Back to Labelle
By Barry Walters
On 'Rollout,' your voice is fed through an Auto-Tune program, not to put you on pitch, but to give you a contemporary sound. How do you feel about the use of Auto-Tune to help singers who just don't sing very well?
I think it's fine. If it gets you through the record, get on it. I had it on the record because Wyclef was playing around with it. I said, 'Leave that in.' I always wanted to sing through a vocoder and hear what my voice sounded like. I like some of the stuff that young people are doing with the vocoder. So keep on doing it, kids, and the ol' girl will do it every now and then.
I'd heard that you were one of the original choices to be a judge on American Idol. Is that true?
Yes, when they started, before, I guess, they chose Paula. But I wouldn't want to do that. It's hard for me to say no to people.
But you have the chops to give people some actual singing help. Do you have any regrets about not having done that?
No. No regrets. No regrets in life. Whenever it's something that somebody else did and it becomes to be a big thing or whatever, I never say, 'I wish I would've.' Because evidently it wasn't for me.
Labelle achieved its greatest success when the group picked up on two stylistic threads connected to gay culture: You had the glam-rock look influenced by people like David Bowie and Elton John, and you had the early disco sound of the gay clubs before people were calling it disco. Was there a conscious decision to pursue a gay audience?
No, there was never a conscious effort to pursue anyone. Our conscious effort was to pursue a great sound and a great look. And it just so happened that gay people followed, and thank God they did. They've been in our lives, in my life, forever. Since I've been singing. It was something that caught on. The only plan we did consciously make was to look outrageous so that people would come to our shows [and say,] 'Oh, look at those crazy ladies.' But once they're there, they'll see we have something to say.
Was it a surprise when you first started attracting a gay audience?
No, it was a relief. It was a wonderful thing. I just wonder why they're still there. That's the only thing. Why? But they've been there forever. Thank God.