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Olivia Newton-John talks music, social media and 'Grease' reunion


From country balladeer to virginal-turned-sexpot Sandy in “Grease” to the headband-sporting Jazzercise fan in the “Physical” video to graceful crooner, Olivia Newton-John has sprinted around many musical bases in her 40-plus-year career.

She’s amassed a staggering resume: 73 singles, more than 100 million albums sold, 15 Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles, four Grammy Awards.

And she still looks fabulous.

On Sunday, Newton-John, 68, will visit Atlanta for the first time since 2009 with a show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

She recently released “Liv On,” with friends Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky, a record directed at people dealing with grief.

But her live show — similar to the three-year residency she just completed in Las Vegas — will focus on beloved singalongs including “Magic,” “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

Last week, Newton-John called from her California home and chatted about her music, social media and the possibility of a “Grease” reunion.

Q: Would you say your Vegas residency was a fulfilling experience?

A: I loved it. It was really wonderful to be in one place and have a home and my husband and my animals with me.

Q: I know that scheduling didn’t work out this year (Newton-John shared the Donny and Marie Showroom at the Flamingo), but are you looking to return next year, even at a different venue?

A: I don’t know. Life evolves and I try to never say never. But I don’t have plans for it.

Q: I saw that Vegas show and you look fabulous. How do you keep not only your body in shape but your voice as well?

A: I do try to get enough rest and I’m married to “Amazon” John (Easterling, founder of Amazon Herb Co.), so he brings me stuff, lectures me on nutrition and health (laughs). I don’t drink or smoke. You do have to really take care of yourself, but that’s a bonus in life. I do have to be careful (Newton-John survived breast cancer in the early ‘90s) and that’s a reminder. I love to walk and hike around the property. I don’t live show business. I have a family life with chickens and dogs and horses.

Q: I’ve always loved “Xanadu” and “Twist of Fate,” but the poppier/disco-y songs always seemed to be maligned when people talk about your incredible catalog. How do YOU feel about those songs?

A: I think all of my songs are very good songs. I have pop songs and ballads, and I try to get them all in the show. It’s a journey through my life. If I didn’t like them, I’d stop singing them. There’s only a couple that I don’t sing — one is the Eurovision song (“Long Live Love” from 1974) because people didn’t know it.

Q: Tell me about your “Liv On” collaboration with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky. How did you first meet?

A: I’ve known them both for a long time. Amy was introduced to me 30 years ago when she was a young songwriter living in L.A. She moved and got married and we didn’t see each for a long time, and 12 years ago, we reunited for (the) “Grace and Gratitude” (album). When my sister passed (in 2013), I wanted to write a song and had (Amy) finish it with me. Beth I have known for a long time. She’s an incredible singer-songwriter and I talked her through breast cancer (in 2000). We asked her to join us as a trio.

Q: You’ve endured your share of difficulties in your life, so was empathy a driving factor in this project?

A: Definitely. I realized that when I was talking to Amy that there really isn’t music like this. There really isn’t an album for people going through grief. That’s how it was born, out of a desire to help.

Q: Will you perform any of these new songs live?

A: I’ll do the song “Live On.” We’re doing a tour in October of the “Liv On” album.

Q: How do you feel about social media? I know that you use it to promote animal causes, but what about the invasive side of it?

A: I don’t really do it. I don’t post a lot of things about myself. If there are causes, I will promote them, but people have too many negative things to say and I don’t need to hear them. (Social media) can be wonderful and spread the word and can also be destructive when people use their negative voices. I feel sorry for younger people.

Q: You and your daughter Chloe (Lattanzi, 31) had a big dance hit a couple of years ago (“You Have to Believe”). Will there be other collaborations in the future?

A: We are going to do something together soon, a little joint venture at the moment. That was a lovely surprise, having that dance hit.

Q: I recently read that there are rumblings of a “Grease” reunion …

A: (Laughs.) The rumblings were that I don’t know anything yet. We’ll do something, but there’s nothing planned yet. We’ll see what evolves.

CONCERT PREVIEW

Olivia Newton-John

7 p.m. April 9. $56-$86. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.

For a review of Sunday’s Olivia Newton-John concert, visit The Music Scene blog on AJC.com.

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About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on ajc.com.