We recently had the opportunity to talk with two-time Grammy Award winner Rita Coolidge. She has charted on several of the Billboard Charts over the years. She is perhaps known best for the songs, “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher”, “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and “We’re All Alone” all certified smashes. She was married to singer/actor Kris Kristofferson and recorded some albums with him as well. Without further adieu here is Rita!!!
Rock Show Critique: Do you have any current projects you are working on? New Songs or albums?
Rita Coolidge: I’m not currently working on an album, I write all the time. But there’s not anything really that I’m promoting, I’m not doing too much Joe. This week I went up to Los Angeles to do an interview for an exhibit that’s gonna be running in the Smithsonian in DC, and New York for a year. Its going to feature native people in pop music and other stars of music. Mainly its mainstream music. I did that this week which was really terrific to be a part of that. I’m working and taking care of my dog and my Father is sick and I spend a lot of time with my family when I can.
RSC: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to be in music?
Rita: When you’ve done as much as I have for so many years its pretty hard to pick one moment. At the 2002 olympics in Salt Lake City I sang with my native american group Walela and we sang with Robbie Robertson. We were on the stage when a thousand native people came out in silver dalea on horses and dancing, to me in my life one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard and seen. That always stands out. I feel when my life is over and I cross over it can’t be more beautiful than what I saw at Salt Lake City.
RSC: What album are you most proud of?
Rita: Usually its the one you just did, you’re closer to that one. I did enjoy the jazz album which was the most recent one I released. And So Is Love was released on Concord Records. I enjoyed that because it was challenging for me to go up to LA and record and work with these really accomplished jazz musicians. I was challenged and honored and it was fabulous. Of course I loved Anytime, Anywhere because it brought such great success it set me on my path because it sold millions of records. Beyond that I just love them all, there is nothing I don’t like.
RSC: Were there any songwriters that you were particularly fond of?
Rita: Well I think Kris Kristofferson is a great songwriter, I was pretty fond of him (laughs). I have recorded songs written by so many different people, I love Marc Benno as a writer. I loved Peter Allen’s songs, Carole Bayer Sager, it’s just hard to be on spot about a writer when I have recorded literally hundreds of songs. I don’t want to say something where it will leave someone out. There are just so many.
RSC: I didn’t know if there were any songwriters you idolized or anything.
Rita: I don’t really idolize anybody except maybe Marc Anthony (laughs)
RSC: Name one person you’d like to work with that you never had the chance to?
Rita: I’ve worked with a lot of people I never got to do a duet with Luther Vandross but we worked on a lot of sessions and we were best friends. I never got sing with Peggy Lee but we were also best friends. So I guess I have to say Marc Anthony.
RSC: You have done many shows over the years, What are your pros and cons of touring? Do you enjoy it? How has touring changed over the years?
Rita: I think touring has changed a lot from when I first started touring. I would leave home, get on a bus and do cross country. Its changed because of 9/11,and because of the economy, airline tickets have gone up. In the 70’s a big hall was Santa Monica Civic Auditorium which maybe holds two thousand. When Kris and I played it would be unbelievable to play in an arena to ten thousand people. Now it very common for artist to play to 30,000 seats. Everything is just bigger. The way people buy music, the way people hear music has changed, as well as the music itself. The Everly Brothers were straight ahead rock and roll when they were having their hits. Now they would definitely be considered a country act. So touring definitely is different. Its different because i’m now what they call a heritage artist cause I’ve been doing this for forty years. I’ve always preferred to do more nights in a smaller venue than to do one night in a big venue. I really like to have a closer relationship with the audience. I don’t like to play in places where I can’t see people in the back of the venue. But the bottom line and the best part of playing music, is just being with the band on the stage and is even more fun now.
RSC: Without giving too much away, what can we expect when you roll into Seneca Allegany Casino on Feb 11?
Rita: You know I learned a long time ago Joe, when l went to see Luther Vandross in the Hollywood Bowl and he had a new record, he didn’t play any of my favorite hits, he just played the record. So after that I became acutely aware its my job and my commitment to play the songs that people want to hear. We’ll be doing the former hits, one or two jazz tunes, some valentine music and some indian music. We just mix it all up. Because in my career I’ve done so many styles of music. That’s what we are going to be doing. I think you’ll love this show because it eclectic extremely musically and I do have the best band on the planet.
RSC: Who is in your band these days?
Rita: On keyboards its Mary Ekler, on drums Lynn Coulter on guitar John McDuffie and on bass Randy Landas. And their just fabulous and its just my favorite part of the time i’ll be gone away from home will be that hour on stage is just gonna be the bomb. We haven’t played together since before Christmas, so I’m excited to me that’s a long time.
Special Thanks to Tony Astran, Nelly Neben and Rita Coolidge for setting up this interview!