The Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde helped launch the career of Linda Eder—a career that has taken her to venues such as Carnegie Hall and includes 15 solo albums.
Eder will be appearing at the McCallum Theatre on Wednesday, March 25.
Born in Tucson, Ariz., Eder was raised in Central Minnesota. As a child, she discovered Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Eileen Farrell as inspirations. She began singing in clubs in the late ‘80s and found herself competing on Star Search in 1988—where she won 12 weeks in a row.
“I started singing professionally right out of high school, so I had been singing for about six years when I did Star Search,” she said during a recent phone interview. For me, it was excellent, because I never lost, and I went undefeated. I was very lucky, and it felt as if it was meant to be. It’s hard to explain, but my goal originally was just to win one show, and it just kept rolling along and rolling along. It just felt like that was the course I was meant to be on.”
Eder said the pressure on Star Search was at times overwhelming.
“There’s a lot of pressure, and what’s really unnatural about it is it’s hard enough to perform in front of an audience, and when you know you have four judges out there … with the idea of putting you through or eliminating you, it just magnifies that so many times over. It’s quite a horrible experience, in many ways. … I watched so many people lose.”
Eder said she would not want to be a performer on American Idol or The Voice.
“That would be really hard. When I was on Star Search, they could only judge you with one through four stars, and they wouldn’t talk to you or criticize you, or anything like that. Nowadays, with having to draw a fan base and deal with judges like Simon Cowell, that has to be horrible.”
Thanks in part to Star Search, Eder caught the attention of Frank Wildhorn, the playwright of Svengali and later Jekyll and Hyde. Eder appeared in both, and she signed her first record deal with BMG Records.
“Frank … was starting work on Jekyll and Hyde. He asked me if I was interested in doing theater, and that’s how that whole thing got going,” she said. “Again, it felt like a natural progression. I loved theater, and that was like stepping into it without going through the ranks, going to auditions—fighting to get your chance and your Equity card. That was all handed to me on a platter and was written for me. That was a fairy-tale way of being introduced to Broadway.”
Eder shined in the role of Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde.
“How could I not enjoy being in the role? They created it for me when I came on board; the songs were written for me, and the role was very much tailored around me,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience. … I started singing right out of high school. We did this year long pre-Broadway tour, and I believe those are my college years, because I was part of a group of people my age, and we were traveling around the country, playing a week in each city. It was a wonderful and fun time in my life.”
Eder released her first album in 1991.
“It’s very ’70s pop,” Eder said with a laugh. “This whole career for me was just a pipe dream for me. I never thought I’d be singing professionally in a million years and that I would get the nerve to do it. For me to even have a career is pretty amazing to me. I didn’t think in those terms, and I always thought, ‘What’s the next big mountain to climb?’ or, ‘What’s the next small mountain to climb?’ … I guess I wasn’t really looking at it in that bigger sense.”
Eder said there’s one song in life that she’s very passionate about, which she always includes in her concerts: Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“I do that song at the end of every show, and that’s my encore,” she said. “I do sort of a sad version of it, but that’s just a classic song. That one gets me every time.”
Outside of music, Eder hosted a special on Animal Planet called Trail Mix that featured her talking to various musicians who were horse-lovers, including Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sheryl Crow, LeAnn Rimes and others.
“I’ve always been a horse-lover, and I’ve had horses all of my life. Years back, I met a woman who was running Animal Planet, and she wanted more horse programming on there, and she was a fan of mine,” Eder said. “We became friends she said, ‘… Why don’t you come up with an idea?’ I thought about it more and more, and I came up with the idea of interviewing people who are singers who are horse-lovers. … You get their story, and they’re talking about the horse, and it gives them a sense of freedom, and you see them differently.”
Today, Eder is releasing all of her albums independently.
“I’ve been part of labels for so long, and the last few records that I did, I almost wish I wasn’t with a label, because it’s just not lucrative any more, and they’re really not putting a lot of money behind promoting it. I really wasn’t that happy,” she said.
Eder said the freedom of being an independent artist has been liberating.
“I finally did it. It’s been very successful, and it’s so much fun,” she said. “I just put out one last summer that’s my first live CD, and I never did a live CD before. It’s sort of like a version of (the 1987 film) Baby Boom with Diane Keaton, where we’re doing it ourselves. I have some help from friends who work for me on my website and help me get the records out there. But I would say that three quarters of these CDs, I’m taking to the post office myself. It’s really fun, and I charge good money for them. It’s been very successful, and I’m planning to do several more.
Linda Eder will perform at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $35 to $85. For tickets or more information, call (760) 340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.