Thanks to all of you who have mailed in questions for Tracey Thorn for my first "Ask The Artist" segment. Tracey loved the idea and also posted it on her blog to invite fans to respond. I received many, many great questions, which made it pretty challenging to put together a good selection to ask. I ended up compiling a list with both fun and intelligent questions that will hopefully give you some new insights in her music (and sense of humor).
Many thanks to Tracey for taking time to answer the questions for Arjanwrites.com so quickly and candidly. And if you haven't heard new album "Out Of The Woods" yet, go get it immediately. It is one of my favorite records of the year so far. It is a classic with its mix of English pop, folk and electronica that emphasizes Thorn's soothing vocals and meaningful storytelling. It is one of those rare timeless gems that you can dance to, shed a tear with or simply enjoy with your eyes closed. (Get it on iTunes or Amazon.)
Today, the first part of the interview. The second part will follow later this week.
Question from Paula: What is your favourite music-critic description of your voice? a) a knee-buckling smoky alto, b) Like cool velvet on a hot summer day or c) A sweet fire that thrives in a frosty wind?
My favourite recent one appeared on my own MySpace page, and it read, "I love your voice, I first heard it on the Style Council's "Cafe Bleu," and I thought you were a man." Compliments don't really get more double-edged than that.
Questions from Andres, Brian and Gabriel: Even if "A-Z" does not necessarily have an overt gay theme, some of the lyrics do have some resonance in comparison to Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." Did you see "A-Z" as mirroring that seminal '80's song? What was the inspiration for that song and what are your feelings about gay rights in general. How do you feel about the gay community embracing you?
"A-Z" was inspired by, and is in part an act of homage to the great "Smalltown Boy" (as an interesting footnote to my answer above, when i first heard Jimmy Somerville, i thought he was a woman, so there you go). I read an article in the paper about bullying of gay teenagers in schools, and how prevalent it is, and how it is a leading cause of teenage suicide, which is sad and dispiriting. It makes me feel enormous sympathy and warmth towards anyone who has the misfortune to be any kind of outsider at school. Kids can be such lumpen idiots.
I've always been kind of embraced by the gay community and I am very proud to be so - I feel very welcomed and understood by gay fans, in a way that i sometimes don't feel understood by the more heterosexually-oriented-male-dominated rock community, for instance. It s a cliche in some ways, but it is about a basic and shared understanding that Dusty Springfield is more important than Bobby Gillespie.
Question from Dave: If you and Ben could select one of their songs to be covered by one artist, what and who would they choose?
I can't speak for Ben as he is not here at the moment, but I would love to hear Rufus Wainwright sing "Hang Out The Flags," which is about Judy Garland.
Question from Steph: Do you & Ben ever think of making a new EBTG album ? Or is it completely out of the way for both of you?
Not at the moment. We are both too busy with our own things, which is good considering the number of years we spent doing everything together! It feels healthy.
Question from James: What are your songwriting inspirations (as opposed to the musical ones)?
Randy Newman, Morrissey/Marr, Natalie Merchant, Jimmy Webb and Smokey Robinson.
Question from Burak: Are you planning a world tour or a European tour?
(Look out for Part 2 of the interview tomorrow.)