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20 January 2016 @ 08:57 pm
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Interviews: Chloe Lowery - Dec 18, 2015  

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Interviews:
Chloe Lowery - Winter Tour 2015 - Dec 18, 2015

Interview by Brad Parmerter. Photos by The 2 Z Girlz.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra fans were first introduced to the powerful voice of Chloe Lowery in the spring of 2010 when she slid into the role of Theresa on the first Beethoven's Last Night tour as if she was born for the part. Stunning audiences with her siren-like voice she would reprise that role on the 2011 and 2012 Beethoven tours. She joined the TSO winter tour in 2011 as part of the west group where she has been a highlight for many audience members to this day.

Chloe has formed Chameleon with her musical partner and fellow TSO west vocalist, Andrew Ross, an intense and dynamic group with two EPs under their belt and a full-length album due in 2016. She has also begun work on her first solo album and will be featured on Yanni's 2016 release as well.

During a TSO stop in Little Rock in December, we discussed her musical roots, working with Yanni, her TSO audition, impressions of her first TSO tour, how she prepares to sing TSO's emotionally charged material, Daryl Pediford songs, dancing, how she takes care of her voice, connecting with the audience, and more.

Bp: Let's start back at the very beginning, who planted the musical seed for you when you were young?

Chloe Lowery: It was my Mom. My Mom does everything. She's very musical, she danced, and she literally does everything. So from a young age she put my sister and I in piano lessons, voice lessons, dance lessons and it kind of stuck from there.

Bp: When did you figure out you had a unique voice, one that was a bit more special than everyone else's?

Chloe Lowery: Well, funny story, I was in pre-school and my Mom likes to tell this story where I graduated and they told her, "Chloe knows her A, B, C's, her 1, 2, 3's, but we want to let you know that she can really sing. My Mom said, "Yeah, yeah, we know she sings." They said, "No, she really has an exceptional voice. You should really look into pursuing that." My Mom made a joke that, "Well, I don't think they accept them at the Met at this age, but I'll keep it in mind." [laughs]

From there opportunities just came my way. I started really young professionally, I had my first record deal when I was twelve and I think that's when big notoriety came for my voice. I kind of figured it out along the way.

Bp: Who were some of your influences growing up?

Chloe Lowery: Well, I have to say I'm a huge Whitney Houston fan. I grew up listening to a lot of Whitney, a lot of Celine, Mariah, Barbra Streisand. I grew up on all the Broadway songs and Classical songs. Later in my high school years I got into rock and listened to a lot of Janis and Led Zeppelin and things like that. It's kind of a big combination of all those things, but really my all-time favorite singer is Whitney Houston, hands down.

Bp: She inspired so many singers and people in so many ways.

Chloe Lowery: It breaks my heart every day to think that she's gone, that she's not with us. But what she left is something to aspire to absolutely. She is the voice. She had soul and depth and range. She was magical for me.

Bp: You started working with some big names at an early age, producer Ric Wake and then Yanni. Can you walk through how those connections came about?

Chloe Lowery: When I was first signed to RCA when I was 12 I met Ric through my then manager, who is actually my manager now, and we met and became friends, we actually didn't work together at that time, but after I'd left RCA and I'd moved to New York, I think it was in my junior year of high school, and I reconnected with Ric. I was working on some solo material, we were trying to do some stuff, nothing came out of that collaboration, but then a few years later he had met Yanni through a mutual friend and they decided to do this big project called Yanni Voices and he called me literally out of the blue, I think I was a year out of high school, and he said, "Hey, do you know who Yanni is? Do you want to come down and sing and see if something happens?" I said, "Sure." Not really knowing what this whole thing really was. I co-wrote on a song first and went down and met Yanni and from there I was in.

Bp: It's not everyone who gets to co-write with Yanni. That must have been huge for you at that age.

Chloe Lowery: It was. Luckily I think Ric saw something in me as a songwriter, which was very fortunate because he really helped me hone my songwriting ability, and I wrote a million songs under his camp with his writers and I think he knew I had something to say. So when Yanni wanted to collaborate he said, "Try it. Let's see what happens." So the first song we co-wrote, I put lyrics and a melody to "Until the Last Moment" which was the duet I did with Ender Thomas. And it was beautiful and they loved it and we thought, "Something's going to work here."

"Mi Todo Eres Tu (Until The Last Moment)" Chloe & Ender Thomas

Bp: That turned out to be an English-Spanish duet. Did you write it that way or was it when Ender came on board that it changed?

Chloe Lowery: It was half in Spanish and half in English. If I'm remembering correctly, I wrote the entire song in English and it was going to be my song and they said, "This would be great as a duet." I worked with a Spanish lyricist to translate my lyrics into Spanish and then Ender came in and sang those. It was really cool to hear the transition as we had to change a few things because obviously some things in English don't make sense in Spanish, so that was a unique process.

Bp: What was a lesson or experience that you took away from working with Yanni?

Chloe Lowery: There are so many. He's a brilliant man, a kind man, very patient. He helped me grow as an artist. He let me have a voice and he believed in my voice which is so important for a young artist; to have someone believe in you. He let me really flourish and figure out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, and how I wanted to perform it. He was nothing but encouraging so I really only took positivity from that. I'm still really great friends with the Yanni camp today. I love Yanni. I actually just found out that he's releasing a new record in 2016 and I have four songs on his upcoming album – songs that we had written a couple years ago and he has redone them and I think they're going to be great.

Bp: Congratulations on that!

Chloe Lowery: Thanks! I know, I was really excited about it.

Bp: We skipped over your first touring experience, so let's jump back to 2006 when you hit the road with Janis Joplin's backing band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Chloe Lowery: That was a fun experience. I was working with a few songwriters at the time in New York and one of my songwriter friends, Demetri, knew one of the keyboardists that played in Love, Janis, which was the off-Broadway show that depicted the life of Janis. The musical director of that show was Sam Andrews who was the lead guitarist of Big Brother & the Holding Company. Long story short, the keyboardist heard me and said, "Hey, you should meet Sam. I think he'd love your voice. I think you'd be perfect for it." I said, "Okay." And literally the next week he called me and said, "You're great. Learn these thirty songs, we want you to come on our summer tour." I said, "Alright. Let's do it!" So I learned the thirty songs. It was a bit of a whirlwind because they toured all the time and they had singers coming in and out, so they just said, "Come out and we'll just do the show." I had no rehearsal, I really didn't know how anything went because at the time it wasn't like it was on YouTube and I could go and study the show. We were opening for Chaka Khan our first show and I just got up there and said, "Okay, let's do this." I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect and I probably messed up a few times, but after that first show I said, "I think I get it. Let's do it." I had a great time and learned so much and heard so many crazy stories.

Bp: No pressure opening up for Chaka Khan without rehearsal.

Chloe Lowery: I know! I was like, "Can I get a rehearsal, please?!"

Bp: That's trial by fire. How did you connect with TSO?

Chloe Lowery: I believe Dina [Fanai] heard of me through this jam in New York I used to sing at, the Richie Cannata Jam at the Cutting Room. And the manager, Steve, he might even co-own it at this point, they were good friends and I think Dina would periodically ask him if he'd heard any new rock singers or pop singers. And he threw my name out. This was probably back in 2008, it was right when I started working with Yanni. She contacted me and asked me about coming in for the winter tour, but I told her I couldn't because I'd just started working with Yanni. Almost immediately after I finished touring with Yanni Voices, we'd just finished our Mexican tour and I was moving to LA, she called me out of the blue and said, "We're doing Beethoven's Last Night and there's this big part and I think you're perfect for it. Please learn all the material, we're going to fly you to New York. We want you to audition for Paul and see how it goes." So I learned all the material and went to New York, auditioned in two small sessions with Paul and he told me I got the part! From there, TSO has become my family.

"After the Fall" Poughkeepsie, NY - May 21, 2011 - video captured by Brad Parmerter

Bp: You auditioned with the three songs you did in the 2010 show I'm assuming?

Chloe Lowery: Yes.

Bp: What was the feeling in the room when you did those?

Chloe Lowery: Y'know, no one told me what to expect. Sometimes you get a little warning of what's expected of you in the audition, but I had no idea. I didn't know Dina, I didn't know Bob Kinkel, I didn't know Paul. I really kind of went in there blindly. I sang the songs and Paul was really very receptive. He was giving me a full-length history lesson of the show and it was very detailed. It was very interesting because Paul is such a unique energy and the explanations he gives you, you don't normally get in an audition. You normally get, "Thank you very much, goodbye." He really took me under his wing and said, "I'm going to tell you everything so it helps you better understand what you're doing." So that was nice and it was comforting. I felt like I was supported.

Bp: What was the first tour like for you?

Chloe Lowery: It was great. I met amazing people. It was wonderful. I obviously liked it enough that I stuck around for a couple of years [laughs]. I met so many great friends. April Berry is one of my best friends and I met her on that tour. I would never want to tour with anyone else other than Al Pitrelli as my musical director. And obviously, Andrew. The caliber of talent was amazing. I just loved it.

Bp: That was a scary tour for TSO as they were venturing into uncharted territory playing smaller venues again with a non-holiday, very story-driven, narrative heavy show. As a newcomer did you feel any of that as the group ventured into new territory?

Chloe Lowery: I think I was blissfully unaware of all of it because I hadn't experienced the winter show and I had never seen it at that point. So I didn't really know what was happening and what we were trying to accomplish and the differences.

Bp: Right.

Chloe Lowery: I do believe there was an energy of...people didn't know how people were going to receive it so there was excitement, people were a little scared, I think, that it wasn't going to be received as well as the winter show. Ultimately I think everyone was excited to be doing something new and fresh. Paul, in particular, was excited that TSO was evolving and moving into a new direction with the rock opera thing, which is one of his dreams and goals obviously. It was a great feeling. Everything had positive excitement.

Bp: I had the pleasure of sitting down with him after the opening day shows of the winter tour last year and the gleeful look in his eyes after The Christmas Attic went up and was successful that night...the energy that jumped off him was amazing.

Chloe Lowery: He is a brilliant man. He is a wonderful man, such a gracious, giving boss anyone could ever ask for. And I say that with all my heart. I'm not joking. He really believes in what we're doing here. It helps for us as part of this band and brings us all together.

Bp: Since your first introduction was the smaller scale Beethoven's Last Night, how did you feel when you walked into Omaha in October 2011 for the winter tour with both stages set up and the 'big' show ready for takeoff.

Chloe Lowery: It was obviously very different. For Beethoven we'd been rehearsing at SIR in New York which is a small rehearsal room and I'd only done the theater tour. So going into the arena, luckily I'd had a little bit of experience with Yanni Voices, we'd done a number of arenas so I had a little experience in the arena world, but the rehearsals were great. I knew all the girls, or at least most of them. So I didn't feel like the new kid on the block, I knew a few people, and I kind of knew what was happening and everyone was super supportive. It was a big transition I think for the west coast when I came in because they had a bunch of new people coming in so there was a new energy that was good. The first night seeing all those people was thrilling and exciting. The crowds were amazing and TSO fans are the best so it was awesome.

Bp: When you're in Omaha, how does Jon Oliva help the singers bring the characters in the songs to life?

Chloe Lowery: Jon Oliva is a genius, first off, but also he is the greatest person to have in the audience helping you. Obviously in rehearsals we don't have an audience, but in the room he is the most encouraging man. He wants us to get into it and helps us deliver the character's story better. When you're on stage he'll stand in front of the stage and sing it with you and feel it with you and you really become absorbed by his energy and it comes to you and you sing it. As artists that helps us so much to feel what the actual writer was feeling and it helps us deliver a better performance at the end of the day. He's great. He's such a happy dude [laughs]. I love him. To see him is just great.

Bp: You've had some weighty and powerful songs, specifically the Daryl Pediford songs that you've done, knowing Daryl's TSO history and how strong that connection was, how does that manifest in the songs for you?

Chloe Lowery: Well, there's no one that can fill Daryl's shoes. I kind of experienced a similar thing when I toured with Big Brother because there's no one that can fill Janis' shoes, nor do I think anyone is trying to. I think coming in, and I'm a very different singer from Daryl, but coming in and singing his songs, I try to take the soul that he delivered in the song, what the song meant and what people love about it and his performance and try to incorporate that into my own performance and deliver it as truthfully as I can.

Obviously there are going to be differences. I'm a completely different person from Daryl, but I just try to keep the soul of what he delivered in my performance. I feel truly honored to sing his songs. I feel like they are some of the best in the whole TSO catalog and people are really moved by "Music Box Blues" and especially "For the Sake of Our Brother." It's powerful to watch people's responses and I think it was his initial delivery of the song that helps myself and Erika and Lisa, people who have sang it now, understand what the songs are about.

"Music Box Blues" Orlando, FL - December 14, 2014 - video captured by Stacey Porter

Bp: Where do you go before you walk out onstage to get into the emotional space you need to go to before you sing with TSO because it's different than your average show, you're not just a singer, but you're also bringing a character to life.

Chloe Lowery: Absolutely. It depends on the show and it depends on the certain energies I'm feeling from the day, where I am vocally and whatnot. I have a few triggers that I use for acting-wise that I go to emotionally that I think of. A lot of times I think of my family, I think of my Mom. Things that are personal that I can put into the song that I believe will deliver a truth to the audience. I try to keep it fresh and I don't stick to one thing every single show, because then I think it becomes stagnant. So I try to play off whatever energy I'm experiencing that day and pull from something that I can relate to with the lyrics of the song and then I deliver the song.

Bp: You've performed with both of TSO's current narrators, Bryan Hicks for the Beethoven tours and Phillip Brandon on the west coast winter tours. Tell me how you use the narrative to prepare you for your vocal performance.

Chloe Lowery: With Beethoven my character, Theresa, was incredibly specific and I did do the research and the narrative really spoke true to what the song was about to say. With the winter shows it can really be a bit more vague as to which character I am playing. Although I have a specific character, I feel with Beethoven and Bryan's narrative the specifics were there and I just had to play into what was being said. Whereas for this year Phillip's narrative is not as specific as to my character as the mother singing, for example "Promises to Keep." So I have to create a little bit more backstory to deliver the message.

Bp: Coming from a dance background as you do, I wanted to get your take on the TSO dance routines. Would you like to see more or less dancing, more adventurous or spotlighted routines?

Chloe Lowery: Y'know, I think the dance element of TSO has evolved so much since its inception in the band. It's only growing and getting better and quicker. Danielle [Landherr] is our choreographer and she does an amazing job and I think she only has visions of doing more and making it better and maybe even harder, bringing in new dance techniques. Whether or not people like it or hate it, you can identify with what the TSO dance is, it's a lot of sharp movements and a lot of hair flips and that's what TSO is. That's what Paul likes, he likes the unified look. It's a style to master as a dancer too. We have new girls come in and they're like, "What? I don't understand." And it's as simple as a hair flip, but there are certain things that are specific to TSO dancing. It should literally have its own name: Do you know how to TSO? [laughs] I've done it for so long and I like it. I think we're all proud of our sharpness and the unified look that we have accomplished. It takes a lot of time and it's not easy to match four or five girls. And the more the merrier, if we get more in there, great! Let's see it evolve.

Bp: It was interesting to see "King Rurik" done at Wacken where the dance routine played an integral role to the entire piece of music.

Chloe Lowery: That was a big dance feat for the TSO girls. Danielle came up with that. She did amazing choreography for that. We actually started rehearsing that in February of last year. She grabbed a couple of us that were New York based and we all did the dance to show Paul. Paul loved it and he wanted even more and had a few things to change, but when we started rehearsing it things really came together and it was great. Unfortunately at Wacken it was raining so I think we were slipping and sliding a little bit, but as a dance, Danielle did an amazing job choreographing it.

Bp: I know he really wanted to premiere that at Wacken due to its proximity to everything happening in Russia, but I was hoping that we might see that on the winter tour with that dance element. I think that would have been very interesting to see.

Chloe Lowery: To tell you the truth I was under the impression that we were going to be doing it for the winter tour, but I think between the new single and other songs from the new record they took priority over that unfortunately. Who knows, maybe we'll see it come back for next year.

Bp: Along those lines, how do you prepare for or prevent TSO gig neck?

Chloe Lowery: [laughing] It's inevitable. Especially the first week of rehearsals for the girls we all have it. You're kind of out of shape from not doing it and all of us girls that first week are saying, "Ow, ow, I can't move." As long as you do some stretching...I do a lot of yoga on the road, but pretty much if you stretch you get used to it. A couple days in and your body adjusts and then it's easy.

Bp: Do you watch the East group in Omaha before they head out for their first show?

Chloe Lowery: I totally do. Any time we get the chance to support each other we do. We'll go watch them and they'll come watch us.

Bp: Is it weird seeing the show that you're doing being performed by another band?

Chloe Lowery: It is, but I don't find it weird because...it's the same show, it's the same music, but with anything it's a different interpretation. And it's equally as great and beautiful and all the elements that you want, it's just a little bit different. I thoroughly enjoy the east coast. I know theirs is a little bit different of a show than what we put on and that's cool. It's not weird, I love all of those people and if anything I just fangirl over everybody.

Bp: Guitarists can still play guitar when they're sick, but obviously with a vocalist, your instrument is part of your body, what do you do to stay healthy and keep your voice in shape?

Chloe Lowery: Lordy. Actually everyone is sort of fighting off being sick right now, all the guy singers...their entire bus has been contaminated and I'm praying I'm not getting sick...I was feeling a little something yesterday, but I think I'm just going to get through it. I'm a bit of a paranoid-crazy singer, on one of the two days off that we usually get each week, I try to do complete vocal silence just to rest because when we get into our long weeks we don't get that much time to rest our voices in between the shows and with the meet and greets and the signing lines, it's just constant talking. So I do a twelve-hour silence, if I go to bed at midnight I try not to speak again until noon the next day. I drink a ton of water, I'm going to try to give up caffeine after the tour, but I can't do that just yet [laughs]. I stay away from certain foods. Acid reflux is a big killer for singers, a lot of sleep, I don't drink any alcohol, I do a lot of yoga and that helps with breath support and I work out and try to eat healthy, throat lozenges and things like that. I just try to stay healthy. There are some people that are invincible and they can do whatever all the time and they'll stay healthy, but I have better peace of mind if I do everything I can to prevent any sickness or fatigue or anything like that.

"Stay Wait" - Chameleon

Bp: Tell me a little bit about your solo album that you're working on.

Chloe Lowery: Yes! I'm working with some great producers and writers and I'm working with a great management firm. I'm really excited about it and will keep everyone posted about it. Also, Chameleon [her project with fellow TSO member, Andrew Ross] has a record coming out in early 2016 so there's a lot of stuff happening and I'm really excited about it.

Bp: To wrap up, can you relay something that you've taken away from the whole TSO experience so far that's been especially meaningful?

Chloe Lowery: I have to say singing "For the Sake of Our Brother." It's a song that touches people and looking out into the audience and seeing people's reaction and hearing that people are crying or are touched. It's just what they need during the Christmas season – 'cause Christmas is when you miss the people you've lost or you miss loved ones that are far away or whatever the case may be. And I truly know what it means to touch people and that's what I just try to do when I go on stage every day and it's a gift for us to be able to help people through whatever they're going through during the holiday season and touch their hearts. That's a gift that I get to do that every night. We're lucky to get to do what we do and to know that people are moved, that's a gift.

"For the Sake Of Our Brother" St. Paul, MN - December 30, 2015 - video captured by Shane LaRene

Bp: Thank you for the time today. I really appreciate it.

Chloe Lowery: I am so grateful - thank you for asking me. This was awesome.

Bp: Good luck on the rest of the tour.

Chloe Lowery: Thanks.

Additional Links:
Chloe Lowery - official site
Chameleon - official site
Trans-Siberian Orchestra - official site

More in my Trans-Siberian Orchestra Interview series -> here.

Des Moines, IA - November 19, 2015


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