40th anniversary benefit concert
Hospice Comes to Washington
Malen Smith Davis, president Capital Caring
Beth Nielsen Chapman
Monday, May 1
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Tickets: $95 (meet-and-greet package: $350)
Multi-talented singer, actress and activist, Olivia Newton-John will make a special stop in the nation’s capital at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Monday, May 1 for Capital Caring’s 40th anniversary.
The “Physical” singer and “Grease” icon will perform a special acoustic show with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman in honor of their album together, “Liv On.”
Released in October, “Liv On” is about healing and coping with loss. In a statement about the album, the three women say it’s “intended for those who wish to transcend loss while walking a journey toward newfound meaning and hope.”
The album is extremely personal for the three women as each have suffered loss in recent years. Newton-John lost her sister to brain cancer, Sky lost her mother to cancer and Nielsen Chapman lost her husband to cancer as well. Newton-John and Nielsen Chapman are also breast cancer survivors or “thrivers” as they call themselves.
WASHINGTON BLADE: You’re in D.C. for Capital Caring’s 40th anniversary. Why is this an important event for you to be a part of?
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: Well, I’ve never been part of this event before, but I just recorded an album with two of my dear friends, Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman. We recorded an album called “Liv On.” Have you heard it yet?
BLADE: I have actually. It’s a great album, very soothing and comforting.
NEWTON-JOHN: Aw, thank you. So the album is about loss and grief and moving through it. We were asked to do this event and it seems to fit in with the theme of the album, am I correct?
BLADE: You are. The event is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Hospice Comes to Washington as well.
NEWTON-JOHN: Exactly, so that’s why we’re proud of this album. The three of us have all experienced the emotions of loss and grief and this album is really inspired by when I lost my sister nearly four years ago now to a brain tumor. I realized there wasn’t music about going through loss and grief and I would write songs and my friends Beth and Amy had written some songs on the same subject and we started collaborating and writing some new ones. It’s a healing experience for us.
BLADE: You worked with Amy on “Grace and Gratitude.” Had you worked with Beth before?
NEWTON-JOHN: Yes, we wrote a few things together and she’s an amazing writer and friend. We’re friends more than anything. She had breast cancer and I talked to her and helped her through that time period, so we’ve been friends for a long time.
BLADE: In 2014, a year after the death of your sister, you released a great EP called “The Hotel Sessions.”
NEWTON-JOHN: Yes, thank you. I did the EP with my nephew, Rona’s son (Brett Goldsmith).
BLADE: Was that part of the healing process for the two of you?
NEWTON-JOHN: No, not really. We had started it four years before. Every time I’d go to Australia I’d go to his house in Melbourne and we’d finish another track. We had just finished it right around the time she got sick. It was just perfect timing.
BLADE: How long did the process of recording “Liv On” take?
NEWTON-JOHN: It took about a year. We had to write the songs and I was in Vegas and the girls have their own careers, so we had to find a time we could all get together. It was a long process, but it was really worth it because it’s a timeless subject that everyone can relate to.
BLADE: You’ve done a few shows so far with Amy and Beth. What can fans expect?
NEWTON-JOHN: It’s going to be the album plus maybe a song or two of our own. It’s a trio, you know. It’s been wonderful working with them and singing as a trio rather than by myself and having the support of them on stage with the emotional aspect of this, it’s been fabulous.
BLADE: Have you heard from fans and what their reactions have been to “Liv On”?
NEWTON-JOHN: Oh yes, they love it. We’ve had some strong reactions to it. You know, everybody goes through loss and pain in their life and not everyone has someone to talk to about it and that can be very devastating. I think it’s a wonderful outlet for people to share.
BLADE: Family is important to you and in 2015, you released “You Have To Believe” with your daughter, Chloe Lattanzi and it went to No. 1 on the Billboard U.S. Hot Dance Songs Chart. Was that a surprise for you?
NEWTON-JOHN: It was a wonderful surprise! (laughs) We thought it would do well, but for it be number one was fantastic.
BLADE: For some of the die-hard fans out there, is there a vault of unreleased Olivia songs that are just waiting to see the light of day?
NEWTON-JOHN: You know what, there are. I’m going to be doing a box set at some point.
BLADE: Have you thought about releasing a memoir?
NEWTON-JOHN: Yes, I’ve thought about it. It’ll probably be in the works at some point.
BLADE: Along with the “Liv On” shows, you’re also touring with your own show. You wrapped up Vegas last year and are doing select dates across the country. Do you prefer doing a residency or do you have more fun hitting the road?
NEWTON-JOHN: I like them both for different reasons. I wouldn’t say one over the other. I enjoyed my three years in Vegas and I liked the consistency and waking up in the same bed, having my husband and my animals with me, so that was fantastic. Touring is a whole other thing too, but it’s fun and different.
BLADE: Your last few albums have been more on the inspirational side. Any thought on releasing any more pop music?
NEWTON-JOHN: Ummm, well, I don’t close the door on anything. Who knows what will happen. What I’m doing now is more of what I’ve wanted to do lately.
BLADE: During your concert shows, you pay tribute to your country music beginnings. When you first came to Nashville, there was a lot of opposition with you treading into this established traditional community. Did you ever feel the backlash back then?
NEWTON-JOHN: You know what, I wasn’t really aware of the backlash till afterward. I was traveling and touring and I heard about it after and heard Dolly and Loretta had backed me up so I had great support. It was just a few people, you know — it was change. John Denver and I were the first people to cross over from country to pop and I think that was threatening to them, but they later on saw the advantage (laughs).
BLADE: You sparked some excitement recently when you announced you were planning something for the 40th anniversary of “Grease.”
NEWTON-JOHN: I didn’t actually make any announcement (laughs). I don’t know where that came from. I said we’ll probably do something is all I said. I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet for it.
BLADE: Do you feel any of your movies were overshadowed by the success and popularity of “Grease”?
NEWTON-JOHN: Not really. I don’t think so. I made “Xanadu” afterward and a few little movies that were fun to make. I did one about five years ago called “A Few Best Men” that was pretty funny, but I don’t think it’s gotten released here in the States.
BLADE: Over the last few years you’ve been hinting about retiring and taking it easy. Do you think you could ever really settle down outside the spotlight?
NEWTON-JOHN: I’m gonna do less. I’ve been saying for 10 years I was gonna do less, but fun things come up and I never know what’s going to happen. That’s the fun of it really.
BLADE: Everyone knows you from something different — some from your acting, your music, charity work. What do you want to be most remembered for?
NEWTON-JOHN: Gosh, I haven’t really thought about that. Well of course for having nice music, lovely music and if I may have touched someone’s heart or helped them in some way. And of course for the hospital (Olivia-Newton John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre). I’m hoping my hospital is where we’ll see an end to cancer, that’s my dream.