Linda Eder has had a fine singing career of her own, but for her eighth album, she is paying tribute to a great singer of years past. For a lot of the tracks on "By Myself: The Songs of Judy Garland," the 1979 Brainerd High School graduate stuck to the original arrangement.
"I like those arrangements as well as anyone else," Eder said Tuesday in an interview from her White Plain, N.Y., home, where she lives with her 6-year-old son, Jake. "On others, I wanted to go in a different direction but still be true to the music. I didn't want to go too far into left field."
But for "Over the Rainbow," the 44-year-old recent divorcee put the track through a complete 180. The seemingly happy tune became the saddest on the record. It figures to be one of the standout songs at her 7:30 p.m. Saturday concert at Tornstrom Auditorium, Washington Educational Services Building, her first Brainerd concert in nine years.
"From the first time I sang it, it always came out sad," said Eder, who has been performing "Over the Rainbow" for a decade and singing it for her own enjoyment most of her life. "My version is influenced by what happened to (Garland) in her life."
There are notable similarities between Eder and her idol. Both grew up in central Minnesota: Garland in Grand Rapids and Eder in Garrison and later Brainerd, where she briefly attended Central Lakes College. Both are actresses: Garland in Hollywood and Eder on Broadway, in 1997's "Jekyll and Hyde." And, of course, both have voices that can't be ignored.
But while Garland's legacy was tainted by drugs and alcohol, Eder has avoided the perils of stardom almost entirely. That's not to say she isn't a star; the posting boards on her Web site, www.lindaeder.com, make that clear. It's just not a music TV or radio type of popularity.
If you go
Who: Linda Eder and band
What: Central Lakes College scholarship benefit concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tornstrom Auditorium, Washington Educational Services Building, Brainerd
Tickets: $55 (reserved), $145 (VIP, includes reception with Eder after concert), available at www.ticketworks.com through Thursday and at the door.
Web site: www.lindaeder.com
"I've been very lucky. I've carved a niche for myself," Eder said. "It's a type of music not a lot of people can do. And I've been lucky just being allowed to make records, really. Having a loyal, steady fanbase that continues to expand, that's really priceless because so often (the music business) is about the flavor of the month, and (those singers) have nothing to fall back on. My career was never based on radio airplay or a hit song."
And, unless you count her crowning as Miss Brainerd, Eder also avoided the childhood and teen stardom that some say warped Garland. Eder quickly made up for that in her mid-20s when she went undefeated through 13 episodes of "Star Search" in 1988.
Eder said the show "absolutely" launched her career.
"It was a national audience," she said. "I had been singing in Minneapolis and Atlantic City, but all those weeks of national exposure, there's nothing like that."
Eder remembers her competitors, after smiling for the cameras, often would burst into tears offstage. But on "Star Search," the judges never critiqued the singers, they simply graded them. By contrast, Eder finds "American Idol" to be degrading.
"As a vehicle for showcasing new artists, I think it's great, because there are not a lot of those out there," Eder said. "But it's horrible that it exploits people for entertainment value. Simon Cowell is there to be vicious to people. We forget that these are kids. As tough as they may look, it's devastating to be told things they are told."
Eder recently taped her own decidedly less intense music show: The two-hour special "Trail MIX" will air at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 on Animal Planet. It features horse-lover Eder chatting with other artists about music and horses, with each segment capped by a music video. Among Eder's guests are matchbox twenty frontman Rob Thomas, country singer LeAnn Rimes and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.
"I really enjoyed it," Eder said. With most of the guests, "it was my first time meeting them, but because we had horses and music in common, it was easy to strike up a conversation."
Eder got her first pony as a youngster in Ham Lake, then had to give it up when she moved in seventh grade to Garrison, where her parents still live. Today, she owns three horses.
"(Horses are) such great stress relievers," she said. "I always feel happy after riding."
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.