ROOM WITH NO VIEW: Halie, welcome to Room With No View and thanks for taking this time to sit and chat with us. You completed a tour of the Southeastern United States earlier this year. I was fortunate enough to see your wonderful performance here in Lake Charles. How was the rest of the tour?
HALIE LOREN: The tour was a wonderful one, through-and-through... it was our first time touring in Alabama and Mississippi, as well as southern Louisiana, so we got to see a lot of country that was brand new to us. Hope we get to go back soon and spend a little more time there!
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: You mentioned in the concert that you were recently in Japan and that you have become quite popular in that country. How did that come to be?
HALIE LOREN: The reasons and ways in which my music suddenly emerged and became well-known in Japan is a lovely mystery to me, as I truly don't know the exact origin, but I certainly count my lucky stars that my music has found such a welcome home in Japan! I love having so many opportunities to travel and tour there and to meet fans and hear their stories and take silly photos with them and learn about their children who've recently been inspired to become jazz musicians... it's a beautiful thing.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: I know you did some work with the Red Cross after the 2011 earthquake that devastated Japan. On Amazon, a fan from Japan wrote this: “I am a Japanese. I lost my house by the Tsunami of the big earthquake last year. For healing of the heart, I heard live of my favorite Halie Loren in Tokyo. And I had her sign a CD. It is my treasure.” That’s a pretty nice compliment, don’t you think?
HALIE LOREN: That comment both breaks and heals my heart in profound ways... and yes, a very humbling kind of compliment. The kind that really brings me back to the realization of what my role is as a music-maker in this life, which is connecting people to the beautiful and moving things in their own lives by inspiring them through song and the feelings that music can evoke. Music is a deeply human thing that crosses all national and cultural boundaries – we are all music lovers. I am so grateful that my music has been embraced by so many people in Japan.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: Is there any difference between audiences in Japan compared to here in North America?
HALIE LOREN: I find that there are more similarities than differences among enthusiastic music fans, regardless of where I play. I will say that I've never been so lavished with gifts and chocolates as I've been each and every tour in Japan... I feel like it's my unofficial birthday every time. It's the sweetest thing!
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: I know you like to sing in French, have you tried singing in Japanese?
HALIE LOREN: Yes, I do sing a bit in Japanese in addition to French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and bits and pieces of other languages from time to time... it's a guilty pleasure of mine, more than anything, as I just love exploring the sounds of other languages. I guess you could say I'm a linguaphile!
|Halie Loren and Matt Treader at McNeese University, March, 2014|
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: There are so many great jazz songs out there to choose from, and considering you are gifted enough to write such wonderful songs as “Thirsty”, “In Time”, and “Danger in Loving You”, I wonder how you ever finalize which songs are going to end up on an album like this?
HALIE LOREN: You are so right – there are so many great jazz songs out there, and it's a bit torturous to have to choose only a few to record or perform at any given time. My bandmates would attest to the fact that writing set lists is akin to agony for me, as I find it nearly impossible to narrow down a list that excludes any of my favorite songs... but when a list of “must-do” songs amounts to the better part of a hundred titles, it's no easy task. So... imagine how hard it is to choose the songs to feature on an ALBUM. I literally stay awake all night, more often than I care to admit, making lists and bargaining with myself over what songs should or should not make the cut when I'm in the album recording process. In which I currently am, by the way. Let's just say I don't get enough sleep these days.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: Do you ever record a classic jazz song and decide it just isn’t working? Have you ever had to leave one off an album because you just couldn’t get it right?
HALIE LOREN: There are occasions when we record something that feels like the song just doesn't fit with the other songs, or the concept is almost there but not quite, or we just run out of time and energy... I always end up recording more than would fit on an album, so there are always things left “on the cutting room floor”, so to speak. We often perform songs in concert that just didn't make it onto albums for one reason or another, and some of them end up being huge live higHalie Lorenights for us. A couple of those found their moment in the sun on the new album we are working on, in fact, and their timing couldn't be more perfect!
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: You were brave enough to sing “What a Wonderful World” in Louisiana, which takes moxie, considering here in the birthplace of jazz we sort of think that song belongs to a certain singer/trumpet player by the name of Louis Armstrong. Now first, let me assure you and our readers that you have no reason to worry. I feel even Satchmo would have approved of your performance. The song was great, especially as an encore. But I wonder, do you ever feel intimidated when you take on a song that was made popular by such classic performers like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, or Dean Martin?
HALIE LOREN: Luckily, I don't think about comparisons too often – otherwise, I'd be terrified to touch the vast majority of the American Songbook, which has been performed by every jazz great in history. Of course, there are times when we are working up an arrangement to a standard and we're all inspired by certain versions of those songs, and want to include certain elements that we feel really serve the song. Overall, though, my perspective on performing any song is to relate to it in a very personal way. Sometimes that means that we feel inspired to completely re-work a song's identity – twisting the rhythm, the chords, melodic shifts. Sometimes that means retaining a lot of a song's classically known style, if it feels unequivocally “right” for us. I'm not trying to be Frank or Ella or Dean, or the more contemporary examples of Diana Krall or Jane Monheit, or even reminiscent – this might sound hackneyed, but I'm at a place in my artistic life, after 16 years of professional musicianship and continuously finding endless inspiration in music from all corners of the globe and great singers from all genres, where I know I can only really find creative satisfaction in being the best me. Comparison and emulation are great teachers, but can only get you so far before you have to find your own voice and know how only you can use it.
|(c) 2011, photo by Sally Sheldon (Pink Caterpillar Photography)|
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: Speaking of songs made popular by other singers, one of your latest tracks was first sung by Audrey Hepburn—“Moon River”. It is such a sad song, how did this end up on an album alongside “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “Bare Feet”?
HALIE LOREN: “Moon River” is such a gorgeous song, and quite sad in that nostalgic dreams-unrealized way. It's as beautiful for the space as it is for the notes – both melodically and story-wise – so I wanted to really bring that sense of tenuous hope and heartbreak to our rendition.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: You broke my heart when you didn’t perform it in Lake Charles. Do you ever perform it live?
HALIE LOREN: I do indeed perform it live... so sorry we didn't play it for you! If I'd only known... but, as I mentioned earlier, those set list conundrums are seriously tough!
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: So you change up your song list from performance to performance?
HALIE LOREN: Yes, we change up song lists every time we play.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: You started out as more of a pop singer before sliding into jazz. You could easily build an amazing career in either genre, but you seem to have concentrated mostly now on jazz. Has jazz always been there as you began to sing or did you come to it late? Are you there to stay?
HALIE LOREN: I've listened to and loved jazz since I was much too young to understand what genres were and why they matter. As for that last bit, I still wonder about that. I was exposed to so much variety in music from day one (thanks, Mom!) that I developed very eclectic tastes quite early in life... when I was 10, my favorite singers were Nat King Cole, Annie Lennox, Jewel, Patsy Cline, and Etta James. That array of influences – jazz, pop, folk/singer-songwriter, classic country, and blues – have really found their way into my musical vocabulary throughout my career. As an artist, the idea of committing indefinitely to one genre classification or another was a paralyzing concept to me, and kept me from making strides into music recording for years. As it was, I released my first album – which you rightly defined as more pop in nature – at age 21. My first foray into recording jazz was a just-for-fun venture, thinking that it would be great to finally have something recorded in the style of music that I'd been performing all my life alongside all the other types of shows I was doing, but it ended up winning international awards and accolades and finding its way to Japan and, well, you know a bit about the rest of that story. Jazz has always been a big part of my personal musical heritage, and has always felt like a really natural fit, but it wasn't until 5 years ago that I thought I could actually have a vibrant career in it. As for building careers in other genres, I rather like the idea of doing away with adhering to any genre, and just make the music I need to and want to make, conveying the stories of old songs and new songs alike.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: I have a confession to make: I have a Spotify list that I created called Modern Torches, which is made up of your music, mixed with the music of Melody Gardot, Carla Bruni, Stacey Kent, Jill Barber, and a few others. Have you ever considered any collaborations, maybe with Harry Connick Jr.?
HALIE LOREN: First of all, that is awesome! Second, yes. If Harry wants to duet with me, I'm all in! Whatever the song is. I don't care if it's a shuffle version of “Macarena”... actually, that might be awesome...
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: When we first talked about this interview in April, you were busy working on something in the studio. Are you able to talk about that yet?
HALIE LOREN: I was indeed! I was busy recording a bonus track of a song to be featured on a new “best of” compilation album that just came out in Japan last week (“Best Collection”). It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart in Japan, too, which I just learned of a few days ago! I'm quite happily surprised about that. In other studio news, I'm busy creating a new album of songs, this time venturing into somewhat new territory. There's a lot more of a soul vibe happening with this project, and more original material... I'm excited to follow it, wherever it leads me, as it keeps growing, and to share it with the world in early 2015.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: Around that same time you were nominated by the Independent Music Awards for two songs: “Cuando Bailamos”, (Larry Wayne Clark, co-writer), in the Jazz Vocal category and “Simply Love”, (Benita Hill, co-writer), in the Acoustic categories. That’s very impressive! “Simply Love” is a wonderful, dreamy song. But could you talk about how the title and tag line of “Cuando Bailamos” came to be?
HALIE LOREN: “Cuando Bailamos”, which is “when we dance” in Spanish, came from this story idea I had during a chat with my late great friend Larry... I described a scene in which strangers meet on the dance floor, and experience the kind of chemistry that can lead a romantic to start envisioning that the other person could be “the one”, and kind of getting carried away by that notion. Larry started playing the sumptuous bossa rhythm and chords of the verse, and things flowed accordingly... even though it's in the bossa nova tradition, Spanish lyrics were what I heard in my mind for the chorus (rather than Portuguese), so that was what we went with.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: I always try to get at least one odd question into an interview, so let me try this: I had the role of Winthrop in a High School production of The Music Man. Trust me, it did not lead to bigger and better things. But if you were given the chance to star in a remake of any musical film, which musical would you choose, and who would you like to see as your co-star?
HALIE LOREN: Oh, wow. That is definitely something I have never ever, ever thought about. I hate to say it, but I'm not very familiar with a lot of musicals. Can I turn it around and say that I think “The Never Ending Story” should be made into a musical? I would want to play the dragon. And Atreyu could be Bruno Mars. And the Empress... oh my, well, I hear Beyonce is the actual global empress, so she's a pretty safe bet.
ROOM WITH NO VIEW: Halie, you’ve been so kind and generous since we first talked about this interview. Good luck with the new album and may you continue in your much deserved and hard-earned success. Just one last question. Where am I going to have to travel to hear you sing “Moon River” live?
HALIE LOREN: Just let me know when you're coming to another concert of mine, and it's a done deal!
For more information on Halie, be sure to read my review of her concert: Halie Loren, a Balcony View.
Also, check out her website at HalieLoren.com or follow her on Facebook. And we here at Room With No View wish a Halie a happy birthday, which is later this month.
Simply Love is her latest album, which includes the amazing "Moon River". After Dark is full of excellent standards but the best track on the album is the title track.