Billboard on Broadway Podcast: Lena Hall Rocks Out With 'Obsessed'

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To Broadway audiences, Lena Hall is best known for her Tony-winning turn as Yitzhak in the electrifying 2014 revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. But Hall -- the formidable voice proves she comes by her social media handle, @lenarockerhall, honestly -- had a diverse resume in musical theater before Hedwig, and since parting ways with the show she's pursued a variety of out-of-the-theater-box projects. Her most recent, the ambitious Obsessed, brought her to the Billboard on Broadway podcast.

With Obsessed, Hall will release an EP every month of 2018 via Sh-K-Boom Records, along with attendant music videos of her performances every week. Each album is dedicated to covers of songs by iconic pop and rock artists. The series started in January with Hall's reinterpretations of songs from Hedwig, and continued in February with Peter Gabriel; upcoming artists Hall plans to pay tribute to include Chris Cornell, Pink, Elton John, The Cranberries, and David Bowie, among others. Hall calls the project "a love letter to these artists," but also a way to introduce these artists to listeners not as well acquainted with their catalogs, in the hopes that they, too will "become obsessed with this artist."

As Hall explains, the purpose of Obsessed was not to simply record covers of songs she likes, but to reinterpret them from her unique perspective as a performer. "The series is taking these performers down to their essential parts and celebrating these songs, listening to these lyrics, melody and chords, and the emotions that come up when you listen to each of these artists," Hall says. "Songwriting is fascinating to me, but a song can be made famous by the performance, too."  

When tackling certain classics, Hall had to navigate the challenge of when, and precisely how much, to rock out. "When a song requires sweetness or delicacy, it's hard to trust that. I'm in this world of more is more," Hall allows. With her Obsessed EPs, she wanted to give the sense of a "raw performance, like you were in the room with me -- like you're getting a performance in your apartment." That meant recording in a short span of time, without too precious an attitude, "keeping the vibe as organic as possible... I wanted to tell the vocal story from start to finish, which you don't get a lot. People get too perfect with everything, and we forget that what makes something so beautiful is the imperfections within it." 

In her chat with host Rebecca Milzoff, Hall explains how she chose the artists she's including in Obsessed, how the project evolved from her live shows, and what to expect from the coming EPs. Listen to the episode here.