Linda Eder expands vocal stylings

Linda Eder’s last album may have come as a surprise to everyone but herself.

Linda Eder’s last album may have come as a surprise to everyone but herself.

Over the course of her singing career, which has spanned three decades, Eder has tackled everything from Broadway show tunes to jazz and pop standards on her albums. But with last year’s “The Other Side of Me,” she eschewed the horns and big band and decided to focus on a rootsy, Americana-flavored sound highlighting her pop sensibilities and songwriting talents.

The resulting album’s country flourishes and steel guitar might not be what one would expect from a singer like Eder, who has styled her career after such influences as Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. But in reality, the album is closer to her true self than any other she has recorded. One look at the music she’s listening to today reveals this.

Linda Eder

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

How Much: $45, $40, $35, $20

More Info: 346-6204,

“People think that in my stereo I have stuff like Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland, when I don’t listen to any of that stuff now. I did,” Eder said during a recent phone interview from her home roughly an hour’s drive north of Manhattan.

“But for the last many years, I’ve been listening to country and pop, [artists such as] Faith Hill, Train, Five for Fighting; I like Bryan Adams. I listen to very different things than fans would think.”

Fans of her past work need not worry, however. Since last year, Eder has toured with both her usual jazz band as well as a seven-piece combo with guitars, fiddles and Hammond B-3 organ, as well as playing with full orchestras. Her performance Saturday night at 8 on the Proctors main stage is the standards show she has been developing for most of her career, “An Evening with Linda Eder,” or as she calls it, “the gown show.”

Although having two distinct shows running concurrently can be “schizophrenic” at times, Eder is hoping to continue with the same setup this year. In truth, her foray into country-pop has helped energize all aspects of her career.

“It’s an exciting kind of challenge,” she said. “This whole thing has breathed new life into everything that I do. If you sit in one place, it’s going to get stale. I’ve learned more about music in the last couple of years than I ever have, and it’s reflected in everything that I do.”

And there is some crossover between the two bands: Eder performs at least two songs from “The Other Side of Me” in her gown show, including the ballad “If I Could” and the self-titled single as an encore. She’s also planning to work some of her Broadway material into the sets with her country band. But for the most part, the shows will remain separate.

“It’s like apples and oranges,” she said. “There’s no way to really merge the two unless you really have to lean more toward one than the other. [Last year’s] Christmas show was the pop band, and it was really successful, so you can do a hybrid version, but the goal is to still have the two shows running.”

The new album has also brought her songwriting to the forefront. It’s always been something she has been interested in, ever since her early 1980s days playing six nights a week in clubs around the country with only a pianist for backup.

Boost from ‘star search’

After her first big break, a 13-week winning streak on the TV talent show “Star Search” in 1988, she hooked up with composer Frank Wildhorn to star in “Jekyll and Hyde,” which toured nationally before opening on Broadway in 1997. Eder and Wildhorn eventually married, and maintained a musical partnership, with Wildhorn writing much of Eder’s original album cuts, until the couple divorced in 2004.

Although they did collaborate on a number of songs, for the most part Eder put aside any songwriting aspirations during their partnership.

“[Songwriting] is something I used to do before I hooked up with Frank,” she said. “We did collaborate a little bit, but that, the show tunes, is not where I live as a writer. I was writing country pop, and put that aside for all those years.”

Since 2005’s “By Myself,” a set of Judy Garland covers, Eder has been calling her own shots. Her lone songwriting credit on “The Other Side of Me,” “Waiting for the Fall,” is a taste of things to come for her next album, which is already in the works. Although she’s recording more covers for this set, also in the Americana and country-pop vein, she’s hoping to write most of the album’s original material.

“I do have a talent for it; the stuff I’m writing myself is getting the strongest response — the song that I wrote on [the album],” she said. “I want the originals to be my own, then go out on the road taking in good cover songs. I know I’m a good interpreter; I put my own slant on it and I like to do that, so I think that’s what this record will be.”

Winning new fans

Her new direction has been finding new fans, now that the music appeals to a much wider market, according to Eder.

“My own father, who is so supportive, has never been a fan of standards, but now he loves the new record more than anything I’ve done,” she said. “I have longtime fans coming up to me saying, ‘My husband’s always liked your voice, but never liked any of your records.’ But the new record they love.”

All of this comes full circle when she sings the standards and original show tunes she has become known for, such as “Vienna,” “Man of La Mancha” and the “Jekyll and Hyde” tune “Someone Like You.”

“I’ve grown musically, and my interpretations have subtly changed just because of the new music,” she said.

“The new music is me — it doesn’t have the voice of Streisand or Garland. I think I learned more about myself and who I am musically.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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