Glitter and Diamonds: Interview with…Steve Anderson! (Part Two)
Working with Kylie is like working with every artist I have ever wanted to and continues to be as exciting and fresh every time we do something new.
As promised, here comes part two of my interview with the sensational producer, remixer, songwriter and musical director (amongst other titles!), Mr. Steve Anderson.
Go ahead and read on to learn about Anderson’s unreleased electro-ballad with Britney (“Grow”) and much, much more Kylie gossip (Unreleased tracks! Scrapped setlist ideas!), as well as Anderson’s thoughts on remixing, the music industry today (including a killer list of artists to watch), and his latest project: Launching his latest chanteuse Elouise into the seemingly impenetrable territory that is North America.
Click “Read More…” to read the full second half of the interview.
Missed part one? Or just want to brush up on last week’s installment? Click here to see the first half!
I must ask about “Grow,” your unreleased song with Britney. I know it’s an electronic ballad. Can you describe it a bit further? Was she involved in the writing?
I adore “Grow.” It’s so gorgeous. Lisa Greene (who co-wrote “Breathe On Me”) was in America with Britney writing new songs, I was supposed to go but was working on a Kylie tour. One night she called and was in the studio with Britney. They had come up with an idea which they sang down the phone to me, and I got to work on a track idea for it to help them get to the next stage with the song. We then worked via phone and e-mail co-writing for the next few days, ending up with Lisa recording Britney and sending me the vocals to mix.
I have to say the vocals were stunning–another misconception about people being able to sing. Honestly, such a great singer. It’s a song very much to do with her kids, and I think just after that there were some problems which meant it would have not fit on the record. Also it was very gentle and she went incredibly hard and R&B so it wouldn’t have worked. It’s a shame as I absolutely love it and would love people to hear it, but it’s not for me to let that happen.
And now for some reader submitted questions! One reader asks: what is your most proud Kylie musical moment?
I have quite a few, but off the top of my head: The duet with Kermit on An Audience With Kylie Minogue (a dream come true for both of us), watching her perform at the Hollywood Bowl in 2009 and completely owning the place, and the first night of Showgirl Homecoming.
Another wants to know if we can have “An Evening with Kylie Minogue,” featuring just you and Kylie on a piano or a guitar. I like this idea as well.
I like that idea too, but I absolutely hate being on stage. Always have. Just get the jitters, however as you will have seen from the recent acoustic bits she has been doing, it’s something we love the idea of.
One reader would like to know the story behind “You’re The One,” an unreleased (but leaked) track from the Impossible Princess sessions. What’s the story with that song? It’s incredible.
It was one of the last songs we worked on for Impossible Princess, and the idea was to take a sweet song and turn it into something a lot darker as it went on, which I think we did.
It would have fit on Impossible Princess perfectly, but something ultimately had to give, and I think at the last moment the label got a little scared about this dark album, which is when the Manic Street Preachers got involved. Nothing against them–and I really liked “Some Kind Of Bliss,” but for me, it meant that period was labeled “Indie Kylie” when in fact the album was more akin to cool dance and electronica than it ever was to guitars.
A reader asks: How involved is Kylie in the setlist decision process?
Completely. It’s her who ultimately is performing the show every night for as long as the tour runs, so she has to absolutely love it.
Can you recall any setlist ideas or new arrangements/mash-ups that were ultimately scrapped?
I think we tried “Flashdance” for On A Night Like This Tour, which just didn’t work. Also, we had “That’s Why They Write Love Songs” and “Cosmic” in the original version of XTour2008, but they just interrupted the flow. We are all about the arc of the show and the journey it takes you on. Sometimes even if the song itself is great, it can just disrupt the flow of the whole thing.
I imagine the role as musical director of an entire tour must be incredibly daunting. You’re in the process of developing one now with Kylie to promote her immense album, Aphrodite. Where do you start as far as selecting songs and preparing mixes? Do you get crowd reactions? Input from Kylie? Or is it based on your own preferences mainly?
I donâ€™t find it daunting at all. It’s incredibly exciting and fulfilling, especially when you have such a strong album like Aphrodite to base the show around. The starting point always comes from Kylie and William [Baker]. After that, I get involved. Then it goes to choreography, video, lighting, etc. It’s such an incredible team, and we leave ourselves a lot of time to create the show as it is constantly changing and evolving throughout the creative process.
Do you draw inspiration from the visual themes developed for the show in crafting the music, or do the show’s visuals evolve as a result of the music selection? Or is it a joint process?
Definitely a lot of my inspiration comes from William and Kylie’s vision of the show and the imagery and themes that surround it. Alongside this, you have the creative goldmine of having such an incredible artist to be your muse.
As for you as a producer, what music is currently inspiring your sound today?
Rumer, who I tipped about 3 months ago and couldn’t be happier that she is achieving the success she so thoroughly deserves.
Jessie J–the most incredible voice, and having heard a few sneak peaks of the album, she’s going to be huge.
Kimbra from New Zealand–totally original and completely brilliant. Also check out her duet with Miami Horror.
Lauren Pritchard, from Tennessee, US–one of the best voices I have heard for a very long time, and stunning songs.
Jac Stone, unsigned from Australia–gorgeous tone and a real raw talent.
Hurts, who I have professed my love for already and Biff Stannard is pop royalty.
Sunday Girl from the UK–love her voice and musical choices.
Wonderland, a superb new girl group managed by Kian Egan from Westlife. Stunning voices and great songs too–going to surprise a lot of people.
I also love great songwriters and real artists, which for me at the moment doesn’t get any better than: Robyn, Nerina Pallot, God Help The Girl, and in the dance arena I really love the Katy B stuff and the new Aeroplane material, and I can’t wait to see what Sub Focus does next as he’s really talented.
Are there any artists you haven’t already worked with or written for but would like to?
I will give the answer I have given before about this that may seem obvious, but it’s true: Working with Kylie is like working with every artist I have ever wanted to and continues to be as exciting and fresh every time we do something new.
You come from a place of remixes. Who are your favorite mixers on the scene right now? Any particular favorite remixes at the moment?
Stuart Price, Freemasons, Starsmith, MSTRKRFT and Calvin Harris.
Any chance that you’ll return to remixing–perhaps a revival of Brothers in Rhythm?
I think the show versions are the closest I get to remixing. I do still love it, but the whole art form seems to have been downgraded now purely to something people do for no money that can be given away as a free download for promo. There are obviously exceptions like Stuart Price, Calvin Harris and the Freemasons who continue to do amazing work, but overall pop records are dance records now, so there is less need to make them sound that different.
You’re involved in every aspect of Kylie’s career musically. The video for “Get Outta My Way” is premiering shortly, and we just got a taste of it from her this weekend. (See the full video here!) What are some of your favorite Kylie video moments?
I loved “Did It Again” as it’s hilarious, and also “Where The Wild Roses Grow.” In fact, the new video for “Get Out Of My Way” is definitely up there too.
It’s been long rumored that Kylie has always wanted to create a jazz or standards album. Songs like “Flower” and “White Diamond” point toward that direction, and it almost seemed that she might have gone that route post-X. Do you think this will happen? Are there any plans in the works?
Thereâ€™s plenty of time for that. Her voice suits those songs so perfectly. I’m sure one day we’ll get around to it as its something we both would love to do.
We were able to have three official mixes from Kylie’s superb concert in New York City. (I was there!) While we have a live recording of the night, will fans ever be able to hold onto the official arrangements for the other songs?
I think the three studio versions Parlophone released work in their own right. Some of the other studio versions don’t make any sense without the visuals, therefore I think its better they only exist as live versions.
I’ve heard rumblings about a Kylie musical based around her music. Are you involved in that? Any information regarding its status?
It’s happening for definite. Kylie has confirmed it, but these things take a lot of time and preparation to get them just right. We want the show to run once it opens, so it’s all in the details. Very excited about it though.
Turning back to Elouise, I’ve just a listen to “Stardust,” which will be making its premiere on American radio this week. (Hear a preview here!) Classic torch song, incredibly throwback to another era. Elouise has got an incredibly powerful, controlled vocal style, which must be a dream to work with. How has it been to work with her?
I think a dream pretty much sums it up. She lives those songs and delivers one take–vocals full of emotion, power, vulnerability and technical perfection. Also, as she can really belt, I can push all of the orchestration really hard without any fear of drowning her out. She is also someone who pushes me to go even more over the top than I normally am, which is a rarity.
How do you think an American audience would react to someone like Elouise?
I think what the American audience is really loving is the fact that she can obviously sing, but also she does so unashamedly in an British accent which hasn’t happened for a long time, especially in this genre of music. The songs we are choosing all have a classic quality about them but there’s nothing too obscure, which is something I always admire about the choices David Foster and Michael Bublé make when they approach covers. I think more and more, with all the reality shows having someone who can get up on stage and really go for it and wow people, it’s even more important–and she can certainly do that.
What are your goals in working with Elouise? Obviously this isn’t just a pop act you’re hoping to get into the Top 10, toss in some remixes, and then shoot a video for.
I think the show is key. Stardust as a concept of a show, featuring all the songs people love but don’t hear anymore because very few people can sing them is the introduction to Elouise as an artist, and will hopefully inspire people to buy the album. I see very much like a female version of Michael Bublé mixed with a bit of Linda Eder, Ruthie Henshall, and of course a little Barbra and Shirley in there too.
We haven’t really heard something like this on the radio for…well, perhaps over fifty years! Do you think we can make a return to ‘the voice’ in mainstream music on the radio?
American radio completely confuses me, but I hope there are stations there that will embrace this. Its not smooth, it’s not jazz, and it’s not Broadway, so I don’t know how it will work, but the support we have had from one of my dearest friends Larry Flick on Sirius has been incredible, and he is an integral part of the Elouise story.
Is there a goal of launching stateside? I know that so many acts have tried and failed to cross over, and that even more attempt to adhere to this ‘American’ kind of sound on the radio. Acts like JLS, Pixie Lott, and Cheryl Cole are all preparing to make that attempt. What do you think about the American crossover? It must be something you’ve thought about, especially given Kylie’s stubborn (and unjust) lack of visibility in America after all these years.
She will definitely be over there before the end of the year for showcases and meetings. I think again she would do really well in the live area, possibly supporting an act or working in Las Vegas. The Stardust show is built to go from the smallest venue with the smallest stage to a full on production show with live orchestra, so everything is possible.
Regarding Kylie, the welcome she got on the North American tour was overwhelming for all of us and proved beyond any doubt that her popularity there is massive.
You’ve worked with many talented writers on the Elouise project, including Terry Ronald (well known for his ongoing musical partnership with Miss Dannii.) He’s sort of to Dannii as Steve Anderson is to Kylie Minogue! How is working with him? You both seem to have a knack for BIG vocal tracks that often sound like theme songs (or James Bond tracks, really!), which, in case that reads poorly, is certainly a compliment in my book. Your song written with Terry, “Another Day,” with Elouise is pure Bond.
Terry is another one of my closest friends, but we hadn’t really written together until Elouise came along. I think because we knew if we did, it would end up as some big old torch song that no one would be able to sing–let alone want to release. Elouise is our excuse and outlet for that! He also worked with me on the West End production of Rent and The Hurly Burly Show, and is involved with Ultra Girls too.
And now, a fun one: If you could host a one-off night of music arranged exclusively by you, who would you have performing that night and what would we be hearing? You can include past and current acts!
I can’t go into the songs, but the lineup would be Kylie, Julie London, Karen Carpenter, Dusty Springfield, Olivia Newton-John, Judy Garland, Sia and Robyn, with Nelson Riddle and Jeremy Lubbock doing the orchestral arrangements. Excellent question!
Finally: Do you have a favorite song? I always get so flustered when someone asks me this, but I figured I’d ask.
I have so many, but I love what I call “perfect songs,” so I will have to choose two: One is an [Alan] Bergman song called “Wait” by Barbra Streisand which breaks my heart every single time, and the other is “Smile” written by Charlie Chaplin, which Elouise will be performing in the Stardust show.
That’s about all I’ve got thus far. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Steve! Truly wishing you all the best, and looking forward to speaking again sometime soon.
Lovely to speak to you too. Keep up the good work with your fabulous blog.
And I’m still swooning.