Considering Linda Eder has been pursuing a successful music career for more than three decades, the singer has a good perspective when it comes to the music business in general — and how it has changed, especially in recent years. The Minnesota-raised artist is very excited to be heading to the Chicago area next week — headlining the 35th annual Trustee Benefit and Gala at Dominican University in River Forest.
In a recent phone conversation, Eder explained how Our Town has always held a special place in her heart.
“Chicago was the first major city where I connected professionally. Of course I went to L.A. to do ‘Star Search’ and all that, but beyond that, Chicago was pivotal. It was where I branched out [from] Minneapolis to have an impact. From the very first time I played there, the city and its audiences embraced me. That set things up for me in a sense, and gave a real boost to my career.”
As for the music industry, Eder stressed: “The record business today is very different from when I started out. Today the record labels promote the top echelon of artists that used to sell 16 million albums — and now are happy to sell 2 million CDs. That’s where the labels put their promotion. For everybody else, there’s not that much going on. The labels are basically just a distribution company and so a couple of years ago I got to thinking of simply going on my own. I had seen other artists do that. So I did it.”
It started with Eder’s Christmas album in 2013. “It did so well, that last summer I did another one — ‘Linda Eder Live.’ I had never done a live CD, so I thought that it would be great — and it was.”
Yet what really made it work for Eder was the realization that she finally had total control.
“Because no matter what, even though the labels tell you’ll be able to do whatever you want, that’s really not the case. … Now, I do a lot of this myself. I even designed the last record cover. My niece took the photos that went on the Christmas album before that.”
That “hands-on” approach, as Eder put it, dovetails with another aspect of her background. “I was actually trained as a graphic artist. I was going to go to art school before I was thinking of becoming a singer. Graphic art has always been a passion of mine, besides music. Now I’ve finally found a way to bring that into my professional work.”
That 2013 Christmas album had another special impact on Eder’s life and professional career — it included a song she sang with her son, Jake Wildhorn, who is now 15.
“I always knew there was that spark in him. He’s really musical, and I know he knows he’s talented in that way. But he’s very shy about it. So, I took a shot. I rewrote half the lyrics of a song to fit us. I never knew whether he would say yes, and when he did — you could have knocked me over with a feather! I still didn’t believe he’d sing when we got to the studio, but he did and the beauty of it was it came out so well.”
Going independent for Eder means she only releases her music in a very controlled fashion.
“What I’m doing is a little bit different. Everybody puts their music out there for download. But I have refused to do that. I don’t make my records available for download. We do it the old-fashioned way. The only way you can buy them is at my website, LindaEder.com, or after every concert I’m out in the lobby selling them directly. That’s the only way I’ve made them available.”
The omnipresence of social media has been her good friend in this endeavor.
“That’s what the public wants today. I think what you see across the Internet — whether you are a billion-dollar company or mom-and-pop operation — everybody’s billboard is the same size. How you work that on your social media sites — which I now do aggressively on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — leads to how successful you will be in reaching your fans.”
As for her March 14 concert, Eder said it will mirror the kind of musical journey she shared in her live concert CD. “I will go back in time, and include a lot of the numbers that I know people will want to hear — and know me for,” such as songs from her Broadway hit “Jekyll & Hyde,” “and other classics both from Broadway and the Great American Songbook. But I also will share some of the new things I’m doing, too.”
Eder’s setlist will primarily feature a selection of “some key songs from my past that had some impact on my career in one way or another, and I’ll tell the stories that naturally go along with each song.”
That musical journey will go back quite a way — “even back to my high school days,” when Eder first found her musical niche. “That includes my singing ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain,’ from ‘The Sound of Music’ that I did in high school — playing the Mother Abbess. Now I’m actually age appropriate to do that,” she added with another laugh.
Linda Eder, benefit gala, 5 p.m. March 14, Dominican University, 7900 W. Division, River Forest. For tickets and information, click here.