Regina Spektor on Touring America, Fictional Songwriting, & the Cool Kids Table


Regina Spektor on Touring America, Fictional Songwriting, & the Cool Kids Table


Many words can and have been used to describe Regina Spektor. Kooky, the Joni Mitchell of our generation, and a folk-wunderkind are a few discriptors that are synonymous with Spektor and her musical chops. She’s known for the odd sounds she creates with her sing-songy voice, one that she methodically uses to hum an up-tempo song about heartbreak as if it were her first time. Last night, Spektor played on The Beacon Theatre’s gilded stage to a sold out crowd. It was no surprise, since her shows tend to boast audience members like President Obama. What We Saw From Cheap Seats, Spektor’s most recent album, came out this past summer and now she’s finishing up her US tour. We got to chat with Spektor in between shows about her new album, The Cool Kids Table, and unexpected fame.

Your tour’s almost finished. How’s it been so far?
Yeah, it’s great. I’m a little tired but I think it’s because it’s been so grey and rainy in the last few places. But I love touring in America. It’s cool because I tour worldwide, but there’s something about the US tours when you just get on the bus and you get to see America. It’s really fun to slowly watch the Northeast recede and then you get to the Midwest. You get to see all of the vibes of the country.

What’s it like playing in New York City versus other cities?
I’m always really happy to come home because it’s home. I have the craziest guest list of any other city and it’s really hard to manage. Everybody is there so you have to try and figure out how to get them all on the list, make sure that everybody’s really comfortable and happy. All of my family and friends are there.

Tell me a little bit about your new album What We Saw From Cheap Seats, and what the recording process was like.
I recorded it last summer in L.A. with Mike Elizondo. I’ve worked with him a little bit before on my last record Far. I worked with four different producers and he was one of them. It was a really fast, natural process. We made the record in less than five weeks. Playing around with sounds was very fun, intuitive and natural.

Is there anything that was different for you?
It’s hard to know, in general I think it’s always like this except sometimes things take longer. I always feel that it’s a very organic, sciency thing where you lock yourself away everyday in the studio and you play around with sounds, parts and try and get the right performance. I really love recording. It’s different from record to record in that I learn more about sound. I get to experiment on a different level because I’m learning and building with each one. The fun thing about art is that it’s a snapshot of you in that moment and there’s always many different ways that you can go.

Your music videos have a distinct ‘Regina Spektor-ish’ surreal vibe. What’s your involvement in the direction for those?
A lot of the time it’s the director that comes up with an idea, and when we talk about it I might add or take away a few things. Other times it’s a true collaboration where both myself and the director come up with it. It really ranges, a lot of the time it’s the director that has a great idea and then the only thing that I can do once I’m in the space is come up with natural improvisations with props and the space itself. I’ve never sat down and written a video. I’ve had ideas and they’ve come to life, that’s definitely happened. The person who I collaborate with the closest is Adria Petty. She’s one of my best friends in the world, so she let’s me think more than other people. We’ll sit around together,  look at cool art and get inspired together as friends.

I saw that you were in Lorne Michaels’ new series Cool Kids Table. Was your high school lunch scene anything like that?
[Laughs] Like me being a bitch?

No, were you at the cool kids table?
No, if there was a cool kids table then I didn’t know about it and never was at it. It was fun to try and act and it was a very cute series. It was fun to try and be a bitch.

I know you’re married, so what led you to write love songs about lost-love and heartbreak?
There’s a lot of people out there that have their ‘get together’ records and their ‘break up’ records and it’s all about love, but my music is the complete opposite of that. I think that the way that I write songs is similar to how people write novels and short stories. In general I prefer fiction to diary or confessional writing styles. I really love, obviously, writing about these things that are important to humanity like death, love, mortality, happiness, nature, but much more as a writer and not as a biographer.

Ten years ago you were performing on sidewalks in NYC and now President Obama comes to your shows. Did you ever think that this would happen?
No, not at all. It’s crazy. I’m just really grateful that there’s so many people out there coming to shows and listening to the songs. It makes me so happy that it gets to connect with people. It’s so amazing, just playing these shows has been a mind blowing experience for me because people are so loving.