Amanda Palmer’s latest album, There Will Be No Intermission, is intensely personal. That was not by design.
“It’s not like I woke up one day and said, ‘I know what I want to do; I want to write the world’s most personal record,'” said Palmer, who’s no stranger to getting personal.
She’s very open about her feelings and her history, not hesitating to discuss what most people would shy away from—but with a healthy dose of dry wit. The new songs were written sporadically over seven years, so their origins vary. The earliest were written as a form of therapy in a dark time in her life. Others cover events ranging from a miscarriage to being with her friend through his four-year cancer battle—and death.
“A lot of those moments just involved stepping back and letting grief wash over me,” she said. “Sometimes if I was lucky, I would get a moment and try to capture those feelings through music.”
When it came time to record the songs during a three-week marathon session in Los Angeles, Palmer wanted the stripped-down, raw feel of the lyrics to continue into the music itself. Most of the tracks are just her voice accompanied by a ukulele or a piano, with the only exceptions being an occasional backing vocal or, in few instances, a drummer.
The tour, again, will follow the same aesthetic. Just Palmer on stage, either with a ukulele or at a piano, singing and playing—no band and no frills. And it fans shouldn’t expect a “greatest hits show,” as she put it. She plans on sticking almost entirely sticking to the new album.
“And there are a few surprises,” she said. “I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s going to come and see the show.”
Not every musician could do something like this. That Amanda Palmer can is a testament to her fans, a very devoted group who not only support her and her work through her Patreon, one of the largest crowdfunding platforms, with nearly 15,000 patrons contributing at least $1 per month, but by going to her shows even when they lean toward the experimental.
“I think there’s a sense in which I just want people to accept me as an artist who’s trying to figure it out,” she said. “If you want to be in the audience, your job is to come with me wherever I’m trying to figure it out, and the ride’s gonna hopefully be a fun one. If I’d wanted, I could be a pop artist, but I just didn’t want that life.”
One artist with a similarly devout following is Bruce Springsteen, whom she looked to as one of her influences while was recording the album. Specifically, she pulled from Springsteen’s personal and raw Broadway show.
“One of the things I felt as I was leaving that Broadway theater was that Bruce Springsteen got to take it to a certain boundary—to the edge of a certain Bruce Springsteen designated boundary of what you can and cannot talk about,” she said. “And I found myself doing a thought experiment: What would happen if Bruce Springsteen decided to talk about a miscarriage in his show? Would he be allowed?
“He probably would, but he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t push it that far. And I thought, but I can, because for whatever reason I’m holding that scepter right now. I found that so comforting and so weirdly inspiring.”
She was similarly inspired by comedian Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up show Nanette.
“Just sitting there with my jaw on the floor, going ‘Oh, right, you’re really allowed to just do that. I forgot.’ But she’s standing there and she’s reminding me of something really important.”
But why now? After seven years of writing, why pick this moment to record and release the songs?
“There is this sense, with Trump as president and with the country groaning over to the right, that if you were ever gonna stand up and say it, now’s the time,” she said.
So now, after spending most of a year at home as the primary parent to her 3-year-old son, Ash, she’s heading back on the road. While she’s on the road, her husband, author Neil Gaiman, will remain home after spending the past year in London working on the upcoming TV series, Good Omens.
“We’re not totally swapping off because I’ll be with the kid during the week and touring on the weekends, but Neil’s going to be the head office, and I’ll be a consultant,” she said. “And that is a relief because I would find it really hard to go on tour and leave the kid with a babysitter for three days. I would be heartbroken.
“I mean, I would do it,” she clarifies. “But I would be bummed.”
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.