NEW! Ellen Foley (2021)
I’m Just Happy to Be Here: The Ellen Foley Story
For those not in the know, for her first solo album in eight years, Fighting Words, Ellen Foley and songwriter Paul Foglino have assembled a stellar array of players, including bassist C.P. Roth (Ozzy Osbourne, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter), drummer Steve Goulding (Graham Parker & the Rumour, The Mekons), and backing vocalist Ula Hedwig (Darlene Love, Bette Midler).
If you need a further nudge, Ellen Foley was a featured vocalist on one of the biggest-selling rock albums of all time, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (think Paradise By The Dashboard Light), and recently released a rousing new single, Are You Good Enough.
Indeed, it proceeded the August 6th, 2021 arrival of her fifth solo album, the aforementioned Fighting Words via Urban Noise Music.
“Are You Good Enough is a fierce feminist statement,” Foley explains. “It reminds me of Shania Twain — very country but also very rock ‘n’ roll.”
Fans of classic FM radio will find much to admire as the song opens with a combination of party-starting power chords and a massive drumbeat. “Our intention was for the song to land somewhere between AC/DC and Brownsville Station,” says its songwriter, Paul Foglino.
“It’s a love song for people who know better — they’ve been through the wringer, either together or individually, and they’ve emerged on the other side.”
Chatting recently with the lady herself Ellen Foley, we talked about her brand new album, her time spent within the Bat Out Of Hell machinery, her time on the Night Court TV set, and, oh yeah, penguins!
You have said that your new album, Fighting Words, contains tracks that are very personal to you, with lyrics that represent things that you yourself have dealt with in life, so I’m wondering why a musical album and not a book/memoir? - “I wouldn’t have as much enthusiasm for doing a book. Singing is what I do best. At this point in my life, I’m happy making rock ‘n’ roll, knowing that it is the indigenous music of aging baby boomers.”
Taking a look at the tracks today, which couple would you say are perfectly suited as real life cautionary tales for those who listen to them? - “The sentiment behind Leave Him Janie is great advice. Life’s too short to stick around in a lousy relationship.”
“Similarly, Heaven Can Wait can be interpreted as a cautionary tale. Don’t be complacent, pack as many experiences as you can into life, put off heaven for as long as you can. You might not even be lucky enough to eventually end up there.”
You close the album with your own rendition of Jim Steinman’s epic Heaven Can Wait, but was this the original version you recorded back in 2016 (for the film Lies I Told My Little Sister, and of which you featured in) or have you vocally reworked/tweaked it for this album? - “No, it’s the exact same recording that I did back in 2016. I first sang Heaven Can Wait in a musical I did with Jim Steinman in the mid-70s. It’s an important song in my musical evolution. I’ve always closed my shows with it.”
“When it came time to sequence Fighting Words, I knew I wanted to end the album with this specific recording of Heaven Can Wait. It’s different from the other songs and it works as a kind of coda and tribute. Hopefully it’s something that Jim’s fans will appreciate.”
Being that you have had your own personal peaks and valleys in life as a singer/actress, in reflection (brought on by the creation of these new songs) given the business that you were heavily involved in - during the ‘70s especially – were there times making this new album where you had to shut down and take a step back from the memories, perhaps? - “Not really. I’m very comfortable with my songwriter and musical collaborator, Paul Foglino. We’ve been working together since 2008 and he’s heard all of my stories. He deftly weaves my history into the material he writes for me.”
Funnily enough, the album title itself is not actually dedicated to your survival instincts having gotten you where you are today, moreover comes from you not being a fan of the previous presidential administration. Please expand on that some more - “There are different shades of meaning to the album title. As a kid growing up in St. Louis, westerns were very popular at the movies and on television. Often, you would see cowboys squaring off against each other, and one of them would say, “Them’s fighting words”!”
“There were many times during our last presidential administration when Voldemort would utter something and a voice inside me would say “fighting words!” For years, Americans were waking up in dread of what he would do and say that day. You’ll notice that I refuse to call him by name. I prefer to refer to him as Voldemort!”
The first single off the album, I’m Just Happy To Be Here also features another Meat Loaf alumna, singer/actress Karla DeVito, so how did she become part of the album, and have you always stayed in touch with her since those heady BOOH days? - “No, we haven’t always stayed in touch since the Bat Out of Hell days. Honestly, I barely knew her way back then. It’s only in recent years that Karla and I have become friends.”
“The turning point was a tribute concert to Jim Steinman that we each took part in. It happened at a club called 54 Below in Manhattan. Karla and I started taking, mostly about our families and the experiences we had from both being involved with Bat Out of Hell.”
“In 2016, Karla and I had the chance to both appear on Meat Loaf’s Braver Than We Are album.”
“When Paul and I were in preliminary discussions about Fighting Words, I asked him to write a song for Karla and I to sing. For me, singing with Karla made me just happy to be here because it felt like sweet revenge for the way in which the record company guys originally created this false rivalry between the two of us, as a way to sell more records. The record business isn’t always so pretty.”
Meeting Jim Steinman & Meat Loaf:
Indeed, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you a few BOOH questions to round off this interview, so the first would be due to your time (along with Karla) performing in Neverland you got the vocal role on BOOH, and moreover the duet role alongside Meat Loaf on the opus Paradise. What are you memories of first meeting them and the recording of it thereafter? - “I first met Jim in the mid-70s when we were both traveling cast members in the That National Lampoon roadshow. Jim, Meat and myself were basically stuck in the back of a blue van driving around America.”
“Jim was a very witty and inventive guy — probably the funniest I’ve ever met. We would play college campuses and I remember Jim finding the piano in every college recital hall we would visit. The songs on Bat Out of Hell originated on a succession of college pianos. By the time it came to record the album, we were a family unit and he wrote Paradise by the Dashboard Light with me in mind to sing it. I nailed it in one take.”
But given that as you were performing as a cast member in the Broadway revival of Hair at the time and unavailable to tour for BOOH in late 1977, Karla stepped in, so how close were you to quitting the show to take that tour? - “By that point, I already had a solo deal with Cleveland International Records and was working on demos with my producers, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson.”
“I was also a cast member in the Broadway revival of Hair and I couldn’t walk away from my responsibilities to that show. The stars did not align for me to take part in the Bat Out of Hell concert tour. I had other things cooking.”
And now that I’ve freshly watched it a couple of times myself (having never known this fact before today!), how did you feel back then with Karla (although it could have been anyone, of course) becoming you in the video for Paradise, lip synching to your original vocal track? - “It took a while for me to come to terms with that. Eventually I reached a point at which I felt that if anybody cared enough to know that I sang on the record, that was good enough for me.”
“It wasn’t like I was stewing over it. I had a pretty high profile with my career in recording, touring, television, film, and Broadway, so my resume was out there.”
You have said you have seen your fair share of paradise and will continue to do so, and so what are the top few things that currently qualify as paradise to you in your life? - “My life with my husband and my two sons. Being blown away by the positive reaction to my new Fighting Words album. Being blessed to work with a gifted songwriter like Paul Foglino. And last but not least, the garden at my home in upstate New York. That’s right, I’m an avid gardener.”
As Billie Young, you rocked your role as a Public Defender on Night Court in Season 2, so what are your memories of those years on set? - “Night Court was a very interesting time. I was basically lifted out of my life in New York City and thrust into a three-camera comedy situation in Los Angeles. I think the show was successful because the situations brought in colorful new characters every week. And, of course, the core cast of actors was fantastic. I was the fish out of water and I learned a lot.”
If you could sum yourself up today, after all you have gone through and all that you are preparing to, what five (5) words would you use? - “Keep calm and carry on!”
Lastly, and yes, we ask everyone this same question (as we are putting together a children’s picture/story book for the Alzheimer’s Association), we here at Exclusive Magazine love penguins, so we were wondering if you did also? - “Sometime during my twenties, I fell in love with penguins. I had moved from St. Louis to New York City in the early 1970s, and like most newcomers to Manhattan, I was fascinated by Central Park.”
“There is always so much happening, and it’s a great place for people watching. Turns out that it’s also a great place for penguin watching. Being able to see them glide gracefully underwater, walk on the rocks in their distinctive way, and just being generally adorable. When I learned that they mate for life, that clinched the deal.”
“I happened to mention my newfound love to a couple of friends. Immediately, the gifts started rolling in. I believe it started with a glass figurine. Then there was the sweatshirt, the napkins and placemats, the slippers, socks, stocking cap, and, of course, the warm and fuzzy pajamas festooned with hundreds of ... you get the picture.”
“But a young girl does grow up and move on. Judging from my choice of boyfriends, I probably should’ve stuck with the penguins!”
“But I still love them and was absolutely moved to tears by the wonderful documentary March of the Penguins. Seeing how they love their families and how they sacrifice for them was inspiring.”
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Photo Credits: Gregg Delman (Ellen Foley - Portrait #1 and #2)
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Ellen’s brand new album Fighting Words, just answer this question about the lady herself: Ellen can be heard on The Clash album Sandinista! on the songs Hitsville UK and Corner Soul, but she also recorded another unreleased track for that album, but what was it called?
Send us your answers and if you’re correct you’ll be in the running to win one of these new AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before December 1st, 2021 with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: ELLEN FOLEY SIGNED CDs to: email@example.com
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Are You Good Enough - Ellen Foley [Official Music Video]
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