Kristin Chenoweth
(© Tristan Fuge)
Kristin Chenoweth
(© Tristan Fuge)
Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth has long showed audiences various sides of her artistic personality -- from classically trained soprano to pop belter, from dramatic actress to comedienne. On her new CD, Some Lessons Learned (reviewed on page 2 of this article), the Oklahoma native shows off her country roots. TheaterMania sat down with Chenoweth before her September 13 CD signing at Barnes & Noble in New York to discuss the recording, her new TV series Good Christian Belles, and her plans for returning to Broadway.

THEATERMANIA: Describe to me what this new CD means to you?
KRISTIN CHENOWETH: This is my real self, this is raw, what I grew up singing. Like it or hate it, this is it. Obviously, it's got a country feel, but I don't like to label anything anymore, because there are no rules. I did this one completely from my heart, and I know Sony Masterworks probably would have loved a classical CD from me, but thank God, they said, absolutely, you should do this. I'm thrilled with it.

TM: These songs deal with a lot of things, from relationships to religion. How did you choose them?
KC: I've been listening to music for a long time for this CD -- and every song was chosen for a specific reason, because it meant something to me. And it's amazing that songs like "God and Me" and "What More Do You Want," no one has sung those before. Or take "Fathers and Daughters," which is starting to become one of the main songs people really love. I don't know how I got so lucky. Even if the songs weren't actually written for me, each of these writers said "yes, this is your song." I got to work with some of the best songwriters in the world, and some of the best musicians too.

TM: And you even co-wrote two of the songs. Tell me about doing that?
KC. It was a little bit different, but I've been writing my whole life, although most people don't know that about me. I did sing something I wrote once at Carnegie Hall -- it was about my dad. The two songs I co-wrote are "What Would Dolly Do", because Dolly Parton is my favorite country artist and personality, and "Mine to Love," which is about a woman in love with a man she can't have or shouldn't have. I think a lot of people can relate to that. My producer Bob Ezrin, who is sort of like my dad, said I don't want you recording that because it sounds like you're in love with a married man. But it's not about that; it's about being in love with someone you truly can't have or is unavailable emotionally. That flowed really easily for me. There's also a song I didn't write called "I Was Here," which is about leaving your mark on the world, and that's really what this whole CD is about.

TM: Speaking of Dolly Parton, there has been talk for a while about you playing her in a movie. Do you think it will ever happen?
KC: I do think playing Dolly will happen. I really do. It would be the most important role of my career. I 'd want to be letter-perfect, because I want to honor her and do something that would make her happy.

Kristin Chenoweth in Good Christian Belles
(© Bill Matlock/ABC)
Kristin Chenoweth in Good Christian Belles
(© Bill Matlock/ABC)
TM: Which song on the CD do you think your Glee character April Rhodes would most want to sing?
KC: Oh, definitely "What More Do You Want"; it's the raucous out-of-control one. Or maybe "I Want Somebody (To Bitch About)."

TM: Will you be doing any singing on your new TV series, Good Christian Belles?
KC: Yes! There is a song on the CD which I am going to do on the show, but I'll let people guess, because I can't say.

TM: What can you tell us about the show?
KC: It's very very good, very funny. It's about this group of women in the Bible Belt, and how they deal with each other -- the good, bad, and the ugly. It's like a big piece of dessert.

TM: So are you still going to have time to do theater?
KC: I love being on stage, so I am going to make sure I come back. I am going to do the revival of On The Twentieth Century on Broadway. Sooner rather than later. We're working out the schedule right now. I think Lily Garland is the perfect part for me -- so we're going to make it happen.

-- Brian Scott Lipton


Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth channels her inner down-home diva on Some Lessons Learned, her terrific new CD. The recording is a contemporary, country/western delight, and the 12 tracks marvelously showcase Chenoweth's versatility as both singer -- she's part Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Reba McEntire, and even Carrie Underwood -- and actress. (After all, songs in this genre tend to tell a story.)

The disc opens with "I Was Here," one of the more country-rock songs on the disc, albeit one with an inspirational tone. Chenoweth imbues the tune with a remarkable openness and simple earnestness, and these qualities are beautifully enhanced by the track's background vocalists, a quintet that sounds like a soaring children's choir.

Chenoweth also brings a young person's innocence to two of the most affecting tracks on the disc, "Fathers and Daughters," and "Borrowed Angels" (penned by Grammy Award winner Diane Warren, who is the CD's executive producer.)

In other instances, Chenoweth gets to show her pluckier, sassier side. With one of these songs, "What Would Dolly Do?," the singer herself has served as co-writer, and it's tough not to smile during some of this tune's snarkier lyrics, such as "Say where'd you find old Bumper Lips/She sure could use some beauty tips." Equally amusing is "I Didn't" - a list song of sorts - in which a woman goes over all of the disputes that she and her ex had.

Among the other highlights on this always satisfying album are Dolly Parton's "Change," a melancholy tune about lost love that displays the depth of emotion that Chenoweth can bring to a song; "What More Do You Want," where she simply lets go with some remarkably musical wails, and the disc's title track, a cover of Underwood's hit, that Chenoweth fills with impressive twangy intensity.

-- Andy Propst