By Jeb Wright
Lee Aaron was at one time considered the Queen of Metal. She had a following all over Europe, and in her home country of Canada she has released 12 albums to much critical acclaim and commercial success. So… how in the heck had I never heard of her?
Truth is, I probably should have. She can sing. She was (and is still) very attractive (sorry for the sexist moment, but it is true and a compliment). She also is a very talented songwriter. Her tunes never got on my musical radar, however. Now, with the release of her first album in the USA, Fire and Gasoline, she is in my CD player... well, her music anyway…
Gone are the leather outfits, big hair and heavy metal music. She has replaced those items with a classy MILF look and even features her daughter in one of her videos. She is married to the drummer, making this a family affair, and she balances emotional lyrics with songs that are just there to crank up and keep the party going.
I caught up with the former metal-vixen to talk about her new album, her continuing musical journey and how she got to where she is today.
Jeb: This album is my introduction to your music. I will admit that growing up I never had any exposure to your albums. I am sorry, but I wanted to admit that up front.
Lee: Why would you have known me? This is my first album released in the United States. It’s my 12th album overall, but first here. I signed my first record deal when I was nineteen years old and they owned my rights outside in the United States so I had no control over things. It is all politics.
Jeb: You have many styles of music on this project. You have a real hands-on attitude. You seem to be in total control this time.
Lee: I feel like I’ve done this long enough. I lived through the ‘80s where I was treated like a commodity -being a female that was objectified by my marketing. I was never quite happy with the finished product of my album because too many cooks were involved in it by the time it was done.
I will tell you a funny story… It was my 5th album and we were having a big board room meeting over who was going to produce my next record. They had brought in this guy who had produced Night Ranger. We had this meeting and, basically, at the meeting he said he didn’t real hear any of our tunes but he owned the publishing on some songs that he thought would be really good for us. We got out of the meeting and the label people were all excited because he wanted to produce me. He had not even listened to my songs.
I’ve lived through all of that, so when it came time to do this record… I had taken a bit of a hiatus because I had my children a decade ago so I’ve been kind of busy. When it came time to do this record I thought that I could do this on my own. I don’t mean to sound narcissistic.
Jeb: You don’t sound like that. You adapt and grow and learn. That’s what I hear what you did.
Lee: I co-wrote this with my guitar player and I produced it. I mostly wrote it myself. I formed a boutique label, my third one that I’ve done. The correct thing to do was to get really good distribution, and so far that seems to be a good plan.
Jeb: You have a strong voice. Lyrically, you have a lot of talent. There are some tunes here that are fun, but there are some that see you get emotional and you really open yourself up.
Lee: I think we have all of those aspects to our personality. I have a fun side, but I tried to write about things that are authentic to me. Some of them are quite personal and some of them are sort of reflections on memories that are really personal.
I went back to college a few years ago and I studied psychology. I am absolutely fascinated by the human condition and what makes us tick and do the things we do. Sometimes we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. I hope that is reflected on the album.
Jeb: “Heart Fix” is a good example.
Lee: That song is sort of about how we get into unhealthy patterns and how hard it is to get ourselves out of them.
Jeb: When you write that way is it cathartic?
Lee: Yes and no. I don’t know that it is cathartic. “Heart Fix” has not fixed all of my problems. I am still a very totally flawed and broken human being. I’m a total mess!
Quite often when I write songs I don’t even know one hundred percent what they are about until they are finished. Even a song like “Tomboy” which went through an evolution, started out just being an idea to write a song about my ten year old daughter as she is a tomboy. I was a tomboy growing up and I can make a lot of connections with that. As it evolved, I realized it was not just about ten year old tomboys… it is about anyone who is a tomboy. It then evolved to being a song for anyone who is misunderstood and feels they can’t be authentic to themselves.
This is a song for those who want to feel free from judgement and who want to be authentic. It is a song of personal empowerment. It didn’t start out that way. Sometimes at the end when they are completely recorded I listen back and I say, “Oh, that’s what I was thinking about.” The other thing is that it can mean different things to different people. They can be interpreted by others differently than how I wrote them.
Jeb: “Find The Love” is another deep song.
Lee: These songs go through a process, like I said. I was vacationing a couple of summers ago on the lake with my kids. I had a friend who had gone through breast cancer. She later found out she had that gene that Angelina Jolie had. They told her there was a seventy percent chance she would get it back. She had all of the surgeries done to prevent it from coming back. I saw her a few weeks before around her pool with the kids and she said that her back had been hurting. She thought it was from all of the surgeries. I got a text while I was on vacation that she had stage four bone cancer. I was shattered. I thought how can this be happening? At that time she was 39 years old. She was a very good friend of mine. I don’t even know what to say.
Sometimes I feel I don’t even write the songs, they just happen. I had my guitar and by the end of the day that song was written. The song was inspired by my friend who we sadly lost last June. The song is about anyone who has experienced loss in their life. At this age and stage for most of us it has touched our lives in some way. It is supposed to be a song of hope and the fact that even when we are going through the dark tunnel and we can see the light on the other side that there is still light. We have to remember through those things is that how we conduct ourselves as human beings is the true measure of what it is all about. You’ve got to find the love in the dark.
Jeb: On the flip side, there are some fun songs….
Lee: Let’s talk about that.
Jeb: This one rocks… the title track.
Lee: “Fire and Gasoline” was a really fun one. That song started out as just a guitar riff that Sean sent me. He sent me an iPhone memo one afternoon. It was a cool little riff and I wondered what I could do with that. I took it down to my studio and I programmed this funky drum beat. The song took place around that. In terms of the content of the song… sometimes I go mining for these recollections of the past. The attitude of the music reminded me of just being in a relationship that is just riddled with love and hate. It has the equal amount of passion as it does with loathing. You know? We’ve all been in that type of relationship at one point in time and that is what that song is about. Love is combustible. It is about a person who is with a person who is dishonest and they’re probably dishonest even if they are just lying to themselves. They keep coming back for more. They don’t know if they are happier with that person or without that person.
Jeb: Your husband is your drummer and he has a big record collection I have heard…
Lee: My husband is one of the biggest vinyl collectors in North America. We have a library with about two hundred and fifty thousand albums in our home. It is a lot. He’s been collecting for about thirty years. We did a renovation four years ago just to build a big room to put them in.
Jeb: Let’s talk about doing the video with your daughter. I think it is cute.
Lee: I don’t know that we meant it to be cute, but I wanted it to be authentic. The song was written for my daughter and she is the little blond one on guitar. Those are her little friends. What was amazing is that those girls came in that afternoon and picked up those instruments and they faked it and they did an amazing job faking it. The song seemed to resonate with them, so I think it came quite easy.
Jeb: This album is your return to rock. You have done hard rock and you’ve done other stuff. I don’t think this is a hard rock album, but it is a rock album.
Lee: I would say this is my return. I always knew I would make another rock record and this seemed like the right time. I’ve never really considered myself ‘hard rock’. I sort of got -at one point in time in the early to mid-80s- I got embraced by a real heavy metal audience. I always considered what we were doing to be almost like hard rock, melodic hard rock. It was melody-based. I think this is an extension of that in a more mature way.
Jeb: The percussion is very strong on the album as well. Listen to “Want to Be.”
Lee: A few people have told me that is their favorite track.
Jeb: It is a very good song. “Fire” may be my favorite, but “Want to Be” is a great fun song. I just want to crank it up because it is so fun.
Lee: Thank you. What’s your question?
Jeb: There really wasn’t one, Lee.
Jeb: I just wanted to mention that song. Oh, the percussion is very important on that song. It really drives it.
Lee: If I do say so myself, my husband is a pretty darn good drummer. That is how we met. We were on a tour that went across Canada. He comes from a bit of a different world, musically. He did a lot of folk and some country. We met on a jazz tour. We met and we hardly talked. By the end of the tour, he says he knew he was going to marry me. I was like, “Really?” I wasn’t so sure, but it seems to be working out. We have been together since 2001.
Jeb: I won’t keep you all night, but I have enjoyed talking to you…
Lee: You know what is so nice… it is refreshing for me to talk to a journalist where there is some back and forth. You are able to laugh with me. I am having fun.
Jeb: I like to approach things not so technically; I just like to talk to people. I am having fun, too. Part of that is that you have to be human and you have to listen to the music and look for things to ask. You do that with your music, you know what I mean? I can tell you have a passion for what you’re doing.
Lee: I agree. It is interesting. I’ve had some nice conversations with people, but some are hard.
Jeb: Let’s talk about the record and getting it out there. American tends to think this is the only place that matters, but you have had a huge metal following outside of this continent. You’re not metal though. This album reminds me more of Heart.
Lee: Are you kidding? Hellfire and brimstone is alive and well all over Europe. There is a big huge market for it over there. I’ve had some kind of mixed feedback from over there. Some love it, but some are confused because it is not a Metal album. It is not. The nicest compliment you gave me is that you see it more along the lines of Heart. They were hugely influential to me when I was young. They were not trading on their sexuality, and they could write songs and sing amazing and perform amazing live. That is who I wanted to be.
Jeb: And it is coming out in America!
Lee: I am just thrilled to have an album coming out in the USA because I have never had that yet.
Jeb: I am impressed that you are so into this as you’ve been around long enough to just go through the motions. But you are not, you are loving this.
Lee: You see a lot of people getting into this hamster wheel type of mentality where they are just trying to pay their mortgages and they are not getting a lot of joy out of it anymore. I’ve always thought when music stops bringing me joy I will stop doing it, but so far that has not happened.
Jeb: Last one: At this point in your life would you even consider a return to heavy metal?
Lee: Oh boy… you are totally putting me on the spot. No matter what I say I am going to piss somebody off. You know, I’ve been asked just recently, actually, to do an album by a label. They were asking me to do a more traditional hard rock or metal album, but I felt it would be a real conflict to do this with the one I am releasing now. They didn’t want me to write the songs. My heart is not into that. I’ve never done an album where I was just a singer and I didn’t write any of the songs. That is not what interests me when it comes to making music. If I was to do an album of covers, I would even have to pick the covers. They would have to be songs that meant something to me.
Jeb: I would like to hear you take on a Heart song. Maybe even an acoustic version. That’d be kind of neat.
Lee: I have this idea in my head that down the road I may do an album of covers. I thought I would love to pick all of the female artists that have influenced me throughout the course of my career and do an album. It would be a real eclectic mix of artist and then pull it all together on one album. That would be very cool. Linda Ronstadt to Courtney Love.
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