Canadian Guitar Players Association
With special thanks to the team of Helen and Warren Powis, we are pleased to present our engaging conversation
with the elegant
Interview by Dave Alexander, Edited by Jan Menkal
Liona - Not as much as I'd like. My family is there and I was back last November. Usually four or five times a year. My manager, my producer and my brother and sister as well as my parents are all there.
Liona - I'd love to do more things in
Liona - When I was thirteen, I had asked my parents for a
guitar for Christmas. My father bought it when we were staying with my
Grandparents in the northern region of
Liona - They always encouraged me to be creative. They were thrilled when I got my first little recital, won some music competitions. I know my father was a little concerned at the beginning after I met with different agents and managers in New York, he was worried that it was going to be a cut-throat business and he discouraged me actually, at the beginning because he thought it would be too much pressure. My mother was always extremely supportive and in fact went on a lot of my early tours with me, helped arrange some of them, made my concert dresses and got involved in every aspect that she could lend a hand.
Liona - An opportunity was basically dropped into my
lap. Through Eleanor Snider, I was put in touch with a small Canadian
label called Boot Records which was owned by Stompin'
Tom Connors. The resulting recording was then quickly picked up by London
Records for distribution so all my international releases came out on the
Liona - It was back in the mid-seventies when I did this recording for Boot Records and I really didn't have any idea of the impact on my life that the recording would have. I thought it was very flattering to be asked to make a record and I just did two or three takes of every piece and then my producer decided when they thought I had it right. I just treated it more like a concert. Now that I know you can do twenty takes I can get very fanatic about it.
Liona - I've played for her three times, but actually more
than that because I've been doing some private concerts for the Royal
Family. Three times in
Liona - Well, I always just try and play my best and really
try and get into my music and project the emotion of the piece. It
doesn't really matter if I'm playing something where the whole Royal Family were just sitting right in front of me. I felt really
relaxed, I was really happy. I had written a special piece for the Queen
and Prince Phillip. Prince Phillip has been a fan of mine for years and
I'm a fan of his. He's so nice and a great sense of humor. I have a
long correspondence with him. He writes to me regularly. I've done
quite a few benefit concerts as well, but this was just a private one in
Liona - I just do some deep breathing and I just lose myself in the music. The best concerts are the ones where the music takes you to another place, transport you and you almost leave your body for a while. Those are the peak experiences. It doesn't happen every time, but when you can get to that point and just be flowing with the music, that's really what you live for. Of course, in order to get there, you have got to have a very confident technique. The wonderful thing about performing is that every concert is different. Sometimes I'll feel really prepared and excited and I'll do just a terrible concert, other times I'll feel totally insecure and that I've not practiced and the strings need changed, having a tuning problem and all kinds of things go wrong and then I play just brilliantly. So it's hard to really predict.
Liona - Sometimes I'll just get a melodic idea, and just write down the melody and work on the chords later. Other times, I'll have a rhythmic pattern in mind and that develops, but mostly I'm attracted to melody. I have written quite a few things with lyrics actually. I haven't used much of them but I love writing lyrics. I've just written two new Spanish songs and that's a challenge. I love the Spanish language and I always check my writing with a couple of my Latino friends. Some of my best pieces, I've written just in lonely hotel rooms. I feel I'm inspired if I'm really happy or down in the dumps. When everything is going just fine, you don't get quite as inspired. There's some truth that good composers have to suffer a little to get the creative juices going.
Liona - I did a country record with Chet Atkins, but basically
my technique is classical guitar. You can still get it as a
compilation. It's called The First National Guitar Quartet. My
record Dancing On The Edge was categorized as Urban
Contemporary Jazz, but I am not a jazz player. Jazz is a whole other way
of playing, the chordal knowledge, regrettably, I
don't have. I was trained in a different way so I admire a lot of great
jazz players. I've got some that have some Flamenco techniques, but I'm
really not a Flamenco player. On my new album, there are 23 musicians and
we all have different styles. For instance, Strunz & Farah.
I don't play with a finger pick and I'm totally in awe of all those guy's that have that amazing speed and they are in awe
of my classical styles. We're all mutual fans. It's great to have
somebody like Steve Morse who's an amazing Rock player on the album. He came
Liona - The first time I met Chet, he came to my concert when
Liona - Yes, that reached all over. I was getting tons
of emails from all over the world. It introduced my music to a whole lot
of people who had never heard of me. I made quite a bit of money at that
too. I believe they've stopped paying now, when they were taken
over. Twice my pieces were number one on the entire site which is pretty
good for a classical guitar musician competing with all the rock people and
others. One thing that's sad is that you don't get to see my videos in
Liona - I still have not yet met Ozzy can you believe it? He sent me this huge flower basket over Christmas. I've seen him a few times, but I haven't sat down to talk to him. But I think the 'neighbor from hell' is having a party pretty soon and we'll actually have dinner with him at last. Twice, we were supposed to have tea with him, but it never happened. It's crazy on this street sometimes with fans yelling for Ozzy in the middle of the night and policeman here, so it's a little insane...
Liona - Very badly. I sang with Roger Whittaker on the
Christmas record and I sang on Dancing On The Edge,
but I'm better with my fingers. I was thrown out of the choir when I was
six. Actually that's one thing about
Liona - It's a bit erratic these days. The computer seems to have taken over, taken so much time out of my life. I usually end up practicing really late at night. I'd love nothing more than to get up in the morning and start playing guitar, but it gets interrupted constantly, so mostly when everybody else has gone to sleep, I get my guitar and do my best practice.
Liona - I have just acquired a really amazing instrument! I started off my career playing Ramirez guitars made with Canadian Cedar and then I started playing German Vazquez, then just recently, I commissioned a special guitar made by somebody called Boaz who has got a very revolutionary design. I just went crazy about this guitar, so he's bringing me up another one next week because I just had to have this guitar. It doesn't even look like the traditional guitar. The sound hole is actually on the top, facing the musician. The sound is incredible. It's a very heavy guitar and not the easiest to play, but it's worth it for the sound. This is a cedar one that I have, so I've now commissioned him to make a spruce one. One of the guys from the L.A. Guitar Quartet is coming up to see this one tomorrow.
*Note: This is a Picture of Liona and Boaz playing the new
guitars. Notice the location of the sound hole on the top of the first arch
and the elongated body. You can find out more about this incredible
Luthier and these astounding guitars on his website. http://www.boazguitars.com/
Liona - Yes, in fact Strunz & Farah lead me to the 'Mclish System'(RMC). My best Vazquez had a pickup put in it when I toured with the band, but it does make it a little bit more metallic, a higher end with a little more edge to the sound. You can always EQ the treble down. I've had the Countryman Mic installed, but nothing seemed to work as well as the Mclish. It gave a good balance. In the eighties, when I toured with a band, I played with an electric classical guitar and I stood up. This time I decided to forget about that and not prance around the stage doing Beatles songs like I did in the eighties. I never really felt that comfortable standing up.
Liona - I vary depending on the guitar. I like Savarez. I've used a copper polished bass which are very hard to buy. They send them to me. Sometimes I'll use D'Addario and Hannanbach which are very consistent. I like high tension strings generally, but I've experimented with different ones. With the Boaz guitar, it's a whole different way of changing the strings. You put your hand inside the guitar and thread it through the bridge.
Liona - I have some for sale on the website actually. I've got about twelve I guess. One is a Glute. It's a mixture of a Guitar and a Lute. On good days, I call it a Lutar and on bad days, I call it a glute. It was used on 'Dancing on the Edge'. It's for sale on my website. I'm trying to simplify my life actually. I was going through my closet and decided to sell a few of these things.
Liona - Oh thank you, sure, I'd be honored.
Liona - I love it! You can have all the rockers and I'd have a place to send my Junos and my guitars. Ya, go for it! Anything I could do to help, for sure. And absolutely, I would love to have some of my things eventually end up there. Keep me posted on that.
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