Metal Queen is now Slick Chick
By KATHARINE SEALEY
Karen Greening is coming home.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Brampton," said Greening, who is better known by her professional name, Lee Aaron. "I haven't been back in years. I've changed a lot and I'm sure it has as well, but it's where I got my start, so I have a lot of good memories."
Aaron and her band the Swingin' Barflies perform Thursday at the Heritage Theatre, 86 Main St. N. Show time is 8 p.m.
Aaron, 41, who is expecting her first child in June, shot to rock stardom in the '80s, earning the nickname Metal Queen, but for the last few years she has been exploring softer sounds.
"I made a real change in 2000 with my album Slick Chick, which showed my jazz side," she said.
"My new album Beautiful Things continues that, but it's a little more contemporary pop, with some blues and jazz."
She said she's trying to bring levity to what some see as a heavy genre.
"Some people gets intimidated by jazz, they think it's boring and cerebral," she said. "I always try to make it fun and entertaining. I always want people to leave feeling like they've made a real connection with me and the music."
Moved here at age 10
Aaron, who was born in Belleville, moved to Brampton at the age of 10.
"I grew up singing in local choirs, the music of Gershwin and Cole Porter, and then I went to Central Peel Secondary School, which had a great music and drama program," she said. "I was very heavily involved in both there, singing and playing saxophone in the jazz band."
At Central Peel, she also got her first shot at songwriting.
"This great teacher named Mr. Robinson started a new class for all the kids who were interested in composition," she said. "I wrote a lot of songs as a teen."
She laughed when asked to grade her early skills.
"They weren't all classics, but they weren't awful," she said. "We can't all be Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, but I've definitely grown as a writer and performer. Even when I listen to my first couple of albums, I can see a huge difference."
Aaron got her big break at Chinguacousy Park
"I was discovered while performing at the bandshell when I was 17," she said. "My first manager saw the show and everything blew up from there."
She was signed as a back-up singer and guitarist for an existing band called Lee Aaron. Two years later, at the age of 19, she had recorded her first album, called The Lee Aaron Project, for just $7,000.
She dropped the band, but kept the name and followed it up with two more albums, Metal Queen and Call of the Wild.
The success led to a two-month European tours with bands like Bon Jovi and Uriah Heep.
As her popularity skyrocketed, a planned tour opening for Blue Oyster Cult had to be cancelled so she could headline her own tour in West Germany.
Two more albums, the eponymously titled Lee Aaron in 1987 and Body Rock in 1989, helped cement her rock 'n' roll reputation.
Hit singles in 1990
In 1990, with the hit singles Whatcha Do to My Body and Hands On, and a heavy MuchMusic rotation to support her, she embarked on a cross-Canada tour. That same year, she also received two Juno nominations, for female vocalist of the year and best video. Under the Lee Aaron name, she produced three more albums, Some Girls Do, Powerline and Emotional Rain, before stepping out of the spotlight.
She moved to the West Coast and hooked up with ex-members of Vancouver's Sons Of Freedom to create the all-new 2 Precious who released a self-titled debut in 1996 which spawned the single Superbitch.
That same year, she was invited to be a guest at the Toronto Women's Blues Revue and her love of jazz reignited.
Aaron then spent several years producing Slick Chick, her own collection of jazz and blues originals and covers.
She said most fans have been very supportive of her transformation, but there are still some who seem confused that the Metal Queen is now a Slick Chick.
"I don't really understand that," she said. "No one expects you to keep the paper route you had as a kid as your job for the rest of your life, so it's crazy to think singers don't evolve either."
It's been a winding path, she said, but now she's finally doing what she wants.
"My fans have grown up with me, and they all have jobs and families now," she said. "They are looking for more mature music to listen to, and I'm looking for mature music to sing. It's neat for them to see the Lee Aaron of their youth, but in a new way. This suits the lives we lead now, and we're all going to have a good time together."
For tickets, $38, call 905-874-2800.
For more information, visit www.leeaaron.com.