Amanda Palmer is an independent artist in every aspect of the word. From her early days in the Dresden Dolls to her solo CDs, Miss Palmer does things on her own terms, often creating stunning songs that haunt you long after you’ve stopped listening. She is also a master of utilizing the internet to connect music to her rabid fan base. Her Kickstarter campaign for the album “Theatre Is Evil” raised well over $1 million dollars.
Her latest CD, “You Got Me Singing,” was a lifetime in the making. The album sees her pairing up with her once-estranged dad, Jack, for an often sparse and emotional collection of spirited covers.
In advance of their appearance at the 9:30 Club Saturday, Miss Palmer discussed bonding with her father over a love of Leonard Cohen and how motherhood changed her as an artist.
Question: How did “You Got Me Singing” come about?
Answer: It came about very organically. My dad and I did not have the closest relationship growing up. He and my mom split when I was a baby. We had sort of a distant relationship that saddened both of us. We sort of had a hard time figuring each other out from a distance.
Q: When did you start to connect?
A: When I was in my late twenties and I started touring, my dad would come to see the Dresden Dolls when we played D.C., which is where he is from. When I started touring solo in my mid-thirties, I kind of did to my dad what I do to everybody: I used music as a crowbar. [laughs]
I knew he was a guitar player and that he loved to sing, because he is a choral singer. I invited him to just come on stage with me and sing simple Leonard Cohen songs as duets. And he said yes. And it was an incredibly healing experience to finally be able to create and do something together. It was a way into a relationship with him.
Q: How did that lead to recording an album of covers?
A: At a certain point we had covered two songs together, and I said, “You know, we might as well go into the studio at some point and record these for posterity. That kicked off the idea, which kicked off a much bigger conversation about covering a bunch of songs. It grew into a record. It was an idea we came up with six or seven years ago. All a sudden being pregnant and looking out at my life, I said, “F**k it! Dad, come in the studio with me. We’re making this record.”
Q: Did being seven months pregnant when you recorded the record help or hinder the process?
A: It was a huge help. It felt metaphoric on a cosmic level. There I was finally really bonding and creating something with my father with a boy inside me. It felt like it was scripted for Hollywood. When you’re seven months pregnant, everything becomes softer and slower. It was a perfect time to do this project with my dad. The pregnancy affected both the song and production choices. I just wanted to make a soft, beautiful record because we were including the fetus. That wasn’t lost on me.
Q: How long did it take you to record it?
A: About six days. It was a project that I didn’t want to overthink. I just wanted to spend this beautiful time with my dad, create this little package that I could later give my kid and say, “When I was seven months pregnant, we made this. With you.”
Q: How did you decide which songs to cover?
A: That was a fascinating email dialogue between me and my father over the course of about two years. That created a long wish list of songs. We both listened to each other’s song list, and we narrowed it down and narrowed it down until we finally got to this. We didn’t finalize the song selection until we got into the studio and started seeing what actually felt good to play.
Q: Was there any thought given to doing original songs?
A: Songwriting is a beast in terms of collaborating. If my dad had come waving with a bunch of lyrics in his hand, I would have approached it. The whole concept of the album was spending time together at ease. Doing covers for me is always like a vacation.
Q: Since your dad lives in D.C., is it a second home?
A: I’m actually gotten to know D.C. a lot better because of my dad.
When I come down to kick this tour off at the 9:30 Club, we are going visit the museums and see my younger half-brother in a production of “Grease.” The 9:30 Club has been one of those wonderful mainstays in my touring life. I’ve never had a bad show there.
It feels like the walls of the 9:30 have seen me in every iteration of my career because I’ve been playing there since 1993. It feels like a second rock ‘n’ roll home. This show with my dad is really special, and it’s never gonna happen again. It’s special to be on stage with my dad and my baby.
Q: Has motherhood changed the way you make music?
A: It’s made me busier. [laughs] Before the baby I worked much more spontaneously wherever and whenever I felt like it. I’m still working that way, but I’m having to make much more considered decisions how to spend this 15 minutes.
Mostly the way it has affected my art is I’m making art with the baby all the time. The baby happens to be in my life, and since I’m Amanda Palmer, I make art about my life. It’s not that I’m making art about the baby. But I am making it with the baby under my arm the whole time.
Jack & Amanda Palmer play the 9:30 Club Saturday. Tickets are $30 by going to Ticketfly.com.