Thanks to Marissa for taking the time to do this, Brooke over at Big Hassle for setting it up, and of course Eva for conducting this awesome interview!
This is actually my first interview ever so Iím pretty excited!
Well thanks for interviewing me!
You just released your fifth album, which is self-titled. I was just curious as to why you chose to name this after yourself.
I felt like it was a very definitive collection of songs for me more so than the previous records. I just felt that I was involved in every step of the process and most artists have a self-titled record and this one I felt good enough about to self title it.
Brian McTear produced this record. You wrote on your tumblr that you recommended him not only as a producer but also as a friend. How did your connection with him help to shape the sound and feel of the album?
What I like about working with Brian is that he is really not the kind of producer that wants to take the musicians that he works with and shape them into his sound. He knows my sound and knows what I like, and works to help me get it as opposed to trying to be a dictator. He really just tries to work with the artist to get the best sound possible. Heís open to experimenting and exploring in the studio.
The song ďMr. John Lee RevisitedĒ is in reference to ďMr. John Lee (Velveteen Rose)Ē from The Saga Of Mayflower May. Whatís the connection between the two songs?
In the first song I took a situation that I was upset about and kind of wrote a murder ballad about this love triangle, where she ends up floating in the river and the sheriff finds her body. In the new song, itís more direct story telling where I sing about what actually happened to the people. Theyíre not make believe characters -- they werenít then and theyíre not now, but the new song is a re-visitation on the people. I kind of outline what happened in the years since.
So kind of like a reunion?
A re-visitation of the people because theyíre all doing different things. In the song I just say what happened and what everybody ended up doing as opposed to somebody dying in a river. That didnít happen and this is what did.
How would you say your music has grown and developed over time? Youíve been around for a while now.
You know, I see my records as a whole body of work and a long continuation of one long growth process as opposed to seeing each record as a definitive statement. I havenít really stopped writing or playing since I started. In terms of growth, I think that the structures are a lot more experimental. ďBaby I Will Leave You In The MorningĒ is a song that has seven or eight modulations and key changes. Once you learn structure you can kind of fiddle around with it a little. I think that I continue to learn new things each time I write a song and I think all musicians just try and get better at what they do.
Speaking of ďBaby I Will Leave You In The MorningĒ, like you mentioned, there are numerous modulations. How did that song come to be what we hear it as now?
I was actually just experimenting one night. Itís funny, that song I wasnít even going to put on the record. I came into the studio with about eighteen songs. A lot of the songs ended up on an EP that I havenít released yet. But I had this song, and most songs usually have like, a traditional verse and a traditional chorus. Even in pop music and rock music thereís the traditional verse and then thereís the chorus and this song doesnít really have that. Itís more of an incline. I was kind of just experimenting to see if it could be a song where the modulations would serve as the break or the chorus. I was just kind of having fun writing it I guess. When I played it for Brian he really liked it and it made me feel better about playing with this thing that I wasnít even sure was a song.
Was that the turning point for the direction the album ended up going in?
There was no specific turning point in the recording process just because I had a lot of the songs written as is. If anything that song was just the one that had the most changes happen to it, in terms of production. Some of the songs I just came in and they sounded really good on their own so we didnít do too much to them. This one had a lot of space to have a lot of fun with. That was one of the most fun songs to work on.
Earlier this year, you collaborated with Carter Tanton on the song ďFake PretendĒ. How did that come about and what was it like working with Carter?
Well, Carter plays on my record. He plays a lot of the instrumentation on my record and weíre friends. We like playing on each otherís music and he asked me to sing on this song. He was living in Boston at the time and we did a lot of music together.
Anyone that pre-ordered the album was also given an EP with a few covers on it. How did you choose which songs to cover?
I actually gave everyone that pre-ordered a covers album that I already had finished. Itís a collection of sixteen songs and that was kind of to hold them over because Iím still working on finishing up, actually as we speak, the second volume of cover songs. Itís taken me so long because itís really hard to find songs that you love enough to cover but donít love so much that youíre afraid to ruin them. (Laughs) Iím kind of a perfectionist in some ways. I was supposed to be done two months ago and Iím just kind of pulling my hair out trying to find songs that I can sing. Iím not into the whole ironic cover song. Iím not going to cover a song just to be shocking or ironic. I want to sing songs that mean something to me but itís hard. When they do mean something you donít want to do a disservice to them. Iíve got a bunch done, like sixteen. You donít want to do something thatís too lyrically specific or makes less sense for a woman to sing or if you have to change the pronouns. Itís almost like Iím obsessing more about this than my own work just because youíre working with other peopleís songs and you have to really pay a lot of respect to them.
So youíre hoping to finish that today?
I have enough songs for it, itís just that I want it to be good, you know? The problem with the internet world is that anything you put out, even if itís just for a couple hundred people that pre-ordered the record from me directly, itíll be living on the internet forever and ever. Itís not just for the people that pre-ordered it. Itíll go online and itíll be downloadable. Iím trying to finish it. (Laughs) Iím leaving for a tour next week and Iím trying to get it done before then.
Thatís a perfect segue. Youíre going on tour with James Vincent McMorrow starting next week in New York. Are you excited to be touring again?
Touring is one of those things for me, I think my music speaks for itself and itís very delicate and sensitive. Thatís just the way I am. So Iím excited to play my music for a different audience. I donít know if our audiences really overlap. So itíll be good just to get out there. Iím sure itíll take a few shows to get in the swing of things. I get stage fright still. Once I get through the first song Iím usually fine. Itís just the build up and anticipation. Even after all these years and all these performances I still have that self-doubt. But I think for most artists if you donít have that, I think it might be healthy to have that element of humility.
To wrap things up, what have you been listening to lately?
Iíve been listening to a lot of old music, like Sammy Smith and Tammy Wynette and Joy Division. I listen to pretty much a lot of old stuff, although I must admit that I have to make an effort to listen to more contemporary music. (Laughs)