Q

Barbra Streisand revisits her past on new album Release Me 2

After nearly 60 years in music, Barbra Streisand has opened her personal archives and shared unreleased songs that many didn’t know existed. The show business legend joined Q’s Tom Power to talk about revisiting her rough drafts.

The show business legend joined Q’s Tom Power to reflect on her nearly 60 years in music

After nearly 60 years in music, Barbra Streisand has opened her personal archives and shared unreleased songs that many didn’t know existed. The show business legend joined Q’s Tom Power to talk about revisiting her rough drafts. (Russell James)

In 1962, Barbra Streisand was a self-described "wannabe actress" living in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Unable to land an acting job, she entered a talent contest to showcase her impressive voice, selecting songs that would allow her to adopt a character.

"I was drawn to obscure songs that I could act," she recalled in an interview with Q host Tom Power. "[I could] become the characters in the plays they were from and then relate it to my own life."

Today, Streisand, 79, is considered one of the world's greatest stars, with two Oscars, 10 Grammys, 11 Golden Globes, five Emmys and a Tony under her belt. She credits her start as an actor for positioning her as the singer she is today — one who never compromised on her artistic vision.

"I only cared about creative control," she said. "That nobody could tell me what to sing or what I can't sing."

On her latest record, Release Me 2, Streisand shares a hand-picked collection of 10 previously unreleased studio performances recorded between 1962 and 2020. In her conversation with Power, she reflected on the various chapters of her musical life as well as some of the songs on her new album. Here's what she had to say.

She knew she had talent at five years old

Streisand estimates she was only about five years old when she realized she had a special gift for singing. She'd often sit on the stoop of her Brooklyn apartment and harmonize with the girls from her neighbourhood. "I was known as the girl with no father but a good voice," she said. "That was my ID."

The acoustics of her childhood home are still vivid in her mind. "The halls of my apartment building had a beautiful sound [with] the tall ceiling," she recalled. "And the feel of the brass banister, walking down the stairs and singing — it had an echo."

Her new album features two unexpected duets

On Release Me 2, Streisand unearths two surprising duets: one with country music legend Willie Nelson and another with Muppet star Kermit the Frog.

While many Streisand fans didn't know a collaboration with Nelson existed, she said they go way back, having been introduced to each other by her A Star Is Born co-star, Kris Kristofferson.

Streisand and Nelson's newly released duet, I'd Want It to Be You, was originally intended for her 2014 album Partners, but the track wasn't completed in time to make the final cut.

WATCH | Official lyric video for I'd Want It to Be You:

Similarly, her duet with Kermit the Frog was meant to appear on her 1979 album Wet (featuring songs about or relating to water) due to its title, Rainbow Connection. She had originally recorded the song for her son, who was 12 at the time.

"He loved that song and he loved the Muppet movie," said Streisand. "So I did it, in a sense, for him…. And I thought it was really fun to put on this album."

She reunites with Barry Gibb for a version of If Only You Were Mine

Another highlight from Release Me 2 is a version of If Only You Were Mine, featuring Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. The previously unreleased track was recorded as a possible bonus cut for Streisand's 2005 album Guilty Pleasures, which she recorded with Gibb as a followup to her 1980 album Guilty.

"He was delightful, he was charming, he was handsome," Streisand said of Gibb. "I had such a good time with him producing Guilty…. One good thing I remember near the end, I said, 'Barry, I think we're missing an up-tempo song. Could you write one?' And I swear to God, a couple of days later, it became the song Guilty."

She prefers the studio over the stage

The closing song on Streisand's latest record is called Once You've Been in Love. It was recorded in 1973 in a single take and live in the studio in front of an orchestra, without the benefit of an isolated vocal booth. She said she feels more at home singing in a studio than she does performing live in front of an audience.

"I love being in the studio," she told Power. "I don't have to wonder, you know, what dress to wear. I don't have to think about, do I look good for the cameras? Or a big audience? No, no, no, it's just — you get out of bed, you brush your teeth, put on a little lipstick, maybe. And you go into the studio, and you are alone with the musicians and the music. And that's what I love best."

She still gets nervous performing for an audience

To this day, Streisand said she worries about disappointing her audience when she's performing onstage.

"I was fine when I was 18 years old, 19, 20," she explained. "And then, you know, getting accolades and people talking nicely about you. It's like, 'Oh, my God, am I really that good?' Always doubt. Always doubting."

On the flip side, the singer said her self-doubt has pushed her to strive for excellence, even if there's a limit to perfectionism.

"You learn to accept what the universe is presenting and not feel bad about it," she said. "It is something else. It's not exactly what you would have liked, but in and of itself, it is good."

Streisand's new album, Release Me 2, is out everywhere on Friday, Aug. 6.


Listen to the full conversation with Barbra Streisand near the top of this page.

Written by Vivian Rashotte. Produced by Vanessa Greco.

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