It didn’t take much for John Travolta to come up with the idea to do a Christmas album with Olivia Newton-John. Turns out, it just took a text message.
“I had texted him to say that ‘You’re the One That I Want’ had just been named the No. 1 duet of all time,” Newton-John says. “It apparently inspired him to think about, ‘Well, if that’s the case then we should do Christmas music,’ because he loves Christmas music. He texted me and said we should do a Christmas song together and I said yes, but I thought that would be the end of it.”
Newton-John, who’s set to bring her angelic voice to the Music Center at Strathmore on Nov. 16, says it wasn’t until she ran into Travolta at an event that the ball started rolling on the album.
“He said, ‘Let’s do a whole Christmas CD,’ and I said, ‘OK, let’s do it for charity.’ Then I told my manager and we made it happen,” Newton-John says. “It’s a real work of love for both of us because the proceeds for my portion will go to my cancer wellness center in Australia and for John, it will go to the Jet Foundation in memory of his son to help handicapped children of all kinds to benefit arts and scholarships and all kinds of things.”
Knowing the proceeds would go to their respective charities helped make the process special.
“That’s why it was easy to work really hard on it and fly all over the place to meet up with each other to make it happen because it’s important and it’s something we really care about,” Newton-John said.
Putting the album, called “This Christmas,” together landed Newton-John back in the studio with Travolta. The two haven’t recorded together since 1983.
“It was a giggle,” Newton-John says about working with Travolta again. “We haven’t done that in a long time — we did another movie after ‘Grease’ called ‘Two of A Kind’ not that many years after ‘Grease,’ but it’s been a long time since we got to work together like that.
We had a good time.”
Newton-John has four Grammy awards on her shelf, multiple Top-5 and Top-10 singles, 14 gold, platinum and double platinum albums — the list really does keep going. So it’s no surprise she enjoys singing more than acting.
“I think singing is my favorite thing maybe because it comes most easily to me,” Newton-John says. “I enjoy acting and I enjoy the camaraderie on the set — it’s not all about you, it’s not the responsibility of one person and I enjoy that.
Singing, of course, is from my soul.”
Newton-John got to do a little of both when she guest starred on the hit TV series “Glee.” Granted, she did get to play herself.
“I had heard of [the show], but I hadn’t really seen it,” Newton-John says. “I had lunch with Ryan Murphy [creator of ‘Glee’] and he was delightful and he really wanted me to do it and everyone I spoke to about it told me ‘Oh, you HAVE to do it! It’s the best show in the world!’
I did it because I found it fun and that’s really what I like to do now — things that are fun.”
Newton-John says she has thought about putting a few of the Christmas songs on the set list for her show at Strathmore, but at the moment that’s still up in the air.
“At the moment, I’m just singing songs from my career, starting at the very beginning with my first hit song what was ‘If Not For You’ way back in ‘71,” Newton-John says. “Kind of tracking my country music through ‘Xanadu,’ through ‘Grease,’ and songs in between. It’s really a musical journey through my life.”
Recording albums, starring in TV shows and movies, working to grow her hospital and cancer centers, doing all she can to save the rainforest — it’s surprising to know with what little free time Newton-John has, she spends it just like any other person.
“A typical day would be — I’d cook a nice breakfast, my husband likes my cooking believe it or not,” Newton-John says. “We’ll take a walk or a bike ride on the beach, we might take a lunch or we might to go to a movie. Or we’ll just hang around the house, really. Hang out with friends we haven’t seen [in awhile], clean out my closets ...
I’ve been on the road for the past two months and I missed my house, I don’t want to leave my house, I’m very happy staying here,” Newton-John laughs.