IT?S ALWAYS fun to interview intelligent artists. Two fine examples are David Pomeranz and Lea Salonga, who are teaming up for a concert on March 29 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila.
Salonga needs no introduction. But Pomeranz?s answers changed our notion that he?s baduy (corny) as some of his romantic ballads sound. Read on.
What keeps you busy lately?
I am composing music and rehearsing for two new Broadway-bound stage musicals and performing my ?Charlie Chaplin? one-man show across the United States.
Are you in touch with the current music scene? Who impresses you most among the new crop of performers?
Yes, I am. I am very impressed by some of the better singers and writers like Jason Mraz and Lady Antebellum. I also like Katy Perry?s recent records. I?m a simple guy. I like great songs and the singers who sing the hell out of them. I think Michael Bublé has the best male vocal chops and Kelly Clarkson has the best female?s.
What do you think is right and wrong about the music business today?
I think what is right is that there are lots of new people coming up that are genuinely talented and getting a shot?either through traditional channels like major labels or the indie route of going directly to the public. This is the first time in history where artists can achieve great success without needing the major labels to promote them. The bad news is, the writing standards could be higher, in my opinion.
Let?s go back to your early days as a songwriter. What was your first big hit and what did you do with your first royalty check?
My first big hit was Barry Manilow?s version of my song ?Tryin? To Get the Feeling Again.? I took my first royalty check and bought a beautiful house in Malibu. Two weeks later, the guest house and all the grounds burned down from a raging brush fire. Must be a lesson in there somewhere though I?m not sure what it is!
Are you an artist who doesn?t have to perform all the time because you live comfortably off royalties from publishing and other rights?
No. I perform all the time because I love it. I travel the world extensively and the only downside is not being with my wife and 9-year-old son as much as I want to. Otherwise, I?m happiest on stage, in the ?zone? with the audience and singing at my best. Not much in life beats this for me.
Which is more effective when writing love songs?when you?re happy or sad?
I can write either way. But I don?t think one has to be chronically sad to write a sad song. I just ?call it up??from memory, etc. and get into that frame of mind at will. It certainly helps to experience it directly while it?s being written, but once the song?s done, I?m onto the next thing. I don?t get stuck in the emotion anymore. I can pretty much turn it on and off. I think I?m at my best creatively, however, when I?m feeling well and strong and just allow myself to be ?moved? by whatever experience befalls me. Inspiration is always key. I try to never write something fake or outside of my own experience because the listener can pick it up a mile away.
Name three songs that you wished you could?ve written.
?These Dreams? by Heart, ?You?ll Never Walk Alone? by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and ?The Longest Time? by Billy Joel.
How are you preparing for your show with Lea Salonga?
By finding songs to sing that move each of us personally and deeply. I believe that?s what will move the audience and that is our most important target. Of course, the other part is rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
Are you singing new songs for the show?
Yes, both new ones and old ones. It?ll be a varied program but the bottom line will be raw emotion. Bring the large Kleenex box!
You?ve performed in many theaters around the world. How impressed are you with the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World?
Oh that theater is gorgeous! I think my favorite parts are the seats, all of them. All I?d need is a foot rest and I?d be all set. But seriously, a nice performance space is always a good thing. I haven?t seen the backstage area yet, so if it?s nice I may just drop to my knees and cry.
What shows have you seen lately, here or abroad, that you really liked?
I haven?t seen anything lately that I remember. Am looking forward to seeing ?Next to Normal? though. Two really good friends, Menchu Lauchengco and Jett Pangan, are the leads, and anything they do is just wicked awesome. I love them both dearly, as performers and as people.
Let?s go back to your early days as a performer. What really motivated you to become an artist?
I really don?t know. I never had that choir-of-angels epiphany where I announced to my family, ?I wanna be an artist!? All of this seemed natural and easy, flowing without any opposition. However, my family stressed the importance of getting an education so I tried my best to keep up with my schoolwork.
Perhaps motivation wasn?t an all-encompassing thing, but more case-to-case. For example, my mom threatened to keep me home from rehearsal if I didn?t finish my homework. That?ll light a fire under my butt, for sure.
What kind of setback have you experienced in your career and how did you deal with it?
I don?t know if I could call this a setback, but whenever I experience a lack of professionalism at work, that irks me. It sometimes makes me want to quit or kill somebody, usually the offending party. But my love for performing always wins out and I keep on. And I haven?t gone homicidal yet. (Insert evil laughter here.)
What?s the most rewarding part of your stint in local show biz?
The work for sure, and the people I?ve met and have gotten to work with. There are tons of undesirables, but once you learn how to separate the weeds from the flowers, it?s smooth sailing and fantastic. The best ones though are the ?old school? theater people who are incredibly disciplined, love their work, and are funny as hell.
Did you ever get affected by international fame in a negative way?
Can?t say that I have. I?m thankful for it.
Who?s your greatest influence as a singer?
There are actually quite a few: Karen Carpenter, Ella Fitzgerald, Olivia Newton-John, Marie Osmond, Barbra Streisand. The lyrics are always clearly interpreted, they all know how to tell a good story. I still listen to the radio to hear other singers, be they old or newer. There?s always something to learn.
Have you tried writing lyrics for a future record?
For some reason my brain isn?t wired to write lyrics. I can write a two-page column without any problem, but lyrics stump me. That takes something special. Perhaps I just need some encouragement, or a writing partner.
How are you preparing for your show with David Pomeranz?
I?ve got rehearsal recordings on my laptop and iPhone, but since I?m still in mid-tour I haven?t touched them yet. I?ll start listening about a week before the show to keep things fresh in my head.
Are you singing new songs for the show?
Well, the songs aren?t all new, but they?ll be new to me!