Singer Olivia Newton-John is one of the best-selling artists of all time. Her hits began on her debut album Let Me Be There, earning her a Grammy as best country vocalist. The musical movie Grease put her in the spotlight with a best selling soundtrack and sudden film career. She went on to make Xanadu, Two of a Kind and Sordid Lives. A few of her hit singles include "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "Physical" and "Twist of Fate."
Liv On is her latest endeavor was made, with Beth Nielsen Chapman, and Amy Sky. It is a intended to give hope to people that are grieving.
From Koala Blue retail stores to the Gaia Retreat & Spa, she continues to work on projects outside of music, but her large catalogue of songs will always keep her on the road.
Windy City Times: Hi, Olivia. Do you like all the traveling, with constant touring?
Olivia Newton-John: Yeah, if it's not too big a thing. In the last two weeks I have been to Chile then these shows in Florida. I'm enjoying my time off right now, I must say! [Laughs]
I do enjoy it when it is not too extensive.
WCT: How do you decide on a set list, with such a large history of work?
ON-J: I go by the biggest hits and what gets a good response from the audience. I always throw in a few songs that you are not expecting to hear off an album. Generally, I do the ones they expect to hear.
I remember as a young woman I went to see a famous artist sing, and she didn't do her hits. I filed away in my brain that if I ever get to be a success that I would sing the songs people are expecting to hear.
WCT: Has a fan ever been too much?
ON-J: One time a fan handed me an autograph book under a toilet door.
They had me sign something under a stall in a bathroom. That was an embarrassing moment.
WCT: That happened to Whoopi Goldberg and she wrote a book about it!
ON-J: She did?
WCT: Yes. Was there a certain time when you noticed a gay following?
ON-J: Gay fans are very loyal. They often stay with you for a very long time, which I think is wonderful. Gay fans are the same as other fans. I don't distinguish between them. I do notice at every show there will be a few lovely ones that will come up and they have been to a number of shows. They are loyal, lovely, and very sweet.
WCT: Well, this gay fan used to sing to your Xanadu record! I swear before my voice changed that I could hit your notes.
ON-J: [Laughs] Oh, that is cute.
WCT: Are you in the new Sordid Lives sequel A Very Sordid Wedding?
ON-J: No, I am not. Del Shores extended the invite but it just didn't work out for me.
WCT: Did you record the new album, Liv On, in Nashville?
ON-J: We did it in Vegas, since I was there for three years. The girls came to me and we did the recording there. They would meet me after work or in the morning before work. We used my wonderful band that was there. The girls took the backing tracks back to Nashville and Toronto. Beth lives in Tennessee and Amy lives in Canada. Between the three of us we put this album together. It was really a work of love.
WCT: It was made to uplift people's suffering?
ON-J: Yes, it was a concept that was inspired by my love for my sister. She died of a brain tumor very quickly. It was a terrible shock. We were very close. I have learned that healing works through music.
When I had breast cancer, I wrote an album called Gaia and another album with Amy called Grace and Gratitude. I asked Amy if she would help me with this album. We were talking about how there wasn't music for people grieving. She had just lost her mother a year before I lost my sister, so we had a lot to talk about.
I thought of Beth because she had written a song called "Sand and Water" when she lost her husband 14 years ago. It was a classic song of grief. We asked Beth to join us on this venture. We got together on three different occasions to make these songs. It has been a wonderful journey of healing for all of us.
WCT: Were you a stage mom encouraging your daughter, Chloe, to sing?
ON-J: I didn't discourage her, but told her to follow her passion. She loved to sing. She was in a couple of movies with me when she was a little girl. She has a beautiful, interesting voice. I did encourage her but only if that is what she wanted to do.
WCT: You must be very proud…
ON-J: I am very proud of her. She is a wonderful singer and songwriter. She just released her No Pain album. She recorded it over ten years ago and didn't feel it was ready to put out at the time. I brought a copy to her and we listened to it. She finally decided to put it out, and I feel it is a nice record.
WCT: How have you protected your voice all these years?
ON-J: I keep my throat warm. I wear scarves a lot. I don't smoke. I will have a glass of wine, but I am not a big drinker.
I warm up and do exercises two hours before the show. That really helps. It is a muscle you know so you have to keep it in shape. It is probably the one muscle in my body that is still in shape! [Laughs]
It is something that you have to protect. I feel lucky that I can still hit the same notes and do my songs in the same key.
WCT: How about beauty tips. Do you have a secret Australian serum?
ON-J: I have a spa in Australia called Gaia. We have our own line of skincare called Retreatment. It is fantastic and all natural. I particularly love the oil and the eye cream that we have there. I use our products and they are really good. I am always conscious of removing my makeup at night and moisturizing. I learned that from my mom.
WCT: Can people order that online?
ON-J: Yes, if they go to the GaiaRetreat.com .au website they can get it on there.
WCT: What did you think of the Grease Live remake?
ON-J: I thought it was really good. They did a good job.
WCT: Did they ask you to make an appearance on it?
ON-J: They did, but I thought, "This is a new one and not about me."
WCT: What was your song "The Rumour" about?
ON-J: I didn't write it. Bernie Taupin wrote that, but I think it could be about anybody in show business, particularly now. It is all about rumors and gossip press. It is saying once you start a rumor the truth is a thing of the past because someone has made something up and no one knows what to believe.
WCT: Have you ever sang your song "I'll Bet You a Kangaroo" live?
ON-J: [Laughs] No. You are really going into the past now. I think it's a funny song. I should do it in Australia sometime.
WCT: Do you have a song that you won't perform any longer?
ON-J: There was a song in England when I represented the Eurovision song contest called "Long Live Love" and is probably the only song of mine that I really didn't like. I have grown to like it because it was a part of my life, but at the time I didn't like it.
Also, I didn't like "If Not For You" at the time. Strangely enough it is my husband's favorite song! That changed my whole opinion. It is a Bob Dylan song. Back when we recorded it I wanted to sing big ballads. I thought it wasn't my style but really it was. My producers knew much better than I did.
WCT: Many people may not know that your family is super-intelligent.
ON-J: YeahI don't know what happened to me!
WCT: If you didn't become a singer, what would you have done instead as a career?
ON-J: I would have been a veterinarian.
WCT: Because you are a big animal lover, of course.
ON-J: I would have worked with animals. That was if I had really studied in school, but my head was always in the clouds about singing. I have a very academic family. My brother was a doctor. My sister became an actress and I became a singer, so we were the two black sheep, I guess.
I have another thought, maybe I could have been a mounted policewoman, then I could ride horses and get paid for it!
At the time they didn't have mounted policewomen, only men, when I was young. Luckily, I could sing.
WCT: Do you ride horses now?
ON-J: I used to. I had seven horses at one point. Now I have two gorgeous miniature horses.
WCT: What are their names?
ON-J: Harry and Winston. I didn't name them, but isn't that perfect? They are just adorable.
WCT: Have they ever thought about making a musical about your life?
ON-J: They are doing my life story for television in Australia, not a musical per se but you never know. I've thought of a one woman show, but I guess I am doing that already!
Hopelessly devote Thursday, May 11, to your concert calendar as Newton-John plays at Joliet's Rialto Square Theatre, 15 E. Van Buren St., at 7:30 p.m. Visit OliviaNewton-John.com for tickets and information.