Marie Osmond Releases New "Country" Album
By Pat Gallagher
April 27, 2011
NASHVILLE.COM EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Marie and Donny. Sound weird? That’s only because the brother/sister Osmond family singing sensations have always been billed as: Donny and Marie. (Donny likes it that way.) They’ve been performing for almost half a century together, first as children with the singing “Osmond Brothers” act, then as teenagers they hosted their own variety TV series, Donny & Marie (1976-79); they jointly hosted a daytime TV talk show (1998 – 2000), and since 2008 they’ve been appearing together at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas – after many years of doing other things without each other (Marie has been selling her doll collection on QVC for 20 years, acted
on Broadway, had a few solo and duet hit singles; Donny hosted the TV game show Pyramid (2002-2004), acted on Broadway, had a few solo hit singles … well, you get the picture). Oh, and they came in No. 1 and 3 respectively on the hit ABC reality/variety television dancing contest Dancing With the Stars (more about that later).
Donny and Marie are releasing their first joint studio album in 30 years on May 3rd (Donny & Marie) – produced by the legendary Buddy Cannon and recorded in Nashville – which begs the question: What took them so long? I asked Marie that question when I caught up with her a few days ago. She called me on her way to attend her oldest son’s 28th birthday party. “I had him when I was 2,” she laughed. Great sense of humor.
Having been a fan of Donny and Marie since I was 2 (wink, wink), it was truly a pleasure to talk to the feminine half of the brother/sister duo to pick her brain about their new album in addition to a variety of other subjects including why she and Donny returned to Vegas after all these years; what it was like working with the Who’s Who of Hollywood when they were teens; do the DWTS judges have favorites?; would she ever do a family reality show?; and will she be the next Oprah in the TV Talk Show world?
Nash: Your new album with Donny is great! Why did you two wait 30 years to record together again?
Marie: Well, I had to wait for Donny to grow up. (Laughs) You know what, we always knew we’d do something together again. When we were asked to come to Las Vegas, what we thought would be for six weeks ended up being three years, and we’ve agreed to stay another year and they want us to do another year after that but we’re looking at everything. We thought if there was ever a time to do something again, this was the time. I think there’s something unique about brother/sister blend. I really do. I think the harmonies are tight and the sound, and it was fun. We have amazing writers from Richie Sambora, to Carole King to Babyface [Edmonds] to Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster and Gary Baker and Frank Myers … wonderful songs. It’s all about the writers and the songs anyway.
Nash: I have my favorites on this album. I love “Vegas Love.” Is there a song on this album you’re going to put out as a single for radio?
Marie: “The Good Life” is a single, that’s out right now. (On country stations). I really like “Vegas Love,” I love “You Can Do Anything.” There’s so many fun songs on there. “I Know This Much Is True” is one of my favorite songs. Of course I like “I Can’t Wait.” My son [Stephen Craig] wrote that song. By the way, the song “I Swear,” was written by Frank Myers and Gary Baker. Frank was my guitar player and Gary was my bass player when I was having all my country hits. “I Swear” was written on my bus. That’s why that song is on there too. We wanted to do original songs and then a couple standards people knew.
Nash: One of my favorite songs on this album is a solo by you: “My Reflection.” What a beautiful song that is, the words and the melody are so incredibly sensitive and poignant. Every woman will be moved by that song!
Marie: Actually Buddy Cannon who is our producer – that’s a song written by his daughter who is a phenomenal writer. I love that song too. It says a lot about women and their issues and loving themselves. Those are what I call great country songs.
Nash: I was trying to figure out if you were looking in the mirror at your refection singing about yourself or was someone looking at you, reflecting on your life?
Marie: You can take it however you want. That’s the beautiful thing about music. What she was basically saying is: I can see what you don’t see in my reflection. Too many times we worry about the opinions of others when we really need to go inside ourselves and be OK with who we are.
Nash: I like the song “ Better Off Blue.” It’s saying it’s better to be blue now – for the short term – with someone that’s not right for you than to be blue your whole life with someone who’s not right for you.
Marie: It’s an up-tempo song about something serious, and I got Donny to sing country music! (Laughs)
Nash: How did he like that?
Marie: He did great!
Nash: Your fans are thrilled that you and Donny are back performing in Vegas. Whose idea was that?
Marie: Actually it was brought to us … my brain just went absolutely dead. (Welcome to my world.) Danny Ganz actually went to Donny and Donny came to me and talked about doing it long term. But really it was to go into the MGM, just for a fun thing for Donny and Marie for six weeks. And that’s when the Flamingo came to us and said we want you to be part of our family. It was nice. You know the Flamingo bird lives in flocks of 10,000 very much like Osmonds. (Laughs)
You know what’s interesting is the Flamingo is the last of the great show rooms in Vegas. They don’t have them anymore. And that showroom, when you look at the history of the people that performed there – and I grew up working with these people – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elvis Presley, I mean you name it, they worked in that show room. It’s old school in a sense that people are right there in your face so you can’t fake anything. It’s real. It’s an in-your-face kind of show where you don’t just stand there and sing songs. We do everything. It’s an entertainment based show. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been there three years. A lot of people don’t do that nowadays. We really involve our audience. It’s not like you’re sitting a football field away from the celebrity. You are in our faces. It’s a very different experience in that showroom, and that’s one of the reasons we like it. We kind of grew up on the tail end of what I call the great entertainers and so to watch them and to learn that craft was really a fun blessing for us.
Nash: What did you learn from working with Frank, Sammy & Elvis?
Marie: Oh, from [them to] Dean Martin, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, they were hard workers, they worked hard. We had Lucille Ball, some of the great faces, the first time a woman was a studio owner. I learned so much from her. She taught me about lighting … timing.
Nash: Your show days must be very busy. How do you maintain your sanity?
Marie: You have to come see the show, and you’ll see. (Laughs)
Nash: You and Donny have the greatest fans in the world. You bring happiness into people’s lives. You must have had a wonderful childhood to maintain that happiness and staying grounded in the face of all that life has put on your plates. Do you attribute that to your parents’ upbringing or to your faith or both?
Marie: I would say a combination. Our parents taught us to appreciate everybody and work hard and be ethical. Like you said, we have the best fans in the world. I mean, I’m serious. They are unbelievable. It’s my 20-year anniversary of designing dolls, and those girls who were five years old that bought my dolls are now 30 and they’re coming to the shows. It’s so fun to see these 25- and 30-year-olds. And younger too, from [our appearances on] Dancing with the Stars. The demos in our shows are really fun. I’ve got the young guys coming saying, “Hey, do you want to go on a date?” And I’m like, “Really? I already have enough school loans to pay.” (Laughs)
Nash: You and Donny are two years apart in age. What’s the best part of working with Donny Osmond for you?
Marie: He’s always going to be older than I am.
Nash: Does he kid you that he came in first on DWTS and you came in 3rd? Is that an issue?
Marie: I want to go on the record that I did it first. I made it in the finals, and we all know the girls dance harder than the boys do. (Laughs)
Nash: I have to ask you, who are your top three picks this season? Have you been watching?
Marie: You know what, Pat, I have not. We put in a new show, and I’ve had so many things that have been going on and promoting this album. I have been promoting my other album, I’ve been doing a bunch of things for Children’s Miracle Network. I know Donny’s been watching but I have to tell you honestly I have not. I pay attention like when Kirstie fell and things like that, you hear those things, but I really haven’t.
Nash: Do you think the judges have their favorites or are they pretty even?
Marie: I think I can’t comment on that. (Laughs) Of course they choose who they want to win. You know that, right? (Laughs) It’s like on the same season I was on, Jane Seymour’s mother passed away, and my dad died right as we went into the finals. It was like, “Jane we’re so sorry, and Marie you suck.” It’s OK, it is what it is. It’s television. It’s what the show is about. To me, I lost 40 pounds on that show. I passed out and hit my head so hard that in my opinion I won, right?
Nash: Tell me about passing out, from your perspective.
Marie: I knew something was wrong when we started because everything started spinning. And remember that day they evacuated almost a million people out of the L.A. area. And I had been outside all day rehearsing, and I think that the combination that my lungs didn’t have enough air or whatever reason that’s why I probably passed out. But, I think the weirdest thing was waking up on the floor and then realizing that it was live TV, and I thought oh man, what happened?
Nash: You were so graceful about it. You just got up and there you were. You were so calm and collected. How wonderful that you were able to maintain your composure.
Marie: I think you have to realize that part of what you do as an entertainer is keep everybody else calm. You don’t want to insight anybody to riot or have anybody worry. I guess when you’ve been working 48 years in the business, that’s when the time pays off. You just kind of know how to pull it together.
Nash: Would you and your family consider doing a reality show?
Marie: I would never do that. I think they sensationalize. I’d rather be somebody who lifts people’s lives instead of seeing all the drama. It doesn’t appeal to me. If it were a reality show that lifted, that would be a good thing.
Nash: I thought I read recently that you were going to do a talk show. Where does that stand?
Marie: Well, there has been talk about it. I was going to at one point but that was several years ago. I’ve been asked to do quite a few things. I’ve written and been kind of open with my life, and I love talk that makes a difference for people. If you’re going to do it, it’s fun to do it where it blesses women’s live and people’s lives and doesn’t dwell on negatives, but solution finding: positive, entertainment, fun, funny.
Nash: Oprah’s leaving. You might be the perfect person to take over.
Marie: You’re so nice, you’re way sweet. I think my life has brought a lot of ups and downs and things that I’ve been through. That’s why I said I wouldn’t do reality TV. I’m not into just finding negativity or fault-finding or those kinds of things. I think we get enough of that in our world so if I did something like that, it would be strictly with a positive motive, just to make people feel better if that’s something I ever did.
Nash: I recently discovered something about you that I didn’t know. I saw you do a song with your operatic voice. I had no idea you could sing Opera. Have you ever thought about doing an Opera?
Marie: I would love to. I’d love to play the Met, maybe do a little guest appearance. I’ve been doing an opera piece in the show here. We just changed out the show in Vegas. It’s not Opera but it’s soprano. I guess I feel like I’m kind of blessed … unique maybe in the sense that maybe my voice doesn’t just sing a particular style of music. I can sing many styles so I guess that is unique. I do a rock number in the show, I do some Broadway pieces, I do soprano. It’s kind of a fun show in the sense that I do many different kinds of music. It’s fun for me. I love being able to do all those different things.
Nash: We all need a good laugh now and then. Barney Fife and Donkey from Shrek makes me laugh out loud. Who do you call if you need a good laugh? Or what TV Show do you watch?
Marie: You know, you’re right. Some of the best, well-written shows and some of the most beautifully developed characters – are you kidding, Barney Fife is phenomenal. Laugh out loud? You know, all I have to do is go home and watch my kids. My kids are funny. My youngest is 8 and my oldest is 28.
I caught up with Donny the day after I spoke with his “younger” sister. Stay tuned for the Donny Chronicles coming to Nashville.com very soon.