There is a story you must hear. There is a demon in your sheets with fire in his eyes, let him take you higher but don’t believe his lies. Let the light in and forget all the damned old flame. As life goes by you discover an Angel inside your heart. Follow his voice and get out to the real world. Keep your eyes open. Life is precious! I am listening “Outside the Lines” the new Tae Phoenix album and I can hear some of my stories told by a wonderful artist. I follow her magnificent voice and I feel that she is an Angel! So happy to talk again with Tae! Poping Cherry proudly presents a true artist! Read this beautiful interview and then listen to her voice! Life is Beautiful! (Interview: John Vlachogiannis)
Your new album “Outside the Lines” is coming! How do you feel about the new album/ the new music?
I’m excited to share this album with people. American roots music was always on in my house when I was a kid: Bessie Smith, Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt. I started singing jazz, blues, and soul as a teenager. “Outside the Lines” reflects those influences more than any of my previous recorded work has. Like all musicians, I’m constantly refining my sound and learning how to speak truth through my music. I made a step toward that self-definition with this project. This was also my first album with my own band, so it has a more cohesive feel. It’s coming out on March 10th on iTunes and all the other digital storefronts. And we’re having a release party here in Seattle on April 24th at the Royal Room in Columbia City. Tickets
Do you feel that every new album is a new journey? How can you describe the album and which are the most important memories of this trip?
A couple of years ago life threw me a devastating one-two punch. It brought up some past trauma I hadn’t dealt with, and I went to a dark place. During that time, someone told me that trauma can either break you or break you open; it’s your choice. “Let the Light In” is about the decision to be broken open and all that comes with it. Recording it was difficult as well. We ended up making two versions, a funkier uptempo version and a very spare, distorted Breakdown Mix. Each one reflects the realities in play differently. The Breakdown Mix came about when we hit a rough spot in the studio. We’d been working on the uptempo version all day and something wasn’t clicking for me [Producer] Dave Miner and I butted heads and I started crying. It was late. We were all exhausted, but Bob [VonFeldt], Matt [Wexler] and Mike [Ahrens] stuck it out. Dave put us in the booth and we recorded the Breakdown Mix in one take. I was pushed to the limit, and that comes through in the recording. (Everything’s fine now with Dave, for the record. I really respect him as an artist and as an engineer. The man is a genius; we just had to learn how to work together.)
The process of recording an album is creative and beautiful. After the release how creative do you feel and what you enjoy most?
I usually go through a fallow period after I wrap up production on something like this. It takes a lot of a particular kind of energy, and I replenish that by focusing on other aspects of the musical pursuit for a while. During those times, I work on my writing chops with different exercises, and I record my inspirations when they come, but I don’t try to sit down and be disciplined about songwriting. This time around, I ran a very successful Kickstarter after we finished in order to raise funds for a proper release. Putting together the rewards and organizing the marketing for the Kickstarter took an entirely different kind of creativity. We ended up rising nearly twice what we needed. I’m so grateful to my backers!
Do you have favorite songs of the album?
“Down & Dirty Way” turned out really well. It’s a raucous, bawdy 12-bar blues shuffle. It’s very danceable and gritty and fun. The lyrics are about female desire and how ridiculous it is to praise a guy for his manliness when he sleeps around, but treat a woman as less than human for doing the same thing. It also questions our expectation that monogamy is compulsory in long-term relationships. In addition to Bob, Matt & Mike, we had three guest musicians on this track: Larson Haakenstad from Seattle band “Imagine the Giant,” on electric guitar, my little brother David Klein on saxophone, and my fiancée’s longtime Burning Man compatriot Ned Beebe on harmonica. It needs to be said: I didn’t have anything to do with the invention of the 12-bar blues shuffle. That music has been around a lot longer than I have. Black Americans invented the blues as they struggled under slavery and Jim Crow. In that context, female blues singers used this musical tradition as a space to make the personal political. The blues was a real starting point for feminist thinking. (For more on this, read Angela Y. Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism.) Blues women routinely called bullshit on social mores that weren’t working for them. I wanted to participate in that feminist musical tradition with great reverence for the giants who came before me.
Your voice and you music have the ability to touch a soul with an artistic way! What is art? How art is expressed through Tae Phoenix?
People far smarter than me have tried and failed to define art authoritatively, so I’m not going to attempt that. But for me, art is using the connections between seemingly disconnected things to express social and emotional messages in a form that’s interesting or beautiful to the audience. Art is also appropriation. It’s a conversation. Artists are influenced by what we’re exposed to, and we use our reactions to other people’s art when we make our own. Nothing is made in a vacuum. Nothing is truly original. The ultimate goal is to shake up people’s feelings and modes of thinking.
Do you believe that we can find luminaries and revolutionaries in music? Are you ready to revolt and engage your audience by your side?
You can’t live on the default path and be an artist, which is why I titled this album, “Outside the Lines.” People who live as artists were traumatized by the default path. We found it impossible to comply when someone told us to shut up and be convenient, and we paid a price for that. I’m not the world’s greatest revolutionary artist. I have lots of privilege. My family has money. I was sent to the best schools. I benefit from white privilege. I’m partnered with a straight, white, cis man who works in technology. I also had a traumatic childhood, mostly because I thought and felt things that made me difficult for authority figures. I wasn’t playing the role I was supposed to play. It pissed people off and they hurt me for it. That’s a pattern I continued in my adult life; it led to a lot of abuse and pain before I figured out how to make changes. Mine isn’t anywhere near the worst story of trauma the world has ever known, but it’s how I came to be an artist. I don’t know if trauma is what made me an artist, or if I was traumatized because I was born an artist. Probably both. That said everyone is born an artist. There are no “default path” people, only societies that push a default path at us so hard that we sometimes don’t have any other choice. Whether it’s coming from religion, family, or the media, the default path traumatizes us all. And that’s a privileged perspective too, because in this world a few live in splendor while billions live in grinding poverty. Choosing not to follow the default path doesn’t even become an option until basic survival needs are met. Ordinary people with some privilege have to look at how mindless adherence to the default path props up this system, and make changes to our own lives. We can make a world that works for humanity. It’s going to take generations; but we’re capable. So yes, I am ready to revolt and engage my audience to do it with me.
Thank you for the ultimate music experience Tae Phoenix!