The photos and articles about Elvis’s time in the army, and Helga’s story about her brother Werner in the bog post, Pelude: A German Connection - Then and Now, connect to the following interview because they all take place in Germany--homeland of featured interviewee ETA Oliver Steinhoff. Although I have not had the pleasure of meeting Oliver or seeing him perform in person, I have viewed his award winning performances on YouTube. In the video of his performance in Collingwood, 2016, Oliver’s powerful voice shakes the Collingwood building from floor to rafters when he sings “Just Pretend” and “Hurt” during the semi-finals. Oliver receives a standing ovation for his performance, and goes on to win first place in the pro division. Oliver also won first place pro division titles at the 2016 Tweed Tribute to Elvis Festival and the 2014 Penticton Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival, adding a total of three Canadian championships to his numerous international awards.
Oliver speaks fondly of his experiences at Collingwood and Tweed, Ontario, and Penticton, British Columbia, and of the many friends and fans he has made in Canada. In Oliver’s own words, “You are all amazing.” Lisa Lesage, Chair of the Tweed Tribute to Elvis Festival, and President of Tweed Music Festivals Inc., speaks of ETA Oliver Steinhoff’s many fine traits that endear him to his friends, family and fans in her heartfelt message that follows:
I met Oliver in 2013, I believe, at the Collingwood festival while I was there representing the Tweed Tribute to Elvis Festival. He was as personable then as he is now. Oliver is a wonderful ETA who loves his job as a tribute artist. He is genuinely funny and has a wonderful sense of humour. He is also a very professional tribute artist in every sense of the word and a true gentleman, family man, and great entertainer. It is rare to meet a man like Oliver. He is very open to his fellow ETAs and to his fans. I have always enjoyed working with him and I hope to get that opportunity again in the very near future.
Thank you very much, Lisa, for contributing your kind words to Oliver's introduction. CM
Spotlight On: ETA Oliver Steinhoff
Q. In what city were you born?
A. I was born in Bad Hersfeld.
Q. Where do you now live?
A. I now live close to Hoxter, where I bought a house five years ago.
Q. What are your favourite memories from childhood?
A. As a child, I had a lot of pets.
Q. What are your best memories from your early school days?
A. I can’t remember.
Q. Did you receive any special training or education after secondary school?
A. No, I did not receive any post-secondary school training or education.
Q. Before you became a professional ETA, what other careers did you have?
A. I worked as a welder. I also did sing-alongs at weddings and birthdays with different kinds of music.
Q. Do you recall the circumstances of when you first heard Elvis Presley music?
A. I became an Elvis fan at the age of 8 or 9 when a cousin listened to Elvis music.
Q. What were the circumstances that lead to you buying your first Elvis costume?
A. I wanted to begin my career as an ETA, so in 2002 I bought my first Elvis costume ;-)
Q. What is your musical background?
A. I have no musical background.
Q. Had you performed as a singer before becoming an Elvis Tribute Artist?
A. Yes, I did some kinds of music: the Platters, the Righteous Brothers, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and others.
Q. How difficult was it for you to master singing like Elvis, given that his songs are in English?
A. To sing Elvis songs wasn’t really difficult; to understand them was the bigger problem. Now, it is much easier.
Q. Describe your first performance as an ETA in detail, including how you felt before, during, and after your performance.
A. In my opinion we had too many bad ETAs, and I thought it should be a place to pay a respectful tribute to Elvis, so I started in the business. After my first appearance, the audience was surprised because I sang unusual songs such as, “Power of my Love”, “Any Day Now”, and “Long Black Limousine”. Since these songs were not expected, the response was great.
Q. Describe your first competition in detail, including how you felt. Were you happy with your performance and the outcome of the competition?
A. My first competition was in Austria, Vienna…and it was an experience as always. They robbed me of my win by awarding first place to a friend of the producer…lol.
Q. When, and under what circumstances, did you win your first competition as an ETA? Were you a professional, or non-professional at your first win?
A. I began my ETA career as a professional. My first win was in Minnesota in the Mall of America, in 2004, I believe. Since then, I have won many more titles.
Q. What ETA competitions exist in Germany?
A. No competitions for ETAs exist in Germany.
Q. Does winning a competition in Europe give you a guaranteed entry into the next competition?
A. No, but if you place second or third you qualify for next year’s finals, which will be in Birmingham, UK.
Q. What competitions have you entered in Europe?
A. In the past 15 years, there have been more competitions. The longest running competition is www.elviscontest.co.uk. I am the first ETA who has won this contest twice.
Q. How are ETAs received by audiences in Germany and in Europe? Do audiences behave differently?
A. The audiences in Germany are totally different from all other countries I have visited. Holland, the UK, Spain, Canada, and the USA are great. They love Elvis and Elvis Tribute Artists. But in Germany, you need a lot of time to raise a fan base.
Q. Have you visited the spa town of Bad Nauheim where Elvis spent his army leave while stationed in Germany?
A. Yes, I have been there many, many times; however, the producers of the Elvis Festival in Bad Nauheim don’t like ETAs. (I don’t want to explain why.)
Q. Have you participated in Bad Nauheim’s annual Elvis Festival that began in 2002?
A. I was one of the first ones who participated, until they said, “No, we don’t want ETAs.” Crazy.
Q. Do you think the interest in ETAs in Germany has grown since you the time you began your ETA career?
A. Because of my career, definitely yes. A lot of other ETA guys have started in this business after me; but no one has become a champion in competition.
Q. Is there a company in Germany or in Europe where you buy your jumpsuits?
A. No. I buy my jumpsuits from B+K Enterprises. I tried buying from other companies, but if you want the best, you have to order from B+K Enterprises.
Q. What has surprised you most about being a professional ETA?
A. I didn’t expect that I could be a full-time ETA; but it has happened, and I am really glad.
Q. What do you enjoy most about being an ETA?
A. I am living my dream to entertain people with my kind of Elvis music and shows worldwide.
Q. What goal do you hope to achieve in the next five years?
A. I have only one goal: to be the first Ultimate ETA from Germany.
Q. What led to your decision to come to Canada to compete?
A. Collingwood was the reason. At first I was just going to visit, but then I changed my mind and decided to compete there…lol.
Q. What were your first impressions of Canada and Canadians?
A. Unexpected…Canadians are friendly and polite. Canada is a beautiful country. I am thinking of moving from Germany to Canada.
Q. Have you travelled to other Canadian provinces? Are there any you would like to visit?
A. Yes. I was in Penticton, British Columbia after Collingwood. Wow! I was deeply impressed with how nice this place is. I also visited Tweed, and you can’t imagine how nice the people are. I love Tweed, Collingwood, and Penticton.
Q. Did you feel welcomed into the brotherhood/sisterhood of Canada’s community of ETAs?
A. More welcomed. I made a lot of friends.
Q. What is the most difficult part of competing?
A. To try and not be under too much pressure. It is difficult to compete in another country if your main language isn’t the same.
Q. What thoughts do you have before you step onto the stage during competition, and also during a concert performance?
A. Have I prepared enough? Is my voice strong enough?
Q. What is the atmosphere like backstage before a competition?
A. Exited. Concentrated. Focused.
Q. What is the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked you?
A. I was asked to sign a woman’s boobs…lol. I didn’t!
Q. How has being an internationally recognized ETA changed your life?
A. For me, it is important to inspire other ETAs. I always watch Elvis to have my lessons.
Q. Has it changed your personality?
A. Yes, that’s a normal thing, because it is showbiz. I have a private life and a business life.
Q. How do you keep yourself grounded while working in the entertainment business?
A. In my opinion you have to be grounded always. I am just an ETA, not more. Success isn’t a reason not to be grounded.
Q. How has your day to day life changed since becoming a professional ETA? Describe a typical day for you.
A. My daily office work is to check my mail, send offers, prepare shows, and create new things for the business. I spend time with my wife and son, which wouldn’t be possible if I had a normal day job. I am thankful each day to have great health and a great life.
Q. When you no longer perform as an ETA, what will you do with your time?
A. It will be a “Multi-Level Marketing” business.
Q. When will you be returning to Canada and the USA?
A. I will be returning to the USA or Canada in 2018 and 2019.
Q. Is there an ETA title in Europe or North America that you would like to add to your wins?
A. I won a lot of titles, but the biggest would be the Ultimate Tribute title in Memphis.
Q. Are there people whom you would like to thank for contributing to your happiness in life?
A. I would thank my wife and son, Elvis, all Elvis fans, Aneglika Springauf--who met Elvis many times, and many, many more people.
Q. Is there anyone you met in Canada whom you would like to say hello to in this interview?
A. Yes, of course. Thank you to all my Canadian friends. You are all amazing.
Q. Do you have scheduled competitions or concerts that you wish to share with readers?
A. You will find all the information at www.oliver.steinhoff.de
Thank you very much, Oliver, for consenting to be interviewed and for providing such wonderful photos and very interesting answers. I hope that when you return to Canada, I may have the opportunity to thank you in person. Best regards, Carolyn.
Collingwood Elvis Festival Crowns German King, July, 25th, 2016 by Erika Engel