Q&A with the
Wonderfully Wonderful Donna Lewis
By Aaron Alper


Welsh-born singer/songwriter Donna Lewis, best known for her international smash hit “I Love You Always Forever” speaks about motherhood, a new record, and the weirdness of b-sides.



Aaron Alper:Hello Donna. Well, first things first. How’s life as a mom?

Donna Lewis: We love our little Archie. He’s a great guy but he is all consuming. It’s been difficult getting much music done. But I have to say, it’s been a great experience of being a mum. We’re very happy.

Donna Lewis Now for the new record. Do you have a theme planned? Where are you going with that?

I pretty much got everything. What happened was I started on the new record in January 2002, when I was seven months pregnant with Archie. There’s a producer I know and we recorded that. Then we left it ‘til August. All the songs are pretty much there. It’s kind of frustrating a year and half ago there were songs mixed and ready to go but because you don’t have it completed you have to take another look and do another mix. Times change. Not that I want to fit in with what’s “now”, but it needs to be refreshed. Some are finished, others need a bit more work. It’s an interesting one.

When you released Blue Planet, you had remarked on how it would be very different than Now in a Minute. Then Be Still was very different as well. What will this one sound like?

The exciting thing about this record is I feel it is a back to the radio record. I hate to use the word “radio record” but it’s more upbeat.

Are you still using the same musicians?

There are some musicians that I always like to work with. Most of the stuff recorded now is me and the producer, our keyboards and stuff. We’ve got Tony Levine who came in a did a couple of tracks on bass and we’ve got Harvey Jones, my keyboard player who did “Now In a Minute” he did some special keyboards sounds for me. So the record is going to be different. It’s got a mix of dance, techno and pop.

I have to say you have a great voice for techno. It’s such a melody driven genre, and your music is full of melodies, so it’s perfect for you.

Exactly. When I went to work in Italy with these Italian producers we had such a great time. We laid down a bunch of tracks in a matter of days. I think one of my strengths is my sense of melody. It was so exciting to hear my voice sitting well in that style of music. So those we definitely used that dance-electronica backing for the album.

Much different than “Be Still”!

You know, “Be Still” is something I’ve always wanted to do because I started out as a piano vocalist, but I am happiest when I back to pop (pauses) I hate to use the word pop, you know, because it changes…

Well the thing is people misconstrue it. I mean, Marilyn Manson is a pop musician. It doesn’t necessarily mean “popular”.

Exactly.

How has your songwriting evolved since you started working in the industry? Is there anything you do differently or do you keep the same methods?

I don’t think I keep the same methods. I think when things happen in your life and you have experiences you tend to write about them. I try to go with the flow with wherever I get inspiration from. Maybe my lyrics have evolved a little,. I think I have matured a lot, and you can see that with Blue Planet.

And “Be Still” too.“Pink Dress” is one of the most powerful and moving songs ever written.

(laughs) Thank you! It’s great because it’s such a simple song with a piano recorded backwards.

That’s what that is?! I could never figure out what instrument was playing…

Yeah. It was recorded in Ireland on my grand piano and we just flipped it backwards Actually, I’ve recently worked on a new version with drums and complements from the sound. I wish you could hear it!

Is it on the record, or are you going to put it as a b-side?

Maybe it will be a b-side because I hate to give people a repetition of another song. I’d like them to have 11 or 12 new songs. Maybe we’ll do it as a bonus track.

Atlantic promised you a top priority when Blue Planet was released. It eventually earned a #1 dance hit and was critically acclaimed yet received no attention from Atlantic. Don't those things help an artist who isn’t selling the way their label wants them to?

It was ironic really. No initial support for the first record and then a sense of priority for Blue Planet prior to release. There was no real explanation. The first single ''I Could Be The One'' was starting to happen at radio but the head of radio promotions felt it wasn’t going to happen and wanted to switch to ''Love Him'' after just 3 weeks. Then when “Love Him'' was a dance hit the label just didn’t get behind it! The politics involved with the heads of labels and how they make their decisions is complex, I'm sure. You cannot win priority at a label by argument neither can you fathom the labels actions. But I believe it's always been that way.

When did you know it was time to split with Atlantic?

I knew within a couple of months from release of Blue Planet that it was time for me to leave Atlantic. It wasn’t difficult to be amicable once I had made my mind up but I was disappointed that Blue Planet never got a real chance. I didn’t have to deal with them personally; my managers and lawyers did.

How does recently label-less artists get themselves back in the game of recording?

I think the whole industry is changing from the traditional major deal. I think it's a very exciting time for artists and independent companies to forge the way forward. Making/recording music is something I will always do. I'll be looking into all the options for getting my new album out, which I hope to complete next year.

Do you plan for any live shows soon? A tour maybe?

Maybe I might do a couple acoustic shows, but nothing as yet. We want to get the record going. But I love doing live work, and I never got a huge chance to do what I wanted to so if we can get a few small dates we’ll talk about it.

What’s your favorite record of all time?

Blue Nile’s “Hats” is probably my favorite record. And to name a song “Beautiful Day” by U2. It is such a tremendous pop song.

I have read that you study flute and that you’re versatile on that. Will that make it on any of your records?

I might. In Ireland I recorded a track with a flute. I keep meaning to experiment. I suppose I don’t want to use it as a flute solo, but maybe use it as an interesting sound. Whether I not I use it in this record, but it is something I’ve wanted to experiment with.

That’s where the b-sides come in. You can be as weird as want.

Yeah. With them it’s the weirder the better. Maybe I will do a little flute thing on the side. I will definitely think about that. I do have a great Japanese flute here…

Ok, last question. What is a life lesson that you’ve personally come across that would be words to live by?

Always be true and honest to yourself and others. As I’ve gotten older I think you have a happier life that way.
Having a child makes you see things in a different way. You see the world through their eyes. I am sure Tori Amos and Paula Cole and all those artists who are mums now, it makes you feel differently about things. Its incredible thing, and you can’t put it to words how much love you have to this person. Sometimes my heart bursts with my love I have for Archie. But my music is still incredible and a great passion for me, and if I can get the record out and start playing again it will be the icing on the cake.

Photos courtesy of DonnaLewis.com

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