Back in the '70s, Jane Cohen - a nice girl from Brooklyn with a fondness for Christmas carols - remade herself into a cabaret singer, rechristened herself Jane Olivor, and promptly earned comparisons to Piaf and Streisand. A string of albums and concert tours followed, and then Olivor vanished from the music scene. She resurfaced in 1993 after more than a decade out of the spotlight, but has recorded and performed only intermittently since. Among her other passions: horse racing, astrology, and handwriting analysis. On Saturday Olivor returns to the Berklee Performance Center for a show called "A Boston Holiday Tradition." We recently caught up with the 61-year-old singer by phone at her home in Maryland.
Q. What's on the set list for Saturday?
A. Bacharach, Johnny Mathis, Christmas songs, some spirituals and ballads. Oh let's not talk about the music only. I've been talking about that for years. I don't want to get too serious, but I'm very, very upset. It's a very frightening time, with people losing their houses and their jobs, and the weather. If people go into denial everything will fall apart. Forgive me if I go off on tangents. I have ADD.
Q. No problem. How did you wind up living in Maryland?
A. Poverty. Seriously. I have not been paid for those records. There's deception everywhere. I've had betrayal my whole life. My dad was a great character, but he was a rageaholic. My mother is gorgeous and has a mental illness called narcissism. She should be brought up on criminal charges because she tried to kill my soul. I don't know how I turned out so hopeful.
Q. I noticed on your website that you're a performance coach.
A. You could really help me in this regard. I have to get the word out. I'm going to teach a holistic approach to being a star, from buying your clothes to food to being on the road to picking your songs.
Q. You've famously struggled with debilitating stage fright. Do you have rituals to ease the anxiety?
A. I say a prayer. I center myself. I hopefully have done my homework. . . . Once I'm onstage it gets better, and I love to walk around the song and find new chords or melodic lines, and go into the audience and connect with people. It's a cliche, I know, but I want people who come hear me sing to leave better than when they came in.