Interview by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
The Austrian hard rock band Cornerstone is back to town, with a new singer. We had the chance to interview the amazing singer Patricia Hillinger. This is what she said about the new album, the new band activities on the road and so much more…
Hi Patricia and welcome to Femme Metal. How are you doing?
I’m fine, thanks!!!
Currently, you’re the lead singer for the Austrian hard rock band Cornerstone. Would you like to say shortly who are you and who is Cornerstone, for those who still don’t know your music?
Well, my name is Patricia Hillinger. I’m 23 years old and moved to Vienna just a few years ago to study at the university. Concerning leisure activities, I professionally started to sing at the age of 13. At first I took opera singing lessons and later on Pop & Rock. I also learned how to play the transverse flute for about seven years, when I was at the elementary school. Besides music, I do a lot of sports like running and figure ice-skating. Because of a lucky coincidence, I’m the lead singer of Cornerstone since 2009. As for the history of the band, the group was founded by Michael and Steve Wachelhofer in 1998. In the beginning they did covers of acts like The Cure, REM or Soul Asylum, but also some originals. In 2007 an American label signed the band, and from this on everything goes straight upwards… meanwhile the band is quote well-known in the AOR-scene, did three UK-Tours and an US-Tour in 2009, a lot of Festivals, and so on. I hope to come over to the States next year!
Why have you chosen to call yourselves Cornerstone, like the band founded by the former Rainbow singer, Doogie White? Who has chosen the name for this band? About this choice, have you made any research before? Were you aware of such a thing?
I wasn’t there, when they have founded the band, but as far I know, they did performances and touring BEFORE Doogie White has founded it’s version of Cornerstone. Beside the fact, that the name is a registered trademark, I didn’t get the point? I guess, Doogie should have done a bit better researching! But as Michael always says, music should be a “together” not an “against”, so we simply try not to hurt each other…and nowadays it isn’t that unusual, that names appears a few times… Nirvana, Cage, comes to mind… and it also worked out fine, more or less (*laughs*)
A few months ago, you’ve released the new Cornerstone album, “Somewhere in America”. What could you tell us about this record? Who has chosen the name and why?
With “Somewhere in America”, we departed with big steps from our debut album “Head Over Heels”. Michael and Steve, who wrote the songs together, were inspired by the adventures of their U.S.A. Tour of 2009, that’s the reason for the title. After they finished the melodies and lyrics, we often rehearsed till midnight to make the songs unique. And they are!
Have you helped somehow in writing the lyrics and the composition of the album?
Yes I did and it was my first time ever to take part in such a musical project. I mainly helped to arrange the background vocals and the harmony of the voices. I also worked together with Michael at the time he was writing the lyrics to our song “Like a Stranger”. It was a great experience and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to record the next album!
How have you prepared yourself for the recording of this album?
We all spent the weeks and days, before the recording started, in the rehearsal room. There, we played our songs over and over again for making last improvements concerning musical arrangement or the harmony of the voices etc. For a change, not to get crazy, I was at home doing sports, listened to my favorite albums and drank a lot of tea with honey.
Who, usually, is the one to write the music and the lyrics? Is there someone who follows all the work and then writes and composes or is everyone in need to cooperate?
Michael and Steve write the songs and kind of create the base. After they finished the lyrics and melody, we all meet in the rehearsal room and work the songs out together.
How long did the recordings last? And how was the work in the studio?
It was very exhausting and difficult, because before the recording, we were on tour non-stop and therefore the songs were only half-finished. We also wanted to go in eight different directions, to make sure that we get the best out of it. We spent the whole day recording in the studio, with only short breaks for lunch etc. For me it was the first time ever to sing in a studio. It took some time to cope with the new situation, but it was definitely an experience to remember and apart from the hard work, we had a lot of fun and in the end it all was worth it, because we did a great and homogeneous album! I guess, it took us around 4 months, to record the album, including mixdown and mastering.
Is there a particular song you’ve enjoyed to sing and to record in the studio? If so/yes, why?
Hmm…that’s a difficult question. I can remember that, at the beginning of the recording, it took a while for me to feel comfortable in the studio. The first song I had to sing was “Stay” (the first track of the album). As I heard myself on the rough mix, everybody said that I would sound like James Hetfield, so I had to do it again. The songs which were easy for me to sing were “Like a Stranger” and “Rise and Shine”, both powerful songs, where you can put strong voice into. A real challenge I have to say was “Strut”, the last song of the album, because we finished it spontaneously in the studio. Also our ballad “Right or Wrong” was tough to realize, because it’s a very slow number where you have to put a lot of feeling into, otherwise it would sound boring. Actually, when I think back, I enjoyed every single moment singing our songs.
How the promotion for the album have been? Have you got some great feedback from the press and fans, that often are the most stalwart people?
I am very satisfied. So far, people’s reactions to the new songs were always positive. I guess that’s because of the different styles of music we experimented with (Ska, Punk, Pop, etc.). The songs are all very catchy, peculiar and designed after everybody´s fancy. We have an agency in Germany, who cares about the promo and in the UK we have a press-specialist working on Cornerstone, so a lot of things happens there… the greatest feedback we have got on our latest UK-Tour: people described us as a mixture out of Journey and Fleetwood Mac, which is a big honor for us, I really like Stevie Nicks!
Listening carefully to the album, the first thing I have to say, Patricia, is that you’re perfect to fit the role of “lead singer” for this band. The album shows a lot of potential you have, guys, and I really hope you’ll be able to shoot to fame worldwide. The question I’d like to ask is: what are your expectations for this band? And above all, what do you expect now, given that the album has been released?
Thanks a lot for the big compliment! I personally would describe Cornerstone as kind of a family/team. Of course there has to be someone, who coordinates everything. Otherwise everything would fall apart. Michael is doing a lot of hard business work. He is a very talented organizer. Because of him and his great engagement, we did a great tour around England. We all work very hard to bring our music and the name Cornerstone out to the people and try to play as many concerts as possible. I guess, or better hope, that we´re on the best way to reach a big crowd one day, but one thing at a time. Now we’re looking forward to our “Get Naked Tour 2012”, which starts on 02/03. We are going to promote our album and play gigs in England, Austria and Germany. I can’t wait to pack all my stuff, because touring is my favourite part!
I was quite impressed by the song “Breathing for You”, which hit me so much and especially the “heavy-ballad”, called “Right or Wrong”. In my opinion, here your voice shows a great sensitivity. How did you choose to put even a ballad in this album? Are you a fan of ballad songs?
Yes, I personally am. I guess that’s because in my childhood, I was listening to the albums that my mother used to play, for example Elton John, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. That’s how I grew up and that kind of music became second nature to me. “Breathing for You” was co-writing of Michael, Steve and their former drummer, Markus Bousska and it took them a year and a half to finish it!! I wasn’t there but this is a funny story, that Steve is always telling! “Right or Wrong” was originally concipated as a duet and in fact there are some recordings existing, me and Michael as a duet. But as time goes by, we have decided, that I should do this as a solo singer. I fell in love with this song from the first moment on, as I’ve heard it!
I’ve also read that you’re a fan of Alanis Morissette, Beyoncé and Creed. Are they artists that have influenced you, musically speaking? Or are they artists that you simply like but that have nothing to do with your musical influence?
That’s hard to say because my taste of music varies from time to time and I also have a lot of interests concerning music (F. e. my brother is always listening to The Doors, which is a mixture of experimental Rock music and Jazz, and I like that, too). But usually I like to listen to Pop & Melodic Rock, R&B and a little bit Hip Hop.
Who are your “idols”?
Since childhood, I listen to the leading female artists like Céline Dion, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Beyoncé, who are, in my opinion, the best singers in the world. They influence me a lot. But I’m also looking up to great musicians like Freddy Mercury, who is one of the most musical people that ever existed.
Who has influenced your way of singing? Is there any band or artist that have influenced your style or your music?
My motto is: You can learn from everybody. I always look up to the great musicians of the pop business. Every artist performs different and is special in some kind of way. Therefore, I try to pick out the best of him/her and introduce it into my work.
Your way of singing is based more on a hard rock style. Did you take singing lessons or is it the fruit of your innate talent? I think you are one of the few singers who can sing as if you’re still living in the 80s…
Wow!! Thank you, I’m glad and proud to hear that! Every person has a unique and special voice. Although you need to be born to have a singing voice, you also have to train it and learn how to use it. At the age of thirteen I met my vocal teacher Sheila Edwards Czettel, an American Jazz-Singer, who taught me the basis of breathing and how I can use my voice easily. It’s very important to have such basic information. In this manner, you can build up your own style of singing.
The band style recalls the 80s and AOR melodies a lot. What did cause the choice to start a band with these requirements?
As far I know, Cornerstone started as a kind of alternative/indie band. I guess, when you listening to tunes like “Something to Say” or “Changed” from the first album “Head Over Heels”, you can hear this quite clearly. But they have wrote “Ready to Go” and “Fade Away” just for fun, and these are typically AOR-tunes. At the end, we have decided, to go fullhearted in this direction with the new album, because this is the field, where the best singers and musicians are working and it’s also a kind of more “matured” music. Sure, it’s funny, when you’re 18 and every third word in a song is “fuck” and so on, but someday you’ll not do this anymore.
Did you already know what kind of band Cornerstone was when you joined the band?
Of course. From the moment I saw them on the internet and listened to their music, I knew that I want to become a member in this group. There would be no other band that fits me more than Cornerstone.
How were you able to join the band?
The story behind is, that I was sitting in front of my computer and searched for a band located in Vienna. And lucky as I am, I read an announcement, which said that Cornerstone is looking for a female singer. After that, I went to the audition and got the part. That was the best thing that could ever happen to me. Before I sang in a commercial band, weddings and parties but I haven’t seen a perspective there anymore.
Gathering infos on your biography, I’ve read that you had the great pleasure to play a lot in Austria and also in the UK, alongside bands like New Model Army and The Quireboys. What do you remember about this experience? How was like sharing the stage with these artists?
It was a strange feeling. Of course I was very proud and honored to be on the same stage as such great artists, but at the same time you put yourself under pressure when you realize, that you’re about to step into their footsteps. When you’re on stage and the audience is clapping, screaming and dancing, you know that you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s nice to see that the people downstage are satisfied and as a musician it makes you feel very special.
Is there a band or an artist you would like to embark on tour or, why not, to cooperate in a studio recording?
Yes, I would love to sing a duet with Steve Perry, George Michael, Céline Dion or maybe Beyoncé. Everybody is welcome!!
Which is the most beautiful memory about your experience with Cornerstone?
Tough question… every memory with Cornerstone is beautiful, because I enjoy every single moment being together with my band/friends. They are my second family and there’s nothing better than singing and making music together. But to mention one memory, there was this gig in Kastoria, Greece, where we performed on a very big open-air stage at a festival and behind us was sunset. It was brilliant and a great atmosphere. Not only because Greece is very beautiful but also because everyone was very nice and accepted our music. We got very positive feedback and brought home a lot of new fans.
What are your future projects? What will come next for Cornerstone, in future? I’ve read that you would like to tour in the USA, as your album suggests…
I see ourselves rocking the Madison Square Garden. No, just kidding… it´s necessary to stay down-to-earth. It’s my wish to play many concerts in different countries. Now we look forward to our “Get Naked….Tour” but my personal dream is to perform – “Somewhere in America”– and if we´re lucky, we will get a star on the walk of fame one day (*laughing*)
Thanks so much for this great chat, Patricia. I hope to see you on tour in Europe as well, as I think that Cornerstone deserves to get known in the best way possible and to bring some old hard rock around the world. You’ve the choice to tell something to your fans, to the hard rock fans and to the Femme Metal users. It’s up to you now!
I’m speaking for the band and say: Thanks for having us!! It was a lot of fun answering those questions!! Hope to see you in person one day! Greets to all Hard Rock fans and Femme Metal readers. Hope that you’ll enjoy our album “Somewhere in America”, which is available on amazon.com, itunes, etc.. Check out our Homepage and Facebook/MySpace page, where you can find us under “cornerstoneaustria”. Who run the world… girls!!!
Photos by Reinhard Mueller
MySpace * ReverbNation * Facebook * Twitter * Site
- HEILUNG + LILI REFRAIN @ 013 Tilburg - March 7, 2023
- AMARANTHE – An Interview with Olof Mörck - March 2, 2023
- DISMAL: release new single - February 23, 2023