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Cover Girl: Amanda Palmer (Part 2)
with Melissa A. Bartell


In part one of our interview with Amanda Palmer, we talked about her communication philosophy. In part two, we delve a bit more into her relationships with fans, and with the media.

Are your fans generally respectful of your need to have some separation, despite your tendency toward online candor?

They’re the best.

I think I get really special consideration and respect from my fans because I treat them so well and love them so much. it works out nice that way.

Let’s turn toward some of the less savory aspects of the media. Your song, “Oasis” sparked quite a bit of controversy, mostly, it seems, due to its upbeat nature while addressing some serious experiences. Were you expecting that sort of backlash?

No, not at all. Honestly. I thought the song was funny and cute and thought people would like it.

I think I’m a bit naive sometimes. I forget what the world is like because I spend so much time hanging out with art weirdos.

Do you think body image, especially among girls and young women, is an important issue? If you had a magic wand you could wave, what would you change about the way women are portrayed in media, or would you?

Oh God, yes. I think it’s terrifying nowadays to see what passes for “standard” beauty, because it seems to be getting worse.

I just read a great book by Ariel Levy (who also went to my alma mater, Wesleyan University) called Female Chauvinist Pigs.” It’s a great read and is about the reverse-empowerment that has been going on lately in regards to girls feeling stronger when they slut-out.

I’m trapped in the same mirror that everyone else is. I think, at the end of the day, it’s all about random choice. Are you LOCKED into a habit? Can you NOT leave the house without make-up? MUST you shave?

There are NO answers. There is no right way. But if you’re trapped, you’re fucked. I encourage everybody to experiment.

The ReBellyon [a movement started by Amanda Palmer fans outraged by RoadRunner Record’s accusation that her belly was too large to appear in a music video] became quite a movement unto itself. What are your thoughts about the fan reactions and the start of The ReBellyon?

A study in empowerment and a wonderful use of the internet, I think.

People can do big things, together, and FAST.

 

And then there was the “ReBellython.” For our readers who may not be familiar with that, could you tell us a bit about it?

It was a name that someone came up for the collection of belly photos that started flooding into the band forum after RoadRunner Records (my label) suggested I looked fat in one of my videos and asked me to cut a few shots.

I blogged about it and the photos came pouring in. I was very proud of the fans. I hadn’t instigated this, it was feminist anarchy! The best bellies were the big tubby hairy man bellies. And some pets.

 

In addition to being a kick-ass musician, and all around creative person, you have a spiritual side. When did you begin to explore Buddhism, and what led you to it?

My best friend and neighbor, Anthony, who was like a dad to me growing up, turned me onto yoga and meditation when I was a teenager. I’ve been practicing ever since, and it’s a very important part of my life - I don’t think I could be very happy without it.

I recently read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and it’s a great starting place for people interested in mindfulness who are turned off by religion. I don’t consider myself a Buddhist - I consider myself a seeker, a yoga-doer, a stretcher, a sitter, a lost human being, like all of us, in search of a more present and mindful existence. Religion’s got nothing to do with it.

Do you meditate, or use other private rituals to help keep you grounded and centered? Can you share a bit about that?

I try to sit for at least twenty minutes every morning (and often fail) and I go to a yoga studio at least four-five times a week when I’m at home. On the road things get harder.

Your creativity and talent are seemingly limitless. What do you do when your creative energy begins to wane? How do you recharge yourself?

I just stop. Allowing myself to vegetate has been a struggle, but I’ve learned how to do it relatively well. I listen to myself. I slow down. I eat with friends. I read. I don’t force.

You’ve become a hero, of sorts, to many young women. Who are your personal heroes?

Well, Anthony, who I mentioned above, is a big one.

One of my favorite writers is a dead monk named Seung Sahn. I often recommend his letter-books to people I know, especially one called Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. It’s hilarious and profound.

I have my poet heroes, my musical and lyrical heroes, like Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Robyn Hitchcock, Edward Kaspel, John Lennon. The ladies? Joni Mitchell. Nina Simone. Laurie Anderson. Joan Baez.

What’s next from Amanda Palmer?

My next big focus is putting out the Evelyn Evelyn record this spring. They’re conjoined twin sisters who play piano, accordion, drums, guitar and ukulele.

Jason Webley and I discovered them on MySpace and we made their first record. It’s awe-inspiring. They’re such talented songwriters and such strange souls. I can’t wait to share their music with the world.

If you want to learn more about The Rebellyon, check out the website. To keep up with Amanda, check out her website AmandaPalmer.net, or follow her on Twitter: @AmandaPalmer.