Amanda Palmer is more than just a singer, songwriter, pianist, director, playwright and author. She has forged an entirely alternative path for artists and continually exploded the traditional framework of music, business and artistry combined. Forever brazen and tangibly passionate, Amanda spoke to CAITLIN NORRIS about the experience of speaking at a TED Conference and how it changed her life, the deeply personal themes she challenged herself to face for the creation of her new record There Will Be No Intermission, and how she cannot wait to hang out with her kid. Catch Amanda Palmer in Kabarett Haus for Perth Festival on Saturday, February 22.
So, how did you become involved with Kaberret Haus and Perth Festival?
It’s all about Meow Meow. It’s all Meow, all the time, 24/7. She’s an incredibly beloved old friend of mine and then Neil [Gaiman, Palmer’s husband] inherited her when we got married, and she rang us up and asked if we wanted to do the festival. The fact that I happened to be over here touring in Australia anyway was a huge, beautiful synchronicity so there was no way we were gonna say no.
What was the journey of creation like for There Will Be No Intermission considering it spanned over seven years?
That’s a huge question. A lot of those songs were written in the dead of night as kind of a form of therapy. And some of the songs were written before I even knew that they would be collected into a record. I have forged a really delicious path of being completely crowdfunded at this point, so I didn’t even need to out a record out because I was simply able to release singles to my Patreon and get paid. But at a certain point I realised they threaded together pretty beautifully into a record and it was time to hit the road again so I started the long and slow process of putting basically a concept record together. Then I realised if I was gonna be really honest about the last seven years of my life then I was going to need to write about abortion and miscarriage. So I set myself literally to the task of writing about those topics and it was really hard. That in turn gave birth to the stage show which has kind of turned into a bizarre combination of stand up comedy and Disney songs and tear jerking piano songs.
When you first began crowdfunding and this whole idea was birthed and went so insanely well, did you still imagine you would be crowdfunded so many years later?
Well, yes and no. That’s a good question. I certainly knew by 2012 that I would never let anything stand in the way of my relationship with my community again, because my major label just did not get it. They saw me as a commodity and my fans as consumers and it really sickens me. Once I escaped that hellhole of corporate commercialism, I knew that I would never go back. And what form that would take, I didn’t know, but the purest form of feeling un-commodified as an artist is to have a direct relationship with your audience. There’s just nothing more transparent and comfortable. The minute you’ve got people standing in between making decisions about what’s best for you or best for your community, you’ve lost control.
What was it like to take everything you’ve learned to somewhere like a TED Conference? To be sharing that message with people that perhaps had never really heard of it before…
That’s a great question. One of the things that being at TED opened my eyes to was how small of a bubble I had been living in. Because I lived and breathed in an alternative artistic community, and spoke a language of artistic people. There I was all of a sudden talking about music and community and how it works to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and realising that actually first of all, there was a lot that these people didn’t know about tiny, little indie artists and how we work. And also, entrepreneurial DIY punk bands have a lot in common with people who start companies that make eco-villages. There’s a lot of important knowledge floating around everywhere, that we’re not necessarily sharing with each other.
And one of the things that I did not know I was going to take out of my experience with TED – because I just didn’t know anything about TED, I just thought that you went up on stage and there was some random audience and you did your talking and you went home – I didn’t realise that it was an entire community of thinkers and entrepreneurs and scientists and doctors, and my whole social circle and brain got blown open by the community of people at TED who are generally really progressive and want to help and learn and collaborate. So TED changed my life because I did my talk and that in itself is fantastic, but I also realised that I had been swimming around in a teeny little myopic pond of music and art people and there was so much to learn from people outside of my lane.
What does the rest of 2020 look like for you?
This tour will have seen me and Neil on the road for the better part of a year. And we’ve got a 4 year old. So I’m actually going to take a legitimate sabbatical for about 5 months. My son and Neil have come with me on this tour so I still see him almost everyday, but I haven’t had time to really slow down and talk with him and be with him in the way that I wish I could. S0 as soon as this tour wraps in New Zealand I’m heading home and I’m gonna hang out with my kid.