By Elisha Dang and Sonja Leix
What an honor it was to have the chance to interview Deana Martin, the influential American singer, actor, best-selling author and proud daughter of American icon, Dean Martin. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet her and to chat with her about her music, her life, and her iconic father.
WM: We just wanted to start off talking about your recently released album “Volare,” which is an incredible compilation of standards that you’ve recreated which includes songs by your dad, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and many more. We’ve listened to the album and it’s fantastic!
What was your inspiration to pick the specific songs that you picked for the album?
DM: All the songs picked have a special meaning to me. First, I always loved “Volare” which means, “to fly” in Italian. My husband and I are both pilots and our plane’s name is Volare. It also was a huge hit for my dad, a long time ago, so I knew I wanted to do that one and it is a fantastic arrangement. My mother wanted “What A Difference A Day Makes.” That is one of her favorite songs. My husband John’s mother liked “A Kiss To Build A Dream On.” I adore Elvis Presley and his song “Love Me Tender” and thought it was so beautiful and the way they did the arrangement John thought of is just so sweet. And of course [for] Frank Sinatra, uncle Frank, I had to do “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” I wanted to do it in a different arrangement than the Nelson Riddle one. “I Will” was one of my favorite songs that my dad recorded and of course “Smile” from Jerry Lewis, who loved to smile, is such a pretty arrangement also. Jerry Lewis actually did a duet with me on my last album called “Time After Time”. Sometimes you get an album where you have a couple of really good songs that are recognized, but you don’t usually get 15 really fantastic songs.
WM: Is there one in particular song that has special meaning to you?
DM: They all have a special meaning to me. “I Will” was a hit for my dad in 1965 and I just always loved it. That year we had a party for the Academy Awards and I remember my dad sitting and I sang a little bit of it to him and he said “Maybe one day you’ll record it” and I said “you know what, I will” so finally I did all these years later.
WM: It’s clear that you’ve developed a unique style and a fresh approach to these classics. What inspired you to do them differently?
DM: Most of all, I wanted to appeal to a whole new generation of younger people. When I think of Frank Sinatra, he did “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” five different ways. It was his different phrasing at different times of his life where everything meant something distinct. That’s why I wanted to bring my own interpretation into it, my life and how I feel about it. “Please Don’t Talk About Me” is a bit sassy and kind of cute. I’m doing the Great American Songbook in a fresh new way.
WM: What message do you hope the music from “Volare” will deliver to people today?
DM: I want people to get back to the classics and lyrics that have meaning you can understand. I want them to know that what is classic and timeless is still relevant today and that we should remember the old traditions and hold on to those and make it new and fresh.
WM: You grew up among legends. Are there any other people from your childhood that were influential in your career?
DM: Picture Christmas Eve and Rosemary Clooney is there with Andy Williams and Tony Bennett and all these people were sitting around and singing Christmas carols. Singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” with Rosie after reading her life story and growing up with her and her kids was overwhelming. You just heard her fabulous voice and saw her movies and everything, but you never saw what she went through in life. She was my ideal of the perfect singer and entertainer. And there I was just sitting with her singing. It was a life’s dream for me.
WM: The world adores your father Dean Martin. Is there any one memory, growing up as Dean Martin’s daughter, that stands out most for you and your decision to become a performer?
DM: Probably seeing him at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas when I was very little sitting in the front row. The stage was dark and the announcer said “Ladies and gentlemen: the Sands Hotel is proud to present the star of our show, direct from the bar, Dean Martin.” The light would shine on him as he walked out with a glass in his hand and a cigarette. He walked up to the microphone and he said “How long have I been on” and it was just so cute to hear the audience go “Ah, here he is.” He sang and told some jokes and when he started to introduce his seven kids, the audience applauded and he said “don’t, it only took me seven minutes.” Well, I didn’t know what that meant back then, but the audience laughed. And then dad introduced me and said “Deana stand up and let everyone see how pretty you are.” The light was shining on me and the people were applauding and I thought I have to do this.
WM: Being his daughter, did you feel any pressure as a performer?
DM: Sure. He was so incredible and loved for so many years and I never heard anything negative about him, so I have a lot to live up to. I am very lucky that I am not a boy so the comparison would be Dean and Dean junior. People are a little kinder to me because I am a girl. I’ve studied very hard. So far I’ve been received very well. People like what I do so I didn’t feel that pressure. I put pressure on myself to be as good as I can be. Once I’m out on the stage, I’ve got to really pull it out of my head and perform for you.
WM: Your best seller, Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes, will be turned into a movie soon and your first choice to play your father’s character in the movie is Johnny Depp. Tell us why.
DM: First of all he is so handsome and has the same hairline as my dad and he is really a fantastic actor, so I think he could pull it off. Plus he is a musician, he sings, and he is cool. He has a bit of that swagger. I think there are quite a few people that can do it, but there is just something about him and that he has that “magic in a bottle.” Who knows what it is but I think he’s got it. I have no idea if that would ever happen. People have said maybe George Clooney or Harry Connick Jr. and I’m sure there are a million fabulous looking great Italian singers and actors out there that would be wonderful, but there is a great name that goes with Johnny Depp or any of the other guys. It’s very exciting for me.
WM: That brings us right to our final question: What else is there you would like to accomplish?
DM: I want to do Broadway and hopefully this album will get a Grammy. There is no end to what you can do and I think you are never to old to go after your dreams. I think there is a time for everything in your life. I take it one day at a time and one thing leads to another. Just set your goals high and dream big and that’s what I’ve done all my life and so it is all coming true.
At the conclusion of the interview, Ms. Martin expressed her interest in the Women’s Mafia and what we were doing. She encouraged us to keep up the good work and said that women are so strong and great and that now it’s all coming around and there is no stopping us.
Ms. Martin is currently promoting the release of her new hit CD “Volare,” and her upcoming tour around the United States. For more information about Deana Martin and her upcoming tour dates and events, please visit her official site.