Transcript of internet chat from 2001-06-05, 20:00 ET (US)
with Elvis Costello and Ann Sofie von Otter
Yahoo! Chat with Elvis Costello & Anne Sofie von Otter
Elvis Costello and Anne Sofie von Otter joined us for a chat on
Yahoo! to talk about their new album, For the Stars. Here's
what they had to say...
YahooMC: Please welcome Elvis Costello and Anne Sofie von
Otter to the room!
Anne Sofie: Hi.
beebedy: Ms. Von Otter why Elvis? What drew the two of
Anne Sofie: Because I met him in the 90s when he and his
wife came to my concert. We got to know each other. Someone said
we should play together. The more I got to know him, the more my
wind wandered toward a possible collaboration. I had been thinking
of a crossover recording. But I really didn't know what shape and
form it would have, and needed somebody to help me. So after getting
to know Elvis, I thought this was the ideal person for this project.
lnaalba: Elvis, what was it like to work with Annie?
Elvis: I really loved her voice when I first heard it and sat
in the audience for the first couple of years. My wife and I sent
her flowers, which made her agent curious. The opportunity to work
together in a concert was very light-hearted. We sang "Baby
It's Cold Outside," as it was 15 degrees. Once we started to
talk, we learned each other's taste in music. She sent tapes to
me. We made some mixed tapes and swapped them back and forth until
we came up with the songs you hear on this record. In the process,
she suggested that I might sing on something. I suggested I might
have a couple new songs and she selected a couple of songs from
my repertoire. We each chose about half the record, I suppose.
portland_77_champs: Hello Elvis & Anne Sofie, I enjoyed the
new album very much. I'd be interested to hear about some of the
songs that were proposed for the project that didn't make the cut.
Anne Sofie: There was one that made it to Japan but not other
markets "You Go To My Head."
Elvis: And some we rehearsed but didn't record: "Condition
of the Heart" by Prince. "How Insensitive" by Jobim.
Anne Sofie: And some standards: "Dancing On the Ceiling."
Elvis: And a rare one from the 50s called "I'm
Up a Tree" a NoŽl Coward song. A whole different record
could have been made from those choices. So good question, but in
the end, the strongest songs seem to be the ones that are the mood
of this record, and that's obviously why we chose these titles.
sheinkc: Good Evening. Congratulations to you both on a beautiful
CD and collaboration. If you could recommend a favorite album or
recording of each other's, what would it be and why?
Elvis: That is a massive choice!
Anne Sofie: It comes and goes, what you like. I like the
Bacharach one very much at the moment.
Elvis: The one you told me that surprised me was Kojak
Anne Sofie: Oh yes, where you do covers.
Elvis: I'm very fond of Handel's Marian Cantatas.
And of Wings in the Night the Swedish composers record.
Those are beautiful. But it changes. The Schubert record...Speak
Low... It depends on your mood.
Anne Sofie: I like very much your collaboration with the
k_schick: Hi Elvis & Ms. von Otter...I was wondering if Tom
Waits had any input to your choice of his songs? And have you heard
any feedback from him about them?
Anne Sofie: I think he might have been quite surprised, particularly
that we found our way to "Broken Bicycles."
Elvis: One of his most beautiful compositions, but not one
as readily remembered as some of his others. I know he has a copy
of the record.
jenq: Anne Sofie von Otter ... was there anything about working
with Elvis Costello that surprised you?
Anne Sofie: I was pleasantly surprised that he has an answer
for anything in a good way! He could solve all my problems.
MattR29: Elvis I speak to your fans every day, and the
number one thing they all ask is about a new studio album. Do you
ever feel pressure to do things your fans want to hear, or are projects
like For The Stars so rewarding that it doesn't matter?
Elvis: Well, it's a two-part question. The first part ... absolutely
not. Each record is a separate adventure. You learn so much from
everything. I'm very, very lucky to make music both my vocation
and my living. Each thing I do is important in that moment as the
last and the next. There are no side projects.
timon_of_athens2000: Anne Sofie Is it hard working with
a living composer?
Anne Sofie : :) The answer is no. It was more fun that way.
The living composer in this case is Elvis himself; so if I have
things to ask and need feedback, I can ask him.
Elvis: I don't play cards as well as Schubert used to...
jenq: Anne, is there another artist who you would really like
to work with?
Anne Sofie: I've thought about that...nobody really comes to
mind in the way that Elvis did. Hes such an all-round person
I could work with he's a good producer, songwriter, he can
sing...I can't think of many other people who can do all that.
henry_c_myers: Do you two plan on doing any shows together?
Elvis: Not this summer, because I'm in the studio making my
next record, and you're committed quite far ahead, right?
Anne Sofie: Yes.
Elvis: But the possibility of concerts is wide-open. It's
something we'd both like to do.
Anne Sofie: Perhaps in 2002.
beebedy: Would you call this work together a pure collaboration?
An even trading of responsibilities?
Elvis: I think so, yes. The songs were chosen together. I may
have proposed the initial repertoire, but it quickly became a dialogue.
Many of the songs were selected by Anne Sofie directly, and the
songs I co-wrote with the Swedish composers certainly wouldn't have
come into existence without her. It didn't involve any other parties
like record companies. They were supportive but stepped back and
let us develop it in our own way.
Anne Sofie: Yes, absolutely.
MattR29: Elvis, you seem to have a great relationship with Sweden.
Why is that?
Elvis: It's the first place I ever played outside of England.
I did TV in Sweden shortly after my first appearance in England
before I was professional. I took a day off from work and went there.
So perhaps they're used to me now and I don't scare them anymore
with my alarming appearance.
ululating_estelle: Ms. von Otter, what kind of vocal adjustments
did you have to make to sing in a pop idiom? Was it frightening
setting aside your classical vocal technique?
Anne Sofie: No, it was pleasing. It was fun. It was what I've
always wanted to do...I say that as a joke. I do enjoy singing like
that. I do it around my house. It is very different, but with the
help of a microphone and some good earphones, it was possible. I
know I don't sound like a proper pop singer, but it was a better
way of singing those songs than with a classical technique.
miss_lola25: Mr. Costello, what was it like to sing along with
Elvis: I think we realized pretty early on that we couldn't
be the new Nina & Frederic.
I don't know if you remember who they are. Or the new Sonny &
Cher...or even Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin...or Fred Durst.
We weren't trying to sing as if we were staring into each other's
eyes. We found a way to use our voices in a contrast rather than
in a complimentary way because our voices are so different. We really
enjoyed singing together, but used it very sparingly, and it was
very effective that way. I played as a dramatic way, coming into
the song as a character and we found a way that it worked.
sheinkc: Ms. von Otter and Mr. Costello How do you think
that you complement each other musically?
Anne Sofie: In this recording, I was the one using my voice
for the most part and Elvis had the ideas for the backing. We complimented
each other very well because Elvis is good at listening to what
I have to say!
Elvis: For me, even though I didn't propose some of the songs,
I had a hand in writing some, and Anne Sofie suggested doing "This
House is Empty Now." I played her a version of "Baby Plays
Around," which is my wife's composition, but I didn't want
her to be influenced by the fact we had written it and it
became her favorite. It's a question of trusting one another, and
the strengths that you have to bring to a record like this.
Being a songwriter and know that she would sing a new song of mine
is very thrilling.
Let alone hearing her sing songs that already existed.
marycciu: Now that you've "crossed over" are you thinking
of continuing into something else out of your normal sphere of things?
Anne Sofie: I'd love to do some more of this kind of music.
I don't know when it will be.
But definitely the last word hasn't been said.
seventy7stitches: Mr. Costello I've noticed that your
own voice has changed and matured a lot over the course of your
career. Has this influenced your semi-recent departure to lighter
tones of music?
Elvis: No. It doesn't really work like that. Anne Sofie has
a choice of colors she can employ that comes from vocal training.
I don't have that. But different types of songs influence the way
you sing and I tend to sing with much more vocal range than I did
early on and there's different effects that creates. I can still
sound exactly like I did...give or take a little bit the way the
shape of your teeth are or something...as I did in 1977,
if I'm singing that material. But if I'm not, I'll use a different
vocal sound. But if I were to sing rock & roll songs, it would
sound the same it always did. It's not a conscious change.
It's just...you use one voice in one type of song and one in another
and over the years,
I've had the opportunity to sing a lot of different types of songs.
The length of your teeth is actually very important when singing.
timon_of_athens2000: Anne Sofie Are you planning more
stage roles in the future? Which ones?
Anne Sofie: I am doing Carmen next summer in England.
And apart from that, I am not planning any new roles at the moment.
denvergreens: Should opera, jazz and folk be taught in public
schools to keep the art forms alive with new generations?
Anne Sofie: I think generally that music is an important
subject and which way you choose to teach it is less important,
as long as it's a good way of teaching it.
Elvis: I think they should lock the little scamps in a dark
room with loud operatic recordings until they're very frightened.
That should teach them. :) No, I agree with Anne Sofie that the
teaching of music seems to be next to non-existent, and when it
is done well, it can be absolutely thrilling and kids of all sorts
of backgrounds, including learning disabilities, can be very free.
It can be liberating. Not that they're going to become pop stars,
but just that they can sing for themselves. If you don't even start
to teach them that, they're not going to have that ability, that
joy, that freedom. It doesn't matter if you sing in tune. You can
develop the skills you're born with. You should be given at least
the basic skills and not have it made a joyless process which it
sometimes was at my music. Thus, I never learned how to read music
until about eight years ago. Now there's a liberation in knowing
how to communicate with the notated form just as there was in trying
to imitate pop records that I love, which is the other way to learn
sheinkc: Anne Sofie on the website for the album there
is a video where you said something about how Elvis thought your
voice was suited well to sing sad ballads. Can you speak more about
Anne Sofie: I guess Elvis should speak about that, but I think
he heard me sing all kinds of music and particularly liked when
I sang sad, low-key, melancholy songs.
Elvis: Yes. That was the first thing that I found the most
affecting and it's a particularly transporting area of your voice,
but there are many other things that I enjoy in your singing. But
it was the strongest for us to explore and if you hear the record,
that's the way it turned out.
MattR29: Elvis & Anne Sofie: any hints on what you'll perform
on the Letterman show on Thursday?
Elvis: "For the Stars," the title from the record.
It's the least typical of the record. They're not all slow, sad
songs, but there is a feeling that many of us are familiar with
where you get into a blue mood and kind of enjoy it. The songs have
many different stories to tell, but at the end of the record, there
is one brighter song that is a love song and that ended up being
the title song. It's sort of the epilogue, the finale. It happens
to be the one we're performing with a fairly large group flown here
fligflom2001: Anne Sofie any future plans to visit Cleveland
to appear with our world-class orchestra?
Anne Sofie: I wish I did, because I worked with them once and
enjoyed it very, very much!
girl_lori: Have you ever considered performing with Luciano Pavarotti?
Elvis: Well, it's not something you can consider. I've never
been asked to perform with him. I really don't have a secret list
of people I want to perform with. I've been very lucky in the collaborations
I've enjoyed in the last ten years. For myself, on a purely personal
level, this level may be the pinnacle of that endeavor and there
aren't a lot of people I long to work with. I've had the pleasure
of working with so many that it makes you very enthusiastic about
writing purely for yourself and singing your own songs. I can't
imagine where you can go on from this, other than to perform in
concert. I don't have that longing to work with someone else. It
doesn't work like that. I have the feeling now I should sing purely
for myself. Selfish? Maybe, but that's the way I feel.
purple_prole: What kind of music did you listen to when you were
growing up, Miss von Otter?
Anne Sofie: I listened to the Beach Boys, the Beatles. All the
groups. I wasn't a Rolling Stones fan. My ideal sound was a little
more mellow than that. What else? Crosby, Stills & Nash.
ululating_estelle: Mr. Costello, has your interest in classical
art song caused you to think differently about the way you write
your own songs?
Elvis: I think all of the songs I've heard, whether they are
folk or whatever, give me ideas. That's the joy and pleasure and
inspiration in every song you hear. When you find a new way to approach
music in general, you can dream about using something you've learned
from that experience in order to write your own composition. I try
very much not to use the expression "my music" because
I don't believe it belongs to anybody. It's ludicrous, but you hear
it constantly among pop stars. It's like saying "I own the
color blue." It's your composition, but it's made up of music.
You can't say you own the alphabet because you wrote a book.
beebedy: A question to both artists What song was the
first to strike you as true in your life?
Anne Sofie : I only recently found out what it means for a song
to be true, so I can't answer that.
Elvis: It never occurred to me that songs were anything but
true. The first song I ever liked before I could talk was "I've
Got You Under My Skin," by Frank Sinatra. My mother tells me
that. It had that great line in it: "Use your mentality, wake
up to reality." It's a fairly good motto.
beyondbelief99: Anne Sofie be honest what do
you think of the hat?
Anne Sofie: LOL!
Elvis: It's what's under it that she's worried about!
Anne Sofie: I think it goes very well with the rest of what's
Anne Sofie: Thanks to everyone for showing interest. I think
it's great that people do this. I've never done it and I admire
the people who chatted today.
Elvis: I've really enjoyed this. There have been many, many
interesting questions. I look forward to our next one we'll
go old school. Thank you.
YahooMC: Thank you both for joining us tonight... and thanks
to all of you for your incredible questions this evening. Good night,
Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Elvis Costello Home Page