- - Sunday, December 4, 2016

There is only one Olivia Newton-John. She has sold millions of records, won four Grammys and had 10 No. 1 singles including “Magic,” “Have You Ever Been Mellow,” “A Little More Love,” “I Honestly Love You,” “Make A Move on Me” and the ‘80s anthem “Physical.” And then there is the movie career, most notably the legendary musicals “Grease” and “Xanadu.”

In 2014 Miss Newton-John began a residency at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, a cavalcade of smash hits and warm memories that is still going strong. In addition, the actress and singer has recently teamed up with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky for an album of “healing” songs called “Liv On.”

Miss Newton-John spoke backstage in Vegas about the inspiration for her new album, the Las Vegas show, recent “Grease” internet theories and roller skates.

Yes, roller skates.

Question: What inspired your new album “Liv On”?

Answer: Inspired is an interesting word to use because I do use that word: “inspired.”

I lost my sister Rona three years ago to brain cancer. I wrote a song after she died as my way of coping with the grief. Music has always been my way of healing. I asked Amy Sky if she would help me finish the song and record it. We were talking about how there is very little music for people going through loss and grief. We started to think it would be a wonderful thing to write more songs about it.

So we asked our friend Beth Nielsen Chapman if she would join us for this CD because she had written an amazing song called “Sand & Water” after her husband died. The three us us somehow found time to get together three different times to write the songs. Then we recorded in Vegas, and it’s a real work of love, a magical collaboration.

Q: What makes these tunes “healing” songs?

A: A lot of songs are inspiration and help people through pain, grief and loss. I do the title track, “Liv On,” in my show, and afterwards, one out of every three people say how that song touched them and helped them.

The lyrics are, “Cry the tears you cry and then live on.” Talking about this is the only moment we have. We wake up and are grateful for the day. Not taking away from the pain, because the pain will be there. But you live on.

We hope these songs will be inspiring to people.

Q: As a breast cancer survivor, you are living on. Do you appreciate life more?

A: Absolutely I do. I have to remind myself sometimes that I went through it, because I tend to forget, which is probably a healthy thing. I don’t dwell on it all the time. I am extremely grateful. And that brings me back to reality on the days I am complaining about something.

Q: Have you ever played Las Vegas before you started your residency there in 2014?

A: One of the first dates I ever had in America was at The Hilton opening for Charlie Rich in the ‘70s. Then I worked at The Sands. And I worked at The Riviera quite a lot. I had played all over the Strip, but just for limited engagements.

When this came up, it was a wonderful opportunity. I really enjoyed the consistency of playing in one place and finding another life in a city.

Q: Did you have to adjust or “Vegas up” your live show?

A: I kind of resisted doing that. I don’t have dancers; I have video. And the costumes do have a little glitz to them. I wouldn’t say it’s a “Vegas show” particularly. It’s sort of an “in concert” with videos. Kind of like an “evening with.” And I have a great band. 

My intention was that it wouldn’t be made into a “Vegas-y” show. That’s not who I am. I said from the beginning, “I just wanna do my music, and we can add these elements to it.” Thank goodness it has done well and people are enjoying it.

Q: How do you squeeze all those hits into a one-hour show?

A: [laughs] We do medleys. Bunch some of them together. I feel so lucky that now I have enough hit songs that I can do that. [laughs] There are other songs I’d like to add, but you have a very limited time in Vegas.

Q: I have to ask you one “Grease” and one “Xanadu” question.

A: Sure.

Q: What did you think about the online theories that Sandy was dead the whole movie, and the car ride at the end of the “Grease” is her flying to heaven?

A: I thought the theory was hilarious when I first read it. And how incredible all these years later it’s still even relevant. [laughs] It was funny. If that was the case, then I guess we were the first zombie musical. [laughs]

Q: And “Xanadu.” When was the last time you wore roller skates?

A: When I did the movie, because I had a horrible accident when we were filming [the video for the song] “Suddenly.” I fell and broke my tailbone. I had to do the rest of it sitting on donut device.

I finished [“Xanadu”], but after that I didn’t have the incentive to get back on skates. I was a little intimidated after that. I did try rollerblading once in Santa Monica after that, but I was so nervous of falling that I didn’t really keep it up.

Q: What is next for you?

A: Next up are the “Liv On” live shows. Beth and Amy and I are going to the United Kingdom for shows in London, Scotland, and [another] in Ireland. It’s all acoustic versions where we will play the entire “Liv On” CD.

“Liv On” is available now. For all things ONJ visit OliviaNewton-John.com.

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