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By Andy Argyrakis
Production "Hit Man" hits the road
"One on One"
Oct. 16, 2009
Very few producers have ascended to the heights of household familiarity, but considering David Foster's worked behind the boards with pretty much every major superstar on earth, he's certainly one of the few. In fact, he's sold so many millions of albums collaborating with the likes of Whitney Houston, George Harrison, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Cher, Chaka Khan, Madonna, Christina Aguilera and countless others that even the most detailed statistics counter couldn't keep up. Along the way, he's also amassed a hit ripe solo catalogue and simultaneously serves as head of 143 Records, where he discovered The Corrs, Michael Buble and Josh Groban (to name a handful). The multi-tasker is also hitting the road inspired by a recent autobiography and the CD/DVD collation Hit Man: David Foster and Friends (Warner Bros.), where he'll be joined by a who's who of past and present tag team partners, including Phillip Bailey (Earth, Wind and Fire), Peter Cetera (Chicago), Richard Marx, Deborah Cox, Charice, plus Ruben Studdard and Michael Johns (both from "American Idol").
Livewire: How did you decide now was the time for your autobiography?
Foster: I met by book agent, who had such great enthusiasm for me that continues to this day. She said "you gotta do it so let's roll" and I basically banged it out in four months, though I wish I had four years! What's done is done and I always have so little time, but if I spent four years, I know it could've been better. But I never look back at music and wonder how I could've made it better, so I know the book is good thanks to a great co-writer Pablo Fenjves.
Livewire: What's been the reaction from your family, friends and fans?
Foster: Nobody's been upset with me, with exception of maybe one person, but out of my three ex-wives, none of them are upset with me. My publisher told me you can't write a book without pissing someone off, though maybe I did by omission.
Livewire: How did you go about picking the guests for you TV special, which became a CD/DVD of the same title?
Foster: It's been based off the key moments in my life. Obviously, Celine was very key and Peter Cetera was probably the most successful writing partner I've ever had, though he may have had others that were more successful. It was very key to have him and Boz Scaggs because we worked together on the favorite song I ever co-wrote. We also had to have Andrea Bocelli because he's my favorite singer on planet, then Michael Buble and Josh Groban to show my ability to stay in the game. I can think of at least five artists who could've filled arenas on their own! We had others we wanted that were not available, like Natalie Cole who was sick with her kidney situation. Chaka Khan was not available and Whitney was also a big part of my life and I was part of hers after *The Bodyguard* was arguably her best selling record. But she hasn't performed live in the last five years.
Livewire: What about putting together the line-up for the tour?
Foster: This tour now is not just the TV special. It includes a list of people or are very important in my life. Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago are two of the most pivotal bands in my life. I loved them both so much that I was the guy who stood in line at midnight at Tower Records to wait for those albums. So it's a great full circle experience for me to have worked with both Phillip and Peter, have hits with them both, have them tour with me and both come home to [the city of] Chicago.
Livewire: In addition to your cast of already established singers, what exactly is your Hit Man Talent Search on the tour?
Foster: It's no secret I love to be involved with new artists and basically we have an open call to anybody out there whether they be a singer, instrumentalist or rapper to go on www.NameDrop.com and enter a contest. I'll listen to the top twenty entries and select one to come out and be part of the show in each city. It's a great opportunity for local talent who may not know how to get the word out about themselves, plus people in the audience can see one of their own from Rosemont or any of the other cities we're in.
Livewire: How do you balance creativity with commercial appeal throughout your role with 143 Records?
Foster: I like selling records period. I don't like failure and I think success and failure is directly tied to record sales. I just did a Renee Olstead record and it bummed me out that it didn't catch on because I think it's so amazing. My focus and my art is I want to be commercial, which I don't think is a bad thing. "Pop" stands for "popular," and I like to think I have the brain of a normal person and that if I like it, chances are other people will as well.
Livewire: Who are the most out of the box artists you've worked with?
Foster: Probably The Tubes, Alice Cooper, Madonna and Seal and I'd like to do more of that. But David Geffen said something very smart to me and that was to "make sure you stay in your lane." I love all kinds of music, but that doesn't mean I can make them all.
Livewire: Who else would you like to work with that you haven't already?
Foster: Sting and Stevie Wonder. In fact with Stevie, I know exactly what to do with him and we even had dinner to talk about it one on one. I said "let me be the guy to give you a hit album and all you have to do is just come and sing," but he's a control freak like me.
Livewire: How difficult is your personality in the studio?
Foster: I'm difficult, I'm focused and I will not compromise. I will battle until the end and I may loose, but there's no compromise. The note is either going to be C or G- it won't be in between. I don't mind admitting when I'm wrong since it's just taste and there's no good or bad and no right or wrong. Every day I go into the studio and give it 110%. That's my everyday mantra and I always strive for greatness.
Livewire: What's your take on all these music industry changes?
Foster: It's like rolling a ball up hill everyday. People are not going to stop making music, but I think the answer is subscription service. The phone gives you access to everything. Why not get to a place where you buy a phone on a one year package, and then after that year, they call and say "for $19.95, do you want the music package?" And I'm not talking about some bull shit MP3, but high quality access to everything that's been out or comes out. If you multiple that by three billion phones, that's $60 billion dollars for the music industry. Right now, the music industry's making $8 billion, so it's an opportunity to make more money. But everybody's got a different idea and sometimes you can't even find a charger to fit your phone, so they fuck you anywhere they can!
David Foster and Friends appear at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, IL on Wednesday, October 21. For additional details, visit www.ticketmaster.com.