When it comes to writing, when do you feel like you’re the most inspired?
When I’m in love or when I’m going through a really hard time, I have a lot of feelings built up inside, and I need to get them out. That’s usually at the end of the day, when I’m trying to clear my head. I pick up the guitar or keyboard and I just get it out of my system. It’s a lot of nonsense and jibber-jab, freestyling. Most of those moments turn into songs, because I need to get them out.
Sometimes expressing emotions without holding back at all can be hard, because vulnerability can carry a stigma of weakness. Was that something that ever crossed your mind when it came to sharing your music?
Growing up, sharing how I felt and being vulnerable was considered a strength. It was something that I wasn’t good at for so long, that when I finally learned how to do it, I realized that I felt better and the people I was trying to communicate with felt better, as well. It’s something I’m still working on. Even when it’s hard, when people know how you feel, there’s no room for misinterpretation or misconnection. It’s important to be connected with people. It’s important for the people you’re close to to know who you are. If you shut any side of yourself down, especially that vulnerable side, which is where a lot of love comes from, it’s unhealthy. It is misconstrued as being weak, but that’s a militant upbringing. You’re told not to cry, to walk it off, but it’s OK to acknowledge and embrace pain—and share it. It can be really cathartic and positive.
At one point in your life, you were in a long-term relationship with someone who was extremely unsupportive of your music and your art. How does someone keep making their art when a person they care about in their life doesn’t want them to make it?
It was unbelievable that I even went on as long as I did. There was this driving force inside of me that felt [music] was important for me to do, that it felt good to do. For someone I cared about so deeply to not accept this part of me, like everything else about me was fine except for this one part, that’s not somebody loving you. I realized that I knew who my real friends and my family were, and what unconditional love meant: Where, even when it’s not easy, you accept it and you’re open to it. It just wasn’t love, so I didn’t keep that person in my life. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who aren’t looking out for you.
How has your understanding of love changed since then?
I’m in my 30s and I’m still figuring it out! But I know what unhealthy love is. I learned a lot about that through my personal experiences. I learned what’s important to me; those things change, too, as you get older. I’ve fallen in love with someone and it’s the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in. It’s the most myself I’ve ever been able to be. That’s usually been a hint: At the beginning of a bad relationship, I feel like I have to shield part of myself. Now I’m with someone, and that thought has never even crossed my mind. [When you’re in love,] that person just lets you be yourself. It might not always be roses and perfect, but you don’t have to censor yourself around someone that you love. You can be open and grow with them.
What are you doing when you’re not freestyle letting these emotions out and writing music?
I love comedy. I like watching stand-up and seeking out web series. I love the Seinfeld series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and I love Louie. I love podcasts. My friend Todd Barry has a podcast where he just interviews his friends. It’s so normal, and it doesn’t have to be funny all the time. Hearing a comedian talk about serious stuff is interesting to me. I also like reading and going to movies and challenging myself with trying new recipes, because after I make cookies, I can just go to bed right away.
What have you read recently?
I read this book called Daybook: The Journal of an Artist by Ann Truitt. She was a sculptress in the ’60s. She wrote an entry about life as an artist with a family every day for a year. It included some hindsight looking back on her career, but also talked about living in it [at the time she was writing the journal]. She was bigger in the ’60s and ’70s.
She had a degree in psychology, so she has an interesting way of looking at things. You can just hear her talk about her family and pursuing a career—trying to find that balance, and struggling as an artist. It’s important for women to learn that battle a little bit. That’s something they struggle with as they get older, pursuing a career and a family. That struggle isn’t really talked about enough. She talks about it pretty early on, and she’s a really smart woman.
This past year, people have talked about the struggle with that balance, but it’s been a conversation that’s very much, like, CEO situations. It’s interesting to hear about an artist’s perspective on how she balanced her life.
Even being a musician, most of my friends I know are my age and either just had kids or about to have kids. When you think about life on the road and being pregnant and having a kid, it’s not something you hear most men talk about in music.
You know what I mean? No offense to men—they miss their kids, but it’s not the same as having a child and then going on tour. I want to be a mom, but I can’t do that as easily in my line of work. I can’t imagine breast-feeding during soundcheck! [Laughs] I think we’re going to see more of it, because I think more popular women in music are of childbearing age now. It’ll be more talked about.
I kind of racked my brain for a second to think about what prominent performers I’ve seen actually pregnant. The first one that came to mind was Beyoncé, who unveiled her bump on stage and TV. But it’s not something at the forefront of conversation.
I know—it’s like, How do you do it! You have a team of people, or, like, a nanny backstage? If you have a lot of money to do it, it’s still so hard and it takes a village. It’s something I’m going to have to have to learn how to do at some point.
Like a Girls Rock Camp for moms!
For all my backstage demands, I’ll need a playpen and a babysitter. [Laughs] I have friends who request dogs at shows, and every now and then, the promoter of the show will bring a dog. I kind of love that. You can’t tour with a dog, either!
If I were a musician, I would ask for a dog on my rider. What do you usually ask for?
It’s funny; what people don’t know about a rider is that it’s really just like a grocery list you give someone at the venue. You’re paying for it out of what you make at the show. That being said, Van Halen probably had, like, beds put under their stage so they could get lucky in between songs. I know people sneak one thing on their rider to call out the people in the venue if they don’t pay attention. Like, “One green mug.” I don’t ask for crazy stuff. One of my bandmates loves Olay Wet Wipes. For traveling all the time, it’s something I realized is actually really refreshing, but it’s funny because people usually think they’re for me but they’re for this guy. If I were to ask for a dog, I would want a big mutt, just a happy clumsy mutt. It would be nice to have a masseuse stop by.
That would be great. Even as you’re performing, someone could massage you.
Oh yeah. I want people to know I’m relaxed.
Do you still get nervous when you perform?
Totally. It’s such a weird thing to do, you know? To play these heartbreaking songs in front of people who, for some reason, are connecting to it and want you to do well. They’re there because they’re fans, but you also don’t want to let them down. So, when I mess up, I constantly beat myself up, like, [*Serious voice*] “These people want more from you than that!” I want to be good all the time.
Also, [it’s weird] having these people looking to me for advice, and not feeling like I have advice to give, that kind of pressure.
Do you mean people who are seeking out advice in your lyrics, or people who literally come up to you at shows asking for advice?
I guess both. I feel like a lot of people who listen to my music connect to it because they feel like they’re not alone, which is great. Some people are looking for guidance through my music, and I hope they get it without having to talk to me, because I don’t know what I’m doing either. I’m still figuring it out. When people come to the merch table and tell me stories, for the most part, it’s people just wanting to share that with me. It helps them to assure me that [my music] is helping. As far as giving advice, I try to tell people things that I’ve learned, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to other people. I don’t want to ever push that on anyone.
There’s something comforting in looking up to a person and thinking they have all the answers, then talking to them and hearing that they’re figuring it out too.
I agree with that. My parents chose their jobs because they liked them, but they mostly chose them so they could settle down and have kids and live and work. My parents are older—they’re in their 60s—but they still tell me, to this day: “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!” My mom is a painter, and she writes and she reads and loves history and travels all the time. She has so many passions; she can be anything she wants. And my dad would be a radio DJ in another lifetime. He loves music so much. He collects vinyl and listens to music all the time. My parents can be whatever they want to be, and they still don’t know what that is. I love that. It’s one of those things where you can have as many lives as you want in one life. ♦