Pauline Frechette - 10 Questions Music Interview
Composer and performer Pauline Frechette grew up with a foundation of playing violin in youth symphonies, winning piano competitions, touring Europe as a singer and dancer, and studying acting in England. Her compositions, best defined as “neo-classical,” have been performed by the Baltimore Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, New West Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Pauline has composed songs for TV and Film and her musicals have been produced by The Goodspeed Opera House, the LaMirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, and the Baruch Theatre in New York City. As a singer and performer, her credits include singing on major motion pictures (Aladdin, Rent, Mermaids …), and performing, and recording with legendary artists such as MUSE for the 2012 Olympics, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Cher, and Neil Diamond. Most recently, Pauline brought an audience cheering to their feet for nine standing ovations at Thayer Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. Pauline's solo piano album An Intimate Story debuted in September 2019 at #3 on Billboard Classical and Classical Crossover charts. In 2018 her critically acclaimed releases included the album Colors of My Heart (debuted in Billboard's Top Ten Classical and Jazz charts) and her holiday EP Winter Romance.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I grew up in a musical family. My great-grandfather, Josef Vezina, was a violinist and founder of the Quebec Symphony. My grandfather played trumpet and led a band. My father was a concert organist and one of his gigs was playing the Chicago Stadium organ for the Black Hawk hockey games. I started singing on his radio show on WJOB when I was about 4 and my mother said I used to make up little melodies and songs all the time from my toddler days forward. So ... I guess I've just always been composing music and writing songs. I think with music before I think with words when I want to express myself.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
I was auditioning before the Foundation for Arts board members in hopes of winning a scholarship to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. All the other girls were auditioning with Arias. I didn't know an Aria. I sang a french art song and then just said to the ladies on the board "Do you want to see what I really love to do?" I had just returned from touring Europe as a singer/dancer with the Showteens and I had bought a guitar and was singing in clubs in London where I had been studying acting the previous year. So I brought out the guitar and sang them some of my original songs. Then I rolled up the carpet and tap danced for them and told them stories of my escapades in England. They loved me! I guess I was the odd one who was hilarious and broke down the barriers. I won the scholarship for 3 consecutive years.
What has been the high point of your music path?
There have been many high points in my music career. A few of the highlights are: singing backup for Paul McCartney, Ringo and George Harrison at the Hollywood Bowl for Earth Day; singing duets at Madison Square Garden for 22,000 people with Neil Diamond on his World Tour; having my musical produced by the Goodspeed Opera House; hearing my music performed by the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, and hearing the overture to one of musicals performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra for 17,000 people.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Currently I mostly compose neo-classical music for piano and other instruments. Songs that I write are jazz and theatre influenced. I like to compose music from "the inside out" meaning that I don't "think" when I compose - I just delve into what's deep inside and discover the music as it comes out. I never really know where I'm going. In the case of a song for a show, the character dictates what I will compose or write for him/her. It's always an exciting journey and discovery for me. It's never boring or tedious. For me when writing songs, the music always comes first and then I translate what the music is saying into lyrics.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Make it easier for us to collect our royalties for all the streaming. Enough with giving it all away for free. Especially the collection groups, like ASCAP and BMI - wish they would do their jobs for those of us who have our music out there in hundreds of countries on internet radio and in-store platforms, but we're not on major radio stations. Seems they just don't care about following up and collecting our money.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Since my "band" these days are orchestras, the ultimate for me would be to hear Yuja Wang play one of my compositions with Dudamel conducting the L.A. Phil. Or, to play at Carnegie Hall with Yo Yo Ma on one of my pieces.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
My live shows these days are solo concerts where I entertain my audience with all my original music for up to 90 minutes playing a combination of jazz & theatrical songs plus neo-classical piano pieces. Sometimes I play piano to video images on a screen and sometimes throughout the show I have various string or horn players join me on stage. So, my prep time starts at least three months prior to a major solo concert, practicing piano 3 to 5 hours a day. And, figuring out which pieces to include other musicians on and get my husband/arranger to arrange the music for them. Then inviting the musicians to join me and figuring out rehearsal times. Plus, getting the videos created the way I want them.
I then practice in a large space so I get used to the acoustics and invite a few people to be my rehearsal audience. I rehearse playing piano in heels and since I also do a bit of theatrical Rap during the show, I rehearse that as well. Concert hall lighting can vary from full stage lighting to mood lighting, to no light when there's a video showing. So, I have to rehearse in the dark so I can get used to reading my music with just a piano light. I don't memorize my music and audiences don't seem to care. I just wear tinted glasses and I'm actually very much at ease with any audience and I love telling funny stories and just doing off-the-cuff stuff that's fun. Doing a concert is definitely a lot of work. But it's also a real high! I think I've learned so much from working with so many greats early in my life. They greats all work really hard and do similar prep as extensive as what I do.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
My most recent composition, "Jewel Box Fantasy", I composed in 2 days and then arranged it with my husband in 2 more days, then he orchestrated it and we recorded it at Capitol Records that same week and got it to my record label. They got it out on iTunes just in time to make the final Grammy deadline We were up against the final deadline for a Grammy entry this year, so I just went for it. It definitely was a challenge, but the result is fantastic. You can hear it on my website, or on Spotify, Soundcloud etc. Counting all the various social media, that song had 90,000 hits during the two weeks of the first round Grammy voting!
What's coming up in the future? I'm starting work on my next album which will be a collaboration with my husband, David Campbell. We will stay in the neo-classical arena (Neo-classical” DEF. “The use of modern techniques within the classical form composing music that reflects one’s own compositional voice." And will be recording the album in Prague next February. The album is actually a modern dance or ballet suite set in the constellations using some unusual instruments along with more traditional orchestral instruments. That's all I can say about it for now. I also have a few more orchestral gigs pending next fall, possibly as the opening music for Iron & Wine. My music opened for him last year with 3 symphonies.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Two of Pauline's holiday songs, "Winter Wonderful" and “A Quiet Walk in the Snow,” will air on National Indie Radio (WNIR) commencing December 1st through December 31st as part of BWH Music Group’s Holiday Radio Special. WNIR features the best independent artists in the world and is part of the highly selective and nationally renowned BWH Music Group platform. The Holiday Radio Special will feature original holiday songs as well as covers by exceptional independent artists. Station information can be found at www.wnir-radio.com.