– Over the past few years your name has been associated with famous film scores such as Munich, Transformers, Shrek… How did you come to film music?
It was quite by accident actually. I grew up with a famous ballerina for a sister and spent many hours watching her rehearse and perform in the back of darkened theaters. I also studied classical piano my whole life (since I was 6). My sister suggested I might like playing music for dance classes when I was about 18 so I tried it and loved the combination of visuals and music. I started experimenting with my voice while accompanying classes and people loved it! I had no idea I could sing. A job working for a modern company in Los Angeles brought me out West and it was there that composer Jeff Rona heard me singing and playing piano for a dance class next door to one he was accompanying himself. He had just started working for Hans Zimmer at that time as an assistant and approached me after the class was over. He told me Hans was searching for a voice just like mine for the film Toys and would I be interested in working for him. I asked him who Hans Zimmer was!
That was the beginning. After that I began getting one job after another and soon released my first album, then began writing songs for film as well as singing for many of the top composers in town.
– When did the artistic encounter with James Horner occur?
During the final month of scoring Avatar, my friend the lovely Simon Rhodes from Abbey Road was engineering for James. James was searching for a very specific emotive and plaintive voice for part of his score and Simon suggested me to contractor Jasper Randall. Jasper brought us together and it was a match made in heaven for me! and I hope James feels the same!
– Several vocalists performed in Avatar. What was the range of your performance?
James had a wonderful vision for the sound of the score, which involved many vocal styles from around the world. He used my voice in several ways, high and angelic and thick, low and strong. He also brought my bigger voice, the more Arabic sounding me, up into a range I didn't know it could reach.
– As far as you are concerned, how did the recording sessions go? How much time did that take?
The recording sessions were wonderful and took about two to three hours each time. James has a wonderful way of working that allows for a free flow of creativity. He sat next to me at the piano. The microphone was set up a few feet away and Simon pressed record. We talk between takes about what worked and what didn't and what direction we could go.
– In the liner note of the CD, James Horner said that he had never worked so closely with a group of musicians before. Was that the same with your collaboration?
Yes very much so. It was very intimate. James was considerate and respectful or the process. He is truly an artist.
– Do you have any anecdotes regarding the sessions of Avatar?
At the Avatar session, I started out very quiet and careful, wanting to pay close attention to what James was trying to accomplish by using my voice. It ended up being as fun as a roller coaster ride. James kept asking me very calmly could I do more, could I go higher in that big voice of mine, could I let it go a bit more? Etc.
By the end I was laughing hysterically because I barely recognized the sounds that were coming out of my mouth. It is always so fun to have someone carefully push you beyond your own self-imposed limitations.
At the last minute, the director felt unsure about a choice he had made for a song in one section of the film and asked James to try something. Simon and James called me in and asked if I might be available to try some things later that day! It all worked well as I had just returned from New York and was in town for the week. So I drove up to the studio and away we went!
– What were James Horner's wishes and approaches on that score?
I only know what we talked about that day but he told me he was looking for something pure and almost classical in feel but that could capture and invoke deep emotion.
Epic, modern, with Strauss like modulations and progressions that incorporate a contemporary orchestration. Really brilliant in other words!
– Among all the composers you have worked with, who is the most demanding one?
I would have to say John Williams. He casually told me that he would like to record the Munich solo live with orchestra and I almost had a heart attack. But then I realized how brilliant that was… the result was incredible. I was literally shaking during the recording from the intense energy of the musicians around me and it was that very energy that inspired one of my best performances.
– Are you a soundtrack listener?
Yes yes and yes! In many ways film scores are the classical music of today for me… and I absolutely love listening to them.
– Do you listen to the CDs of the scores in which you perform?
Yes I sometimes listen to scores I have performed on… sometimes it's difficult because I start criticizing my performance…and that's so silly but many artists I know are like that! I’m no exception.
– What are your all-time favorite film scores?
Oh so many… I love Dario Marianelli's Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, (his writing for piano is divine!) and John Williams Memoirs of a Geisha, John Debney's Passion score and Harry Gregson Williams Kingdom of Heaven, I love the Patrick Doyle score to Great Expectations and Thomas Newman's score to American Beauty and of course Nathan Barr's scores to Trueblood which are just brilliant!
Many thanks to Lisbeth Scott for her availability and for the time she nicely took to answer our questions. We invite you to visit her official website www.lisbethscott.com and her “Forgotten Dream Project”, which helps needy women in LA (www.hopeisathing.com)