Friday, May 18, 2012

Jane Siberry on k.d. lang, life on the road, and HuffPo

Singer-songwriter Jane Siberry opens for k.d. lang at the Lied Center.

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 8:25 AM

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Singer-songwriter Jane Siberry is probably best-known for "It Can't Rain All of the Time," her contribution to The Crow soundtrack. But the Canadian musician's string of hits goes all the way back to 1984's "Mimi on the Beach." Siberry's music is at times folky, arty or spiritual, but always intriguing. She's opening for k.d. lang this Sunday, May 20, at the Lied Center, and was kind enough to spend part of her Tuesday afternoon speaking with us by phone about the current tour with lang and being inspired on the road.

The Pitch: I assume that k.d. lang's audiences are familiar with you, at least peripherally, as she covered a couple of your songs ["The Valley" and "Love Is Everything"] on her album Hymns of the 49th Parallel.

Siberry: I think that's definitely part of what's happening, but we've sort of wanted to work together for a long time, so this feels like a reunion.

Are you strictly an opening act, or are you performing as part of her swing show, as well?

There is a song we do together, "Calling All Angels," which we did as a duet [from the soundtrack to Until the End of the World] long ago.

Speaking of long ago, your career has had several acts, in which you've been discovered by several diverse audiences - soundtrack appearances, your name change to Issa, and your actual albums. What sort of audience has found you each time?

I would say that when I changed my name to Issa, a lot of fans fell away, because they didn't know about it, and it became a very filtered core group of people who went through that period with me, and that sort of feels right. And then I changed my name - after three years - to Jane Siberry, and a lot of new people have found me, who don't even know that I ever changed my name. That's about all I can say.

I feel really lucky because of the interesting group of people that find me - and often by some sort of magical route. It's been a really interesting career, like you say, and it's had different acts already that I never expected.

You spoke of people coming to your music through different routes. Do you mean through your duet with k.d. lang and the Crow soundtrack and so on?

Yes, through k.d. lang and the Crow - and some might've come because of something I've written for the Huffington Post.

What's the response been thus far to the HuffPo columns?

Well, it's a different aspect to what I do, but people seem to like the writing. Or I get people saying, "I wish you would write more." Not just for the Post, but because it's a different way of sending out what I believe about the world.

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Does it flex different parts of your creative self to write columns for the Huffington Post versus writing songs? Does it scratch different itches?

Yeah, it does, but I thought I'd write every week. I've found, though, it's like writing music for me. I have to really have a bee under my bonnet and something I really see clearly that I want to capture or say. I'm afraid I'm not really good with deadlines. I try so hard. You wouldn't believe how many schedules I've written out in big felt pen - "do this, do that."

Do you find, then, that you work best when an idea just comes to you, as opposed to sitting down and saying, "I'm going to write today"?

Yes. Well, usually something happens anyway, when I sit down and work. That's why I keep trying to be more disciplined - I just have to press the button, and it's all there. But the extra element is a bee under my bonnet. I don't know how to describe it more than that.

Are there sorts of things that set that bee a-buzzing more than others?

Often, a sense of injustice, and something that I want to reframe in a way that's necessary. So it's often a reaction to something, which is why I'm glad to have a paper to write for, 'cause it's current. I see things that are really wrong or something I think that should be captured.

Writing for the Huffington Post allows you to react to something more immediately than writing a song, going into the studio, recording it, and then waiting for it to be released?

Yes.

When you go out on tour, do you visit the cities you're in?

Yes, I'm always interested, which is why I find it so wonderful to slip into k.d.'s system. I really do like to get out and get a sense of where I am and walk around. Often, after a show, I'll take a cab back to wherever I'm staying and make them drive me around an extra half-hour, and just give me a tour, which helps me calm down and get my bearings and everything.

What do you find that offers, in addition to allowing you to calm down? Do you find that it offers you a sense that you're not just on the road, but actually seeing places?

Yeah. And I've been doing more salons - like private salons? - and I did 72 of them two years ago in places like Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Places I never have the opportunity to play because I'm not well-enough known. Part of what I asked was that they take me on a tour of the area, to teach me about the history of the area or the spiritual qualities or whatever, and that I stay in their home, so that I get an idea of what the people are like. I try and stay two or three days each time. I find that's just been fantastic. Otherwise, as you know, you just go from airport or train station to hotel to sound check. But this way, I get a better sense.

Also, since I sold my home about six years ago, I have a place to go in the summer, but in the fall and winter, I just stay wherever I've landed. Just this past winter, I started an artist-in-residency program, where if someone has a big room with a window I can paint in or do music in, I'll go there for two months and live in a community I've never experienced.

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