Palmer's Love, Music, and Wanderlust
Amanda Palmer is in a good place right now. Not only is The Dresden Dolls singer riding the success of her 2008 solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, but she’s ready to release the record’s accompanying book of photos, she’s madly in love with the book’s renowned author, Neil Gaiman, and she’s gearing up to headline July’s Wanderlust Festival with some of her best buds. Catch Amanda, along with The Honey Brothers, Michael Franti, and a ton of other great musicians and yogis at Wanderlust, July 24-26 at Squaw Valley USA in Lake Tahoe. Read on for the singer’s musings on shit storms, miracles, and the awesomeness of silence.
7x7: How did you get involved in Wanderlust?
Amanda: I’m friendly with a lot of the people who run it and I know a ton of people on the bill.
7x7: We recently talked to Michael Franti and The Honey Brothers.
Amanda: Adrian Grenier. He’s a really nice guy. And I’ve been friendly with Michael Franti for years, because we have the same management. He and I, and me and Adrian, and me and Kaki King have all talked about doing things together at Wanderlust. I talked to Adrian and the band about maybe doing a Queen cover. And then Michael and I talked about doing something, and Kaki will probably hop in on my set. That’s one of the things that’s so fun about festivals, is you can just grab each other and do stuff like that. And I kind of have one foot in the yoga world a little bit, and I practice a lot.
7x7: Have you ever done a festival like this before?
Amanda: I don’t think there’s ever been one like this before. I’ve done a bunch of festivals – I’ve done Bonnaroo, I’ve done Glastonbury, I’ve done Rothbury – Rothbury’s kind of the closest thing I can think of that I’ve done that’s like this because there was tons of yoga every day. I’m actually kind of on a hiatus right now and doing very few shows.
7x7: You wrote an article on mediation for the Shambhala Sun – what’s your experience with yoga and meditation?
Amanda: I got started around high school or college. I had a great mentor that turned me on to yoga and meditation, and then I started discovering stuff myself. In my early 20s, I started doing silent meditation retreats in West Massachusetts, and back then I had practiced a little yoga. I started taking it more seriously at 25 or 26, and really delving into it. It’s really played a huge role in just making my life possible. I don’t think my life would be possible without it.
7x7: Does yoga influence your music, or vice versa?
Amanda: I think everything in life influences my music. But when I’m more mindful and more centered, it’s easier to access things. And creating is all about accessing. Everything helps everything. When I’m more grounded and on the healthier side of my ups and downs, I’m definitely more productive and more creative. The thing is, there’s never any ground rules. You never know when a shit storm is gonna happen. That’s why meditation and yoga are a practice. It’s just constantly trying to keep yourself ready and grounded and aware for whatever shit storm is coming – whether it’s creative, or emotional, or about a relationship. Yoga and meditation keep me solid and centered as various shit storms swirl, and [keep me from] getting on them – even when it’s a good one.
7x7: I read on your Twitter you can’t get Regina Spektor out of your head – does she inspire you? What other artists inspire you?
Amanda: Well, gazillions. Regina I was so excited about when I heard her first record in probably 2002 or 2003 – Soviet Kitsch. I remember having a really excited feeling that I don’t get very much. I felt like, “I really get this, I connect with this, this is doing something for me.” But she was really teeny back then – she opened up for the Dresden Dolls. When I had the chance to see her live, I was like, “Forget it, she’s gonna be huge.” And our fans freaked out about her. She’s just so good and powerful and it’s been wonderful to follow her career and watch her grow and watch her happen. And I’m really inspired by beautiful performers I get to see – Jason Webley, Tegan and Sara, people who I watch work and I really believe in them. I don’t spend a lot of time listening to music lately because I’m really into silence, and that’s been becoming truer and truer for years. I cope with so much noise in general, and so much noise in my head, that from the outside, I like it silent.
7x7: Do you listen to music when you do yoga?
Amanda: I generally like it silent. When life calms down, I mean really calms down, and there’s a long space of silence, and I can gather myself and think clearly, I’ll maybe think, “I fucking love that Depeche Mode record, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve listened to it,” and I’ll creep over to my dusty old record shelf and then remember how fucking transcendental music can be. But I think that happens to anyone who works in music. It becomes something other than pleasure because you’re listening to it with work ears and thinking about it with a work brain, and it gets depressing.
7x7: You did an event for SPIN.com’s Liner Notes earlier this month with Neil Gaiman. How did the idea for the book come about?
Amanda: Originally, it was a book of glorified album artwork. I wanted there to be a booklet with the record, but the label gave me no budget. So instead of going in there and causing a fuss and bitching and complaining, I took the zen route (laughs). I thought, “I’ll go make a book.” So that’s how it started, and I had a collection of dead photographs that I’d taken over the years, and I decided at a certain point it would be good to get a writer involved, so that the book wasn’t just images and lyrics, but had a bit of story. And I asked Neil, who I didn’t really know very well at the time, we’d just emailed back and forth. I knew he was fan of the album because I’d sent him an advanced copy. And he said he’d love to, which blew me away because I knew how busy he was. So we worked on the book at my house, and kept taking photos, and the book just grew and grew and grew, and finally I finished it a year after I thought it would be finished (laughs). Originally, I was hoping it would come out with the record.
7x7: The event raised $10,000 for the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (which supports homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with AIDS) – congratulations. How did it feel bringing the book to life in front of an audience?
Amanda: It was a really beautiful night – it was pouring rain outside. And Neil and I also sort of treated it as coming out party. People knew we were dating, but we hadn’t really talked about it or mentioned it. But it was like, okay, we’re in New York for an entire week, and we’re being really obvious and staying at the same hotel, we need to just say we’re dating. So we took that opportunity.
7x7: Was anyone surprised?
Amanda: Everyone was like, “Yeah, of course.” We were obviously in love with each other…and really, he’s fucking awesome. He’s seems that awesome, but really, he actually is.
7x7: Was it an instant connection or did it slowly develop?
Amanda: It slowly developed into that. Which is weird because usually, I crash into relationships, and this was the first one I haven’t crashed into, which I think has given it legs. It happened because we were sort of gradually looking at each other’s lives and each other, and one day, I remember going, “Wow I really, really like him and everything about him.” And he totally understood my life and I understood his, and this is the fantasy relationship I’ve always thought about where I didn’t have to change or explain myself or completely shift and change, and he just really loves me and he understands what I’m doing and why. It’s a miracle and it’s awesome. And it was hard for him to find a woman who could deal with Neil Gaiman – he’s in strange place, but I find it perfectly normal. It’s really a miraculous relationship. And I owe Jason Webley the biggest cheesecake in the world for introducing us.
7x7: How does it feel to have the book finally done?
Amanda: So wonderful. You cant imagine how long I’ve been waiting for this book. It was a giant labor of love, and it looks great. It’s so beautiful – I’m looking at my one copy right now. It’s a real, hardback gorgeous book with a cloth binding. It looks like a real book!
7x7: Do you have plans to visit the Bay Area?
Amanda: We’re gonna hang out there for a couple of days. Neil and I arevacationing around each other’s gigs, so we’re gonna be out in the Bay Area for three or four days. We’re gonna be visiting Google and hanging out. Neil’s son lives out there and works at Google, and he’s bringing his daughter, so we’re gonna have happy, family time. I’ll be playing The Crucible on July 18 in Oakland, so that’s why we’re there. And then I’ll be in San Diego to do benefit for The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for Comic-Con.
Watch Amanda rock the stage at The Crucible's Fire Arts Festival in Oakland, July 18, and at Lake Tahoe's Wanderlust Festival, July 24-26.