MANILA Everybody loves Odette Quesada — at least the multitude of “hopeless romantics” who came of age in the 1980s which marked the rise of OPM written with English lyrics, and most especially the crowd at her sold-out concert on the first night of September at the Newport Performing Arts Theater.
In an email Q&A with ABS-CBN News, Quesada — the singer-songwriter behind a long list of immortal pop hits recorded by the likes of Ric Segreto (“Don’t Know What to Do,” “Give Me a Chance”), Kuh Ledesma (“Till I Met You”), Raymond Lauchengco (“I Need You Back,” “Farewell”), Gary Valenciano (“Growing Up”), and Sharon Cuneta (“To Love Again”), among others — admits “feeling a wave of love coming from the audience.”
The “high” performance artists experience after a good show “don’t last very long” in her case, she says, since has to fly back quickly to the United States where a 9-5 day job has kept her busy for the past 11 years.
But the concert — dubbed “All Hits: 40th Anniversary Celebration — will have a repeat on November 24, this time at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit Makati.
In this interview, Quesada, who playfully calls her coming show a “REPEAT of the COMEBACK,” gamely talks about life in America raising a family with her husband and songwriting colleague Bodjie Dasig before he passed on, growing up in Manila watching her mother who played the piano and sang jazz and standards, and how she developed her songwriting style, among other interesting stuff.
Q: Congratulations on your recent sold-out concert. Have you gotten over the “high” that artists feel after a well-received performance? Can you describe the feeling?
A: Thank you. The HIGH’s don’t last very long, as I usually get back to reality within a day or two. Especially if I have to fly back to the US two days later and go straight to my 9-5 job, which is mostly administrative/office work for the past 11 years.
Q: Do you recall feeling a similar high at your past concerts before you and Bodjie Dasig moved to the US?
A: I’ve experienced something similar in the past, but definitely not as warm a reception. These days, I’m actually feeling a wave of love coming from the audience. They literally scream it out loud (smiley face here).
Q: What was life like in the States when you became a wife and mother?
A: Life was very typical of any family you can imagine. I did the house chores. I took my son to and from school. Just very average. But I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Q: How did you keep your music flowing amid domesticity?
A: Back in the day, Bodjie and I continued to write and produce local Fil-Am artists (or those who wish to be recording artists) as a means to make a living through music in the US. We even got to produce Nora Aunor in L.A. in 2009. Nowadays, however, I do concerts on weekends as much as possible, so as not to be away too long from my regular day job.
Q: Going back to your recent show, who thought of the no-frills concept and why did you think it would work?
A: Not sure it was deliberate. I myself have no frills to speak of, hahaha. I would like to think that Rowell Santiago and Noel Ferrer are fully aware of my no-frills policy.
Q: Let’s go back further. Tell us about your mother who was also a music artist, and did she influence you to play the piano and write songs?
A: My mother played and sang mostly jazz/standards. I used to tag along as a child and watch her perform. I think I may have gotten my “no-frills” attitude from her. Technically, she played better piano than me — by a mile. But she does not compose or write songs.
Q: Your songs are like casual and intimate conversations with a loved one. Is that a conscious approach or style, or did it come naturally?
A: Having been born in the mid-1960s and grown up in the ’70s listening to singer-songwriters — whose music heavily dominated radio back then — is probably the unintentional or unconscious catalyst to my songwriting style.
Singer-songwriters are unique in that way. They are experts in expressing emotions or feelings, as if they were plainly letting you in on what’s in their hearts and minds — through song.
Q: How did you write them, I mean, did you have a ritual, including the time of day, a certain setting, state of mind, etc?
A: Most of my songs are triggered by a phrase or a word or an idea. It usually does not matter what time of day it is. Then from there, both the melody and the lyrics would flow almost simultaneously.
Not even sure if I wrote the words so I could remember the melody, or vice-versa. Some of my songs came to me in a dreamstate or my “almost asleep, barely awake state.” I used to sleep with a pen and notebook nearby to scribble ideas down or, on a couple of occasions, to transcribe what I heard in a dream. Nowadays, I keep my phone nearby. Other times, it was because I was given a story idea or a synopsis for a movie. I have also done the “TRYN TO WRITE A SONG DAILY EXERCISE.”
Q: Will the repeat concert be like a literal repeat, repertoire-wise?
A: Yes and no. We might have to add a song or two and/or replace a song or two. There’s a part in the show for requests, and I would like to accommodate that for the repeat as well. Also, it depends on who my guests are. Sometimes they request the songs they want to sing.
Q: Do you feel like you’re on your second wind as a performing artist?
A: Oh, most definitely. I’m lucky to be experiencing this at my age. I’m very much aware of the uniqueness of my situation. Having been away from the scene as a live performer for almost 20 years and still able to do this, is a gift.
It took turning 50, some eight years ago, for me to get back onstage. Before my 50th birthday, my friends dared me to do something that scared me the most. I unwittingly said, “Performing, that is what scares me the most.” To which my friends replied, “Then you should do that.”
So, with help from my friends in L.A., I performed for the first time in 20 years in front of 350 people. And I have been doing that as a side gig in the US ever since.
Three years ago, I found my way back to Manila for a two- night birthday concert, and we were supposed to do a repeat of that show again in March 2020, but the pandemic hit. But here we are now, doing another repeat. We should actually call this repeat concert, REPEAT of the COMEBACK (lol)!