Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"With Mary Kay (Letourneau) , I did give her a break. You can't always control who you fall in love with." Jill Sobule talks to Caty Simon- Part II

Jill Sobule appears at the Iron Horse this Saturday night at 7PM. This is part two of Caty Simon's exclusive interview with Jill. Part one, along with a bio, is in the post below this one.

Caty: You write a lot about world events--the war in the Balkans, the Holocaust, the French Resistance, among others--but always from a more personal viewpoint. Why do you sometimes write love stories in these settings?

Jill: I like my love and sex with a cinematic surrounding? Somehow more exciting and dangerous than 2009 in Suburban Denver. I am from Denver, by the way.

Caty: You criticized psychiatric drugs in your song "Happy Town" before such criticism began to appear in the mainstream, back when anti-depressants and their ilk seemed like they were a gift from god according to most people. Can you talk a little about your own use of psych drugs and your viewpoint on them in general?

Jill: Boy, I think drugs, especially for kids, are so over-prescribed. Yet, I still believe, in moments, better living through chemistry.

Caty: You often write about your frustration with the record industry and its effect on your own career--in "Freshman" you talk about still living like a college student--"I bet you didn't know/I don't make much for this show". In "Bitter", you write about how you struggle not to let jealousy take over when you see other musical artists achieve more financial success than you have. In this latest record,on "Nothing To Prove", you sing, "I'm here at a meeting/Trying to impress someone at a dying record company/But I got nothing to prove..../Here I am in Los Angeles.../And everyone's in the industry, and I hate when they use that word/And when they say they're in the industry, I say, 'Oh, are you in steel?' " You've worked for two major record labels that dumped you and two indie labels that went bankrupt beneath you. Could you talk a little about what it's like to be a critically acclaimed but not big selling artist? And could you tell us a little more about the problems you've had with the record industry? Now that the internet allows artists to market their music directly to listeners themselves, how do you think that will change things for you? Do you plan to finance future records the way you financed this one?

Jill: My last two flights have been long miserable ones in the middle seat in the back of the plane. I was thinking of next time to pre-sale my record for "your sky miles or upgrades". But seriously, whether or not I do the same thing for the next project, I will do something to include fan participation.

Caty: "I'm not gonna eat today...and I'm not gonna eat tomorrow...cuz I'm gonna be a supermodel..." went the ironic affirmation in your single Supermodel. (Watch video.)You also wrote a story-song called Lucy at the Gym about watching a woman whose exercise routine has obviously become obsessive and unhealthy. Reading Jim Neill's intro (cribbed from All-Music Guide -Jim), I just learned about your own struggle with anorexia, and I think I'm not alone among many of your listeners in not knowing that this is an issue that you've actually dealt with yourself. Given how personal many of your other lyrics are, why is it that you haven't written about your own story with eating disorders? Is it because you wanted to avoid becoming the cliche of the confessional woman songwriter with eating issues?

Jill: Yes, I don't like being blatantly confessional about certain things. Who wants to be "ex-eating disorder singer-songwriter Jill Sobule"? I would rather tell a story about someone who is me and a thousand others. Plus, it can make it more interesting, you can play with it, if it is not just autobiographical.

Caty: My teenage friends and I used to love your mock serious pity song about a "little guy" with "such a little mind" and "little heart" who disproportionately fit in "*such* a big body", as well as a lot of your other ex tell-off ditties. You manage to give your exes whatfor without falling into any tired Alanis Morissette mode b/c of your consistently sweet voiced delivery. Have any of your exes complained about your acerbic depictions of them?

Jill: Ha, an ex, who is now one of my best friends hates Little Guy. Jokes that it is my worst song ever. Of course we know why.

Caty: Has moving from New York City to California changed your songwriting sensibilities? (Besides giving you new things to poke fun at, of course...)

Jill: Not sure it's California as opposed to experience and age.

Caty: Besides "I Google You", written by Neil Gaiman and sung by Amanda Palmer (find it on Youtube, it's hilarious!) you may have written the first song about looking up exes from the past on the internet with "Wendell Lee". How'd you come up with those lyrics? The universality of them was incredible and hilarious: "Went on Classmates and I found you/Do I pay extra for your address and phone?/No, I leave it alone...."

Jill: I spend way to much time mindlessly googling and YouTubing this and that. At least I got a song out of it.

Caty: Wikipedia calls you one of the more "empathetic satirists" in the business--do you agree with that assessment? When you wrote that song about Mary Kay (Letourneau) , the teacher who slept with her student, did part of you feel some sympathy for her?

Jill: I like that. Even after all the barbs to "Little Guy" I bring it back to me -that maybe it had something to do with my hurt as opposed to him being a total dick. With Mary Kay, I did give her a break. You can't always control who you fall in love with. Plus, I related to the taboo aspect of it: having crushes and falling for girlfriends in high school.

Caty: A bunch of people who knew I was doing this interview wanted me to ask you about the Future of the Record Industry. So, um, what do you think of the Future of the Record Industry?

Jill: It will find it's way. They really fucked themselves up though, didn't they? And how do you put the cap back in the bottle. They are going to either to have to make great deals with artists where they share the profits, or they have to give up some nice advance money, which they don't have.

Caty: Finally, you know this question is obligatory--so, what's next for Jill Sobule? I hear you've got plans for a live record--but as for studio records, can you give us a hint as to what new ideas for songs you have?

Jill: I would love to do a live record next. Or a covers record.

Cheers, Jill

Tickets are still available for this Saturday's show here.

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