Here’s the complete transcript of my interview with Kassie DePaiva of One Life to Live, conducted for this Popdose feature about the show soundtrack album One Life to Live: The Sound of a Kiss.
So here’s a funny coincidence: A very good friend of mine, Fred Wilhelm, has written a few of the songs you’ve recorded, both for your albums and for the show.
Yeah! He wrote [singing] “Too little money, too little…” He’s a very talented writer, and a really nice guy, too. I met him through Liz Moran, who is a publisher down in Nashville.
I was listening to your most recent album last night, and one of the things that really struck me about it was how unvarnished the production is. It’s a lot subtler than the type of thing you tend to do on television.
Well, that was kind of the point of that record in particular — to have an unplugged sound, more acoustic. David Nichtern, who produced it, just loves bluegrass, and that’s just kind of the feel I wanted for that particular album.
I had taken a more produced approach with my second album, No Regrets, and did a vanity project with my first release, Naked. So this was more just singing pretty ditties with a little production.
This leads me to another question, which is: How do you approach song selection when you’re performing on the show? How much is up to you?
Well, it’s interesting. Sometimes they let me sing songs from my albums on the show — [Executive Producer] Frank Valentini has been very generous that way — but most of the songs…you know, by the time I find out that I’m singing, it’s already been in the works for a couple of weeks with the writers and the music supervisor, Paul Glass — who is brilliant. He already has something in mind. And now because of production, and ABC wanting to own publishing and such, I kinda just leave all that up to them.
Paul certainly knows my voice, and he knows where the story is going, probably more than I do, and he gives me options, definitely. I just say “At least give it to me 10 days in advance so I can learn it!” [Laughs] You know, be true to it. Give it some justice.
The music is just like anything else with the show — it’s about the story. And ultimately, it shouldn’t be our choice, because we’re not the writers and we don’t have the overall picture. I could pick thousands of great songs, but how is it most appropriate to tell the story? Are they using it in Act Six, or is it me singing to Starr, or is it me singing to tell Todd I hate him?
That’s what I think the true strength of One Life to Live is, and how they use me. They can use the songs in different ways, whether it’s a performance or really using it to tell a story. I think Frank Valentini really loves music, and it shows. He uses it to really enhance the palette.
We spoke with Paul Glass a couple of years ago…
Well, Paul’s brilliant. I mean, just with The Sound of a Kiss, he worked so hard. He and Dave Marino are really the ones who put their hearts and souls into it. Paul produced the vocals, he found the songs, and he’s just a dream to work with. He’s had this vision for music — in fact, we both shared this vision of music for ABC, long before they started selling it on iTunes.
It’s just so hard for a television company to realize that there is music to be made, and money to be made selling it. You’d think one hand would feed the other, but sometimes things are so disconnected. Finally, though, I think things are coming together as far as bridging that musical gap with the show. But Paul is a genius, and he should get all the glory on this one.
A consistent theme in the commentary surrounding One Life to Live is the thought that the show has been neglected by the network in terms of promotional efforts.
Oh, yeah. It’s interesting — I was watching the show yesterday, and there was this big thing about the Oprah episode that focused on daytime, all these commercials. And the show was all about Susan Lucci and all of Erica Kane’s husbands, and, you know, Luke and Laura. I didn’t see it, because I had to work, but I was watching our show while I was here, because I think it’s really good right now. And I was sitting in the rehearsal hall thinking “Dang, why couldn’t it have been Erika [Slezak, who has played Viki Lord on the show for 40 years] up there, talking about all of her character’s personalities?”
Our show has had just as many iconic moments and actors as any show, and we contribute to the ABC lineup too, and it seems like we’re just the red-headed stepchild sometimes. [Laughs] It’s frustrating sometimes, after being here for 18 years, not to go, “What is it?” I think it’s consistently strong. I mean, do you watch the show?
I do, yeah. I grew up during ABC’s “love in the afternoon” era, and my mom was at home during the day; she watched the whole ABC block, so I did too. I fell away from it as I got older, but during the writer’s strike a few years ago, I read that OLTL was in a creative renaissance period, so I decided to check it out again, and I’m still watching it. I think just as a format, the five-days-a-week serial is really fascinating, and it holds a lot of potential that’s often hard to tap into because of limitations at the network level —
I agree with you. I so agree with you. And I think our show in particular, at the moment, we have so much on the canvas that we could even do a spinoff. We could do two hours a day.
I think one of the greatest areas of potential in these shows — and one that they really don’t utilize as often as they should — is the way you can really anchor a character into the canvas over a long period of time and build connections with newer characters as you go. The magic of the “umbrella story.” But especially recently, OLTL has been smart about keeping veteran characters involved.
Oh, yeah. I’m unfortunately getting into that upper echelon [laughs] where all I can do is just tighten my bra straps and hopefully I can hang in there awhile longer! You start off as an ingenue, and before you know it, you’re a matriarch. Oh my gosh, Blair has grandchildren. I am thrilled, though. Like you said, it’s one of those unique things about working in daytime — not only have I lived my own life, but I’ve lived Blair’s life too. I can look back over her life and think “Wow, it happened so fast,” and my life is certainly not as exciting, but all that water that goes under the bridge is pretty amazing.
Does it add another layer to the performance for you when you’re singing as Blair?
Yes, definitely. I can’t often give the performance that I would if I were recording an album, because I’m coming from an emotional place that’s about the story. Performing on One Life to Live is usually within the context of an oven of emotion, you know, some deep-rooted emotional story to tell, whereas on my albums, I’m just trying to convey an emotional connection to a song, so there are a lot more variables on the show. Plus, you’re shooting a video at the same time — you’ve got to hit your notes, and hit your marks.
What are your future plans for your recording career?
I’m not working on anything right now. You know, I was singing with Kathy Brier [ex-Marcie, OLTL] and Bobbie Eakes [Krystal, All My Children] as the Divas of Daytime, and I love that more than anything. I mean, if I could give up my day job and do anything, I just love singing with those women. The harmonies give me chills. But with Kathy off the show and Bobbie out in California, the logistics make it a little more difficult. But we do some concerts every now and then, and we have some possibilities for 2011 — nothing etched in stone, which frustrates me a little, because that is just such a nice break from doing whatever I do. I get so much joy out of being on stage singing with those ladies.
Have you given any thought to recording with them?
We’ve done some recording — we did a little Christmas CD, and we have some ideas and thoughts about recording. But again, it comes down to getting us in the same town. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and you end up doing the things that you love, and if we want to keep it going, we’ve got to do it.
Well, I did really enjoy that most recent album. I think that within daytime, there’s a certain predilection toward…well, I guess melodrama is one way to put it —
Well, it is melodrama. I mean, soaps don’t need to be fixed. It’s heightened and it is melodrama, and that’s what makes it great!
But you still need actors who understand when to bring subtlety to a performance. It stands out in that context, and you do it. I appreciate it.
Well, what’s nice about Blair, I think, is that she is an over the top, in your face, life’s-a-bitch kind of woman, but when she’s around her children, or when she is wounded, those are real moments for her. I really try to get those across, otherwise the character is just a one-note pony, and I like to show the variety — play the octave, you know? [Laughs]
Right, and that’s also what I appreciated about I Want to Love You, because most music associated with soaps only reflects that melodrama — lots of bombast, lots of production — and it’s nice to hear someone proving that doesn’t always have to be the case.
My second album had more of what you’re talking about, and it had a lot of songs that I thought would have worked for Blair. But this last album, there really aren’t many — I think I’ve performed three of them on the show. I mean, Frank Valentini isn’t a huge country fan.
Well, I hope you continue to maintain your dual careers. I know juggling them must take some skill.
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. It’s just the craziness of it. You know, for my last album, I did a proper release through a label, and I have 10,000 CDs sitting in my barn. [Laughs] If you can think of any way to get rid of ‘em, let me know!
I have the same problem! I’ve released CDs of my own, and I have boxes full of them in my basement. My wife is not amused.
Yeah, and that’s the crazy thing of it. I don’t like the business aspect of it. If someone else would take care of that…now, you can just take your music straight to iTunes without worrying about a physical release, and that’s probably the smart way to do it, but then you still need someone else to administrate all that stuff. I’m too busy! [Laughs]
In the meantime, there are your two songs on The Sound of a Kiss.
Right, and it’s just a question of getting the word out. Our fans will find out, but how do you get the information out there?
Well, we’ll try and help a little with that.
You’re kind and generous, and it’s appreciated.