Just before the madness that was the Christmas and New Year holiday period where my list of jobs seemed to grow longer and the available hours got shorter, the lovely Issa Oversteen very kindly gave up some of her Saturday evening to talk to me from the home in York, that she shares with her husband (James Martin from Vega) and their dogs, about her latest album (“Can’t Stop”, which I reviewed just prior to its November 2012 release) and her plans for the future.
Hi Issa, thanks for giving up some of your Saturday to talk to Rock-Zone, it is greatly appreciated. As you may know I recently reviewed the new record, which I thought was great, so what were your thoughts behind the album and the track selection?
Well, I’ve been working with Frontiers now for 3 or 4 years and this is my third album and Serafino (the big boss at Frontiers) had wanted to do a record like this for some time. He wanted to choose some more unusual and obscure cover versions, so it was his passion really. So, he sent me the songs that he wanted to do and we picked the ones we wanted and went from there. I really want my next record to be much more centred around songs that I write (well, James and I) and this record would be a good stop gap whilst I work on new, original material because by doing an album every year I don’t have the time to write all the songs and get everything ready by the time I release an album (which is usually in October). So this record was a good idea to give us a little breathing space.
You release albums very quickly, in fact you have an almost old fashioned approach – getting records out every year. How do you keep it fresh and your passion for the music alive with that work rate?
I’ve always had a passion for music but I think that by trying to do my own thing, you know doing them the way I want to hear them. You do get some songs where there seems to be a pattern and you have to get out of that box and put your own stamp on it. I think I just try to do my best and interpret it my way and not listen to the demos or other versions and that way you keep coming up with something new. The passion is there from being a little girl – I’m the kind of girl that never shut up when I was young…I was singing all the time.
What or who were the first bands or singers that made you think “that’s what I want to do” or want to be a singer?
Well, you know what? When I was little I was definitely influenced by the songs my parents listened to but my own idols were the older rock bands and singers with big personalities and big voices such as Celine Dion and also more modern stuff too. But it was always really big voices that impressed me and I think that is what I’ve always tried to aim for. There are so many good singers that it’s really hard to name individuals but I think Celine Dion was like my first “crush”.
Don’t you think that it is really important that, whoever you listen to, the music needs to make it clear that the artist is enjoying themselves?
Oh yeah! There is nothing more obvious than seeing someone doing something that they clearly don’t enjoy – just standing there, looking at the sheets going through the motions.
I really think that your enjoyment comes across on the record (as it does on the new Vega single)?
What’s the best thing about being Issa right now?
You know things can be really crazy sometimes but I am a female and there are not that many younger female singers so that brings me more interest/exposure. On the down side people will judge everything I do from look wise to things other than the music which is not what you have to put up with if you’re a guy. Being a woman, the good thing is I’m not that concerned I just do my thing and if people like it – great. If they don’t then I’m not that concerned!
This album had a lot of work on the vocals. Sometimes in my life people have wanted me to do certain things their way and this time I’ve really enjoyed doing it my way – giving the vocals full blast.
Where did you record the record? Here in the UK or in Europe?
No, I recorded it here in the UK (just like with previous record “The Storm”). I use a small local studio and then send files back and forward to the guys in Italy to do their stuff – it’s the modern way!
That seems to make me suspect that you now have more artistic control of the work than maybe the bands 20 years or more ago had – being told by the record company what every move would be?
It is absolutely wonderful. You can be more objective about what you produce. When you do it yourself, you hire an engineer and they don’t have that big an idea of what is expected from me. So it gives more of a sense of decision making.
In terms of touring, are we going to see you out and about live?
I’m doing a couple of things in Germany in April. We’re talking about a support tour and a Frontiers festival in Germany (in Munich) – which will be fantastic. So we can’t wait to get that all sorted. We’re also looking to do some UK shows – obviously, as I’m living here, that would be great. We’d like to set up maybe three places. So we’re definitely talking about that, but nothing is final yet.
Live shows are the main way of selling the sort of music that you play, that still has a massive following.
The AOR scene is very loyal, just look at Firefest. The crowd are very cool.
What do you think about the package tour type idea?
That’s the trick isn’t it? Get similar bands who will each bring a crowd and then no major clash. People will feel it’s good value. We have struggled a little with booking – and live shows are what I love to do. I can’t wait and just want to get out there and perform.
Many thanks, once again, to Issa for taking the time to talk to us.
“Can’t Stop” is available now on Frontiers Records
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