Donny & Marie Interview
December 19, 2011
The year is 1975, where were you, what were you doing and what is one thing you were crazy about from that era?
Donny Osmond: It was in the transition into the Donny and Marie show, I was crazy about my new car; it was a little Chevrolet Chevette. We were just about to begin a whole new career in television.
Marie Osmond: Well 1975 was the beginning of the Donny and Marie show, that’s where the whole thing came out for the first time, “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock and Roll,” which has kind of become a mantra (Laughs). I started working eighteen hour days, six days a week so my life changed (Laughs). There were so many fun things; I know that Lee Majors from “Six Million Dollar Man,” who had married Farrah Fawcett, was really sought after during that time. Everybody wanted Lee Majors because he was the hot male ticket and I really wanted to meet him, so he agreed to do one of the very first Donny and Marie shows under the terms that we would have his wife come on the show.
We asked him what does she do, and he told us she was an actress, so I was quite thrilled to meet Lee Majors but Farrah Fawcett was a Dinosaur saleswoman on our TV show (Laughs). That was the beginning of working with some of the greats. It was really great to get Lee Majors and then from there on we had everybody from Bob Hope, John Wayne, and Groucho Marx to Frank Sinatra. You name it and we worked with them; it was really incredible.
For the first time in 30 years you’ve released a brand new album as a duo. What was the vibe like going back into the studio together and what prompted the decision to reunite?
Donny: Well I’ll be honest with you, it was a huge challenge (Laughs), because we both have our own separate careers and Buddy Cannon, our producer, had a challenge on his plate to make sure it was a Donny and Marie album, and not just a Donny or Marie album. So, Marie wanted to do certain things, I wanted to do certain things and Buddy was our arbitrator. We were able to come up with a record that all three of us loved which hats off to Buddy for being able to pull that off.
Marie: Well we had agreed to perform in Vegas together for six months and then we’ve been there now for four years, they’d like us to stay until the end of 2012, actually they’d like us to stay longer but we’ve agreed to 2012. After two years of being there, so many people kept saying, “We love the old stuff, we want you to record together,” so we decided to give it a shot. Getting back into the studio, it was like putting on a pair of old jeans; it was easy (Laughs).
There is an interesting blend that we have together, maybe it’s a sibling blend, I don’t know but it was fun and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our first single debuted at #7 on the country charts, so it was very fulfilling and very nice. I just love our latest single, “The Good Life.” If you listen to the old Donny and Marie, “I’m Leaving It All Up To You” and “Make The World Go Away,” they were like country records for today. It’s nice to have Donny in the studio recording the true and living music which is country (Laughs).
What was the process like for the both of you when it came to choosing the material for the album and did you disagree over any of the selections?
Donny: Complete disagreement! (Laughs) We’re brother and sister, what are you talking about? What’s interesting is we probably started with about 300 songs that were submitted for this record and it was just a whittling down process. The songs that ended up on the album we obviously all agreed upon. Marie has two solos, I have two solos, and the rest are duets. There are great writers on it and absolutely fabulous songs that we both love to sink our teeth into.
What’s interesting is because we were doing our Vegas show at the same time that we were doing that record, we didn’t have time, nor the energy to both go into the studio at the same time and record. Marie has a little studio at her house and I have a studio in my dressing room at the Flamingo here in Las Vegas. That’s how we did our vocals, back and forth. Buddy was in Nashville and he was producing our vocals thousands of miles away from where we were recording, so through technology we were able to get this album done as if we were all in the same room at the same time. The musicians cut the tracks in Nashville. We didn’t have absolutely any time on our plate to be able to fly back there and oversee the process, so we would check in via video conferencing and things like that on Skype. We would be right on top of the project yet do an album a thousand miles apart.
That’s how pretty much everything is done nowadays. You could be the most amazing rock band from Ireland and still be recording no matter where you’re from, or be Donny and Marie in Las Vegas at the Flamingo, and have tracks to be done. In fact a couple of albums ago, I was working with Gary Barlow from the band called Take That and we would actually write our material over iChat. I was at home in my studio and he was in England in his studio, and that’s how we did the album.
Marie: Well we’re as different as the North and South Pole; I’m the North Pole because I like to be where all the gifts are from and Donny, he’s from the South Pole where the wandering Albatross lay their eggs (Laughs). Not really but I tease him all the time and I would say that I was responsible for picking the songs, and he was responsible for titling the album. It took him many months to come up with the title, “Donny & Marie” (Laughs).
Buddy Cannon was the producer and he is just fantastic. He’s worked with Kenny Chesney and people like that. We got in there and we had to literally record the album during the same time that we were doing our Flamingo shows, so we’d record all day and then do the show at night. It was crazy and busy but it was a lot of fun. At that same time, I was recording my solo album, “I Can Do This” which is my first inspirational album. I am giving all of the proceeds from the record to the Children’s Miracle Network. I don’t know if you know this, but I am one of the founders of that. So I was really doing two albums and the Flamingo show all at the same time. There is nothing better than getting in the studio and creating music; it’s just a wonderful process.
After years of performing as solo artists and as a duo, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Donny: The disadvantage is that I have to work with my sister (Laughs). The advantage is that we’ve been working for so long we know exactly how to work with each other. To be honest with you, there are not a lot of disadvantages because over time, Marie and I have been doing this for over forty-eight years now. I was just talking to someone yesterday about this very same thing. What other brother, sister duo out there is there that had their solo careers as well as a duo career? There’s not very many, I can’t think of any. We are fortunate; there are really not a lot of disadvantages because Marie and I can do our own separate solo things, and then come together as a duo; we really have our cake and eat it too.
Marie: (Laughs), well I could answer this humorously or I could tell you the truth. You know what, there are advantages to both. There’s nothing like recording your own music, of course you know I’ve been blessed to have #1 records like “There’s No Stopping Your Heart,” “Read My Lips,” and “Meet Me In Montana” with Dan Seals which was a CMA Vocal Duo of The Year, and “You’re Still New To Me” which was a duet with Paul Davis. I like doing my own music but I’ve always enjoyed singing with other people. Working with Donny, he’s my sibling and we just know how to do it and get it done; it’s very easy with him. I have to tell you though, when I recorded “Meet Me In Montana,” Dan Seals was part of England Dan and John Ford Coley, so he was used to recording duets and there is a certain way you sing in a duet situation that is very different from singing in a solo situation. Donny is easy to work with, but Dan was probably one of the easiest guys I’ve ever sang with because he was used to singing in a duet situation.
Speaking of going solo, has been the most engaging experience about being able to pursue that avenue?
Donny: That’s a very unique question Christian, because I’ve always had a solo career. Let’s go back to the beginning; my brother started on the Andy Williams Show and I was a solo artist at 5 years old. Yes, I became part of the group but I always had my solo career. Even when we had “One Bad Apple,” I think it was in 1971, shortly thereafter I had “Go Away Little Girl, “Puppy Love,” “Sweet and Innocent,” so I’ve always had a parallel solo career. Even during the Donny and Marie Show, I was recording and doing things on my own as well. I’ve actually lived so many different careers at the same time in a parallel universe. I remember doing this one particular gig in Las Vegas where I would come out on stage as part of the Osmond Brothers, then I would take over and do a solo set for a few numbers, and then Marie would come out, I’d be part of that, and then my brother Jimmy came out and I did a number with him. So really, I was part of every single act on that show.
Marie: Well I feel like I’m so blessed, especially being a female in the entertainment business. That’s an interesting question. If I were to say what Marie Osmond is musically, I would say I am country. I love country music, I always have and I always will. I started out recording it when I was twelve and that’s what I love. I have been very blessed to sing many styles of music.
If you see the show in Vegas and you hear my album “I Can Do This,” we have original songs that are country, I have songs that are soft pop, to operatic and I do “Ave Verum Corpus” on the album. A good song is a good song no matter what style it’s written in to me. Because of my voice being kind of unique that I can sing so many things from Broadway musicals to whatever, I’ve been blessed to be able to do many, many kinds of music projects, whether it’s being live on Broadway or singing at a Honky Tonk.
In the show I do Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” We really do a little bit of country and a little bit of Rock and Roll in our show so therefore I sing both; its fun and I guess that my voice is unique that way so because of that I’ve been able to do a lot of fun things.
Looking back on your career in musical theater, what would you say is most challenging about being on Broadway compared to the concert stage?
Donny: Consistency; that’s the thing that I learned on Broadway or doing musical theater in general is that it’s so unlike doing a concert because when you do a show that’s a pop concert, rock concert, whatever you want to do, you can actually change the set list, you can open songs up, you can vamp it, you can do whatever you want to do. When you’re doing musical theater, you’ve got a book and the challenge there is that you’ve got to keep it consistent every night despite the fact that you’ve been doing it so many times. I did “Joseph” two thousand times in the course of six years, and that two thousandth show had to be exactly the same as the first because that was the way that Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted it and you become more comfortable in the role after a period of time but you cannot change it. That’s where you’ve got to believe in the material, you’ve got to be consistent and on top of your game because improvising isn’t allowed in certain musical theater venues. It depends on the show obviously. There are some shows where you can break the fourth wall and have a little fun with it but then you’ve to get back into your character.
Who is your favorite country music female artist that you grew up listening to?
No question Loretta Lynn. When I first met Loretta, “Paper Roses” had just turned #1 and I went to see her in concert because I loved the fact that she showed women in a positive light. In the 70s, it was pretty much a mans world in music at that time and she showed that you could have children, be married, love your music, be a writer, be a performer, do what you love and you can do it all! I loved her for that; she also has a wicked sense of humor and I love her for that too (Laughs). She came up the hard way and she worked very hard for everything that she had. I think that is why Loretta is still out there making music and touring; its fun and she loves the craft and the art of it and the fans. There are other women I love as well, I mean I love Dolly; I love those strong females that sing to survive but Loretta was definitely the woman that influenced me.
I’d imagine you’re quite proud of your 2009 DWTS “Mirror Ball” trophy. What do you attribute to that amazing victory?
Marie’s loss (Laughs). I’m on one today (Laughs). We joke about it all the time, even on stage. There may even be some reference to it in our show that we bring to Chicago. Two words, hard work! (Laughs) Actually two more words, Kym Johnson; she is the most amazing choreographer and friend. She is one of the sweetest ladies on the planet and one of my best friends. Man that woman can crack a whip!