Singer/artist Amanda Palmer to mark Spokane debut with things both serious and silly
No matter what hat she wears, Amanda Palmer likes to keep busy.
The day before she spoke with The Spokesman-Review, the singer/songwriter/musician/artist/author was part of the “Memoir A Go-Go!” panel at Woodstock Bookfest in Woodstock, New York, speaking about her book “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.”
Palmer finds her relationship with the book, which was released in 2014, changes over time in a way her relationship with her music doesn’t.
It’s made her realize that she is no longer just a songwriter but also a person who helps others and “talks about her feelings directly instead of through the metaphor of poetry and song.”
“It’s a much larger mirror,” she said. “If a song is like a makeup compact, this is a like full length mirror in a ballroom. I keep looking at it and seeing myself through different perspectives.”
Palmer is no less busy as a musician.
She released “In Harm’s Way,” a song addressing the refugee crisis, in October, and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” the video for which involved Palmer breastfeeding a Donald Trump-like figure, in November.
In February, the Dresden Dolls singer/pianist released an updated version of her song “Strength Through Music,” which was originally released in 2008, nearly a decade after the Columbine High School shooting.
At the end of the original song, Palmer quietly recites the names of the students who were killed.
In “Strength in Music 2018,” Palmer has added the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings.
“That song and that video was a direct emotional response to what happened in Columbine, and I never thought in a million years when I made that video that something like Columbine would become (expletive) normal,” she said. “That’s a hundred times more frightening when you think about it. Columbine was so out of hand and unthinkable at the time that looking back at it, it almost seems naive to think that that was going to be an outlier.”
“Strength Through Music 2018” was the third “Thing” Palmer released in February through Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows fans, or patrons, to pay a set amount of money to an artist every time they release a piece of work.
Palmer donated the money she received for “Strength Through Music 2018” to the March for Our Lives fund. Even still, the always vocal artist feels like she could be doing more because she stayed home with her young son instead of attending March for Our Lives.
“I’m engaged in this totally ordinary struggle that all new mothers face which is ‘Oh my god, the world marches on without me while I sit here and mash up carrots’… ” she said. “For me it feels like enough is never enough and I should be doing more and I should be saying more. … As hard as it can be to accept sometimes, the most radical revolutionary act can be to sit down and be present with a child who’s mashing up a banana.”
Palmer has been with Patreon since 2015 and currently has more than 11,000 patrons. She’s released almost 50 projects through Patreon, usually in the form of songs, music videos, podcasts and webcasts of live shows.
Palmer said it wasn’t until she started using Patreon that she realized how trapped she felt by having to make songs that were three to six minutes long or videos that would go viral.
“I have been so inspired by where my head has been allowed to go and my creative muscles have been allowed to flex and the incredible trust that these people put in me by giving me their credit cards and saying ‘We trust you. Make the art that you believe in and make the art that you feel is necessary,’ ” she said, calling the experience of using Patreon a “deprogramming process.”
Recently, Palmer workshopped a new theater project with musician Jason Webley and Steven Bogart, her high school theater teacher, at the Public Theater in New York, the same theater in which “Hamilton” made its off-Broadway debut.
In a Patreon post about the project, Palmer said theater has gotten harder and more elusive over time.
“It’s not the thing that I’ve been sitting around getting better at every day,” she said. “I still love doing it, but it’s not my area of expertise anymore, if it ever was. I thought it was when I was 19, but then again, I was 19.”
Webley, a Seattle-based musician who Palmer called her best friend and the godfather of her son, is joining her on tour. The pair comes to the Knitting Factory on Wednesday, Palmer’s first show in Spokane.
Palmer met Webley in 2000 in Adelaide, Australia, while they were street performing one block apart, Palmer as “The Eight-Foot Bride” and Webley playing his accordion.
“I remember walking by him and thinking ‘Who is this guy? He has to be my friend!’ ” Palmer said. “We met that day and stayed in touch forever. Eventually he opened up for the Dresden Dolls and our friendship deepened. We’re like spiritual sisters. We always come back to each other.”
Aside from shows the two played together as dark cabaret duo Evelyn Evelyn, Palmer and Webley don’t often tour together.
As such, Palmer wants readers to know that these shows are going to be special, with the two sharing the stage and furthering the kinship and fellowship she said the pair has with one another.
“We’re going to do new things. We’re going to do serious things. We’re going to do silly things. We’re going to challenge the audience, love the audience, hopefully captivate the audience and we always do something weird,” she said with a laugh. “If you’re in Spokane and you don’t even know who we are, you probably want to come to this show just to see what happens.”