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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to NewAgeReporter.com. Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Mychael Danna, Jan. 2006
A Conversation with Michael Dulin, Dec. 2005
A Conversation with Lisa Hilton, Nov. 2005
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation with Lisbeth Scott
July 2004
Very few artists have a list of credits like vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/composer/lyricist Lisbeth Scott. Don't believe me? Well, here's a partial list of the film and TV projects she's sang on: The Passion of the Christ, Shrek 2, Felicity, The Scorpion King, Atlantis, Unconditional Love, Spy Game, Survivor, Party of Five, Dinosaur, Sixth Sense, Forces of Nature, Broken Arrow, Toys, ER, Chicago Hope, Profiler and Touched By An Angel. And the list goes on and on. Truly amazing.

What's even more amazing is that Lisbeth does all of this AND she records her own albums. With three previous releases, Sirens, Climb and Dove and a fourth, Passionate Voice, to be released on August 3, Lisbeth has clearly been working extremely hard!

On a personal note, it's refreshing to find that an artist of Lisbeth's stature has remained so humble and open. If anyone would have bragging rights down in the pub, it would be Lisbeth!

If you'd like to learn more about Lisbeth and her music, please visit her web site.
"I love the feeling of being able to present something to my listeners that says 'this is me'." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: You've had tremendous success as vocalist for film, TV and commercials. And your work with Paul Schwartz (an artist-to-artist series alumnus!) is, in my opinion, particularly beautiful. But that's what you do when you're not recording and performing your own music. What do you get out of working on your solo material that you don't get from these other projects?
Lisbeth: Hmmm. I have complete and total creative and artistic freedom when I'm working on my solo material. Sometimes that's a scary thing because the sky's the limit!! I love singing so much and thus my work with Paul and in the film world is wonderful and fulfilling. But there's something about creating an entire project on my own that allows me to sit down and say ok, what do I really want to say here both sonically and lyrically. There are no limitations. I'm not fitting my voice into someone else's concepts and ideas.

I'm carving out my own. And usually when I'm working on someone else's project, it's a relatively quick process. I learn the music and record it, and then it's on to the next. Whereas when I create my own, I usually have the time to delve into the depth of the piece I'm creating (although with my current project it's a bit more like running a race!). I like the feeling of having sat for hours on a tree stump in the woods just hearing in my head what I'm working on at the moment. Each piece feels a bit like a mini birth (sorry for the melodramatic imagery!!).....

I LOVE IT!! I love the feeling of being able to present something to my listeners that says "this is me". I have very specific goals when I sing and write and they include moving people and healing, so it's wonderful when I can create a piece from start to finish with those things in mind.
"I have very specific goals when I sing and write and they include moving people and healing." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: I think I know (although obviously not truly) what you mean about the mini birth! At times I'll stop working on a piece because I'm just so drained -- physically and emotionally -- that I feel I have nothing left to give... One of my composition teachers said that you never finish a piece you just stop working on it. I think I'm finally starting to understand what he was talking about -- twenty years (and a few grey hairs) later mind you!

I sense from your comment about "moving people and healing" that the listener plays a large role in your music. That connecting with an audience on an emotional and spiritual level is important to you. This can be incredibly challenging as it demands an openness (or vulnerability) from the artist and acceptance from the listener. But there always seems to be something that gets in the way in the studio -- a bad cable, a software problem, a drummer (o.k. that was my one and only drummer "comment"). How do you keep the technical side of record making from overshadowing your desire to move and heal the listener?
Lisbeth: I have blind faith. I just plow forward despite technical issues. I won't even pursue recording a song unless I've had moments of pure bliss during its creation. Unless there have been several moments of completely forgetting where or who I am, it goes in the trash. Those special moments assure me that I'm not the only one who will be moved by what I'm doing... I hope!!

Those moments are my proof that I'm truly connected to my creative source. So the occasional technical problem doesn't destroy things. Sure it's frustrating but I'm a Taurus! If I love the song and believe in it but don't get the vibe the first time around, I do it again and again until I do. I mixed Dove three times because of that and finally Peter Cobbin at Abbey Road got it!! Now I have a very expensive addiction.
"Those moments are my proof that I'm truly connected to my creative source." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: And I bet it would be hard to go back to mixing somewhere else after you've had that level of quality! (And just as an aside to anyone reading this conversation, Peter Cobbin also did outstanding engineering and mixing on some of Paul Schwartz's albums.)

You have a new record coming out this summer called Passionate Voice. I've heard the advance single, "Grace", and the track is just great -- can't wait to hear the rest of the disc! Does the album follow the general "feel" of the single? Any elements (production/instrumentation, lyrical content, philosophy, etc.) that helped to "tie" the record together?
Lisbeth: This is an interesting record for me because there are two distinct elements in it. One is sort of a lyrical joy and the other is contemplation. The whole CD is centered around spirit... whatever that is for all of us... and how we live in these two places at the same time. It's a place to be active and a place to be still... the latter being something we don't get enough of!! It's difficult to put into words and I'm sure you're probably thinking I'm some kind of freak!!! But I've written so many times in my life from pain or burning desire that leaves me in a heap on the floor and I'm at a place where my inspiration is coming from a calmer, more spiritual place. So this is an incredibly honest CD for me. It's sharing what I think works for me, but hopefully in a universal way.

My husband Nathan Barr is sharing a lot of the production credit on the CD and he is incredible... Instrumentation... cello, guitar, percussion, loops, stacks and stacks of voices, duduk, piano, harmonium, and on and on... west meets east meets LA meets Brahms meets inside my head !!! Hope your head isn't reeling!!!!
"It's sharing what I think works for me, but hopefully in a universal way." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: No, my head isn't reeling... if the rest of the album is at all like the single, I'd bet the record makes perfect sense. And I definitely don't think you're a freak... having some kind of philosophical focus in recording is a necessity in my books, as it helps keep you centred. What's just as important, as you point out, is honesty. I think that artists should just simply write what they love -- without any agenda. Or as someone said: "sharing what I think works for me, but hopefully in a universal way." I sure wish I'd written that, as it pretty much sums up how I try to approach my own music.

I've been asking everybody what their thoughts are on the state of the music industry circa 2004. Lots of different opinions, but for the most part there's a consensus that the industry is in a state of flux. What's less clear is where everything is headed. I think you have a unique perspective in that you work in many different areas in the music (both record and live) and film industries. What changes do you see happening in both the record and live music industry? Any thoughts on how indies can best compete in this changing landscape?
Lisbeth: That's such a tough question. I feel like each day I am creating the answer to it or discovering the answer to it. The typical methods don't seem to work any more... touring here and there, in stores etc. Honestly, I see the most sales and exposure when I'm on big media... i.e. film and television... whether it be in person or having a song licensed in a TV show or film. Many TV shows are anxious to license unsigned artists because they don't have to deal with the record labels. It just takes a lot of calls and follow up on the part of the artist, but it's worth it in the end.

Hmmmm... yes the industry is in a state of flux... I wonder how long the "Stepford Wives" approach to musical stars is going to last. I think the public may get a little numb before too long... But it always comes back to getting your music... OUT THERE!!!! There's alternative radio, there's using an indie promoter, there's using an indie publicist... there's asking a friend to call music supervisors for you...

Live music is taking an interesting turn because there are more and more "unclubs" popping up... like yoga studios and spiritual film and music festivals... In a sense popular music is leaking into community hands and out of large labels, and those labels are obviously feeling that... living in LA I'm constantly overhearing conversations in cafés about how 20 or 30 people just got laid off yesterday from this label and this label bought that label... or from friends who are signed whose future is up in the air because their label was just sold and their A&R person fired... on and on....

My gut feeling is that we as musicians have to be able to make music because we love it and find a way to do that ourselves... Learn the ropes of graphics and manufacturing... so many small companies are out there now to accommodate indies... make a real soul commitment to your creations. Don't ever lose loving what you do and that'll keep the opportunities flying your way... big and small..... AND never underestimate the importance of small gigs and opportunities too!!!

The bottom line is.... have a great product, be a great and comfortable and willing performer and REMAIN OPTIMISTIC. No one, not even a big label, can take those things away from you.
"My gut feeling is that we as musicians have to be able to make music because we love it and find a way to do that ourselves..." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: You're right -- optimism is so important. I think, as soon as an artist (or someone on the business end for that matter) "goes negative", they create an internal obstacle that can be incredibly hard to overcome. And there certainly are enough obstacles out there for musicians already! I also think it's important to be a strong, well-rounded musician. It just makes a musician less vulnerable to being used in a "Stepford Wife/Husband" manner.

You have a pretty impressive background as a musician. You were, as your web site says, "a classical pianist headed for a concertizing career. (You) studied as a high school student at The New England Conservatory, and then on to Connecticut College and The University of London." And this was before you started singing and playing the guitar and percussion. You've taken a different path from being a classical pianist, but how has that training affected you both artistically and on a business level today?
Lisbeth: Wow. My classical training has been invaluable in my day to day work. First of all, I can read music, which multiplies the amount of sessions I can do here in town by about 500. Everything is on a deadline and basically the fastest musician wins the race, as ridiculous as that sounds. My training and knowledge of music theory etc. has gotten me job after job and helped me in creating and producing my own music. I know the basics of orchestrating and I know many ranges of instruments etc. Being able to play something easily on the piano also opens so many doors. Not to mention being able to tour solo and save lots of money because I can play several instruments. There is nothing negative about it... except maybe one thing...

And that is that because I know music so well, there are times that I just want my writing to be simple. In other words I don't want to know what I'm doing harmonically. All I want is to go for the emotion. In those cases I just pick up the guitar (which I don't really know what I'm doing on, I just do it) and I fool around until I find lines and progressions that sound right. There is a wonderful freedom and organic quality that comes from just playing what you feel. I guess in the end, my classical training has made it possible for me to make a living as a singer/songwriter because I can do so many things to bring in money and make my life as a musician work financially.
"There is a wonderful freedom and organic quality that comes from just playing what you feel." - Lisbeth Scott



"But the whole point for me is to support the voice." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: Most musicians have always had to do many things to both satisfy their artistic curiosity and to keep their heads above water. I think that the level of self-sufficiency you have will become increasingly important in the future for musicians in general. Nobody wants to go broke recording or touring. Part of the solution, at least for me, has been to use technology both in the studio and live.

But a funny thing happened along the way -- I grew to love what I'm doing now. Loops, samples, synths and the computer, in and of itself, are as much a part of my music as my guitar. Now the reason I'm talking about this, is that I'm listening to "Grace" again right now, and I'm wondering how important production is to you as an artist.
Lisbeth: Production is very important to me. I hear each song at its inception in a certain way. Sometimes it's simple and clear, other times complicated and many layered. But the whole point for me is to support the voice. What serves the vocal and the ideas in the lyrics the best? The answers to those questions are many and varied for me. Anyone who has heard my music knows that I rarely go for the typical band set up. I love using unusual instruments and mixing them with the norm. I love mixing beautiful acoustic sounds with a more technical sound. We both know production can make or break a tune. That's why I tend to approach it so carefully. It's sort of like building a house. All the doors and windows have to be in the right places and there has to be enough support or everything will just fall apart! "I aim to create an atmosphere that is similar to my whispering in your ear..." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: Very good point... and from my own perspective as a guitarist, I have to carefully choose the textures that work with my instrument. I find some sounds just "fit" more naturally with my guitar playing. The challenge for me is not to become texturally conservative and keep relying on the same set of tricks...

One thing we haven't discussed is live music. I've never seen one of your gigs, but the fact that you're such a strong singer leads me to think you could perform in almost any setting -- solo, live band, with tracks, etc. For those of us who haven't seen you live, could you describe your show?
Lisbeth: Hmm. Every one is different. That's one of the things I love about performing my own music... I can be so free. I've done shows with a huge band, a small band, a bass player, a guitarist and many many, in fact thousands, of shows alone... me on piano, guitar and djembe and of course singing. However I choose to present my music in any given show, it is always intimate. I aim to create an atmosphere that is similar to my whispering in your ear... I want to make every person in the audience feel special in some way. I love to have high energy moments and soft moments, heavenly and earthly moments... I usually start out on piano and then move to guitar and then back to piano and then to djembe... now I'm adding harmonium though, so I'll play that somewhere in the middle. Come to think of it... I'd better go practise!
Jamie: Well, practise makes perfect, doesn't it! But there never seems to be enough time... For me, computers have taken over huge amounts of whatever time I have available. I'm not sure that's a good thing, but it's where I'm at right now. It's a double-edged sword -- computers allow me to do so much, but they don't always let me do what I want. Or at least not without four days of editing!

Artists draw inspiration from so many different areas -- from their surroundings, from life experiences, from music itself. I know for me, it's not always clear cut where or how a piece of music comes to be. Where a composition starts and where it stops may be very far apart! Where do you look for inspiration? Have your sources of inspiration changed over time?
Lisbeth: Your questions are always so thoughtfully put together! I appreciate that.

Let's see. Inspiration. That is a very complex topic for me. It used to be that the only thing that would inspire me was pain and sadness. My music was a way to process things in my life. But that has changed radically in the last few years. I remember waking up one morning and realizing that I felt a deep peace and happiness in my heart and being so thankful for that. And my next thought was... oh no! Where will I find inspiration for my writing?!

But that was simple. Just observing people and relationships can launch any number of new musical endeavors. Another huge source of inspiration for me is spirit in my life. The interaction of spirit and the physical. My new CD explores this a lot and is a direct reflection of where I'm at right now in life... thankfully! When I write, I just think about opening up the top of my head and allowing ideas to pour in from up above. Never fails!

There are times however, that I just wake up with tunes and words in my head and have to run to get them down. I walk and hike a lot and will also be given songs while I'm in the middle of those things. Also when I hear an artist that truly moves me it often inspires me to write.

I heard Bob Dylan interviewed recently and he spoke for a rare moment about how he writes. He said he gets someone else's tune running through his head over and over and gradually starts putting new lyrics to it and changes the melody and then it becomes his tune! I loved hearing that. I've always believed that artists during certain times in history have a common spiritual blood running through them. Many songs can focus on different perspectives of one common experience. It's all very exciting to me and I could go on forever but I won't!!
I remember waking up one morning and realizing that I felt a deep peace and happiness in my heart and being so thankful for that." - Lisbeth Scott
Jamie: I'd never heard that Bob Dylan story before -- that's such a unique way of working! I learn something new every day...

So your new record is just about set for release. How are you feeling? Excited? Anxious? If you're anything like me, before a new release, you'll have a mixture of a lot feelings -- including relief!
Lisbeth: Yes, I am feeling lots of things... excited, curious etc etc... Mostly I'm still busy trying to take care of the details that need to be paid attention to in order to get it out! I guess I'm also wondering how people will feel about this relatively new direction I've taken... hmmmm. Time will tell!!
Jamie: It's tough to know how people will respond to any record. I think that if an artist is sincere, in whatever they do, an album is a success. Critical or commercial success, however, is a whole other kettle of fish. But I'm sure knowing the quality of your past work and how talented you are, that Passionate Voice will be a hit on every level. Best of luck and thanks for taking the time to do this artist-to-artist conversation!
 
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