DIARY - 7 AUGUST 2004 - BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN INTERVIEW
NIELSEN CHAPMAN FREE AS A CALENDAR GIRL
"And I've passed my graduation/ I hold my PHD in crash test blues/
I've paid those dues, I'm Free." - Free - Beth Nielsen Chapman-Annie
Beth Nielsen Chapman was asked to write a song for the Calendar
Girls movie she reached even faster for Hollywood than the film
She wrote I Find Your Love within 12 hours of an email from music
director Patrick Doyle.
And 48 hours later her home studio version was embellished with
a 26-piece orchestra.
"Patrick was working on the movie and emailed me the melody
at the 11th hour on a Friday," Chapman told Nu Country in a
call from her home in Nashville.
said he wanted me to write the lyrics because there was a spot in
the movie it would be perfect for.
I wrote it
on Saturday, recorded my piano and vocal party on the Sunday, and emailed
it to him on Sunday night. On Monday morning he put a 26-piece orchestra
on it. It was the fastest record I ever made. Unfortunately
it didn't end up in the movie. We thought it should have been but it's
on the soundtrack. Now I get so many letters and emails about that song.
I think it's touched a lot of people."
But the singer is realistic about peaks and troughs of her career.
"Don't plant your seeds too close to the asphalt of the music business,"
she says of her recording career dating back to her Muscle Shoals debut
disc Hearing It First in 1979.
The singer, born in Harlington, Texas, was the middle child of five in
an Air Force family that moved six times during her youth.
Chapman's songs appear in movies diverse as The Prince of Egypt, Message
In A Bottle, The Rookie, Where The Heart Is and Practical Magic.
And her TV CV includes Say Goodnight - Dawson's Creek finale
song - and others on ER, Providence, Felicity and other shows.
She has also penned a brace of hits for artists diverse as Waylon &
Willie, Faith Hill, Emmylou Harris, Tanya Tucker, Lorrie Morgan and Trisha
Nielsen Chapman's seventh album Look (Sanctuary-BMG) entrees with
Trying To Love You - a co-write with frequent collaborator Bill
Lloyd who enjoyed mainstream success with Foster & Lloyd.
"Trisha Yearwood has since recorded it, she did an amazing job,"
Beth, now 47, says of a song she wrote while recovering from breast cancer.
"I'm really excited about that, she's an amazing artist. Everything
she records becomes magic. I was really thrilled, we wrote it in one day
but didn't have lines between trying to love you. Once it was restructured
at the suggestion of my co-producer Peter Collins it fell into place."
ROBOFF AND FAITH HILL
Another new song Free has been recorded by Faith Hill who had a
huge hit with This Kiss that broke the radio moat with the lyric
Kiss was penned with long time co-writer Annie Roboff who was
the collaborator on Free and Right Back Into The Feeling.
And although Beth credits Roboff with the "centrifugal motion"
line she accepts credit for "I hold my PHD in crash test blues."
Chapman nursed her husband Ernest during a painful and protracted
two-year battle with cancer that ended his life in 1994.
The recovery period produced her fifth album title track Sand
And Water, adopted by Sir Elton John, as his tribute to Princess
Diana when Candle In The Wind became too hard to sing on
his 1997 tour.
Chapman admits her breast cancer battle and recovery produced many
songs on Look - especially Free.
She produced Look with Collins who also helmed albums by
the Indigo Girls and Nanci Griffith.
Annie Roboff >
Indigo Girl Amelia Saliers and Michael McDonald harmony and Bekka Bramlett
"It was a page out of my life but the lives of Annie and myself are
so entwined it could have come out of either one," Chapman says,
"Annie & I got together, not to write, but if we say we're not
going to write we do write. In that song we got the melody and the vibe
and the feel and couple of months later we got back together. The song
reaches back to our childhood. But it's about my own battle with breast
cancer. It was one of the first songs I wrote after getting my energy
So was Right Back Into The Feeling.
"I think it related to both of our lives," says Chapman, "we're
talking about two different relationships. It's the same basic bottom
line. Love lost does come at a higher cost. I lost my husband and in her
case it was a relationship she had for many years and a choice she made.
I think everybody feels that way."
included Time Won't Tell - one of many songs she penned with late
five times wed legend Harlan Howard who died at 74 on March, 3, 2002.
"Harlan and I used to write together once a month," Chapman
revealed, "he would call me and rattle my cage. We wrote that in
1997. I was waiting for the right record to put it on. I loved it so much
that I got it on this record."
Beth broke the love song mould with the narrative Will & Liz
- penned with Al Anderson and David Baerwald.
"There was someone that one of the writers knew," says Chapman.
"I'm not going to say who. This relationship was very destructive.
I thought about some other people that I knew, where that fit. It became
a story song about two people who descend into darkness together, a destructive
kind of love. We set up that the tragedy, they're into drugs and living
on the edge of sanity. It was a fairly unusual song for me to write."
wrote Touch My Heart with fellow keyboard player Matt Rollings
for Heather Greer Sells.
"She was the daughter of one of my dear friends and she passed
away," says Chapman, "when I was writing that lyric I was
tapping into someone else's grief. It was the same place I came from
when I wrote Sand And Water about my husband. But that was a very
different place there, 10 years ago. I still love my husband and will
always have a special place in my heart for him. The emotions that
came through when I was writing it were so fresh. At the end of writing
it I was in a period of recovery. I'm in a great place. I feel very
energetic. I have a very good prognosis. I'm feeling better than ever,
that's reflected in the songs."
And on one
of those songs Your Love Stays she duets with their son Ernest
Chapman 111 with Dan Dugmore on dobro and Viktor Krauss on bass.
Ernest also arranged the strings on The Reason, written with David
Wilcox who recently toured Australia.
"Not only did he sing a duet with me he arranged the strings on The
Reason," says the singer who took a two year hiatus when Ernest
was born 23 years ago.
"He's become quite a fine musician. It's a delight to have him on
this album. He's pretty much a songwriter. When he was born that was the
longest I went without writing a song was when he was born, I didn't write
for two years but I did learn to bake bread."
Chapman has been planning an Australian tour since she had a radio hit
here with All I Have in 1990.
increased after catching up with Andrea Zonn who performed her song Heads
Up For The Wrecking Ball at the recent Port Fairy folk festival.
"I just saw Andrea a couple of weeks ago," says Chapman, "she
was performing with James Taylor in Ireland. I opened for James at a festival
in Kilkenny. Andrea was backing him up and singing, playing beautifully.
I thanked her for cutting that song. I was so excited she did that."
And Chapman plans to bring her new partner on that tour.
"He's a very talented photographer and psychologist and will take
photos on the tour,' she says, "he has put in his reservation."
Chapman was diagnosed with stage two-breast cancer when she was finishing
her sixth album Deeper Still - her Sanctuary Records debut featuring
John Prine, Emmylou, John Hiatt, Kimmie Rhodes and Andy Bey.
She used the disc's promotion to speak about her 12-month battle and encourage
women to be vigilant in caring for their health.
Chapman used a log on her website to demystify the process of chemotherapy
and taught in workshops about dealing with grief.
Her songwriting is an even more cathartic experience - especially when
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN GOOD SAMARITAN
And one person
likely to be instrumental in her tour is singing actress Olivia Newton-John
- one of the reasons Chapman had the strength to conquer cancer.
"I was going to come there and perform with her before I was diagnosed
with cancer," Chapman revealed.
"We've become very good friends and we both work together on this
organisation called CHECK which helps educate people about toxins for
children. We stayed good friends but we haven't toured together but I'm
hoping to do that. The day I was diagnosed I made a phone call to Olivia
I was completely coming out of my head. I was very shocked and very worried
and concerned. I didn't know where to start. She helped me directly, put
me in touch with her oncologist. She gave me her doctor's home number.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I was just a disaster. He gave me really great
advice. I was thinking of flying to New York and California and interviewing
all these doctors and getting the best doctor in the world. He said 'you're
living in Nashville, there's fantastic doctors in Nashville at Vanderbilt
University, you need to conserve your energy.' He gave me a doctor's name
and really set me on my path. Olivia was a very good friend to me. She
gave me all her phone numbers so I could call her day or night - and I
did - she was a great friend during that time. The good part about going
through that is finding out how wonderful people can be. You really get
to feel their love and support, that was a great thing, I'll never forget
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