David is a star-maker, musical wizard and the consummate producer. He is now heading to Broadway with his new musical, Betty Boop. Katharine, a talented singer, is debuting her jewelry line. This husband and wife duo’s latest venture is a magical and enchanting holiday album, Christmas Songs.
David Foster was a child prodigy who grew up to become a renowned composer, arranger, producer, performer, musician, and philanthropist. He is one of the world’s most productive, illustrious, and successful musicians and he has garnered rock star status around the world.
Foster has boosted the careers of a wealth of celebrities including Céline Dion, the band Chicago, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, and Josh Groban. He’s the gold standard, a musician’s musician and he’s heading to Broadway with his musical Betty Boop. He constantly shares his time with a wealth of charities and he’s literally saved the lives of those in need of organ transplants through the David Foster Foundation. He’s incredibly gifted and he’s been a gift to so many in need.
His beautiful bride, Katharine McPhee, is endowed with a voice the angels have blessed. She is currently launching her line of jewelry. Actress, singer, wife, mother, and designer, she’s incredibly gracious and talented. A philanthropist as well, Katharine has built schools in Africa, which she continues to fund.
Travelgirl: May I start with David? You were born in Victoria, British Columbia, and began piano lessons at five. I read when you were five years old, your mother was dusting the piano, she hit a key and you immediately said it was an E. That’s quite amazing.
David Foster: At this point it could be family folklore. I can’t imagine that I knew it was an E, but my father was an amateur pianist and was very patient with me. At an early age he taught me some things and certainly by age five I was playing the piano and taking classical lessons. I don’t know if I really knew it was an E, but that’s the story and we are sticking to it!
TG: Did you have any idea at a young age that music would shape your future?
DF: I’m much like most people who find their place in the world and their success, and I’m sure Kat feels the same way. I didn’t know I would end up doing what I do now. I knew I would do music. I didn’t know it would take me to these places and to these heights and get me in all these corners I never thought I would be in. You keep moving the goal posts and that’s what happens.
TG: Where did you get your inspiration from when you were young? You were the only son in a family of five girls. They must have absolutely adored and pampered you. Listening to you now, it must have been your father who inspired you.
DF: It was definitely my father; he was so patient with me. He played barroom-style, honky-tonk piano and he taught me how to do that. God knows how he found the time, but he did and I’m eternally grateful to him for that. I also have to credit my mother for encouraging me to take piano lessons. Somehow my parents found a way to pay 50 cents per lesson. I don’t know how they did it; we didn’t have any money, but they did.
TG: Let’s take a minute to mention your formative years and your activities. You founded the band Airplay with Jay Graydon and worked with George Harrison, Guthrie Thomas, and Ringo Starr. You arranged and co-wrote with Earth, Wind & Fire, and were awarded a Grammy — the first of 16 to come. Your career included working with Boz Scaggs and you were a major contributor to and helped forge the success of the band Chicago. You worked with Kenny Loggins and I could go on and on. In your early years, you became so accomplished; how did you manage this feat? You must have an amazing amount of endless energy and I am sure you worked tirelessly, without sleep.
DF: Certainly, endless energy; when you are young, you are more fearless. I loved Earth, Wind & Fire and I loved the band Chicago. I was a fan of both before I knew them. You just go in fearlessly with confidence and I’ve always had confidence. By nature, most artists are insecure, including me at times. But that insecurity looks and hopes for direction and that’s what a good producer can do. I think I’ve learned to be a good producer.
TG: Let’s fast forward. You are one of the world’s most celebrated and accomplished composers. You are a mega star, recognized and revered all over the world. You have an enormous following in Asia where you have attained rock star status.
DF: Asia is an interesting place because they read the back of album covers, back when there were album covers. They love and respect the people who make the music just as much as they do the people who sing the music, which has given me a great career there. When I perform my music in Asia, as long as I have a great singer like Kat with me, they don’t care that it’s not Celine or Whitney. They just want to hear the songs that I’ve written and produced. They are very appreciative — a little more in-depth than other audiences elsewhere in the world.
TG: You’ve influenced and written award-winning gold and platinum albums for many illustrious stars including Barbra Streisand and Rod Stewart. Your work propelled and defined the careers of singers Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. You’ve said you spent 35 years in a room with no windows, churning out music. You write, you perform, you create, and you build careers. I am sure all aspects of the music industry are under your incredible wings, but which most defines you?
DF: When I go to the doctor’s office and the form says occupation, to this day, I write musician. I think of myself as a piano player first. All the rest, the arranging, the writing, the producing, and the performing, they came later in my life. I’m a musician. I’m a piano player and that’s always the way I’ll see me.
TG: Your children adore you; you find time to take care of everyone. I admire your philanthropy, which you’ve said is your life’s other priority. Please talk about The David Foster Foundation and tell us how our readers can donate. (Its mission is to provide financial support to Canadian families with children in need of live-saving organ transplants, along with a new focus on organ donor awareness.) You are never too busy for a worthwhile cause, volunteering your time and energy to over 400 charities.
DF: I love that question. Thanks for asking it. The David Foster Foundation is a passion of mine. Many celebrities put their names on good causes; that’s fair enough and that really helps. When you get into the trenches; it’s really hard work. It’s also incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. I began this over 30 years ago. We help the families of children who need organ transplants. It’s been so rewarding and we are a family. We have stayed in touch with a lot of the families we helped. Our donors are amazing. The last fundraiser was in Toronto about six months ago and we raised $12.4 million. That is an unheard of number in Canada. We are such a family. Our donors come to our events and I speak to our donors often. We are hundreds and thousands strong. We raise a ton of money and we do an enormous amount of good work. Thanks again for asking.
TG: You’ve worked tirelessly for so many meaningful causes.
DF: I wasn’t a performer, as you said, I was in the studio for many years just making music. These charity gigs were a way for me to help and also a way for me to hone my craft. I think it maybe started with an Andre Agassi event in Vegas where he just said he wanted me to host his event. These events were mega events with every star you can imagine from Streisand to Santana. I hosted these events and I got to hone my skills as a musical host. I enjoyed helping; I gave my time and it was a responsibility I was happy to take on. If you can help, you need to!
TG: You’ve won 16 Grammys, including three for Producer of the Year, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe, the Canadian Walk of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in the U.S. You received your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Would you please give those young hopefuls who aspire to one day follow in your famous footsteps some sage advice?
DF: For sure. It’s always good to get advice, but young people expect someone is going to come along and take them under their wings. It does occasionally happen but you have to do the hard work. One of the sayings that has followed me all my life, the one I love the most is — good is the enemy of great. If you want to be good, go ahead and be good. If you want to be great, that takes real, real work. It’s hard to do. You can’t do it every day, but you should try to do great work every day and that’s my advice.
TG: David, can you give us some insight into the Broadway musical you are writing?
DF: Broadway is a moving target. I am not used to being part of a team. Making records is not really a democracy, but certainly being on Broadway is. There are a lot of people in charge; it’s been a happy struggle and we are close. Supposedly, we will be in Chicago next year with Betty Boop and I am working on another musical as well. You just never know. I think I am in a place where I belong and I think I can do well there.
TG: Now to your beautiful and uber talented bride – Katharine McPhee. You are the daughter of a singer and a vocal coach, Peisha Arten, and Daniel McPhee. Please talk about your formative years and the support and inspiration you received from your parents.
Katharine McPhee Foster: I had tons of support. My parents were busy with their own lives, but they really believed in encouraging me to do whatever it was that I loved. Singing was something I was naturally good at. My mom enrolled us in dance classes, both me and my sister. My mother thought it was an important element to be well-rounded. She was giving voice lessons all day long and she still is to this day. She is one of the hardest working people I know. She’s always in a lesson and she’s always happy and upbeat. People love taking lessons with her. For me, singing was always part of my environment. I had my mom behind me and it was really great. When I had auditions in high school for the spring musical and even when I was in middle school, my mom was the best person to have in your back door. Literally, my mom would help me get the whole thing situated. She would help me have my audition ready, the song ready — even, how many bars I should sing. I was always the most prepared and the most professional because I lived with a professional.
TG: You began your career as an actress. In May 2006 you made a huge impression on the judges at American Idol and was the runner-up on the fifth season. In 2007 you released your self-titled album, which debuted at number two on Billboard 200. Your second album, Unbroken, was also a huge success. As an actress you co-starred on The House Bunny and you played the role of Karen Cartwright, one of the leads, on Smash. From 2014 to 2018, you starred in CBS’s Scorpion as Paige Dineen. Recently you starred on both the Broadway and West End productions in Waitress. Which genre most defines you most — actress or singer?
KMF: I think people identify me as a singer before an actress, that’s how I was initially introduced. I really see myself as a well-rounded performer. I enjoy acting more; there’s something about hiding behind someone else’s words — becoming another character. As a singer I love live performing. I’m not as motivated to be a recording artist as I was when I was younger. I’m excited about the Christmas album I just did with David because we got to do it together. He said earlier in the interview, he is that person that comes in and directs you and tells you what to do. No matter the issue you are having at the moment, David always knows exactly what to do. That was such a refreshing experience for me. It was similar to what you do as an actor; you have a director, writers, and it’s a collaborative effort. I think I see myself more as an actor.
TG: You are also a philanthropist. You set-up the McPhee Outreach to finance a school in Africa in 2010.
KMF: Yes, it was very philanthropic and I appreciate your bringing this up. It was actually something I started with my ex-husband. It was something we were able to accomplish during that time together and I’m very proud of it. We were able to build schools through that program and I still fund the schools. I’m glad, through my contributions, that I’m still able to keep the lights on at this school and keep it operating. I’ve also done a lot of work and built some schools and done some work with an organization called Build On. I’ve really been fond of their work and of the things that they do. I am very quiet about that type of work, but probably as I get older I’ll be more vocal about the philanthropic aspects of my life.
TG: Before I ask about your new album I want to discuss the jewelry line, KMF Jewelry, you recently launched. I’m thrilled about this. Every woman loves jewelry. What inspired you to develop a line of jewelry?
KMF: I am really excited about it. It’s one of those passions that I’ve had for a really long time, but initially I kept it in my head. I didn’t talk to anyone else about how much I would love to have a jewelry line. Not in my personality or even in my wildest dreams did I think I would consider picking up the phone and starting a jewelry line. I never even mentioned it to David.
DF: I would say this, when we were first together, five years ago, I noticed she would be playing with her jewelry for an hour straight. As she will tell you, when she was a kid, she loved jewelry. Both Kat and her mom used to watch QVC and the Home Shopping Network. They would ogle over this jewelry. They both had a passion for it. I believe this jewelry line will work because it’s personal and she has such a great love and passion for it. The honesty and the trust will come through. She truly loves what she sells and that will translate to the folks who are watching and wanting to purchase a piece.
KMF: It wasn’t something I vocalized. One day, just a few months after our son was born, I received an email from a really close friend of ours connecting me to someone I hadn’t met who wanted to start a jewelry line with me. I’ve spent the last year-and-a- half going back and forth planning and working. This is just a really nice partnership and that’s how it started. I really believe in manifesting and writing down goals I want to achieve.
TG: Please talk about some of the pieces you are designing and tell us where we can purchase some of your treasures.
KMF: Right now we are selling direct to consumer on our kmfjewelry.com website. I love so many of the pieces. One of my favorites is from a unique line of imperial rope chain necklaces that have very interesting eternity clasps. I get a lot of compliments on these. They are unlike any other chain out there. The chain is handmade and it sparkles in a really beautiful way. It’s really cool.
TG: We are entering into one of the best times of the year, the holidays. I’m excited about your upcoming album Christmas Songs and your single Jingle Bell Rock. Please talk about your collaboration. David is the king of Christmas records. Katharine, is Christmas your favorite holiday?
KMF: I love Christmas even more than David loves making Christmas albums. I have to give my mom credit for my having a love for all types of seasons. My mom would get us excited for Valentine’s Day. We had so many traditions. The day after Thanksgiving we would put Christmas music on and decorate the entire house. We’ve sort of stuck to our traditions. When we moved in together, I decked out the entire condo. I love to decorate and I love to listen to Christmas music. It’s even more fun now with our son.
DF: We had a great time making this record. It started by me sitting at the piano and saying, “Hey, what do you think of this Christmas song?” Then I thought, well, let’s put it on Instagram. Pretty soon, me being me, the eternal producer, I said okay, well let’s make a record and let’s go get a record deal and here we are on Vista Records, Concord and Universal. We have a fabulous album. We had a great photo shoot and we have a single, Jingle Bell Rock. We are going to do all the TV shows, and we are doing the Disney Parade in Orlando. We will do all the morning shows no doubt. We don’t have any great expectations but as you said, my track record with Christmas albums is pretty good and Kat is an incredible singer. We had fun.
TG: Can you give us a glimpse into working with David? Please tell us something we don’t know.
DF: Kat has one advantage that no other singer has. She just has to roll out of the bedroom and come into the studio. No other singer that I work with can do that!
KMF: I can think of one thing you might not know. David really isn’t that adventurous. David is a guy who knows what he knows and wants to stick with what he knows.
TG: What’s on your travel bucket list? Do you have a favorite travel destination?
DF: We do, we do, we do. Capri. We just love it there. We are creatures of habit and keep going back to places we love. We also love going to British Columbia, which as you said earlier, is where I’m from. We love going boating and fishing. Kat’s family is from the Pacific Northwest and we love that area too. I think maybe my favorite city is Paris.
The two will be dazzling audiences Dec. 16-17 at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas. Please visit www.davidfoster.com for a list of upcoming performances throughout 2023. You can also learn more about his life, his hits, his awards, and his foundation.
One of the sayings that has followed me all my life, the one I love the most is — Good is the enemy of great. If you want to be good, go ahead and be good. If you want to be great, that takes real, real work.
When I go to the doctor’s office and the form says occupation, to this day, I write musician. I think of myself as a piano player first. All the rest, the arranging, the writing, the producing, and the performing, they came later in my life.