Eleanor Fye

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Eleanor Fye's second amazing album "Love Stays On" has just been released. I had a very interesting interview with her in which we talked about her career as a songwriter and her albums. She also explains the difference between her debut and her new album. And, yes a tour is imminent in 2011!

[Q]: First off, congratulations on your album "Love Stays On". Please tell us about the album.

Eleanor Fye answers [A]: Thanks, I appreciate it! This is my second record of original songs. My first, "Drive," was released in June 2007. There's been a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of development in my life in the last three years, and the new album definitely reflects that. I initiated a pretty major career shift in 2008 and followed that by moving across the country to Nashville, then back to an island near Seattle a year later. When I got to Whidbey Island, I met Gonzalo Bergara and learned about John Jorgenson through DjangoFest NW. That festival was a revelation to me, and an obvious influence, since both those guys are featured on my tracks. So several of the styles and sounds on this record might not exist if I hadn't moved back to Washington. I'm glad I was able to follow my heart and gut.

[Q]: Which song on "Love Stays On" took the longest to complete? Why?

[A]: I think it was "She Flies," which I started during a trip to New Zealand in January 2008. During that trip I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of swimming with dolphins in the wild, which was exhilarating. I remember the chorus coming to me during that trip, and I knew it was going to be a good one. I struggled a bit with getting it done, but finally just let it go and actually finished the lyrics in the recording session. I'm normally a planner, so allowing myself to be at the mercy of the moment was a huge leap of faith.

[Q]: The album was recorded in a just a few days. How did you manage to do this so efficient?

[A]: Well, it's both a skillset and a producing style, I guess. I learned how to create CDs and manage production schedules while making sales and marketing training CDs at Microsoft. We got to record in Microsoft Studios, which is one of the biggest ProTools HD outfits in the country, and the content development process was pretty rigorous. I got a lot of experience in creating sessions that didn't require a lot of post-production editing because we usually didn't have the time for it. As far as my style, I've come at my recordings maybe a little back-asswards from the indie norm. I go in to record songs that are new and untested, sometimes not even quite finished. But for some reason that's the way that has felt right for me, and the strong vision was always there. I've been fortunate to work with musicians who have strong jazz tendencies and great ears. I like to have players in the studio who don't need to see things beforehand or rehearse, but who can read a chart and hear between the lines, be in the moment, and fly by the beat of their heart, if not the seat of their pants. It's one of the reasons I absolutely love Nashville. The level of musicianship is stunning.

[Q]: What is the main difference between your debut album and this one?

[A]: The new record reflects more miles under my wheels and more confidence and maturity both in my singing and in my writing. With the first album, I still was new to the whole songwriting thing -- I wrote my first song in January 2006 - and I was still not sure of the whole move beyond the jazz and classical modes that were so familiar to me. On top of that, I was having all these realizations about how many people I was letting impose their agenda on me, rather than being who I needed to be and making the mistakes I needed to make. I'm at a much better place in my life now, and that joy really rings in the new record.

[Q]: Working with A-list musicians (ie., Michael Rhodes and John Jorgenson), in what way does their musical experience and taste influence your musical thoughts?

[A]: It's a pure joy to work with them, and the sessions with those two in particular were the most fun of my musical life. They hear so fully and immediately, and can respond and manifest so quickly, that it doesn't take long to work through ideas. They also helped with some of the arrangements, and with making songs that much better. Best of all, they're both dog people, which is really the most important thing!

[Q]: When creating a track, do you have a set theme and pre-written lyrics, or do you start with an idea or the music first?

[A]: I would say all of the above. Since I've been a writer and content producer in my "day" job, I can definitely create content to order, and enjoy that exercise. The songs on my records usually show up as successive snippets of lyrics and/or music. Sometimes I'll just keep a file for a particular song title and toss random notes in there. At some point I sit down and realize they're all of a piece, and I piece them together. Sometimes a song seems to write itself, like "Love, the End," which I wrote on a friend's dining room table in about ten minutes.

[Q]: In what way have your parents played a part in your decision to pursue a musical career?

[A]: I think I always knew I'd be a late bloomer, because I used to joke that I'd be a lounge singer later in life or play drums in a rock band. It was painful to have my parents discourage me from pursuing music as a profession earlier, but in retrospect I'm glad they encouraged a "professional degree." My master's degree in library and information science has served me well, and has opened a lot of doors. I'€™m glad I balance these dual passions for music and business, as they definitely are both relevant to the music industry now. I'm grateful - extremely grateful - for my corporate experience and learning how to get things done on a bigger scale.

[Q]: Are there (still) goals you want to reach as an artist and/or songwriter?

[A]: Most definitely. I would love to do a jazz project and share some interpretations and arrangements of standards that are a little different than the norm. I would love to have a major artist sing one of my songs. That would be so cool! And I love film, so would love to have a song in a film at some point. I did the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program in Seattle a couple years ago, and I learned that I am more tuned to writing songs or composing themes for film than full-on scoring or arranging/orchestrating. So it would be fun to do a collaborative project with a film music team.

[Q]: Any plans for a tour?

[A]: I've been so ambivalent about touring. It's taken me a long time to feel balance in the equation of "I love roadtrips" + "I feel happy when I'm singing." I thought I would do little "tour-ettes" this year, maybe long weekends in various places. I'll still do that. But I'm starting to feel that, "Wow, it would be really cool to have some face time with people listening to my music." That showing up is so important - as Woody Allen said, it'€™s 90% of success. But I didn't want to do it just because you have to do it. I wanted to do what felt right for me at the time. And now it's feeling like the time. So yes! Tour imminent. I'm looking forward to getting around the country a bit.

[Q]: How hard is it for a songwriter to give a song a description? Isnot it possible that a song does not have a story but just lyrics?

[A]: It's not necessarily hard for me to tell where a song came from, but there may be several other influences going on that don't fit into a neat blurb. Also, my songs may mean different things to me than to other people, and different things to different people. I'm frequently surprised by peoples' interpretations of my lyrics. It's not necessarily what I was writing about, so it's great that the songs have that interpretive range. And things change over time. I find nuances in my first songs that I didn't realize back then, and I'm sure I'll feel that way someday about this current crop of songs. I do love a song with a story, but I also love the idea of abstraction, words playing in time and space with music. Of course, keeping it grounded and simple is important, so I love that challenge of finding the threads of meaning through a song, even if it's not an explicit story.

[Q]: Recently, what is a typical day like for you?

[A]: I live on an island, so I love to get to the beach regularly. In the morning I usually have some coffee while I read e-mail and news, then do a few hours of consulting work - either conference calls or compiling/creating information and sending it out via e-mail from my "loftice" as I call it (my loft office). Then I usually juggle booking, promo, design, charting, or other music-related tasks. Then evening is usually when I practice or rehearse or write, when I'm more relaxed and at ease. And of course, I run errands and stop in on friends and just hang out, too.

[Q]: Final words?

[A]: Thank you! I appreciate your interest and hope you enjoy my music.

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