Conversations With Andrea Bocelli, Lang Lang and <em>NCIS: New Orleans</em>' Shalita Grant, Plus <em>Fathers & Daughters</em>, Ryan Aderréy, Golden Age and The Glorious Exclusives

Multi-platinum singer Michael Bolton and Richard Clayderman cover "(They Long To Be) Close To You"--a '70s hit for the Carpenters written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David--for the, presented exclusively at HuffPost.
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Multi-platinum singer Michael Bolton and Richard Clayderman cover "(They Long To Be) Close To You"--a '70s hit for the Carpenters written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David--for the Fathers & Daughters: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, presented exclusively at HuffPost. The film stars Russell Crowe and has an international release on Voltage Pictures. The soundtrack is available on Lakeshore Records October 23rd.



A Conversation with Andrea Bocelli

Mike Ragogna: Andrea, on your new album Cinema, you've recorded some of the most popular movie themes of all time. First off, why did you pick this theme?

Andrea Bocelli: This is a theme that always fascinated me: music written for films can generate a vast array of wonderful original melodies, not necessarily connected to love topics. It's a very free and potentially creative field, a vast land where the composer can space as he likes following his inspiration, where he can freely experiment without being necessarily bound to the schemes of the classic song writing - usually a sequence featuring two verses, a refrain, a verse and a refrain.

MR: How did you arrive at these song choices?

AB: We listened to and chose from hundreds of songs, drawing from a huge repertoire, without limits of time and space. Singing melodies that move me is very important to me: I went for the movie themes that I loved the most, for the songs that left a mark in my life, that made me grow, that moved me and made me happy. From the selection I chose, for example, I think there is no doubt how much I loved and continue to admire performers as Frank Sinatra or Mario Lanza, extraordinary voices that made some of the most beautiful film scores immortal. Far from wanting to measure with them, I truly believe that it is necessary today to go back and honor those masterpieces, taking advantage of the extremely advanced recording techniques - that make music sharper and more captivating to the ear - and also introducing the new extraordinary arrangements that we came up with.

MR: What is the recording process like when working with your production team? Do you find yourself interpreting the song based on its lyrics and music and how they affect you or by what you're hearing in the production values?

AB: We really wanted to go back to the same amazing team that worked on the album Amore 10 years ago: Tony Renis, Humberto Gatica, David Foster and me. We are a very tight-knit working group, and we also share a very deep friendship. Once again, we spent many beautiful days at my house in Tuscany, working, eating and joking together. I think this is the ideal atmosphere in which an artist can express himself at full potential.

MR: Do you have some personal memories or stories connected to any of these songs?

AB: Too many to talk about all of them. Every song gives me so many emotions, brings back so many memories. This is just one of the many anecdotes I'd like to mention, a quite funny one, about "The Music of the Night." I sang this song in front of an audience, for the first time, at the Wembley Stadium in London, in the presence of the author. I couldn't memorize the lyrics right there and then, so I asked my wife Veronica to feed me the words through the ear piece. I was on stage ready to perform, and Veronica was pacing towards the control room, when security peremptorily stopped her. In the end, they quickly made up for the misunderstanding, but I was about to get a big panic attack, afraid to not be able to sing while the whole world was watching!

MR: Is there a song that became a favorite from the project?

AB: To tell you the truth I love all of them, I am emotionally attached to all of them for several reasons. I can say though that there are some songs - such as "Music of the Night," or "Be My Love," "Ol' Man River," "Maria," which more than others highlight the peculiarity of my voice.

MR: You've recorded in a few languages, especially Italian. That being your first language, how do you emotionally embrace a song from a different language when there's the translation challenge?

AB: As a premise, let me say that I am attracted to all the languages I have to deal with. I am interested in exploring their rhythmic and expressive potentiality; it's a big passion of mine. Every language has within itself peculiar potentialities and a musicality of its own. In the album Cinema I sing in English, Italian, French, Spanish and also in Sicilian dialect. In some cases for example, we took the freedom to rewrite the words following a free, non-literal translation. In this album there is a big Italian influence, expressed through the musical generosity of the Italian language itself (which, in my opinion, can enhance scores originally conceived in other languages) and also of Italian composers from Nino Rota, to Ennio Morricone and Nicola Piovani, or composers of Italian origins such as Francis Lai and Henry Mancini. I would say though, that in the album, the English language has a place of honor. I'm thinking about melodies such as "Be My Love," "I Just Called To Say I Love You," "The Music of the Night," "Maria," "Ol' Man River," "Cheek to Cheek," "Moon River"... Even Spanish, a very seductive and evocative language, is showcased in songs such as "Por una Cabeza" but also in "Love Story," which was reinvented with an intriguing Latin American rhythm. To continue with "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," which became "No Llores Por Mí, Argentina" giving back to the song the original language Evita used to address her people with. French is perfect for songs such as "La Chanson de Lara" from Doctor Zhivago whereas the Sicilian dialect embellishes with astonishing beauty the love theme from The Godfather.

MR: This might be too personal and I don't mean it to be offensive, but can you share what you experience when you record or perform songs whose topics have vivid or particular visuals, for example, much of the material on Cinema?

AB: Most of the time, I knew about the soundtrack first and only later I knew about the movie it was attached to. The music would bring along very specific stories, emotional paintings, sometimes very different - as I would find out later - from the actual plot of the film. This, I would say, is an extra added value of music made for films, if it's of high quality, it can disengage itself from any rule, fly high and beautifully shine of its own light.

MR: Beautiful. How emotionally attached do you get to songs in your catalog? Is there a point when some of the material becomes a "forever song" in your repertoire?

AB: In order to perform a song, whether it is pop or opera music, I need to deeply fall in love with it. To give it back the way it best deserves, I have to make it my own, to believe in it. In one word, I have to love it. If this doesn't happen, I simply don't sing it, because it would sound dishonest and insincere. Vice versa, when I sing a melody I love, in that precise moment it becomes my favorite. It is exactly through this selection process that I built my repertoire through the years.

MR: As you're maturing, how is your art, your creative approach, evolving? Do you express yourself in other ways beyond music?

AB: Life changes us. It happens silently but on a daily basis. Each encounter, each meditation had its influence and contributed to make me the artist I am today. In a few words, what I experience is reflected in my music. Besides music it happens that I express my creativity, as an amateur, writing aphorisms and poems... I truly believe in the power of poetry, I see it as a very powerful medicine for the human being, I think it makes the world a better place. I would define my verses as "old fashioned," in the sense that I like to write following the general rules of rhyme and metrics, which I consider always valid and effective. I usually write when I am in my dressing room, before I get on stage, and I do it also to keep my brain trained and to avoid becoming a victim of laziness.

MR: How are you keeping your voice in shape?

AB: Through constant training which I do on a daily basis, with the same discipline of an athlete, living in the most regular and healthy way possible. The day I will stop studying, I will not be a singer anymore. Franco Corelli, my beloved teacher, used to tell me, "If a Stradivari violin breaks, you can always replace it with a new one. But you only have one voice, and if you don't take good care of it, you will never be able to buy a new one." I think I learned my lesson.

MR: Are there any contemporaries who you admire and perhaps listen to casually? Are there any who you would like to record with?

AB: I think there are too many to mention and I would risk forgetting some of them. I've been singing duets with my colleagues for over 20 years now, my musical curiosity never abandoned me. Often it happens that I listen to a voice that intrigues me, and in that case I like to go deeper. This year, I recorded "E Piu' Ti Penso" by Ennio Morricone with the very young Ariana Grande. That was a beautiful challenge that gave me great satisfaction because Ariana is a very talented girl, a true artist.

MR: Are you mentoring anyone? Have you come across anyone who you believe might experience the level of success you have?

AB: There is never a safe and sure recipe for success, it is not something that you can predict with any certainty. Fame follows unpredictable patterns. If that wasn't the case then everyone would be able to create a great career for themselves. I think that there are many artists with outstanding talent among the new generation, both for classic and pop music. The quality level of many young singers all over the world seems notably higher to me.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

AB: Be humble and determined. Young artists have to strongly believe in their potentiality, they have to be strict with themselves but always have a positive attitude, never stopping to believe in themselves. They also need to be aware of the huge importance and impact that artists have in society.

MR: What was the best advice you were ever given?

AB: From a human perspective I have to thank my parents, who taught me how to be well mannered and brought me up according to those precious values that I am treasuring as an adult now. I also like to remind that, being a Catholic Christian myself, I always find useful guidelines and precious advices from the Gospel. Whereas, in the music environment, I can quote a precious advice that was given to me as an adult, by the great tenor and friend Luciano Pavarotti. He taught me how to sing effortlessly, so that I could use my voice as a tool capable to reach its full potential without overdoing it or trying too hard. This is fundamental advice because, if not acquired, at my age you may not be able to sing any more.

MR: Cinema presented a specific theme for the material. What other themes would you like to cover on albums in the future?

AB: There are other projects in the pipeline, that's true. But it's a bit premature to talk about it now.

MR: Are you still having fun?

AB: Of course. I think I am a privileged person considering that I do what I love the most for a living, which is playing music and singing. There is not one day that passes by that I am not grateful to God for the wonderful life I was given. Faith in God has been fundamental for my inner peace and growth, and without it I believe that life would just be a dark and announced tragedy. Faith is truly a priceless gift I want to hold on and keep improving, something that sustains me day after day.



A Conversation with Lang Lang

Mike Ragogna: Sir, with your new album Lang Lang In Paris, you are a bit subversive. How I mean that is in the West, Chopin compositions are traditionally performed very lightly and meditative with Tchaikovsky are bombastic. However, you seemed to have flipped the approaches. Tell me what your philosophy was when you approached the album.

Lang Lang: I had planned this recital for the whole year. I love Tchaikovsky's Seasons. I did it when I was a kid, "May," "June" and "October," those very famous pieces. It's actually very nice to do all twelve together. It really shows the change of the seasons, from January to February, February to March and all this. There are very subtle, very delicate changes between each month. Then I saw the Chopin Scherzo, two years ago I did Chopin's Ballade so I thought this is a continuation of bringing more of Chopin's major pieces into the continuity. Maybe every two years, maybe every three years, I just want to maybe one day complete the Chopin circle.

MR: What do you think of the relativity of the two pieces you performed on this album? Do you see a relationship between them?

LL: Yes. The melodic things in Tchaikovsky make it almost like a song. You can put lyrics in it. For many passages in the Chopin etudes there are a lot of technical turns. But I also heard Polish lullabies in it, from my Polish friend. They say absolutely every song has lyrics. As you know in Tchaikovsky not only does it have lyrics, but every song is actually inspired by a famous Russian poem. There's Pushkin, there's Tolstoy, it's really inspired by the words and the lyrics.

MR: How did you shift between the seasons internally while recording?

LL: The music speaks for itself. It's not so difficult because when you have a melody like June it's very obvious that June is coming. I don't need to push myself because letting the music speak naturally is kind of the best way to do it. Between each piece I actually did not really stop playing. March, April, May and June I actually played as one piece so I could save a little bit of time in between but you could see the leaf changes colors, becomes really green and the water melts from the frozen winter. I'm trying to create a poetic moment. Especially in the DVD you can really see it because the video was one shot in those four months in a row.

MR: How did recording it at the Opera Bastille influence or affect the recording?

LL: Paris in general is a city which is very beautiful. Near the Opera Bastille, there is a beautiful park right on the river. In between the sessions I always go out and enjoy the sun a little bit and have a coffee along the river. That gave me some inspiration. But honestly for me the most inspiring experience was to tape the little concert at the Versailles Hall of Mirrors. That was really inspiring, because that room is so beautiful with the mirrors all over. It has the most beautiful garden in the world as well. During the recording, in the beginning, it was raining and then later it was cloudy and then in the evening it became sunshine. It was really weird. One day felt like all four seasons.

MR: So the quality of life had a lot of impact on both recordings. What you took in from Paris you brought into the studio with you.

LL: Yeah. I prefer live, personally, especially with floating music. Pieces like Tchaikovsky. A studio is fine, but I prefer live, so that's why we did both. Somehow I feel more comfortable recording live. The vibe of the room is different when I play with people. It's more enjoyable. But it's fine, because in the studio you can really work on the sound, you can get whatever sound you want, but as a live performer I prefer live. I would like to think live without being on stage. I can not just live in a studio.

MR: When you were only seventeen, you replaced André Watts for a Ravinia concert, and coincidentally, you played Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. So Tchaikovsky and you have had a very long relationship.

LL: Yes. I really admire Tchaikovsky as a composer because he has the most beautiful passion and emotions in his music. He really put his heart into the music, but at the same time he's very elegant as well. By listening to the music you really hear the ballerinas, you really hear Swan Lake, you really hear the nutcrackers. He's very deep, very powerful, but very elegant. It's a really incredible combination to have in one composer. Sometimes when you're so passionate you're music is beautiful, with a lot of meat, but not a lot of depth. But Tchaikovsky has all of the qualities in music but he's still very elegant.

MR: Is this something that you discovered as you played his works over the years?

LL: Yeah!

MR: So how do you approach Tchaikovsky differently now from when you originally played it?

LL: Now when I play it I think I'm more clear in my mind about what I want to create. When you are a teenager you play with love and passion. I used my mind and my heart to play even at seventeen, but now I think it's better. One day, I would love to record those old pieces again. I know more things and more possibilities. I have more experience.

MR: It's almost like as you get older, you temper. As a seventeen-year-old full of passion, who could you relate to? Tchaikovsky is almost a no-brainer.

LL: As I get older I read composers better. They're like your friends. You know them more after ten years, more after fifteen years, more after twenty five years. They become family. You grow up with their music and you get closer. I often listen to my old recordings, and I like them very much because I dig the freshness of making music, and that is also very good.

MR: Let's talk about your relationship with Chopin over the years. What has changed about the way you played him then and now?

LL: I like my older versions very much. Tchaikovsky and Chopin weren't really difficult for me as a kid, I've always felt really close to their music. Over the years, I improved but Chopin I felt already very close to myself as a teenager. I think you can actually feel those composers already when you're young. Chopin and Tchaikovsky are good for younger generations to perform.

MR: As you get older are you taking a different look at Chopin?

LL: Yes. I would say there are a lot of reflections over the years that I've studied by working with the best musicians. Somehow you get a lot of new ideas of how to play those pieces. I actually feel that. Playing Beethoven when I was a teenager and playing Beethoven now, it's like another person. So different. But Chopin and Tchaikovsky, it's good for every age. You don't feel such a big difference as with Mozart or Brahms or Bach. It's not because it's easier or harder, but Chopin and Tchaikovsky are friendlier to younger people. That's why when a new pianist comes out people ask them to play Tchaikovsky No. 1. You see a very young pianist and you say, "Play Beethoven No. 4." It's in people's heads, actually.

MR: What are your observations of how young people are coming into classical music since it's getting harder and harder for them to discover it in the traditional way.

LL: Yes. For me it's not that difficult because I have a foundation, we have programs in high schools, middle school and elementary schools. We also have an event called One Hundred And One Pianists that brings pianists to play together in every age. So for me I don't want to talk too much, I want to take action. I want to really show our next generation that classical music is very passionate, it's very cool, it's very updated. I never like to talk much about music. When you talk about music it's not so much fun, but when you start playing and you show them on the keys or on the method, "How do you do it?" the kids get it in one second.

MR: Have your students ever taught you anything?

LL: Absolutely. We are all human beings and we all make the same mistakes. Sometimes when I'm telling the student, "Hey, look at that, you are making these problems," I'm like, "Oh my God, I am actually talking to myself." [laughs]

MR: Are there any students that you've worked with who really impressed you in an over-the-top way?

LL: Absolutely. I think every kid from my foundation, the Young Scholars program, I believe everyone on that program will become a good pianist in the future.

MR: Beautiful. Are there any student you're listening to that make you think, "I've got to keep an eye on that one."

LL: There are a few. There's one little guy, his name is Johnson Zhongxin Li, he already played with me at Carnegie Hall, he's quite good. There are a few others, we can send you the names. I think they'll be big in the future.

MR: Because you've had experience in working with young students, what advice do you have for new artists?

LL: I know exactly the feelings, because I was a new artist for many years. It's not easy. I hope everybody will have more luck in the very beginning. In the beginning sometimes people just don't know who you are so sometimes they don't come to your concert, they don't really agree with what you do and that is very difficult. I remember when I was playing in the beginning I played in a big concert hall but only two hundred people came. I am so appreciative of those two hundred people; they are like my saviors, but at the same time of course my heart was kind of bleeding. "Oh my God, I'm not going to make a career. I will lose a future in front of me because nobody knows who I am and nobody cares about me." Sometimes our heart is very breakable. I just want to tell those new artists, "Please be strong. Ignore that." Those things will change after you play really well, because after you play really well you can grow your audience. I think everybody will face the same problem as an unknown artist and then one day I'm sure things will change, so don't give up.

MR: Nicely said. It seems like every year the field of classical music has to push the boundaries in order to survive. How do you think classical music will evolve?

LL: There are a few things that we need to change. The first thing is music education. That's number one. You can't just say, "Hey guys, come see a concert," you need to give them instructions before. Otherwise they'll probably come, but they'll probably just go right away because they don't know what they are looking at and you can not compare it to anything. It's something we really need to do much more of in music education. That's why I really strongly recommend every musician to spend some time as a volunteer to the schools, to the elementary schools, to the kindergartens. Give the kids the best first impressions of music. That's number one. Number two, we need to have very creative programs. At civic centers and concert halls, we need to find very interesting programs and interesting works. Combinations between artists, new works, new pieces to play to make it a little more updated. We cannot just be lazy and say, "Okay, I only do standard repertoire, I only do this composer, I only do this." You can not be like that. We need to be more creative on that. Then it's the image thing. For example, social media now is a perfect way to show how cool classical music and musicians can be. We are not just living in history, we are very fresh blood in the twenty first century as well. I always thought in order to show the real world we are living in, going out and having a nice time, eating good food, making good friends and talking about life in music in a way that people will think, "Oh, they are also normal people." [laughs] You know what I mean? It's not like we are hiding every day under the ground. We are sometimes. I spend a lot of time hiding underground in a concert hall, but we are also normal! We are not ghosts.

MR: You talked about fresh music. So when is the Lang Lang original compositions album coming out?

LL: [laughs] I'm now writing massive books called The Lang Lang Academy, so through those books, I will gradually proof some of my own work. But as you know, I am not a real composer. But I can do something, I can make something out. I need a collaborator, some really great composers to help me. But stay tuned. We will get there someday. I don't know how long from now, but I think gradually, we will put my own music into an album or some books.

MR: Maybe you need a return to Paris for inspiration.

LL: [laughs] Yes, maybe Paris, or New York.

MR: What else is happening that we should know about?

LL: I'm quite excited to go to Cuba today. This is my first concert in Havana.

MR: Congratulations! Is this because of the new relations between the United States and Cuba?

LL: This will be the celebration of Havana's five hundredth year as a city. This is the first concert that's going to be broadcast on American and world television. It will be broadcast on PBS, I don't know when, but soon. This is their first concert that will have a world impact.

MR: So Lang Lang is continuing to be a pioneer.

LL: Thank you Mike!

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne



photo credit: Conner Reddan

According to Golden Age's Sydney Sahr...

"Some songs are more visual than others but most everything I write comes with pictures in my head. 'High Noon' always felt hyper-visual to me; new images come to mind every time we play the song. This 'no-budget' video began as more of an experiment to try and bring those images to life. It was shot on the roof of my apartment building into my laptop's webcam. There's something so intimate about being alone with a webcam that matched the sexual nature of the song. Even though the song references a definitive time of day, I didn't want the video to be that specific so I used the sky as the backdrop--a constant in an otherwise turbulent set of circumstances--much like time is finite as the world spins around us.

Golden Age is more of a concept than a name. It's a fascination with that deep human longing for another time and place. Whether it's honoring the past or daydreaming of the future, we hope our music takes you there. 'High Noon' is a true Golden Age song--and not just because it references time literally."


photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

A Conversation with NCIS: New Orleans' Shalita Grant

MR: What does New Orleans' rich history mean to you personally and how has your character grown and benefited from your evolving knowledge of the city?

SG: It's true. The history of New Orleans is rich but often confusing and painful. Despite that, the people are hopeful with a "we-are-getting-a-long" spirit paired with a definitive bite. There is a sense of powerlessness that the population feels and it is expressed robustly in the street through art, poetry, readings, protests, etc. That very same edge and often funny quality I try to embody in my character, Sonja Percy. Because ultimately that's the city, it can be sweet and sour all at once.

MR: What are your favorite things about working on an NCIS series, acting with your co-stars, and playing the role of Sonja Percy?

SG: My favorite part about this series is the action sequences. They are so well done and it's a credit to the show runner and writers. So many women actually do this job every day and I am grateful to play a strong lead character. Also since the role is so physical, I stay in great shape. I post videos all the time of workouts "girls don't do" like pushups, pull-ups, and dead-lifts. I really try to think of the muscle and shape I would need to be in if I actually had this job and go for it.

MR: What inspired you to begin an acting career? Did you have any mentors or people who inspired you strongly?

SG: Growing up in the '90s, there was a steep decline in shows that highlighted black actors and the many facets of black lives. People often take for granted how much absence can say. However, the craft of acting was such a compelling force. I credit my teachers at BSA for encouraging me to chase my dreams. They encouraged me to audition for national scholarship programs and where I eventually attended, Julliard.

MR: Are there any talents, like music or dancing or whatever, not being utilized right now that have yet to be scripted that you would love to work in to your Sonja character?

SG: I don't know how they would work it in but I do dance and sing. Maybe a musical episode of NCIS? Just kidding! But can you imagine LaSalle singing while cracking a case?

MR: Absoluetly! Do it! So are there any roles, either from Broadway or TV/film that you loved as much or close to your current character?

SG: I loved playing Cassandra on Broadway. I did the readings for it while it was a one act play, and came up with the physicality and voice for the character. And it was wonderful to be honored with a Tony nomination for that work. That validation helped me tremendously. There is a lot of rejection in this business and it can make you feel worthless and insecure.

MR: What advice do you have for new actors?

SG: Always be prepared and believe that you are safer when you take a risk. Often, and especially in performance or audition, it's far more intriguing to watch someone live in vulnerability. You also gain very little when you choose to be comfortable over taking a chance. It's also vitally important to do your homework and to be prepared for opportunities that come your way.

MR: Are there any roles that you dream of playing someday?

SG: I would love to help develop another character, tell a story that hasn't had breath in it yet.



photo credit: Sonia Child

Melbourne Australia's The Glorious are gearing up for the release of their new album Falcon (to be released on January 8th, 2016) with this premiere of the video for "I Wake Up," the first single.

According to The Glorious' David Mather...

"The video for 'I Wake Up' was filmed in the wide open expanses of the Mornington Peninsula, about two hours drive from Melbourne, and in a dark garage on the outskirts of the city. The clip was directed by maestro Marcus Dineen, accompanied by a crack crew. The sun bathed the shoot all day long and enabled some breathtaking imagery. Luminous but with a dark undercurrent, the clip tells a story in fragments. We can see that something has gone wrong, something is broken. The events are shrouded in mystery, but we also see that someone has to pay."



photo credit: Jeff Fasano

According to Ryan Aderréy...

"As an independent singer songwriter who has been writing, recording and performing and working towards my goals for a number of years, I really connected with Scott Darling's story about struggling for a long time before becoming part of a championship team,' says Ryan. 'I looked up that phrase and its history and I felt like it fit where I am in my career. Pursuing music is difficult sometimes and sometimes I have asked myself why I continued to struggle. It's all about having fans come up to me after a show and tell me they were in a dark place and felt hope when they heard one of my songs. Once I got over the glamorous rock star delusions, I got to a great place where I realized I'm in this to affect people in a positive way. If that's not your motivation for making music, you're not doing it for the right reasons - and you won't have longevity. I write, record and perform songs for the listeners, not myself."

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