Lena Hall Obsessed: HedwigKnown for effortlessly blending the worlds of Broadway and rock-and-roll, Hall is kicking off this year with a groundbreaking and hugely ambitious creative endeavor. The first Friday of each month in 2018 will mark the release of a new EP in her Obsessed series on all digital and streaming platforms. Each of these EPs will pay homage to a different musical act/artist that has shaped Hall into the extraordinary performer that she is today. And what’s more, the 37-year-old will release a music video every single week of the year to accompany all 54 songs that will appear across the span of the 12 Obsessed EPs.

This month, Hall launched Obsessed with a tribute to Hedwig And The Angry Inch, the landmark rock musical for which she won a Tony Award and received a Grammy Award nomination. I spoke with the theater icon about her creative process, the various musicians she’s covering, her upcoming tour, her new film and television roles, returning to Broadway, and more.

ALEX NAGORSKI: How did you come up with the Obsessed series and what made you decide to release these EPs on an unprecedented, monthly basis? 

LENA HALL: I did a show at the Café Carlyle (in NYC) with Michael C. Hall called “Obsessed – Radiohead.” It was such a hit that I wanted to make it a series of concerts that highlighted one artist per concert. I decided that an album series was a good way to tie in the “Obsessed” concert idea and give fans around the world access to the shows in some way.

Around the same time, I did a series of videos for called “Stripped,” where I released one video per week for 20 weeks. This was a way to give fans content and the feeling that I was singing live for them in their living room. Kurt Deutsch of Ghostlight/SKB Records came to me and offered to do a formal release for my next Obsessed album, which was announced as Hedwig.

After a meeting with Kurt and Kevin Gore, we all decided to combine the ideas of the Obsessed albums and concerts and the “Stripped” videos to make it a yearlong series. We concluded that a good way to keep people interested in the series was to do one artist per month, with the EP coming out at the beginning of the month and the sister videos coming out every week that month in support of it. Each EP (except for Hedwig) matched the month it’s released. Some EPs have four songs and some have five depending on how many Fridays are in each month.

Are all of these EPs meant to be standalone pieces or is there a larger narrative linking them to one another?

There is no larger narrative other than these are all artists I love and want to introduce to a brand new fanbase. These albums and videos are a love letter to each of these artists and bands. My personal favorites! This is just the first 12. I hope to do multiple seasons of this series!

Are you recording straight covers of the songs you’re featuring or are you reinterpreting them somehow? What does that creative process consist of?

It depends on the song. Some songs are very close, where the only difference is my own vocal interpretation. Others have been reimagined. I wanted to focus on what made the song stick out to me. The lyrics, or the chord progressions or simply the way it was sung. Sometimes I cover a song the artist covered. A cover of a cover. In this case, I did that to illustrate how someone else’s genius interpretation of a song made it iconic.

Why was Hedwig the natural choice to launch this series with? How did your experience playing the show’s titular character on its national tour (in addition to reprising your Tony-winning performance as Yitzhak) impact your approach to these beloved songs?   

We started with Hedwig because it has had the biggest impact on my life. From the first time that I saw the show and heard the album to playing Yitzhak and winning a Tony Award to finally playing Hedwig! There is no show on Earth that has had such an impact on my life. The original Off-Broadway cast recording was something I listened to, on repeat, trying to sing along wishing the songs were in my key!

The artists you’re covering include such varying acts as Elton John, Nirvana, Pink, David Bowie, and Radiohead (to name just a few). How did you go about selecting the musicians you’ll be paying homage to?

These are all artists that are markers of different stages in my life. They bring up strong memories of experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today.

Once you’ve selected the artist(s) you’ll be focusing on for each EP, how do you go about narrowing down the songs in their respective discographies to decide which ones you’ll be recording? 

I selected a few hits but also wanted to cover some of the songs that spoke to me that were more B-sides, the songs I listened to on repeat that rarely got airplay. It will hopefully inspire the listener to dig deeper into each artist’s catalogue.

Which of the series’ upcoming EPs do you think your fans will be most surprised to hear? 

I’m not sure. I think the artists themselves are a very eclectic bunch. Each one will be a surprise to someone, except for maybe Hedwig. I don’t think anyone is surprised by that choice!

You’ve also created performance music videos for all 54 songs in this series. As a performer, what role do these videos play in your Obsessed journey?

I wanted a way for fans who can’t get to my live shows to have some kind of connection to me.

Vocally and creatively, what have been the biggest challenges in the recording of this series? 

Recording the entire series in 8 days! That was the biggest challenge. To give you an idea of what that meant, we recorded from 11 A.M. – 7 P.M. for 8 consecutive days and we did about 3 takes per song, give or take. That means I sang a total of about 162 songs in 8 days. At the same time, we filmed the entire recording session for the YouTube videos.

When do you plan to release full details about your upcoming tour in support of Obsessed? And what can your fans expect from these live shows, beginning with your Rockwood Music Hall Stage show in New York at the end of January? 

We should have a full concert schedule out soon! For now, I am planning to do one show at the end of every month to celebrate that month’s artist and tease the next artist. I will also take fan requests to play some favorites from the past Obsessed albums. Hopefully, I will be able to tour most of the U.S. and Canada, as well as Europe (schedule permitting).

If another performer were to release an Obsessed: Lena Hall EP in the future, what would be on it? How do you think this musician could best capture your essence and artistry within a handful of covers? 

I’m hoping I will have some original solo material in the near future for them to cover! I would be interested to see how someone like me would influence a new artist.

Do you have any plans to return to the Broadway stage anytime soon? If not, what type of production/role would entice you to come back? 

I hope to return to Broadway very soon! Whatever it is, I will be 100% passionate about the project and I will put my heart and soul into it every single night!

Becks (which hits theaters and VOD February 9) marks the first movie in which you’re playing a leading role. What are you most excited about for when your fans see this film? 

I am excited for fans to see me in a much more intimate setting. The film is more up close and personal. I love this movie and all it stands for as well as the soundtrack. Hopefully people will relate deeply with the character I play and with the themes. We are very proud of it already winning at the L.A. Film Festival and getting such critical praise prior to the release!

Later this year, you’ll also be making your debut as a television series regular on the new TNT dystopian thriller Snowpiercer, alongside Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs. What can you tease about your character, Sayori? And how will the series differ from/build upon the world introduced in the acclaimed 2013 film of the same name that it’s based on?

I can’t say much about the project because I want something to be a surprise. But I will say that, to me, Sayori is the most interesting character on the show and is the type of role I have been dying to play. The TV show will focus more on the class wars that occur within the train.

Thank you so much, Lena! I can’t wait for the remainder of the Obsessed EPs and to see you on both the big and small screens this year. Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we didn’t talk about? 

Nothing to add other than I am looking forward to getting everyone’s feedback on all my projects in 2018! Thank you!

Originally published on PopBytes


The first chapter of what’s sure to be a life-long comradery.
By Alex Nagorski

(My BFFL C Lovez and I)

So there I was: minding my own business, walking down Broadway, bopping to Ke$ha and slicing away at some Fruit Ninja on my phone. I was en route to meet up with my friend Christine for drinks prior to a show some of our friends from college had written and were performing at the Frigid Theater Festival downtown. The date was Saturday, March 5 – which in gay time can be referred to as five whole days before Femme Fatale leaked.

All of a sudden, I feel someone’s hand grab the part of my body that would be a bicep had I not given up on the Insanity workout DVDs after day three. “Excuse me,” someone boisterously says. I take out my earphones and turn around to see who it is. Naturally, it’s Courtney Love.

“Hi, I’m sorry but I’m so fucking lost. Do you have any idea where ABC Carpet and Home is?” she asks me. She’s wearing a short black dress with an oversized black trenchcoat and stilettos that have a heel larger than her album sales have ever been. “Sure,” I respond. “It’s only a couple blocks down and I’m heading that way anyway. Would you like me to walk you?” 
“You’re a fucking doll,” Courtney replies to me as she links her arm around mine and I begin escorting her down the bustling city street. “They should never let rock stars out at night,” she snickers as she snorts back the snot dripping from her nose – a cute little tick she kept doing for the rest of the night. Flu or … ? 
I’m thinking I should somehow acknowledge who she is. “I don’t know if this is inappropriate for me to say, but I really enjoyed the Hole record you put out last year,” I tell her. “That’s totally appropriate for you to say! You’re like one of four people who listened to it. What’s not appropriate is if you were to tell me how much you love Nirvana,” she responds. Immediately I start hearing my best friend Gina’s conspiracy theories on why Courtney actually killed Kurt playing back in my head. I have no response. Cricket cricket.

We get to ABC Carpet and Home but the store is closed. Courtney starts knocking on the door as two security guards come to the door. “Store’s closed, ma’am,” they tell her. “I have an appointment on the third floor,” Courtney replies. The guards do their little walky talky magic (reminding me how happy I am that Nextels don’t exist anymore) and tell her she’s allowed inside. “What are you doing right now?” she asks me. “Come with me!” she says while grabbing my hand and pulling me into the store with her.

And that’s how I literally spent the next 45-minutes walking around the empty store with Courtney Love and picking out plates, vases, pillows, cups, lamps, etc. for her new house. We chatted about everything from the British art dealer she’s seeing (“because who isn’t an art dealer these days, right?” Sure, Courtney) to how she’s the one that brought Russell Brand over to America (“I like nursed him on my tit”) to how I have “surprisingly really good taste” in home furnishings (“Thanks, it’s part of my license to gay”).

At the end of our little shopping excursion, the staff of the store had us leave through the service exit because the gates in the main entrance were already secured into place. As we parted ways (me to my friends’ show and her to an art opening), we hugged and did the European two-cheek-peck goodbye. “Sorry, do you mind if I take a picture with you so that my friends believe me why I’m late?” I ask. She doesn’t argue that for a moment and continues to thank me for helping her.

I have to say, Courtney Love is not at all what I expected her to be. She was actually a very easy-to-talk-to and warm person. I mean sure, it was a little diva-ish of her to insist on making the staff of the store stay after hours so she could shop, but like … there are worse offenses you can read if you Google her. She was talking to me like I was an old friend and I was half expecting her to offer that we have a sleepover so we would give each other makeovers, share a roll of cookie dough, and practice making out. And just for the record: I totally would have done it.

Originally published on Crazytown Blog