.

Question: What/who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?

Eleanor Fye: As I said, I've been on the classical side of things for years, and almost pursued an opera career (instead took a corporate job). I also used to idolize Emma Kirkby, who was popular in the early music world in Europe. I imagined I might end up in Europe doing opera and operetta. But the way it worked out, I ended up working for a few years, and figured out that I wanted to do something solo. Only when I started doing the session work for soundtracks did I have a glimpse of the so-called commercial side of the industry, and at that point I learned that people actually got paid to write songs and movie themes and such. I don't know why that just didn't register with me before! It was a whole new world.

Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?

Eleanor Fye: I would have to say a combination of versatility and vocal coaching. A lot of voice teachers are geared to one genre, and they don't want you to do more than one thing. It wasn't until I was living in Austin and found my coach near Houston, TX, that I was able to sing everything as I sang it in my own living room. He really listened to me and to what I could do, and developed me from where I was rather than imposing a concept on me. I also realised I related much more to the emotional intention rather than just the mechanics of singing.

Question: What's a typical day like?

Eleanor Fye: Lovely, mainly. I usually start the day reading news online and taking care of e-mail with coffee and breakfast. Then I do some errands, exercise a bit, and have a meeting or two from the "loftice" (my loft office). Afternoon and evening are times to go deep on projects or write and practice. Some evenings I get together with friends or watch a film (I love foreign films, but it's hard to knit while reading subtitles!). I love it. It's very peaceful.

Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?

Eleanor Fye: The intimacy of it and the need to get beyond the intellect into the heart. To me it's about challenging yourself to be truly open, transparent, and vulnerable with other human beings in the room. That's both the biggest challenge and the biggest payoff of singing and performing live.

Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?

Eleanor Fye: Clint Eastwood and Steve Martin are two heroes who come to mind - I really respect how they've integrated the musical, visual, and literary realms for themselves. And lately for some reason I've been thinking I'd love to make a record with David Foster - he seems to understand the beauty of classical singing and making it accessible for broader audiences. Lately, too, I've been collaborating with other artists who play gypsy (swing) jazz, and that's a lot of fun.

Question: Are you single? What do you look for in a partner?

Eleanor Fye: I am single right now. Mostly I don't look for a partner, I look for ways to be a better me and enjoy my life more. I figure finding a great partner will be a byproduct of that and will support those efforts, too, so I'm not really worried about making it a goal. I have a busy life and a pretty broad range of friends and activities, so whomever I'm with needs to be comfortable with himself and have a great sense of humor. I might be flying off to LA one day, or deep in a meditative state and staring into space the next.

Question: Do you have a website fans can visit?

Eleanor Fye: Yep, it's at http://blog.eleanorfye.com. I have a new site in the works, so I'm looking forward to that. And of course, people can find me on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and such.

Question: Can you tell us 5 things required for a happy healthy & enjoyable life?

Eleanor Fye: For me, it's all about:
1) Taking care of my body by getting enough sleep, eating clean, and playing or dancing every day
2) Immersing myself in creative expression and allowing myself to process my life through singing, writing, and playing - or drawing or tap dancing if I feel like it
3) Having a spiritual practice of my own (I do yoga and meditate) and having a strong connection to a community of people and to nature
4) Having a pet - my cat - who keeps it real and fun on a day-to-day basis
5) Always being mindful of the difference between what I can control and what I can't, and putting my focus on the former.

Question: What message would you like to say to your fans?

Eleanor Fye: Thank you! I'm so glad you're discovering and enjoying my music and I hope it lifts your spirits. Thank you all for listening, and I look forward to meeting you soon!

Interview by Brooke Hunter

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