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Lee Aaron

Canadian born singer Lee Aaron recently released quite a strong album with ‘Diamond Baby Blues’. Aaron is clearly a woman of many crafts: Metal Queen, mother, musical singer, teacher and jazz musician. Talk about multitasking! Let’s ask her how she is able to keep all of these activities running at once.

By: Wim R. | Archive under hardrock / aor

band imageFirst off, welcome to Lords Of Metal, and congratulations with your new album 'Diamond Baby Blues'.
Thank you! We are really proud of the way this album turned out and had so much fun making it! Glad you like it!

Do you think this album definitely marks your comeback to the rock scene? And is it all about a comeback, or do you just want to make music?
I think that my 2016 album ‘Fire and Gasoline’ let my fans know I was back on the scene and making rock records again. ‘Diamond Baby Blues’ is a more focussed album in terms of the album having a solid heavy rock sound. my band and I really found a firm place to stand musically on this one and we had been playing together longer as a unit. It's all about making music always! I just love the whole creative process of writing the songs, then taking them into pre-production and working them through with the band, then finally going into the studio and hearing them come alive. If the music resonated with the fans, well, that's amazing and what we are all hoping for!

I reviewed your album through an online stream, but I was pleasantly surprised that you also produced the album? Since when did you started producing? How did you learn the ins and outs of producing a record? How long did it take you before you were satisfied with the end result?
I have produced my last four albums. I was always involved in the production of all my albums from ‘Body Rock’ onward, however, I never took a production credit because back then it wasn't important to me. When I recorded ‘Slick Chick’ (2000) and ‘Beautiful Things’ (2004) I did all the overdubs and post production in my home studio, including all the editing in Pro Tools. It is an enormous amount of work because I was learning the software at the same time as using it to make the recordings. For the last two albums I wanted to focus more on the creative side of things and have the ability to wear the artist hat too, so I hired an amazing engineer and editor, John Webster. The whole album from start to finish took a few months, but the most intense part is the mix process. Getting the final mixes just right is most challenging. I am really happy with the sound of this album. I am also lucky that I've had the opportunity to hang out and learn from some of the world's best producers like, Bob Ezrin and Peter Coleman too.

How and where did the recording take place? Was it a 'band in studio' session? Did you do the recording in one time period?
We recorded the album in Hipposonic Studios (Former Little Mountain Sound) here in Vancouver. We did all the bed tracks 'Live' off the floor with the band playing in real time. I think that's the only way to make a record. I want it to sound like real humans playing. My guitarist lives in Toronto and the rest of the band lives in Vancouver so we need to get as much done as possible when we are all together in the same city. We recorded all the bed tracks in three days. The guitar solos were also recorded in three sessions (in Toronto) a couple weeks later by engineer Frank Gryner (Nine Inch Nails). Then I re-recorded lead vocals in a smaller studio in Vancouver over several days. I always record vocals by singing three or four full run throughs, then putting together a composite vocal. I HATE punching in an individual line so will never record vocals that way. The whole album from start to finish took about three months but we didn't work full-time on it because everyone has a complicated schedule.

How did you approach the songwriting for 'Diamond Baby Blues'? What does a song by you need, to be considered a good song or suitable to record for an album?
We approached the songwriting in a very focused way for this album. We wanted all the songs to have an organic blues-rock flavor. For a song to make the album 'cut' for me it needs to have a strong melody and powerful lyrics that are memorable. Sometimes we will try the songs out 'live' before we record them. When we played ‘Diamond Baby’ and ‘American High’ and ‘I'm a Woman’, not only did the fans love them, they were singing along the very first listen. To me that's the mark of a great tune!

Are the original songs on the album especially written for 'Diamond Baby Blues' or were they already done or a few years old, waiting for the right time and place?
No, they are all brand new, written especially for this album.

There is a fair amount of cover songs on the album (like Deep Purple's 'Mistreated' and 'Black Cat' from Janet Jackson), what made you decide to record that many? I mean, your own material sounds strong enough to me?
Thanks. We didn't record cover songs because of lack of original material. We chose to record covers on purpose. I had wanted to record a few of those tunes for years like,' I'm a Woman' and 'You're No Good'. There is an art to taking a cover song, re-interpreting it and making it your own. I think we accomplished that with the cover tunes.

band imageAre there bands or artists you consider an inspiration for your own songwriting? And if so, what did they put to the table that you really liked?
I find inspiration in all styles of music, not just hard rock. I love how Jack White takes a lot of risks with his music. I find that inspiring, and even though I may not take the same type of risks, it makes me think differently and push some things further outside the box than I'd be inclined to. There's an American songwriter and producer named Joe Henry and I LOVE his lyrics. They're personal and deep and, even though he's not a rock artist, I find them very inspiring. I also really like a new artist from Australia Courtney Barnett. She's quirky and cool and appeals to the sensibility in me that likes to write lyrics that have a humorous twist in the meaning.

Your voice sounds better than ever to me. Can you let us in on what is the secret behind it?
These days I live a pretty clean life style, eating well, getting exercise, and I don't do the grueling touring the way I used to. When you perform night after night for weeks on end, anyone is going to lose their voice. I also use in-ear monitors now which are amazing.

Your career started in the early eighties (and yes, we all remember the videoclip for 'Metal Queen'). That is a mighty long time, can you share with us the absolute highs and lows?
My highs would be getting Gold and Platinum album awards in Canada and performing with Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart in 2006. Those women made me want to be a girl rocker as a teenager! My absolute worst low was in 1996 when grunge music (even though I really liked it!) had destroyed the whole hair metal scene and so many of us found ourselves out of work. Radio wouldn't play my music and the live shows dried up. It was a pretty dark time and I wondered if I should keep making music. Of course, in the end, I did.

In which stage of your career do you think you are at this moment?
The Best One, because I get to make music that I want to make and I don't have to compromise my vision to a record that label that's paying for everything. By financing my own recordings I get to do exactly what I want.

What are your future ambitions? You stated that family comes first. How do you balance this out? What if 'Diamond Baby Blues' becomes a success and there is quite some demand for a tour?
Striking a balance between family and music has always been a great challenge. I try to do small pockets of tour dates and only the best dates so I can still perform live and reach the fans. I also try and do live shows on weekends and mostly in the summer. That way my children can have a fairly normal life. If the album was so successful we needed to do a large scale tour I would try and bring them with us. Rock and roll school on the road...might be fun!

Recently I talked to your fellow Canadian Steve Kudlow (aka Lips) from Anvil. He stated Rock is as good as dead in Canada. That there is no good rock scene in Canada, what is your take on this?
I would argue that the rock scene is not dead but there really isn't a 'Metal' scene in Canada, not the same way there is in Europe. I still play many fairs, festivals and big event showrooms here, but my music is melodic hard rock. You can't really make a living playing metal in Canada, it's sad.

Are there any other activities you are involved in besides your band? In the past you did Jazz and musicals for instance, are you still active in those markets?
I'm not doing any musicals or jazz shows these days because most of my energies are going into the new album! One thing I am involved in that I don't talk about much but really enjoy - when I'm not touring, I work with gifted kids - kids that can't learn in conventional ways - I help them achieve their educational goals by designing individualized programs that work for them. I have a college education in this area and it's a way that I can give back to my community.

Alright, this wraps it up for now. I would like to thank you for your time, and if there are still things to be said or told, the space below are yours....
Great interview! I hope that I will make it to Holland soon to play some shows. We miss the Dutch fans!

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