New Interview: Kristen Alderson of "One Life to Live"

Here’s the complete transcript of my interview with Kristen Alderson of One Life to Live, conducted for this Popdose feature about the show soundtrack album One Life to Live: The Sound of a Kiss.

Let’s start off by talking about the way your musical aspirations have developed. Obviously, you’ve been on the show for quite awhile, and you’ve started singing more often over the last few years…

Well, I’ve always loved singing. My first job was being Molly in Annie on Broadway, and I’ve always had a love for it, and I think one of the things that’s so great about One Life is the way they utilize the fact that so many of us can sing. We’re lucky that they’ve done that. And there have also been a lot of events, like Broadway Cares and the Super Soap Weekends, where I’ve been able to sing and perform. Every time I do, it reminds me how much I love doing it.

To a certain extent, soaps in the ‘80s seemed a lot more open to singing, and it helped the careers of performers like Jack Wagner and Michael Damian. Why do you think One Life to Live has continued to maintain that tradition where other shows haven’t?

It helps that we have a lot of musical guests. Paul Glass always tries to get popular artists that are appropriate to the whole vibe of the show, and we’ve also done two musicals — first “Prom Night,” and then “Starr X’d Lovers.” He’s done such a great job — and with this last musical, it wasn’t just original songs, either. We got to mix in some hits.

Do you think there are more singers acting in daytime, or does it just seem that way because you have more leeway to sing? Even actors who don’t necessarily sing on their shows have released albums.

It must just be some kind of weird coincidence. I mean, we all don’t go on daytime, or on One Life, because we can sing. It’s like, “Oh, you can sing? And you can sing?” It just sort of happens. I guess there are a lot of singers on daytime. I mean, it seems like there are a lot of people singing in general — Kim Kardashian is recording an album. Maybe that isn’t the best example. [Laughs]

Have you ever talked musical shop with your co-stars? For example, Scott Clifton was on the show for awhile, and I know he’s released an album.

Well, I did talk to him about that, actually, because we both did the first Broadway Cares, and he did two original songs. When he joined One Life, I asked him about that, and that’s when I found out he had a whole album, and got to hear snippets on his laptop. It’s really cool when people get to showcase that other side. And of course, I own all of Kassie DePaiva’s albums.

I follow you on Twitter, and see you talking about music sometimes…

I’m a Twitter-holic! I’ve been diagnosed!

Usually, when soap characters sing, the songs tend to be ballads, and ones with a lot of big production. Kind of adult contemporary stuff. And it seems like Kristen Alderson listens to music that might be a little edgier than the songs Starr Manning sings.

Yeah. When Starr sings, it’s always really storyline-oriented, and she’s had a lot of dark things happen to her. Sad times. And so these are songs that are meant to give her strength — songs like “We Belong” and “I’m the One.” Power ballads. For me, in real life, knock on wood, I’ve had things a little easier than Starr does. [Laughs] Maybe that’s why I’m not singing about things like that.

But it’s always hard to pick songs to sing publicly. I do like to sing slow songs; I’m used to it, and that’s kind of where I’m comfortable. But you know, when you’re singing in front of a crowd, you want to do something a little more uptempo, to get them into it, and get things going. It’s difficult to choose. That’s why I just want Paul Glass to pick them and give them to me. [Laughs]

And also, Paul has pushed me to sing things I didn’t think I could. Like “We Belong” — I thought there was no way I was going to be able to sing a Pat Benatar song, but he said, “You’ll be fine, I have faith in you. I know how you sing. You can do it.” And then I actually sang it! I think sometimes I get in my head about stuff, and Paul is really encouraging.

I know things in daytime tend to have to come together pretty quickly. Was that true for The Sound of a Kiss? What was the process like for you?

We didn’t have much time at all. We would record the song maybe the night before filming it the next day — actually, I think it was a week before we started filming this stuff, we had a day where we had a big rehearsal space, and we learned all the choreography. The next week, we went in and recorded the songs, and then filmed the scenes the next day. It was a very fast, fast pace. But I sort of like it like that — it makes it more of an experience, because everyone is so focused, and I just like being busy anyway.

Do you have any plans for music beyond the show? Any thoughts of recording something on your own?

I don’t have any plans, but I would really like to do that someday. Anytime I perform somewhere, or I sing — like, for instance, on this soundtrack — it makes me want to do it more. I just feel like I’m still finding out what kind of singer I am. I don’t know what my singing identity is yet. Once I figure that out, I really would like to make an album.

You’ve mentioned the various extracurricular appearances that a lot of daytime stars make — you guys stay busy connecting with your fans outside the show. More, I think, than most television stars. Does this ever feel like an imposition? I mean, anyone with a regular 9-to-5 gig would start to think, “God, my boss is making me come in on a weekend…”

No, you know, I can definitely see how people might feel that way, but I think it’s a huge blessing to be able to do these events. I look forward to them. It’s more like an extra bonus to my job.

Were there any surprises for you while making The Sound of a Kiss?

I was really excited because Rie Sinclair, who wrote the song I perform for the album, “Hard to Give,” also wrote “I’m the One,” which I did during “Starr X’d Lovers,” and that’s my favorite song that I’ve ever recorded. She’s just such a wonderful songwriter, so when I heard she was doing this one, I couldn’t wait to record it.

I recently found out about Rie. She’s had some of her own recordings on daytime, hasn’t she?

Yeah, she’s a singer/songwriter, and she’s terrific. You know, when we pick these songs, we hear the demos, and so I heard Rie’s versions of “I’m the One” and “Hard to Give” before I recorded them. Every time, I’m like, [whimpers] “She sounds really good singing it!” You know what I mean? I try and copy some of the things she does when I record her songs.

And do you approach these songs differently when you’re singing them as Starr than you would if you were doing it as Kristen?

Oh, it adds a completely different element to be aware of. I mean, we’re not singing live when they film the scenes — they’re playing the recording and we’re singing along. But yeah, it’s just a whole different thing when you’re singing to the sky or whatever. It’s almost like a Broadway thing, which I love, because it brings me back to where I started, in a way.