Q&A: Barbra Streisand remixes her past for ‘Release Me 2’


Barbra Streisand likes to get things just right. As impressive as her award-winning superstar career as a singer and actress is, her success as a director and producer is groundbreaking. Until Chloe Zhao won best director at the Golden Globes this year for Nomadland, Streisand was the only woman ever to win that award, a feat she accomplished in 1983 for Yentl.

During the pandemic, Streisand, like so many of us, suddenly had some much-needed time to take on new projects—including her iPhone settings.

“My name was always coming up as ‘Barbara with three As,’” she said. “You’re supposed to be a smartphone! How come you can’t get my name right?”

After famously calling Apple CEO Tim Cook to get Siri to pronounce her last name right—no Z sound—Streisand learned to override auto-correction with some advice from her assistant.

Tackling some previously unreleased songs from her past took a bit more work, but fans get to hear the results when her new album Release Me 2 arrives on Friday. The Associated Press spoke with Streisand, 79, about her new album and life during the pandemic. The interview was edited for clarity and length.

“Be Aware” sounds like you wrote it last year. It sounds like advice for helping people through the pandemic.

I was talking at that time (1971) about the Vietnam War. That’s what I was thinking about. And hunger has always been a problem in the world. So many things are still a problem—homelessness for children. The world has changed a lot for the better, but a lot has remained the same. And it’s amazing how when I was mixing this thinking how relevant it was to today’s world.

Today’s production technology improved “Once You’ve Been in Love,” which you recorded in one take in the 1970s.

I wanted to sing it in the middle of an orchestra—feel that experience of being right there. Of course, they forgot to put baffles behind me so you couldn’t edit it then. You couldn’t raise one element of the orchestra. But now what’s fun for me is it’s like we’re conducting the orchestra. When I was working on it with my engineer, Jochem van der Saag, on the iPad during Covid, it was so much fun to have an engineer who could actually add congas or a marimba or whatever.

I was surprised by the radio remix he did for the new single “Sweet Forgiveness.”

That’s the one with the beat.


What did you think of it?

I liked it. I like the original better. It loses some of its drama by being more contemporary, but it works for radio now.

Right. I have no idea about that kind of thing. I mean the record company liked it or wanted me to do it, I guess. So I did it, but my favorite is the orchestration as it was.

Do you like the idea of kind of trying something new and seeing how it turns out?

Yeah. But you know, it’s not my primary focus now. I’ve been doing this book—I started writing my journals in 1999 in long hand because I never learned how to type and now I wish I did.

Did you spend most of the pandemic working on the book?

I signed a book deal in 2014 and it was supposed to be done in two years. (Laughs.) I’m long overdue and my book is 824 pages at the moment and it’s not finished. I’ll look for any other reason than to write about my life. It’s like “been there, done that.” But during the pandemic I caught up a lot.

What is your process like?

I get up in the morning. My husband (James Brolin) and I may trade stocks and then I work on my book. Never had to dress up for anybody. It was kind of delicious to walk around my gardens and rearrange certain things. But basically, it was about writing the book.

Are you ready to go back into the world now?

Not really. I like the privacy. And now look at it again, this surge because people don’t want to get vaccinated. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m so sad for all the people that have died needlessly over the last two years. I mean it’s just horrific. I just have to have faith in goodness and kindness, doing the right thing, and compassion.

Image courtesy of AP

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