Olivia Newton-John had no plans to sing again until she heard from a woman she met at a health clinic years ago. “I didn’t know her very well, and out of the blue she sends me an email saying, ‘I just know that you need to record this song. My cousin wrote it.’ I immediately panicked,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Then my husband [John Easterling] and I listened to it and I felt very emotional. It was a beautiful message.”
Instead of recording it solo, Newton-John drafted daughter Chloe Lattanzi to duet on “Window in the Wall,” a song about unity, compassion and love. Shortly after its debut, the two, who had previously collaborated on “You Have to Believe,” a remake of “Magic” from Xanadu, jumped on a joint phone call to talk about why this song, why now and what’s next.
First of all, how are you and where are you?
Newton-John: We’re in California, at my house. Chloe is visiting, which is wonderful, and it’s a glorious day, happy to be alive.
That’s the best answer for the day. Congratulations on the single. Can we start at the beginning and tell me how you first got the song?
Newton-John: It was sent to me by a woman I had met at a health clinic a couple of years ago. I didn’t know her very well, and out of the blue, she sends me an email saying, “I just know that you need to record this song. My cousin wrote it.” I immediately panicked thinking, “Oh no, how am I going to explain?” Then my husband and I listened to it and I felt very emotional. I thought it was a beautiful message and thought of Chloe to record it with. It just came into my mind. I had no plans of singing again. I had no plans of recording, but this song just made me do it.
Wow. Why did you not want to sing anymore?
Newton-John: Barry [Gibb] had asked me to record a song with him that’s on Greenfields, but that was a year before. I love doing duets and people ask me, but I had no plans of doing anything of my own. This song just called out to me.
Chloe, I know you have made music together before, but how does it feel to hear your mom say that you were her first thought for this?
Lattanzi: That was the most moving thing about it. Out of all the people she could have asked, she thought of me. I was so excited and I love working with her.
What is your process like? Do you go in the studio together or do you record separately?
Lattanzi: We do it separately. I get a little bit nervous at first singing in front of her. After it gets going and we record for a while, then we get more comfortable.
That’s so cute to be nervous in front of your mom but I can understand because she’s a world-famous singer. How do you get over that?
Lattanzi: That’s why I just release singles and music videos because I get very nervous performing in front of anyone, even though I’ve done it a lot in the past. It was an absolute panic attack nightmare every time. But as soon as I got in the studio and did the first verse and got comfortable, got the vibe and some vocals down and I can hear that it sounds strong and great, then I can be more comfortable. Like, “OK, I’m ready to show you and you can be excited.” I thought she would be very happy with the way it went.
Newton-John: I understand this wasn’t really Chloe’s genre of music. It was new for her. So, I went to get dinner as she did her first couple of run-throughs. I came back and heard it and it sounded great. Then we did choruses together — or, at least, we practiced together. Often, you record individually because if one person makes a mistake, it’s easy to do it on your own so that you have those separate tracks. But we sang it through together — Chloe has her style and I have mine — and we blended them together.
That’s beautiful. What have you learned from each other, either about singing or process?
Newton-John: It’s actually like the song. You learn to respect the other person’s style, their way of doing things, and honor that. We came to compromises on phrasing, but it really complements each other and our different styles work. I learn new stuff from Chloe and she learns about the old stuff from me.
Chloe, what have you learned from your mother?
Lattanzi: I think that’s exactly what I would say too. She put it perfectly.
I love that. This may be a dumb question but right now, there’s such a focus on unity, love and coming together. Did you time the release to coincide with this particular moment?
Newton-John: It actually worked out to be just is what it is because we recorded this a few months ago. I wanted to put it out then but because of the time it takes to get it and all the different radio stations and everything, this turned out to be the time that it was ready to be released. It just seems to be perfect synchronicity. Because the world is suffering and people are going through a lot of pain and division and now is a perfect time to come back with unity.
Unity was a message that came out of Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration. What did you make of the ceremony?
Newton-John: I thought it was a beautiful ceremony. I particularly loved the inaugural poet. Wasn’t she spectacular?
She was amazing.
Newton-John: Her beautiful poem, which ended with us being the light. She was the light. She was just wonderful. I thought it was lovely. But this song isn’t political, it’s about unity in every aspect of life — relationships, everything.
A nonpartisan single.
Newton-John: Yeah, exactly.
How was it to shoot the music video? Where did you shoot?
Lattanzi: We actually shot the music video here at my mom’s house on her property.
Newton-John: The lady next door was kind enough to allow us to use her place, too. It was shot by my niece and nephew [Mikey and Jaala Easterling of TalkBoyTV]. My niece is Chloe’s best friend who happens to be having a baby. It was a real family production.
Olivia, I’m told that this duet will be featured on your upcoming duets album. Who else will be featured on the album?
Newton-John: They’re still putting that together so I’ll wait for another time to tell you about that because it’s not really completed yet. But some old stuff — a lot of old stuff — and a few new ones.
When you’re ready, we can talk about that again. Chloe, what’s next musically for you?
Lattanzi: I’m going to be recording a couple of tracks with Dave Aude while I’m down here. I’m working on a show right now in development. The working title is The Hardest Things and I’m writing it as a platform to talk about a variety of issues. Just to have people from all walks of life with different perspectives, being able to speak to each other without yelling or being disrespectful. A forum to have questions answered and an opportunity to learn from another person’s point of view, even if you don’t agree. I see a lot of people talking about love but when it comes to actually showing it to people, they don’t agree with, they don’t. Love, to me, is being kind to people even when you don’t agree or understand. The most important thing for me in life is to be someone who facilitates healing and talks about plant medicine. I want to show a wide array of perspectives.
Speaking of plant medicine, Olivia, I know you’ve been a proponent of it and have shared about the benefits of holistic healing and cannabis. How are you feeling now? Any updates with your cancer?
Newton-John: Well, thank you so much. I feel wonderful and I feel very well. I’m very grateful for my husband who’s a plant medicine man and has taught me a lot about herbs, Amazon herbs — he’s an expert — and cannabis. He has been growing it for me for a number of years and I’ve benefited so much. I was able to wean myself off morphine a couple of years ago when I broke my sacrum using cannabis and I want to let people know the healing values of plant medicine. I formed a foundation called the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund where we are raising money to do scientific research into plant medicine so we can show people the scientific evidence. There’s a lot of it out there, but I want to be able to bring it to people and show, look, this really benefits, particularly for cancer. That’s the focus for my husband and myself right now. Also, with the farm that we have …
Lattanzi: We have a family cannabis business together. Again, all in the family…
What’s the name of the company?
Lattazni: There are two. It’s Bio Harmonic Tonic, which is a microbial product to help your garden and your plants flourish. And we have our farm, Laughing Dog Farms. We do everything organically. Absolutely everything. We even sing to our plants.
Wow, you do?
Lattanzi: We do. We play them music. They experience the world differently than we do, but just as intensely.
Maybe this is another stupid question, but what is your preferred method for using cannabis?
Lattanzi: I like edibles. I find that it’s more body-based, rather than a mind-based high. Does that make sense? It helps with pain. I have anxiety, so I find that it helps people with anxiety disorders a lot. I’m going to go with gummies, the edible.
Newton-John: For me, it’s tincture. John makes tincture and it’s kept my pain at bay and helps with mood, with sleep, with inflammation. It’s been amazing for me. Part of the foundation is studying cannabis and medicinal cannabis for cancer using Amazonian plants as well as other plants. The Amazonian plants are our focus right now.
I wanted to go back to the music because anthems like yours can be a healing tool during divisive times. When you need that pick-me-up, what music do you turn to?
Newton-John: I heard the Lauren Daigle song, [“You Say”], when I was not very well. I found it very uplifting because “believe” is a big word in my life. I play that song. That makes me feel good.
Lattanzi: I actually, I really love the song, “Do You Feel It?” by Chaos Chaos. It was featured on the Rick and Morty soundtrack. It’s absolutely beautiful. Also, this is not music, but I love listening to Alan Watts’ lectures. There’s so much wisdom that it feels like music.
I love a Rick and Morty reference. I’ll end with this final question: As artists, what have you learned about yourself during the pandemic, a time when so many people have looked inward as they’ve taken a step back from normal life.
Newton-John: Gosh, that’s a big question. I’ve learned that I love being at home. I’ve traveled and been on the move my whole life. I’ve always wanted this opportunity but could never find a way to really make it happen. So, I didn’t have to make it happen, it happened. I’m loving having peace, being in one place, planting something and being able to eat it. And being able to watch seasons change and have quiet time. Also, having time to be with Chloe for long periods of time, too, which we haven’t had almost since she was one.
Lattanzi: For me, it’s been overwhelming being at home and turning on the TV and seeing so much pain in the world…and fear. What this time has reinforced is to not get overwhelmed because you can’t change the world. You can change a person’s life who is standing right next to you. I got reminded of that. Start small. Even in the smallest space, be as kind, thoughtful and mindful as you can and the world won’t seem so big. It all begins with you. I know that may sound silly, but I was overwhelmed for so long and I felt helpless. It changed when I was reminded how much love I can pull out of myself and use for every single being I interacted with every day. That’s the difference I can make.