Olivia Newton John

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Olivia Newton John
Interviewer - Dennis Morgillo

With a career spanning over five decades with more than 100 million albums sold, Olivia’s successes include four Grammys, numerous Country Music, American Music, Billboard and People’s Choice Awards, an Emmy Award, ten #1 hits and more than 15 top 10 singles. She recently scored another #1 hit, this time on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart with “You Have to Believe,” a duet with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi – becoming the first mother/daughter duo to top this Billboard chart. In 1978, her co-starring role with John Travolta in Grease catapulted Olivia into super-stardom and to date remains the most successful movie musical of all time.

Madhouse: Your newest album is called ‘LIV ON’ - tell us about the album. 
Olivia Newton John: It was inspired by my sister. I lost my sister 4 years ago to a brain tumor. It was very sudden, and very shocking. My way of healing is through music. I wrote a song for my sister and then I got together with my friends Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky.  We felt, wouldn’t it be amazing if we created an entire album that deals with loss and grief. Over a year we got together writing and recording the album and then we toured Europe and the West Coast. It’s been a work of love for sure. 

Madhouse: Often times when there is loss and grief, people are told to get over it. Do you feel loss is something to get over, or does it become part of you?
Olivia: I think thats the problem. People have an expectation that others should get past grief or get over it. Grief is a very individualized feeling. It’s a very painful thing. For some people it can be a very long process and for others it can be quick. It comes and goes. You just have to be loving and understanding and help them through it. I think this record takes you through the different stages of grief. Very often when you lose someone, people don’t know what to say. That’s why we wrote the song “You Don’t Know What to Say”. The song “My Heart Goes Out To You”, which is really all you need to say. These songs are all very personal to us. 

Madhouse: You are a big humanitarian, and you have a cancer center in Australia.
Olivia: Yes they asked me to lend my name to a cancer center in Melbourne Australia, where I grew up. I thought very hard about it, and discussed it with my Mother. She told me, if you are going to help someone, you should do it. It’s been over 10 years now, and it is the most beautiful Cancer and Wellness Center. We help people, body mind, and spirit, who are going through Cancer treatment. It also has a state of the art research center as well. It is a very important part of my life, and I am very passionate about it. I hope to see the end of Cancer in my lifetime. 

Madhouse: You seem like you are a genuinely nice person. I don’t meet many of them in life. 
Olivia: (laughs) Oh Thank You  - you are very nice. 

Madhouse: You are out on tour now, what can we expect to see in this show.
Olivia: My show is a journey through my music. Through all the different eras. Country music, pop music, the movies, my environmental stuff. 

Madhouse: Do you still enjoy performing?
Olivia: Yes I do. The moment I no longer enjoy it, I will stop doing it. 

Madhouse: Will there be some sort of Grease reunion next year for the 40th anniversary?
Olivia: I don’t know yet. We are talking, I am sure we will do something, but I don’t know what it will be yet. 

Madhouse: Why did Grease touch such a nerve, especially with women. Women of all ages absolutely love you and the movie.
Olivia: I think everyone can relate to the characters in the movie. People love the 1950’s and they are kind of cartoon characters, larger than life. The music is great. It was a lot of fun to play Sandy.

Madhouse: Did you hear the crazy theory that Sandy was actually dead in the movie, and Grease takes place in the future, kind of what might have been.
Olivia: Yes I heard about that. It’s so silly, it’s funny. Grease was the first Zombie Musical. 

Madhouse: You were the biggest crossover artist of all time. You did it all, Country, Pop, Rock, Gospel. What was your favorite era?
Olivia: Now. Now is the culmination of it all. I enjoyed all of it. I don’t like to look back and say that was my favorite. Whatever I am doing at the moment is my favorite. 

Madhouse: Do you have any plans to retire?
Olivia: I would like to do less. I would like to take bigger breaks. I have worked very hard and I have worked for many many years. 

Madhouse: Ok that’s fair. You can take bigger breaks but don’t retire, we need you out there. You look beautiful and your voice wounds amazing. 
Olivia: Thank you, you are very sweet. 

Madhouse: You recorded music with your daughter. That must have been fun?
Olivia: Yes, we had a #1 dance number with “You Have to Believe”. It was very exciting. 

Madhouse: Did you know that you were born in England and Not Australia? I bet a lot of people did not know that?
Olivia: (laughs) I did know that. I moved to Australia when I was 5, so it will always be home for me. 

Madhouse: Who were your biggest influences as a singer?
Olivia: Dionne Warwick, Joan Baez

Madhouse: As a cancer survivor, how do you think it changed you?
Olivia: I think I learned a lot about gratitude for the day, and life. We need to appreciate everyday. 

Still extremely busy in the recording studio, Olivia recently released two projects back to back.  The first, “LIV ON,” a collaborative, inspiring new CD with friends Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky is intended for those who wish to transcend loss while walking a journey toward new-found meaning and hope, was released in October 2016.  In addition, Olivia reunited with John Farnham for the holiday release, “Friends for Christmas,” which was released November 11, 2016.
With her current and ongoing projects and philanthropic endeavors, Olivia’s worldwide popularity is as strong as ever! For more information visit OliviaNewton-John.com or follow her on Twitter @OliviaNJ or Instagram @TheRealONJ.
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