Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Ever timeless, seemingly ageless, and artistically fearless, Lee Aaron has sustained a three-decade strong career based on the powerful songwriting and vocal delivery that are at the heart of Lee’s new CD entitled Fire and Gasoline.
Featuring songs like the title track “Fire and Gasoline”, “Wanna Be”, “Heart Fix” and “Bitter Sweet” which evoke the influences of Led Zeppelin, Heart, Bowie, The Runaways and Fleetwood Mac while weaving in and out of Aaron’s unique artistic vision. It is a vision that has led her to sales of close to a million copies in Canada alone, multiple awards and nominations, and a fervent following around the world.
I caught up with Lee to discuss her new CD, surviving the 80s, and navigating her musical past and future!
Robert Cavuoto: When I put on your CD I was surprised that it wasn’t heavy metal. Have you left your metal roots for more main stream rock?
Lee Aaron: Well, contrary to what people may think my “roots” are not really metal. I grew up singing a lot of jazz, blues and Broadway standards in musical theatre as a kid. Then in my teenage years I listened to a lot of Heart, Zeppelin, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John as well as bands like Black Sabbath (with Ronnie Dio), Deep Purple, AC DC, Judas Priest etc. my background is well rooted in a variety of rock, and I feel like Fire and Gasoline is very much a “rock” record.
Robert: Can you talk about the vision you had going into this album?
Lee Aaron: The only vision I had was to write songs that were authentic and not over-thought. I think when you try too hard to be a certain style or please a certain fan base you can end up creating something that sounds contrived. My vision included big guitar sounds and a solid rhythm section as well as well produced vocals. I also wanted to explore themes that were honest and relevant to the world today. My style, if you can call it that, has always included themes of personal empowerment, reflection as well as a bit of fun…
Robert: The CD is rich in tonal texture which brings out the emotion of each song, is that approach different from what you did in the 80s?
Lee Aaron: I suppose it is somewhat different as I was producer on this album, as opposed to an outside producer. The players on the album are my own band which I think gives the album continuity and flow, but I approached each song as its own entity in the overdubbing process. I added textures and tones that I felt served the song best. Some of those were keyboard parts and some were vocal and guitar textures. John Webster did an amazing job engineering the vocals and putting together the final vocal takes as I hate punching in lines. I sing the song all the way through 3 or 4 times, then we put together a composite vocal take which is the best lines from the takes. It sounds much more natural that way and yes, that is different than the way I recorded in the 80’s.
Robert: Where did you get your inspiration from in the 80s and where do get it now when writing songs?
Lee Aaron 2016 Promo. Via www.leeaaron.com/%5B/caption%5D
Lee Aaron: My inspirations in the 80’s came from a lot of the same places I draw from now – human relationships and certain observations about the world. The only difference now is that my journey has pulled me through so many MORE things…divorce, depression, bankruptcy, re-marriage, motherhood…I think that I’m now able to draw from a far deeper well.
Robert: Tell me about the importance of finding your own voice and style in 2016?
Lee Aaron: I think that in the age of digital technology it’s more important than ever to have your own unique voice. I’m still “old school” in my approach in that I believe that musicians should be in the same room playing together cutting bed tracks live off the floor. Sing all the parts in real time instead of copy and pasting vocal harmonies all over the place. I guess my style would be to try and be as authentic as possible.
Robert: Madonna and David Bowie re-created themselves every album, tell me how important is it for you to re-create yourself?
Lee Aaron: I don’t consciously set out to re-create myself, but if you allow yourself to evolve and grow as an artist I think it happens naturally. I don’t think Bowie sat down and planned out each stage of his career. I think that each phase reflected where he was at personally and professionally at that time and the albums he released were like snapshots of his life expressed in music, just as Blackstar was a goodbye essay. Fire and Gasoline reflects a lot of things that I’ve lived through and things that are important to me now.
Robert: What do you want your fans to take away from this CD?
Lee Aaron: I’d like fans to be able to make personal connections with the songs on this album. The songs are about real life things – the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, the joy and sadness of life.
Robert: Can you tell me about the creation of my favorite track on the CD “Fire and Gasoline”?
Lee Aaron: “Fire and Gasoline” started out as cool riff Sean Kelly texted me as an iPhone voice memo. I really dug the soulful sensibility of it! It had a great groove and immediately began singing a top line over it. I took it into my studio, wrote the power chord chorus part and pieced it together. I had to play the initial riff as a keyboard line [laughing] because I’m actually not a very good guitar player. I didn’t have lyrics yet and it just the general mood of the tune, so I sang a bunch of gibberish on top. I like to do that sometimes because often my first instincts are the most pure. I ended up keeping little phrases and the chorus line “Yeah, like Fire and Gasoline.” It felt both sassy and aggressive and I really liked that.
Lee Aaron 2016 Promo. Via www.leeaaron.com/%5B/caption%5D
Robert: What does it take to stand out a musician nowadays?
Lee Aaron: Ha, ha…that’s a tough one! With digital technology it seems that a lot of pop music follows the same formula of pitch correction, loops, programmed drums, brick-walling and many times I mistake one singer for another. To be unique you need first and foremost GREAT songs. Then you need your own unique voice. Copy cats are a dime a dozen but the Mick Jaggers of the world are rare.
Robert: When you look back on your career from the early days, what the one thing that amazes you?
Lee Aaron: That I’ve survived 80’s production values, big hair, spandex, a jazz career, deaths and rock and roll motherhood without ending up a total crazy person. Only slightly crazy [laughing]. I guess you have to be to stay in this business.