I never thought I’d say this but David Foster is actually very … nice.
The 16-time Grammy winner was in town recently to announce the Hitman David Foster & Friends Asia Tour 2015, to be held on August 14 at Arena Of Stars, Resorts World Genting.
In conjunction with Genting’s 50th anniversary, Foster will be performing along with his musical friends Peter Cetera, Natalie Cole, Boyz II Men, Ruben Studdard and Jackie Evancho.
Resorts World Genting Deputy Chief Operating Officer Paul Baker was introducing Foster during a press conference to the members of the media, calling him a “musician, songwriter, composer, music arranger, producer, recording artiste and most recently a TV star.”
“Husband – four times,” he adds with a smile, loosening the formality of the occasion and putting the audience at ease.
The 65-year-old music expert may have built a reputation as the resident “mean judge” on Asia’s Got Talent but in person, Foster had no air about him. He took a genuine interest on those around him, he was fun, playful and actively interacted with the crowd (he invited a few fans to sit beside him as he played St. Elmo’s Fire on the piano, and even motioned one of them for a kiss on his cheek!) throughout the press conference.
Foster even called for a spontaneous “auditon” by the end, asking if anyone wanted to sing for him!
“Remember, I am the chairman of Verve Records, I have the authority to give you a record contract on the spot,” he says before adding, “which is not going to happen.”
But fun and games aside, Foster, whose works include producing Cole and her father Nat King Cole’s duet in Unforgettable and co-penning Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing, did not shy away from answering the tough questions and gave his most honest responses.
Today’s music is more electronic-driven, moving away from live sounds, do you think this has affected the way you make music?
Back in the 1970s it was all electronic music, too, and live musicians were having a difficult time. We’re in an era of electronic music and it seems like people can make music out of their bedrooms now.
But two positive things have come out of this: One, when you hear Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars, that’s straight out of the 1970s. It’s so refreshing to hear that and I think that will become a trend.
Secondly, I’ve been working with young artistes like Ariana Grande and Jessie J and these singers are amazing, they sing so in tune because they listen to auto tune. They’ve grown up to singers singing perfectly because of auto tune. So even without auto tune, they can sing perfectly with no electronic help.
You’ve been in the industry for 40 years, what’s the secret of your success?
I got some great advice from a friend back in the late 1960s. He said to me: “When things get tough, don’t keep hammering against the brick wall, retreat and attack at another direction.”
For instance, going into the 2000s, all of a sudden, I was not able to write Top 40 hits. It just wasn’t working for me. That’s why I went on the Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and Michael Buble train. That’s carried me for the last 15 years, without having top 40 hits per se.
Now I’m back in the saddle with Ariana and Jessie J and I might yet have another run at Top 40, but I’ll have a lot of help from the young generation. I’m not afraid of the young generation.
I’m not that guy who keeps complaining about the music business because I’m not in the centre of it, in the Top 40. You certainly have to retreat and attack in a different direction if you’re going to last 40 years in anything.
Who is your musical inspiration?
If I had to just pick one, I would say The Beatles. If you look at the arc of their career, which was only eight years that they made music as a group, and the amount of music and progress they made and how far they reached and how deep they dug musically, from one album to the next, it’s almost like it was a different group.
If you put the records on today, they sound just as good as they did when I was a child.
You’ve been to Kuala Lumpur a few times now, what do you like about being here?
I love the fact that you could go 30 minutes from here and walk on the ground of people who walked here a thousand or two thousand years ago. We don’t have that culture in America.
It’s breathtaking for me to go visit a temple and see where we all came from. There’s such culture here that’s lacking in America only because we’re a new country.
Your daughters Erin and Sara are on Barely Famous, a scripted parody of reality shows – will you be making an appearance soon?
No, they have not asked me to be on it. I called Erin who is the writer and I told her I got this great idea. We’re all friends with Gwen Stefani so, “how about I’m in the studio producing Gwen Stefani and Sara comes in and takes over and tries to produce … ”
She says, “Dad just leave it alone, I got this covered.” So, I don’t think I’m going to be on the show anytime soon.
Tickets for the Hitman David Foster & Friends Asia Tour 2015, which starts at 9pm, are priced from RM298 to RM2,108 (inclusive of GST). For more information, call 03-2718 1118.