Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Stephan Burmeister at Flying Dolphin Entertainment UG for setting up the interview
Thanks to Metalville Records for providing the promo pictures of Lee Aaron and band.
Lee Aaron needs no introduction; she’s been around since the early ’80’s, flying the melodic hard rock/AOR flag high. It’s taken her a while to follow up 2018’s DIAMOND BABY BLUES album, but now she’s back on the attack with RADIO ON! This is a shorter interview with Lee, where we handled issues like the new album, the writing process, what she’s up to on her YouTube channel, and her opinions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re into the later albums by Lee Aaron RADIO ON! is not going to disappoint you.
Hi Lee, how are you doing today? Are you ready to kick off the interview? It’s a real honor to speak with you and I love your new album RADIO ON!
Thank you so much! It was a fun album to make and we’re really excited about it!
What have you been up since the release of your previous studio album DIAMOND BABY BLUES and RADIO ON!?
We did a lot of touring for both DIAMOND BABY BLUES (2018) and POWER, SOUL, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – LIVE IN GERMANY (2019). We did a bunch of Canadian shows and made it to Europe to perform at the Wacken (Germany) and Skogsrojet (Sweden) festivals. In the summer of 2019, in between shows, we got together as a band to work on tunes for the new album RADIO ON! and ended up in the recording studio the week that COVID exploded around the world in mid-March 2020.
How did you come up with the idea to release a Christmas album, which you did last year?
Ha! We had finished all the tracks for RADIO ON! and were wondering “What do we do now?” as a band. We recorded a few “Rockin’ From Home” videos for our fans but there were only so many of those we could do. Then, my guitarist, Sean called me in September and said “Hey, let’s make a Christmas album. It would be really fun, and keep our band-family connected.” Initially, it was just an idea to give our spirits a lift during pandemic times and to create something our fans could look forward to for Christmas. The only problem was that we had very little time to get it recorded and mixed and NO time to get global distribution. So last year, it was just an indie release via my website. This year, Metalville will release ALMOST CHRISTMAS worldwide with 2 NEW tracks and a new cover. I’m excited about that. It’s a totally rockin’ little Christmas album!
New album RADIO ON!
Is it correct you wrote the album on a weekend? Were there songs that didn’t made it on to the final version of the album?
Yeah, we got together for a weekend in our rehearsal space and everyone brought their best 3 or 4 song ideas. I’m so blessed because not only are my band great musicians and everyone has creative ideas to contribute. We jammed over these song ideas together and by the end of 2 days we literally had a record. I think we even surprised ourselves. There was one tune that didn’t make the final cut called “Armour of the Heart” – it’s a great tune but it was very much in the vein of “Devil’s Gold” so we had to choose between the two.
Was it you and the band that wrote the material together and what are the lyrics about on RADIO ON!?
All the music was written collaboratively with the band but I am the main lyric writer. I have to sing them right? The lyrics touch on a few different topics. The song “Radio On” is about the immortal quality of good music. Even though we have lost some incredible artists in the last few years their music lives on.
What are the longest songs “Devil’s Gold” (6,09) and “Twenty One (5,08) about?
“Devil’s Gold” is about the shallowness of consumer culture and fake news culture which seems to be out of control these days. Finding truth on the internet is a challenge. “Twenty One” is a song of hope about growing up. It’s a nostalgic look at how far we have come and how our hearts stay forever young.
C’mon official video
Why did you call the album RADIO ON! Who came up with the title?
It’s always nice to have a song that is a perfect album title. The guys in the band and I were reminiscing about the days when disc jockeys had the freedom to play what they liked and to ‘break’ a band on the power of radio air play. I miss those days, so “Radio On’ felt ideal because it captured that feeling and addresses my fans, most of whom remember radio days.
Where was the album recorded and who produced it? Did you use only one studio or several?
We recorded all the bed tracks for the album ‘live off the floor’ at a studio called “Afterlife” which is the old “Mushroom” studios where Heart recorded years ago. We completed the tracks in our home studios because of COVID and I worked with one of my previous engineers (John Webster) on vocals. It was produced by me. I’ve produced my last 6 albums. I hired Mike Fraser (AC/DC) to mix the tracks because I LOVE what he does. He gets those huge organic guitar sounds and very ‘real’ vocal sounds. We mixed the album at ‘The Armoury’ studio in Vancouver.
How was it to record an album during a pandemic, did you have to re-think any element in your ordinary way of working?
Well, yes. We couldn’t get together in the same room to finish the rest of the tracks so guitar solos and background vocals and keyboards were all done remotely – in our home studios. Sean would record a solo, then send me a video of his ‘playback.’ If I liked it, we would keep it, if not, we’d discuss a different approach. The beautiful thing about recording at home was that if I didn’t like a background vocal or a keyboard part that I put down yesterday, I could always erase it and re-record it because I wasn’t on the ‘studio clock.’ There was a lot of time to be creative, so that was the upside.
Twenty One official video
The info sheet claims you play classic rock and the label states you play heavy classic blues/hard rock. How would you like to describe what kind of music you play?
Hmmm…I find it hard to describe my own sound. It’s rock music with choruses that you can sing along to.
Do you think that old fans of Lee Aaron will like this new album as they have with the old ones?
Yes! It’s a continuation of what I do. Big guitar hooks, catchy melodies & harmonies and a little bit of the unexpected.
I’d say that RADIO ON! is a brilliant melodic hard rock/AOR album that includes some really edgy and varied material, and your vocals have never sounded better, are you happy with the outcome of the album so far?
Yes! We are getting great feedback on the songs!
Past present and future
You posted a bunch of videos on your YouTube channel where you and the band play together under the hashtag #StayHome. Could you tell us a little more about those videos?
Like every band we were trying to figure out what we could do during lock-down to keep connecting with our fans. We decided to do some quarantine performances. We did a couple of popular Lee Aaron songs, but during the whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement we decided to cover ‘Everyday People’ by Sly and the Family Stone. It’s a great tune and a great message about equality, and we really wanted to put some positive vibes out there as a band when everyone seemed to have such polarized views.
Rockin’ From Home: Everyday People #StayHome and Rock #WithMe
On your Instagram and your YouTube channel fans have been asking you questions, do you like to stay in touch with the fans and what’s the most common question they ask you?
Yeah, I started “Ask Lee” on Tuesdays, on the recommendation of my husband. It was another way to stay connected to fans when we couldn’t play live. I really have been trying to answer every question. Many folks tell me they really look forward to Tuesdays because of my Q&A time. They say it’s like having a talk with an old friend and that’s exactly how I’ve tried to approach it. Very conversational and casual. The most common question I get asked is: How big is your record collection? The answer to that question is: Close to 200,000 pieces of vinyl…but 199,999 of them belong to John (my husband and drummer)…LOL! He’s the REAL collector!
Have you re-scheduled the shows you had booked for 2020?
Yes. Most of my international shows have been re-scheduled for 2022. If I’m lucky I may be able to play some shows in Canada later this year.
Why have you have toured so little in Europe?
Europe is a very expensive undertaking for a North American band. You need a good-paying festival show (we call in an ‘anchor date’) to cover flights and rentals just to get you there. It requires a lot of organization and often ‘work papers,’ withholding taxes etc. and many other details to be worked through. I hope to get back to Europe as soon as it’s safe. I miss the festivals and the fans!
What’s it like to be called Metal Queen :)?
Well, I wrote a song called “Metal Queen” in 1984, but didn’t really expect to be called the ‘Metal Queen’ for the rest of my life. Some fans would not consider my newer music metal at all. Doro Pesch and Lizzy Hale deserve that title equally, if not more than me. They are fantastic at what they do and I really respect them. For some fans, the ‘Metal Queen’ title just means that they consider me their favorite queen of rock music. I’m okay with that too. For most fans, it’s a term of respect.
You have been in the music industry for a while know and in what way do you think the industry have changed throughout the years? Has it become easier or harder for newcomers to land record deal and make it big?
Digital technology has changed everything. The way people consume music is very different now. Your album is like an advertisement for your live show. No one is getting rich from record sales or streaming. Thankfully, for artists like me, my fans still like CDs and vinyl and will buy it because physical is important to them. It’s easier than ever for new bands to record music cheaply and to market it, but the competition is crazy. You need to create something so unique and different to get noticed. Not many artists can do that. And with all the digital tricks, like quantizing and pitch correction, many artists don’t actually learn to play their instruments well, or sing in tune, and that’s a shame.
What are the plans for Lee Aaron in the near future?
We are shooting videos right now for 3 singles from “Radio On” coming out in advance of the album release on July 23rd. If COVID restrictions are lifted I hope to visit my father (who is 85 years old) who lives on the other side of Canada. Family is so important, and I haven’t been able to see anyone in my family for 15 months! Then, we hope to get back to playing some live shows very soon! We also have about 1/2 of the songs written for a 2022 album!
Well that was all for me and Metal-Rules.com at the moment, thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and your band all the best and really hope to see you perform live on stage in Scandinavia soon(not only at Sweden Rock Festival), stay safe and healthy. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers!
Stay positive! The comeback will be stronger than the setback! XO