For Basia, honest lyrics transcend language barrier

August 19, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

As far as Basia is concerned, honesty is definitely the best policy when making music.

"My theory is, if I write things that really happened and I'm not faking when singing, then there is always somebody who will relate to it and feel very similarly," she says. Speaking over the phone from a tour stop in New Orleans, the Polish-born singer (full name: Basia Trzetrzelewska) argues that listeners can always hear the difference between emotional honesty and empty flash.

"I always think that it's very obvious if somebody is faking emotions," she says. "Because I listen to lots of music, and I know which one is done to impress and which one is trying to be himself or herself. It's so obvious. And, of course, the things that are perfectly natural to the performer I love straight away, I get very close to and I keep listening to over and over again.

"Whereas something which is just 'Please listen to me, I'm so impressive,' I just can't stand it. I will just discard it straight away."

Maintaining that degree of sincerity in her own work hasn't been bTC easy for Basia, however. It's not that she has a hard time expressing her feelings -- rather, it's that she isn't always able to find the right words in English."

"My English is getting a little more confident," she says. "You know, I haven't spoken it for a long time; I only decided to learn it in '81." When she first moved to Britain and began singing with the jazz group Matt Bianco, her lack of English was no problem. But when she began work on her first solo album, "Time and Tide," her limited grasp of the language became more of a problem.

"It was like, 'Oh my God, I have to write words,' " she says, laughing. "I was in this total panic. I had to write very simple and very obvious things. Lots of cliches, unfortunately."

Fortunately, that was less of a problem with her third and latest album, "The Sweetest Illusion."

"I kept working on my English all this time," says Basia. "Sometimes I'm so uncomfortable with saying things, just because my command of English isn't very good, but it's improving, and as a result, I can venture into it a little bit different subjects."

Words, though, are the last piece of the puzzle for Basia and her songwriting partner, Danny White. "You see, Danny and I work on music for quite a while, swapping tapes and writing different parts," she explains. "When we fix the structure of the song on tape, I'll come up with a melody, something that would suit my voice. Then I live with it for a while, and the mood that we created on this tape -- just the musical mood -- will inspire the [lyrics].

"For example, I always wanted to write a song about how much I miss my home, living away from Poland. But I didn't feel confident enough in my English, and there was no music that would really suit it. But when we came up with this backing track for 'Yearning,' it seemed like there was a wistfulness in it, a certain longing. I thought, 'That's it.' So it finally happened."

Maintaining that level of inspiration took time. "We didn't want to cut any corners," she says. "There was a lot of pressure, of course, to hurry up and finish this record quickly, because the record companies always want a new record now. As a result, we missed five deadlines."

But it was worth it. "We just decided to make a record that we wouldn't want to go back and redo again," she says. "So this time we really indulged ourselves. At least we have peace with the record."

Hear an 'Illusion'

To hear excerpts from Basia's "The Sweetest Illusion," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6134 after you hear the greeting.

Basia in concert

When: Sunday, 8 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Tickets: $50 and $25 pavilion; $15 lawn

Call: (410) 681-7328 for tickets, (410) 730-2424 for information

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