The past decade has seen a modernization of Ms. Lemper's aesthetic as she shifts to repertoire closer to her time and heart. She wrote the songs on her most recent album, Between Yesterday and Tomorrow.
Ben Finane: Tell me about your journey from Broadway to original material.
Ute Lemper: Performing in Chicago on Broadway definitely finished the chapter of Broadway material and the songbook. I had done three CDs of Kurt Weill and it was time to open a new door without closing an old one. This was something I had always wanted to do but being an established artist of historical repertoire had hindered me. I am not a child of the '20s but of the '60s and '70s, basically a child of the Cold War. As a teenager, I listened to Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell and Pink Floyd; my musical taste was inspired by my upbringing.
I am happy now to take the theatrical performance out of the singing, to have a performance with an edge and without mannerism and just be very direct. During this tour, I was sitting at the piano and starting to realize that I could write my own tunes. I have poems, diaries and stories that have been collected for many years, so lyrics weren't a problem. I would write fragments over the years, but never had the confidence to really sit down and start writing. I put together chords and chord changes that made a perfect harmonic universe for the words. Like a puzzle, you create a mood, a psychological base to tell your stories, you go along with the chords and adapt the words and find a form. All the songs are written by me and with the collective effort of our band. We took our time, it wasn't on a schedule: a gift to myself.
BF: Where are you musically right now?
UL: Everything is an evolution, an ever-changing road. At the moment, the street is very wide. I'm singing lots of different repertoire: Brel, Mitchell, Piaf, yet everything is taken down a notch to make it more acoustic, more intimate, more about telling the story of the song. On the new album, there's a song about the Berlin Wall, the strange reality that has become normality; a story about September 11 here in New York; stories about life and love and getting older and making your choices, a bit of philosophical musing about this ride we all take.
For more on the songstress, visit Ute Lemper Online.