When you get Olivia Newton-John on the phone for 11 minutes, you’re probably supposed to talk about what's new with her. But you might be tempted to ask about “Grease.”
I was. And I did.
In preparing for the interview, I noticed Olivia Newton-John — who is playing at the Adler Theatre, Davenport on Saturday — ends up covering the same topics over and over. That’s how it goes with a lot of interviews with iconic performers and stars.
And Olivia Newton-John is certainly iconic. It feels weird to shorten her name.
After the 1978 release of “Grease,” the singer known for hits such as “Physical” and “I Honestly Love You,” has become known for her grace and strength in battling cancer. She created the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Australia and has championed the use of “thriver” instead of “cancer survivor.”
She postponed several tour dates earlier this year, including her stop in Davenport originally scheduled for May. She later announced she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which she also battled 25 years ago.
Her recent albums, “Grace and Gratitude” and “Liv On,” on which she collaborated with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky speak to those themes of thriving and healing.
“Music is my healing,” the singer said on the phone. “I tend to write music particularly to help me heal from a situation.”
On the subject of “Grease,” Olivia Newton-John talked about how “cultural” it has become. After seeing a recent episode of NBC’s hit show, “This Is Us,” she was surprised to see one of the characters dressed up as the character Sandy for Halloween.
“Of course, it was beyond anyone’s dreams,” she said of the success. “You don’t expect a movie you’ve made to become so iconic. People still talk about it. Even the little kids.”
During the rest of the interview, I asked Olivia Newton-John about all of those things mentioned above. I also did something different.
I called in a longtime fan of Olivia Newton-John's music. My mom.
She remembers seeing “Grease” as a high school student and being “enthralled” by the songs and dance moves. She remembers going back to see it several times and buying the soundtrack. She also remembers the first time I watched the movie.
“It was different than anything else out,” she told me.
With that in mind, I gave my mom a head's up and had her prepare a question for one of her musical heroes to ask on the phone.
You can hear how that turned out and the full interview with Olivia Newton-John in the latest episode of my podcast, called Worst Town in America. You can find it on SoundCloud or YouTube.
And, just a reminder, you can see Olivia Newton-John on stage at the Adler Theatre on Saturday. As she says, even after performing for over 40 years, she still loves it.
“That’s what I do,” she said. “I sing. That’s been my life. I won’t do it forever, so I’ll do it while I can and while I enjoy it, I’ll do it.”