From 'A' to 'Squeeze'

Interview with Fiona, by Kage Alan (Feb, 2003)

I was up past my bedtime one night back in 1985 listening to the Battle of the New Songs on Z95.5 FM when they started the evening’s selections. The first song, whatever it was, left no impression on me at all, but the second one did. I snuck up, turned on a tiny nightlight so my parents wouldn’t notice and wrote down “Love Makes You Blind, Fiona”. I was at the mall a few days later because, well, that’s where teenagers hung out and I bought the soundtrack to “No Small Affair,” which featured that song, as well as Fiona’s self-titled debut album. Many years, three more studio albums, a huge number of incredible songs and several soundtrack contributions (including the lead in a film with no less than Bob Dylan) later, Fiona disappeared from the spotlight. What happened to her? Where has she been? It’s only through the generosity of her new management at Coallier Entertainment ( that answers have been forthcoming. You see, not only is Fiona stepping back into the spotlight, but she’s also playing some live shows in March (Don Hills in NY on 3/7/03 and Packees in Woodbridge, NJ, on 3/8/03) and talking about her beginnings as well as her return.

I read that you were your high school salutatorian.

You know, I actually wasn’t. (laughing) I made a mistake on that and I didn’t realize it until I went to my reunion. I was 5th, so I don’t want people to think that I was 2nd. I got a “B” in Health in my senior year.

And that damned you?

Yes, it damned me to 5th place. You can set the record straight for the other four people in my class!

And you went on to become a rock star.

Yeah, well…in my own mind, yes.

Aw, come on. You have a fan base out there! How did your debut album come about?

What happened is that I was out flogging my wares in Manhattan and doing things concomitantly like musicians do. I was doing a demo of my own stuff with the Dixie Dregs down in Atlanta and Eddie Offord produced it. At the same time, I was in a cover band in New Jersey and I was working for free in New York whenever I could. A guy was putting together a Bananarama type group and I went and rehearsed, did a song with him and he blew off the idea of having three people and just kept the version of me singing on it. Colombia offered him/me a 12” deal, but it wasn’t a song that I had written. The stuff that I was recording on my own was more heavy rock and the guy at Atlantic Records, Jason Flom, who had been wanting to sign me, finally got a little bit of leverage because his bands Zebra and Twisted Sister were both doing well. When I got the offer from Columbia, he went to the upper guys and said “Look, she’s gonna sign over there if we don’t sign her here.” So I got signed, my music, at Atlantic and that’s how it happened. It was like a convergence.

Now, if I recall correctly, Zebra and Twisted Sister were both on the soundtrack for “No Small Affair” along with your song, “Love Makes You Blind”.

Yes, they were. And the first song that I did, Jason had me come in and work with Dick Wagner, a guy who’d worked with Alice Cooper. I worked with him a little bit in the studio and then I worked with Peppi Marchello, who was in the Good Rats, a band that was famous out in Long Island like Twisted and Zebra were. He had written a song, “Love Makes You Blind”, so it was kind of a test of how we worked together. I recorded that song and it went on that soundtrack and then it seemed like a good match, so we did an entire album together. Peppi was really terrific and it was fun.

Were you happy with your first album?

Yeah, I was really happy with the first album. The only thing that was difficult was that we didn’t play live with those songs first, so when I went out, I found that I missed some more up-tempo material. It felt a little bit strange, like all of our songs were in the same groove and, live, that wasn’t optimum. That’s the only thing lacking that I felt about that whole experience and it really just came from having more experience playing live with that band.

Now, you once stated that you felt you went back into the studio to record your second album, “Beyond The Pale,” too soon. Why was it too soon?

It was too soon because we were all inexperienced. I mean, my manager was this lovely, lovely guy, but he was inexperienced and I think what would have made more sense was for me to stay out on the road. Bryan Adams had offered us an extension on the tour and I think that it would have been better for the music and for me as an artist to stay out there and start playing some of the new songs live. It also would have given me more time to decide which material worked and kind of understand what I wanted the second record to be. Instead, we came off what was a pretty great experience too quickly because we were already booked in the studio with another producer.

Do you feel it shows in the recording?

Yeah, I do because that record was all over the place song selection-wise. I’m not unhappy with it. I married the producer. (laughing) I really have no complaints about my life, but you know, it’s hard to say, maybe that was my destiny. I mean I’m not married to him now, but I was married to him, so who knows?

I’ve always been curious, but where did the title “Beyond The Pale” come from?

Oh, that’s a reference to, and I’m fairly certain I’m correct about this, a wall around Dublin and beyond the wall it was “pale,” where it was wild out there and where you dare not go. You’d call it “beyond the pale” if you were going beyond the normal boundaries.

Like trying new things on the second album sort of thing?

Yeah, it was Irish. You know, Fiona “Flanagan.” (laughing) Kind of an Irish thing.

The album still holds up.

Oh, yeah, it does. The President of the company felt that it was so expensive because Beau never wanted the record to end and he was right! If you listen to it, though, the song “Hopelessly Love You”… I mean that is so different than anything else and I picked it because of the beat and because I thought it would be different, but my fan base were all kind of straight ahead rockers and I think a few of the songs alienated some of those fans. Like “Living In A Boy’s World” too. I feel like the album wasn’t really thought through enough.

The unfortunate thing is you can’t buy either of your first albums on CD.

I know. I actually bought one on Ebay. Of course it’s a fake, but I bought it anyway because I don’t know how to do that. (laughing) And whoever it was went to the trouble to shrink the artwork and everything, so I was like “Oh, okay.”

So you release your second album and then a year or so later we see that you’re in a film called “Hearts of Fire”.

Did you ever see that movie?

I own a copy of the movie.

(laughing) Oh, this is going to be fun!

You were working with some major talent in both co-stars Bob Dylan and Rupert Everet, which, by the way, you may be one of the few women who can brag has had an intimate scene with him on film.

I really did!

How did the project come about?

What happened was I did an episode of Miami Vice and I was getting called to go on auditions just because I was on MTV. My manager had me signed with a booking agency that also was a talent agency called TRIAD and they had movie, TV and music divisions. They started to solicit work for me and I was cast in “Hearts Of Fire”, which was called something else at first, “American Rocker” I think. It took so long to get it organized that I actually got cast in another movie, then I couldn’t do it (the new project) because of conflicting schedules.

Was the film an enjoyable experience for you?

More than enjoyable. It was almost like a chunk of my life. Very strange things and very wonderful things happened, but the hard part about it was that it was so delayed and when you’re young, delays are just so painful. I really didn’t understand how the whole process worked. When I went to “Miami Vice,” I got cast and it seemed like the next night I was on a plane down there and I was getting poked and pinned and prodded and staying up all night and then it was on TV a few weeks later. It was like right up my alley, very attention deficit disorder appropriate. A lot of interesting things happened, like I had semi-private acting lessons with Bob Dylan out in Malibu. When I think about things like that, I just start laughing because it’s very, very silly and at the time I was concerned because I was scheduled to go to Tahiti with Beau for a vacation. I think I was more concerned with that than anything else because I’d never been to Tahiti and I love to travel and “Oh, man, what are they doing? Why can’t they tell me what day I can leave?”

You came away from the film with some great songs for your resume.

Oh, it was fun. I sang a John Hyatt song, “When We Ran”. That never got released or put on the record, but I loved singing that one, though.

Speaking of soundtracks, you contributed a song for “Quicksilver” called “Casual Thing”, which is a great track.

Yeah, that was fun. I came out to L.A., sang it and left. It’s funny because when you mentioned that, I remember actually being in the studio and I was really scared because the producer was a really big guy and I’d never met him before. You know, you just kind of walk in and shake hands and go sing and I remember I thought “Oh, my gosh.”

You came away from the film with some great songs for your resume.

Oh, it was fun. I sang a John Hyatt song, “When We Ran”. That never got released or put on the record, but I loved singing that one, though.

Then there was the song from “Johnny B. Good”.

Right, “If There’s Any Justice”. That was written by Steve Diamond and he was a great guy too.

Now did you record those specifically for the films or were those songs from your album sessions?

For the films. What they do at the record companies, or at least when I was with Atlantic, they would contract with the films, I guess, for soundtracks and they’d get their artists on the records. It was pretty standard procedure and you just went out and did it. They weren’t necessarily looking for singles all the time. It was more like a perk for the artists I think.

Next came your third album, “Heart Like A Gun”, which combined much of the rockier edge from “Hearts of Fire” and “Beyond The Pale” and some of the Pop influences from your debut. Were you pleased with the outcome?

I really felt like I didn’t have a hit on that record and I was really hoping to. I mean I know that sounds pretty lame, but it was my third album on Atlantic and I was working with Keith Olsen, who was just a really great vocal producer, but I felt nervous that there wasn’t something really accessible, which is something I wanted for myself because I wanted to go out and play live. It would have helped to have something that was on the radio. I know that even after “Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me),” because Kip (Ed Note: Singer Kip Winger) was such a sweet guy and he was a friend of mine and I felt like he was doing me a big favor, I remember sitting in the studio in Denver and hearing the playback and thinking it’s not…it just didn’t feel… (short pause) I remember not being surprised that it didn’t do better than it did.

And yet it was one of your biggest hits.

Right, but I was hoping for something that was really radio friendly and when I heard it, I felt like it was just a little bit too dark, but not dark enough. See, that’s the problem. I was struggling with…I guess my niche would be the way to put it. I like a wide variety of music, but that’s not necessarily the best idea if you’re trying to establish yourself with people who like a specific type of music because I wanted to sell some records. I really thought that we hadn’t nailed it. What I was going for wasn’t your typical ballad/duet, but the song itself could have been better I think. That’s what I though then too.

You feel the same way now?

Yeah, I feel the same way now, so in other words I was right. (laughing) I remember sitting in the studio crying and Beau was like “What’s wrong?” and I was like “I just want you to know it doesn’t sound like ‘the one’.” Then I bucked up because we had gone through a lot of trouble and sometimes events kind of overtake everything else and then you feel like you’re too close to it and you can’t tell. We tried something kind of different, but we didn’t quite achieve what I was going for. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings if they like “Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me)”. I mean, it’s a great song, but I just didn’t think that it achieved what I needed it to achieve at that particular point in my career.

Which now brings us to your last studio album, “Squeeze,” which was much more rock oriented. What were your intentions going into that album and how was it different from recording your previous ones?

Well, my intention with that album was to basically open myself up to producer John Kalodner, who had signed me at Geffen, and I really admired him and I felt like it would be a release to trust somebody else, to help me choose material and get a fresh start at another label and try to start a band who would kind of stick through it. I missed that and that’s what we did. We sat down with a lot of songs, he came to a lot of rehearsals, it was really, really fun to play with Laura (Ed. Note: Laura McDonald, Bass and Vocals) and my friends. That was one of the best parts of the record for me. It was a great experience, except I missed the people at Atlantic. Isn’t that funny? It’s like everybody is always flogging their record company. I swear to God, the people at Atlantic records were the nicest people and I had such a great time. They were the loveliest, loveliest people and it was very weird to go to another record company because I missed them, but the people at Geffen were nice too. You know, you get in the car and you drive around with these guys because they take you to radio stations and stuff, these regional and promotional guys. They’re really nice guys and they have really, really, really hard jobs! (laughing) You spend a lot of time with them in the car and they kind of tell you about your life and it’s almost like being a journalist on the road. That’s actually more interesting than any of the music stuff. But going to the radio stations, that was really a big part of my life. It had a big impact, I met a lot of people and I have very, very good memories of all of it.

Did you only have a 3 album deal with Atlantic?

No, I think they had me for life. After the third record, I went and talked to Doug Morris and I told him that John Kalodner…whatever. Doug is a lovely human being and it was fine and Beau was doing really well at Atlantic. I mean, it was all complicated because here I am married to this guy and he’s making all these records for them... What are they going to say? They were like “You can do whatever you want.” It was very personal, which in a way was good and in a way was bad, but you can’t change it. That’s the way it was. I just talked to him privately and that was it. They released me and I went over to Geffen and they wished me well. I have very, very positive feelings about the music business.

My partner is actually hooked on two of the songs from “Squeeze”.

Which two?

“Don’t Come Cryin’”…

That was written by Diane Warren.

And one of my favorites as well, “Nobody Dies Of A Broken Heart”.

Oh, my God! It’s so funny because I only ever sang that song in the studio and that was it. Marc Tanner brought it in one day and I thought “Oh, I really like this song too.” The only one that I didn’t like on that whole record was “The Best Is Yet To Come”. I thought that song was a little cheesy and it’s the only one I have trouble listening to. I mean I understand why we picked it, but we could have done better than that. I had written a lot of songs for that record, but John passed on all of them, so what are you going to do? Nobody put a gun to my head, but I really just don’t like “The Best Is Yet To Come”.

After “Squeeze”, it felt like you disappeared and there was this huge resounding silence.

I didn’t disappear. I quit. What happened was so many things were going awry at that particular moment in time. I had signed with HK management, Howard Kaufman, but my responsible agent, Audrey, died of a brain tumor, the record didn’t do well at all and, at the same time, Beau and I were breaking up and I was exquisitely unhappy. I’m actually an adaptable person and I love to be alive, but at that time I was extremely unhappy and confused. Personally and professionally, I felt lost. I really didn’t know what to do, so in the immortal words of Monty Python, I thought “Time For Something Completely Different.” I accepted the fact that Beau and I were breaking up, I quit music, traveled and pulled myself together and went to college and started a completely new life. It was a good decision because I was happy again. I mean, I really loved college and I ended up going to UCLA. I entered as a junior and I went to college full time and got a job working for The Doors, Danny Sugarman, and I worked for them while I was in school. I graduated in 1998, then I went to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers and I’d gotten married. It was totally a new life. Nobody I knew played any musical instruments and it gave me back a little bit of my sense of self and my confidence. I started to feel like me again because it was very structured. You go to school and you study and you’re getting an “A”. That made me happy.

If I might ask, what did you major in?

I majored in Business Economics with a minor in Accounting.


I started out in Chemistry and then thought “What am I doing? What am I going to be, a chemist? What does a chemist do? I don’t know anybody in chemistry.” And so I went in and I talked to the guidance counselors and they were like “You’re insane! You should just do business and go work in the music industry because you know people.” So I ended working at PricewaterhouseCoopers and they put me into the entertainment division. The best thing about that was when all this Enron stuff happened, I read the Wall Street Journal and understood what they did. I was like “Ohhhhhhhh, Anderson, that was a bad thing you did!”

You mentioned that you did some traveling and I believe I read that you spent some time in China. How was that?

I went to China with the college. They had a study trip where you go for part of the summer and I went. I think I visited seven or eight cities and it was really, really amazing. I can’t believe I did now. It was like a dream.

I actually found you through Coallier Entertainment, who you’re currently signed with. Are you working on a new album?

In my head, I’m working on it. This is happening a little bit sooner than I thought. Danny Stanton from Coallier contacted me a couple of years ago through the Internet and I was like “Sure, let’s rock.” And then I got pregnant. A year later, he called me and I was like “Yeah, I’m moving back to New Jersey, let’s rock.” So, I’m still kind of catching up with myself that it’s happening. I have lots of songs that are ready to go, so in that sense I’m going through my archives and starting to write new stuff, but right now what we’re really working on are the live shows. That’s my total focus.

We’ll come back to the live shows in a minute, but right now I want to say that I’m really looking forward to listening to the new material when you come out with your next album.

That’s really great because, you know, it’s going to be back to the beginning. It’s just going to be purely for what I want to put on it as opposed to second-guessing what would be a good idea to put on it. I have songs that I absolutely love that John Kalodner didn’t like or Beau didn’t like or somebody else didn’t like and this time it’s like ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

You get to do it your way.

Right. Well, I could have done it my way before, but I didn’t. It was my way, but there are decisions you make where you’re kind of on the fence and this time that’s not going to be the case. This time it’s going to be a pure effort because there were reasons I chose all those songs. I love all those songs. I’m not putting them down, it’s just that there were other songs that were in contention and I’m really excited about playing them live and recording them.

Danny said you recorded a song for a Journey tribute album.

I did! You know, I haven’t heard it yet. I sang it and I left, but I’m like “How does it sound?” I know the end was really awesome because I nearly passed out when I was singing it. That to me is a sign. I didn’t want to sing it like Steve Perry, so I took it up a notch and I’m really looking forward to hearing it. I think it’s coming out pretty soon, but it’s for Brazil or a rainforest record. I don’t know.

Coallier Entertainment’s website has you listed as playing some upcoming dates in New York and New Jersey. What is your live show like these days?

I don’t know, yet. I’ll have to call you on March 9th and tell you because these are the first two shows. What’s great is Laura’s playing, from “Squeeze”, and that’s one of the best parts about it because she’s my best friend and we never see each other because she works, she has kids and I have kids. Anyway, I just moved back to New Jersey six months ago, had a baby, am still getting over the shock of the fact that I have two children and now I’m rehearsing. Gina Stiles, she was in Poison Dollies and an incarnation of Vixen, is playing guitar, Lance Millard is playing keyboards and there’s John Macaluso on drums. John and Lance I’ve just met recently, but it’s really, really fun. What’s strange is that I’ve never performed some of these songs live before. The stuff from “Squeeze” I did live because I did an ABC special, but songs like “Tragedy” from “Beyond The Pale”, I’ve never played that live before, so it’s really fun. We’re doing some covers and we’re actually kind of going back and forth over what songs to do because we’re trying to pick some fun material. I don’t know what else to say except that I’m really excited and the rehearsals are hilarious and fun and I can’t believe I’m doing it. I actually feel like a little kid. It’s like I’m sneaking out, except now I’m not sneaking away from my parents. I’m sneaking away from my children. (laughing)

Is the number of shows you’re playing going to be expanded at all?

I hope so. I mean, I guess it depends on if anybody comes. This whole thing is basically Danny Stanton doing it and I think he really knows what he’s doing. He does a great job with Dee Snider and Thin Lizzy and those guys go to Europe and play. You are talking to me at the very beginning of this. Right now, local is actually the only option because I’ve still got a newborn baby. It’s so funny, you know, people say that women are complicated, but of course women are complicated! I mean, you know, I can’t believe all the friggin’ things I have to do work out just to go and rehearse. Once you get into that whole childbearing thing, it’s insane and wonderful and it makes me laugh to think of all the logistics of this stuff, like “Okay, I’ll go on the road, but, okay, with the kids?” So, we’ll see. This is really fun because nobody ever talks about this stuff to me anymore.


My husband, who I met seven years ago, thinks this whole thing is hilarious. He’s so excited to come and see me sing because he had no part of my life before that and he didn’t listen to that kind of music, so it’s really kind of fun for the marriage.

Okay, so you’ve done TV, film, music, traveled and started a family. What’s next out there for you to conquer?

Let’s rock!

This is always a fun one. There's usually an image that accompanies an artist that tends to elevate them as somewhat larger than life and doesn't always allow others to see below the surface at the person underneath. What would you like your fans to know about you as a person, as a wife and mother and as an artist when they think of you?

That I’m very grateful and that I’d love to sit down and talk with everyone about singing because none of my friends are interested. I’m having a great ride and I hope they are too. This is the 21st century, we live in the USA and who knows what’s going to happen next? Also, um, I really like school! Does that make me a nerd? I really like school and I memorized lots of things. I’ll tell you what I want them to know. I got an “A+” in the History of Greece. (laughing)

A special thank you goes out to Danny Stanton at Coallier Entertainment for putting me in touch with Fiona as well as Fiona herself for graciously sharing her memories and thoughts with me. For more information about the artist as well as future concert dates, be sure to check out

Used under permission of the author