Kingston After Dark: Interview with Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer — Sybil Ludington in a past life?


I hadn’t had the pleasure of interviewing acclaimed songwriter and inspiring musicians’ advocate Amanda Palmer in about 11 years, since back when I worked for the now-shuttered AMP magazine. Nowadays she is a regional resident, a mom, a best-selling author and the force behind one of the most debated TED talks ever.

On the eve of the release of her bold new album There Will Be No Intermission (which has already gotten her called a demon by right-wing glass-house “Christians” before even being released in full), well, let’s just say it was awesome to check in with Amanda again and catch up. She remains, through a quite rare emphasis on self-worth paired with compassion, entirely the queen of her own kingdom.

Morgan Y. Evans: The album title concept of There Will Be No Intermission … it makes me think of how life just happens despite our intentions. Self-care is so important but sometimes you just are thrown in the thick of it anyway. As an artist you have to process it. Your video statement that accompanied the album announcement was so personal, real and vulnerable. Do you feel good knowing that you can share with your fans who you are as a person and they in turn can draw inspiration or even sometimes work through difficult stuff themselves?

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Amanda Palmer: Oof, what a great question. You know — I’ve never done the same thing twice and I really like it that way. Every album or project I’ve created has always tumbled out of some sort of coincidence: in life, with collaborators, this is the most fun part of the job, for me. If anything, there’s a labor pain that goes along with releasing an album like this, because I’m called on to leave the kindness of my fan cave, where 15,000 patrons are just very supportive and thoughtful and kindly critical, and re-enter the arena of the feminist press and the wider media. And there are so many people out there who simply enjoy hating me as if it’s some sort of competitive varsity sport. And the idea of putting out this sort of material, material this bare and personal, and imagining it being torn apart by critics, it’s just excruciating. But I suppose that’s also why I do it. Lately I’m interested in doing things that frighten me — it keeps me on my creative toes.

MYE: International Women’s Day is the album release day. At the risk of being blunt, I’d just love to hear in your own words why that was important to you. I mean of course you have made statements through art on Trump and Weinstein before. I have to say I am very excited about all the women in Congress right now. 

AP: I’ve been re-examining my whole career lately, through the newly-squeegeed lens of the #MeToo movement … I bet a lot of women have. It’s so fascinating, all of our deeply-engrained prejudices and sexisms, and how much Kool-Aid is still swilling around in our systems. I’ve always been a very vocal women’s rights advocate, but this album feels like the most unapologetic offering I’ve made in the feminist department.

MYE: So you have been participating in the energy of Woodstock now awhile, making your mark on the region. Please don’t have a Bob Dylan motorcycle crash, just the reclusive brilliant artist part. And you aren’t even that reclusive! I love you’ve supported the Woodstock Library. How did the region help shape this album? I mean, the Catskills are an excellent place to zone out and play piano amidst the falling leaves. My seasonal depression always produces great material, if I last until spring and can chill the heck out. You used some local studios, right? 

AP: Haha. Yes. [Husband and noted author] Neil [Gaiman] and I weren’t planning on moving to our current house full time when we bought it; we were going to try to stake out a place in the city and use our place in Bearsville as a country retreat. But then I had a baby, and everything changed very fast. I’m a committed city person, but I decided to face the fire and very deliberately slow my life down, and this is where the nest was already more or less feathered, so we stayed. And it’s been a fascinating dance here, with this property, with this house, with the town of Woodstock. I’m not sure the record would have turned out quite this way if I hadn’t had the solitude and the lack of distraction. I have a piano on our property, but I find it very difficult to write at home with people and kids around, so I snuck off to a lot of other places to write and record: “Drowning in the Sound” was written and demo’d in Kingston at a tiny studio, “The Ride” was written at Marco Benevento’s home studio and “Voicemail for Jill” was written and demo’d at Applehead studios right in Woodstock. I just squatted where I could.

MYE: Ha, I am sure it wasn’t a burden on anyone and they were all probably stoked you were there. So, I am going kind of stir-crazy because my partner is on the West Coast for a few months dealing with shitty ex drama. Today is Valentine’s Day. You’re so busy. How do you deal with the longer periods of time when life separates you from your partner? I think you are a Taurus so maybe that helps you to boldly sort of be stubborn and create even amidst whatever is going on?

AP: Neil and I have always been independent forces who sometimes fly in tandem, since the beginning of our relationship. We miss each other, but I think we’d both probably admit that our obsession with our work is right up there with our commitment to one another, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a huge reason we were attracted to one another: we saw each other as work-obsessed equals who wouldn’t stand in one another’s way to creation. And nowadays, we actually take guarding one another’s creative worktime very seriously. I took it for the team for the past two years while Neil worked overseas on a TV show, and Neil is about to take it for the team this coming year while I tour this album. We’ve gotten much better at trading off.

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