Interview with Fiona

Hello Fiona! How are you doing? Wow, I can’t believe it’s been about two decades since you’re last album, and now, as if no time has passed by at all, you’re back with a spectacular and powerful new album (with your spirited and compelling vocals in top form) titled Unbroken which was released in October. I also can’t believe I’m doing this interview with you (I’m pinching myself to make sure this is happening – LOL) because you are one of my main rock inspirations from the 1980s, and I’ve been wondering for so long if you were still in the music sphere.

Oh. Really? That makes me laugh – the part about you wondering if I was in the music sphere. No, I was just living my life and covering my ears as my kids started music lessons! Thanks for the compliments, though! Love that!

Before we take a cruise down memory lane, could you go into some details about the songs on Unbroken, which can be purchased at your official website: http://www.fionarock.com/homepage.html . How long have the songs been in gestation? Have you carried around the seeds of certain songs for years, which have now come to fruition, or has it been a quicker creative process?

No. We wrote them cold, hard and fast. I haven’t written or tried to write for years. A few of the songs were written for the Squeeze CD but the new ones are from the past few months.

You’ve collaborated with various musicians on the songwriting and music for this album, including Tommy Deander, Bobby Messano, Marc Tanner, and producer James Christian (of House Of Lords fame). Did it feel like the (hopefully) good old days working with these guys? How did you handle the songwriting? Did you come into the studio armed with lyrics in advance or did you hash it all out while also composing the songs?

This time we were separated. We did it by computer. I stood in my computer room and sang to tracks until it felt right and then I’d record and send my ideas to James. Sometimes he had suggestions, sometimes he just said NO WAY. I didn’t mind. I tried different melodies. The lyrics he never bothered me about. I was stuck on the chorus of “Broken” so he wrote those words and melody. Bobby Messano came over one day and helped with two songs. That was in person, but he lives near me.

You perform a duet with singer Robin Beck and it’s really cool and unusual to hear two female lead vocalists on the same track! How did this come about?

I was staying at her house and we thought it would be really cool. She is an amazing singer so we thought we could have a voice battle. A duel instead of a duet. It was really fun. She’s crazy and her voice is so different than mine, more flexible in my opinion and just amazing up high.

Fiona - Unbroken

You cover “Shadows of the Night”, which I always assumed was written by Pat Benatar, but the lyrics are by D. L. Byron. What drew you to cover this song in particular and did you, from what I understand, use alternate lyrics that D. L. Byron wrote that were not in Pat Benatar’s version?

Bobby Messano suggested I check out D. L. Byron, so I did and I got stuck on his original version of the song. I just loved it and decided to sing it. I did it in a low key on purpose. I wanted to do a duet with John Eddie but he said no. I’m laughing. I thought, this is going well… He’s my friend.  He is amazing live, and I just thought it would be fun. It would have been very difficult to arrange, logistically. I sang in Florida. He’s on the road almost all year. We’ll do it onstage sometime.  Anyway, it came out just the way I wanted it to I guess – except without John!

I love the song title “I Love You But Shut Up”. Who is that directed at?

The Elements wrote the song and let me take a few liberties with the verse lyrics which was really kind of them. It was originally a little bit more about sports, but I wanted to relate it to my own life which is a bit broader. My kid was working on a simple pulley machine and CNBC is always on about stocks and bonds – and who cares – the world is nuts right now and the news is crazy and I just want the TV to shut up (and the kids, too, sometimes – they want to tell me EVERYTHING and I feel like my head is going to explode).

“Everything You Are” is a sweet change of pace from the hard (yet still melodic) rock, with you singing in a more delicate and less menacing tone. Do you enjoy singing in this style or do you prefer to let loose and press your emotions to the forefront on the more rockin’ tracks?

I think that was the first song I sang and I like the high notes, but if I had it to do again I might push more on the B sections. Honestly. I was just getting warmed up. It’s accidental art. It sounds different but I’m very glad it does.

Unbroken is released on Retrospect Records, but I noticed at your website that you also listed Life On The Moon Records. Is this your own record label?

It’s stressful. Pain in the neck. I dislike details when it has to do with me. I would prefer a separation. I like to sing. Period.

You’re previous albums are hard to find and sell for big bucks (well, at least on my budget! LOL) at Amazon. Are you planning on (re)releasing your back catalog at your official site? That would be cool!

They don’t belong to me, so no.

Even though it’s been about 20 years since the release of your album Squeeze, I think you’ve still been involved in the music world, albeit sporadically. There’s some live footage at YouTube of you singing at shows in 2010 and you’ve done some songwriting and backing vocals for other artists. I didn’t realize that you did backing vocals for Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” (rest in peace Jani Lane) and Roger Daltrey’s song on The Lost Boys soundtrack, and were a guest vocalist on a Dweezil Zappa song! How did these awesome side projects come about?

All three of those were because I was married to the producer, Beau Hill, or at least dating – I can’t remember the years. If he needed a girl he called me! I’m very grateful to him. I think maybe Warrant asked for me because we were all friends. I agree, Jani Lane dead is very sad.

Your duet (and accompanying video) with Kip Winger on “Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me)” from your 1989 album Heart Like A Gun is incredibly sizzlin’. How did you end up collaborating with him?

Once again, Beau. They had been friends in Colorado and then he produced those Winger records. Kip and I obviously got to know each other very well (and his entire family). He was on Atlantic and in my opinion he did me a favor. I love that guy. I just saw him a few nights ago. He is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. He just wrote a freaking ballet that is performed all over the world. Now HE is someone to ask about the past 20 years!!!

Going back to your self-titled debut in 1985, I was floored by the raw emotion of the single “Talk To Me”. It was a heady time for you, with the release of your sophomore album Beyond The Pale just a year later. Were you prepared at all for the critical accolades, public adoration, and photoshoot requests? I remember you were featured, along with Chris Isaak (well, in a separate section, I think) in a prominent magazine at that time period…

No. I had a very high opinion of myself, which I think most 24 year olds do, but I was VERY unprepared for all the business work. I just thought I’d be at airports a lot. I had no role models, no one explaining what was going on. It was very weird and I feel for all the kids that it happens to, even though they do want it and go for it, they have NO idea unless their parents did it, too.

From what I’ve read, you were also interested in acting as a wee lass, although I’m not sure how much of that was due to parental pressure to “make something of yourself” (as is their wont). You co-starred alongside legend Bob Dylan and actor Rupert Everett in the 1987 film Hearts Of Fire and the Little Miss Dangerous episode of Miami Vice. I’m sure everyone asks you what it was like to work with Bob Dylan, so instead I’m going to ask you what it was like to work with Rupert Everett (who I thought was the bee’s knees at that time period in cinema). LOL

Rupert, I think, hated me. I wanted so much for him to like me – maybe I tried too hard. You’d have to ask him. I was in every scene and though I was prepared, I was pretty tired. I didn’t understand the pace of it all. It’s very intense. I was interested in acting but music was where my head was and I just stopped trying at anything in the arts.

So I guess you didn’t ever consider switching careers and going into the acting field?

No. You really have to know what you are doing. I had a great coach in NY and a few great classes in LA where I could really feel it, feel what acting was, and it was amazing. I read with Benicio Del Toro once in class. It blows your mind. I wrote a play for that class and David Mamet’s brother told me to be a writer. That was a boost. Anyway, when I did act, I lowered my voice and that is REALLY bad for singing.

Speaking of performing, you have a gig lined up for mid-December. Any plans to do a tour or release a music video to tie in with your album release?

I’m just getting all that organized. December is on, February in Switzerland is on – I hope Germany, too. Rocklahoma, etc… I need more time in the day because I still have my regular life and my daughter is yelling at me. I didn’t know I was in charge of half time food for the soccer team until one minute ago and the game is in 30 minutes.. Why do they need food at half time?  Can’t they bring their own? AHHHHHHHHH.

Ah, yes, real life…  I hope everything else is going fine for you!

It’s fine now. We had no power for a few days. Made me understand how the rest of the people in the world feel who are not as fortunate at this particular time in the history of the world. Kids and husband are great – glad to have them. VERY. They take me higher. I’m just learning how to combine the sudden influx of music with the rest of the schedule. This is all very unexpected.