Moscow-born and Bronx-raised singer-songwriter Regina Spektor is gifted with a childish curiosity that never seems to fade overtime. These artistic musings have shaped her music in alluring ““ if unpredictable ““ ways while inspiring her to produce lyrics touched by her unfiltered imagination and genuine emotion. As part of the worldwide tour for her sixth album, “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats,” Spektor will be visiting Los Angeles for a concert at the Greek Theatre on Aug. 14 as well as San Francisco for the Outside Lands music festival. Daily Bruin’s Lynn Chu spoke with Spektor about her musical growth over the years, perspectives as an artist and getting lost in her own imagination.
Daily Bruin: You’ve recently been on a tour for your new album. How do you feel this one differs from your previous works?
Regina Spektor: You know, I definitely felt a different kind of feeling while recording it. I was sort of able to perform a lot of the time. I (normally) isolate piano and vocals … (but) on this record I play a lot of these together. I guess in a way, it gave it a more natural performance because I was able to not think as much and just kind of speak. For me, I write (a lot of songs) on the piano and I just wing it and it’s kind of happening at the same time. (This one) I kind of have to think more … I was able to express myself a little bit better than usual. It just felt more, in some ways, emotionally expressively.
DB: What was the inspiration behind the title, “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats”?
*RS: *You know, I actually had the title in my head for whatever reason for (awhile) before I started working on the album and even knew what was going to be on the record. A lot of the times, I just kind of pick things based on feelings … I like conceptual art, just being open and not just being a dictionary where I define everything and classify it and drain the life out of it.
DB: You often say that your songs are personal but not autobiographical; most of your songs stem from your imagination and have the ability to accurately capture emotions in situations you’ve never personally experienced. Has anything changed or do you think that’s stayed the same for the most part as you’ve been working on this album?
RS: Yeah, I think it’s always true because that’s how I write my songs. I never write songs specifically for an album. Every album I’ve kind of put out, it’s completely chronologically out of order (and) there are (a lot of) songs that are older. It’s kind of out of the place. There are new songs and songs that are 11 years old. … The things that maybe I do or how I arrange it is kind of growing. Some of it is sound and how I sing, but so much with songwriting (too) ““ it’s all over the place.
DB: It’s known that your music is only finished when you get the feeling that it is. What helps you get to that point when you realize a song is ready?
RS: It’s hard, it’s really hard. I think that it’s hard to know what’s right for forever but you can try and find out what’s right in the moment. … If you’re trying to figure out what’s right for you in the future, you can’t possibly guess that because you’re always changing. I think the key is to always be in the moment and to be playful and not rigid and not get yourself barricaded in rules and just follow your instincts. Art is so arbitrary but as soon as you start working on it, it just becomes “this feels right.” All of a sudden you just have such strong feelings about “it’s A chair, not THE chair.” … Once you’re interacting with it, it really does become right or not.
DB: In the past, you’ve described your songs as a form of storytelling. Being a bookworm yourself, is there a specific author or book that has influenced you with songwriting?
RS: I always have such a hard time. I have bookshelves of books and I love all of them. You get so many different things from (Franz) Kafka and (J.D.) Salinger and from (William) Shakespeare, so I think the actual key is to be involved with lots of different great authors and to kind of feel inspired by them. Even in different times in my life, when I’ve reread things, they’ve affected me in different ways. I think that just having your mind kind of interacting with something beautiful and powerful is a kind of key to a lock. You become much more open to things, so it doesn’t matter what it is.
DB: Are you currently reading anything right now as you’re on your tour?
RS: Actually right now, I’ve not been reading anything because the tour has been so crazy. It’s one of those things, when I’m making a record, I don’t listen to any music. … People ask me what’s in my iPod, and I don’t know because there (are) so many things (to do). I just got home two days ago, my mind is full of airports and the sounds and the pace of new cities every other day, so I think I’m still in my imagination and I’m not ready to go into a world of something else.
Email Chu at [email protected]