K.D. A woman in love.
"I'm proud that I was one of the first ones out, singing loud and proud," says k.d. lang. Indeed, when the inordinately gifted Canadian chanteuse acknowledged her preference for gals in a 1992 issue of this magazine, she became a pride pioneer. She took the initial media heat as the only out lesbian in American popular culture, but her courage burned a path for others to follow (Melissa, Ellen, Anne, Me'Shell, etc.). When she performed at the Equality Rocks concert in Washington, D.C., she was no longer alone on that public stage.
So now can she get you to just listen to her music again?
Lang is just about to release her first collection of original material in five years, Invincible Summer, and in August she'll be heading out on a world tour. The new CD finds lang in her usual lush voice, which she's melded with modern British pop stylings (producer Damian Le Gassick has worked with William Orbit and Madonna).
"One of my purposes was to write an old-school pop record--I wrote almost every song with single in mind," says lang, now 38. "I was listening to a lot of the Mamas and the Papas, Brazilian music, Beth Orton--who I find very Dusty Springfield--and Lucinda Williams. Vocally I really tried to pull back from the showboat stuff. Although the choruses are big, I wanted them to be more celebrational than show-offy."
In a big way, though, she celebrates love on this album, which reflects that she's still in love after four years with Leisha Halley of the band the Murmurs and that she's experiencing a sort of happy wonderment about humankind. On a recent sunny spring afternoon in the garden of the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood, Calif., a hippie-casual lang (peasant blouse, sandals, beaded jewelry) sipped tea and talked about her summery outlook.
Your new album put me in a mood.
What kind of mood?
Very Sunday morning.
Oh, fantastic! Summer Sunday morning? Sunny? The feeling that one gets from summer and the sun and the water--I wanted to write a record that made people feel like that. The title is drawn from the Albert Camus quote, "In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an in invincible summer."
And did you learn that?
Over the last three years I really slowed down. It's been more than rejuvenating--it's almost as if I'm born again. I took time off to recharge my batteries: buy a house, cook, get a dog, drive home and see my mom in Canada. Do things I never had a chance to do in the last 15 years, when I was always on a plane, backstage, onstage, on a bus to the hotel, recording. Now going to Home Depot at 7:30 in the morning to buy lightbulbs is incredibly opening for me. The album's really about taking the time to find that core sunshine that burns inside of me.
It feels like a spiritual album.
It is spiritual: It's all about love. I always try to write from a broader place than just "relationship" love, but hopefully it encompasses all of that I really feel like it's the yang of [1992's] Ingenue. As Ingenue was green and longing and young, this is mature and happy and warm.
And this is requited love.
Yeah, this is requited, absolutely!
Should we read this album autobiographically?
I read it as starting with lust, then thinking of the affair as a casual thing ...
It was a casual thing [laughs].
Then feeling all this admiration for the new person in your life ...
Then it turns from lust to love and then into universal love. Am I reading it wrong?
No, you're absolutely dead-on.
Was that the process you went through over the last four years in your relationship?
The process was more about falling in love with humankind. I don't like to be one of those artists who dwells on what fame is and how I hate it, but it does isolate you. And I've always been a bit of a musical elitist--I think I've always been a little more challenging than I needed to be, with my art or with my look. Now I want my music to become like water. Water is always there, but it's an absolute necessity. I want my music to be an element of life.
Did falling in love and maintaining a good relationship bring out that feeling of universal love?
Absolutely. It's like a healthy diet and exercise. You're exercising positivity, and you have support.
Did you worry that happiness would leave you with nothing to write about?
It's much, much easier to be on the dark side. There seems to be more of a wealth of metaphors and styles you can use when you're writing from a longing place. I've always found writing happy songs extremely difficult, because you're bordering on corny. But I ventured into writing this record very confident that I could do it because it was coming from a legitimate place in my soul I think it's extremely positive, but I don't think it's corny.
How has your relationship with Leisha changed you as an artist--let alone as a person?
It's about the settling, a groundedness. The ability to focus on other things and see beauty in other things because you're not looking so hard.
I read an interview with you in which you said that if you had been single while doing the interview, you'd have kept one eye on the waitress.
Right [laughs]. I still look--I'm a Scorpio! But the relationship is a beautiful thing. Leisha is incredibly easygoing and loving and fun and childlike. It's been anything but work. There's never been a moment when it felt like work.
That's unique for a lesbian relationship!
She is unique; she's one of a kind. I'm not even sure she's mortal.
Is this the longest relationship you've been in?
Yeah, most definitely.
How did you meet?
At a friend's birthday party. I didn't even pay attention, but she knew.
Did she ask you out?
Yeah, which was big. Gutsy to phone k.d. lang up and ask her out! No one really asked me out--ever. I just went, "Well, right on, kid, way to go!"
Did you know right away that she was the one?
No, but she did. I always assumed I would be with an older writer--or a model. I mean, I'd been dating models! I didn't think I'd be going out with a punk rocker who was ten years younger! We've really just taken it a day at a time, and every day has been great.
Before Leisha, didn't you have a girl in every port? Is it hard to be committed to one person?
Yeah, I definitely had a girl in every port. Yeah, it's very hard--it's still hard. It's a part of my nature. It takes a lot of self-confidence and ego to get up on that stage and believe that you're sexy and believe that you're good. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to draw from that sexual feeding, from the attention we get physically.
You haven't been on a big tour since you two got together--is Leisha worried about you going on the road?
Yeah, I think so, sure. She trusts me, and she trusts in my love, as I do in hers, but I'm worried too. It's going to be a test. It's hard when you're on the road--you're out for five weeks, and you come home and have to reorient, and then you're gone again by the time you settle in.
Will she go on part of the tour with you?
I hope so, but it's pretty grueling for the people working, and it's even more grueling for visitors, [who] get bored, and [to whom] all the travel doesn't make sense. At least when you're onstage, you're making sense of it.
How has it been to be in a relationship with another musician--and someone who's at a different level of fame than you are?
Super supportive, both ways. The Murmurs were big in rejuvenating my love for music because their music is like what mine was in the country days--that kind of punk edge to it. I see them up on stage with that kind of beautiful exuberance, and I'm like, `Oh, that is so what I could feel like.' In return, I teach them--`Oh, that's normal for a record company to do, blah blah blah' or `That's good, just move the chorus here.' It's reciprocity at its finest, because it's trading of wisdoms and trading of energies.
Have you and Leisha collaborated on songs?
No, that's real separate. We don't want to get involved in each other's art like that. My producing of the Murmurs [Pristine Smut, 1997] was just to help them out because I had a studio and they needed tracks done. And it was fun for me because I always wanted to produce a girl group like that.
In the past couple of years there has been a lot of media attention paid to Ellen and Anne and, recently, to Melissa and Julie and their babies--has it been a relief for you to be out of that lesbian spotlight?
Such a relief. Oh, my God, I don't even think about it anymore. I don't even think about the fact that we're doing an interview for a gay magazine right now, except in the back of my mind. I'd rather teach by example and connect with a person one-on-one, not connect as a lesbian to a straight person. It's very, very important that people get to know me. My sexuality is an aside, a part of who I am, but the soul of k.d. lang is k.d. lang. Now that the pressure is off me, I can get back to that.
Looking back on when you came out, you probably had to answer questions about your sexuality longer than you expected you would.
A lot longer--I'm still answering them. You immediately become a politician.
And you also became a politician about vegetarianism.
I think what happened was, I sort of unwillingly became a politically correct Poster child. But really, I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, and I've been gay for 38. I mean, I was born gay!
You're from a very small town in Canada. What was it like growing up gay there?
To me, it was fantastic. I thrived on being different. In small towns eccentricities are considered part of the norm. I never had a problem. My town was like a healthy family environment where people were just accepted for whoever they were.
You expressed that same spirit of acceptance at Equality Rocks when you sang the powerful jazz ballad "The Right to Love." What was it like to be there and do that?
It was a glimpse into the future, the way things could be. The feeling around D.C. was amazing. It was homo paradise--like a big episode of Gaywatch.
Political correctness aside, are there new gay issues that you want to speak out on? For example, how do you stand on gay marriage?
I have an opinion about the gay marriage issue--boy, I could get myself into trouble here. I think if we call it marriage, we're never going to get anywhere. I think that you're playing with something that is a tradition and an institution to a certain majority of people. Why go there? Create a new language, create a new tradition, then approach the government about tax rights and rights in hospitals. Instead of fitting into something that's not ours, we have to build our own culture. We're historically an alternative and cryptic culture, and to me, that's one of the beautiful parts of being gay. Even though you may not want to live in the closet, it's about being discreet and being private and being a little more romantic.
So you and Leisha would never consider marriage?
I can't say yes, I can't say no. It's something that does not appeal to us in the slightest at this moment.
What about kids?
Neither of us have a maternal bone in our bodies, but we love kids! Other people's kids. I have friends who are lesbians who have children, and it's beautiful. Leisha and I were talking about that the other day--we just met a couple that have one biological kid, and the other woman's pregnant now. We were just talking about how good the child was--she's 2, and she's so independent and strong and aware and communicative. We went, 'Why do you think that is? Well, because she's loved.' She was wanted so much that they went through this great ordeal to get pregnant. And I was against lesbian pregnancy! I thought it was vain because there are a lot of kids with no homes out there. Now I've broadened my awareness of it. I think if lesbians go through the trouble of having a baby--it's not like they bang one night and they're pregnant--then that kid is going to be loved. And the bottom line is family, L-O-V-E.
By the way, I have a straight girlfriend who told me that you were the one woman who really made her feel confused about her sexuality.
That's my job! To transcend gender. There have been many examples of performers who do that--Elvis, Mick Jagger, Madonna. Art transcends gender. As an artist, it's imperative that you go right past the genitals and right into the heart. That's my job, that's why I'm here, it's my assignment.
What do you hope people will take from your new CD?
I hope some take it and roll down the top of their convertible and drive down PCH [Pacific Coast Highway]. I hope some people fall in love and boink to it. I hope some people cook Sunday breakfast to it. I hope that some people heal their heartbreak from iL I hope people feel love and hope when they listen to it. God, this sounds like a fucking Christian channel or something!
I want to be a positive force in life, I really do. I want people to know me as a friend through my music; I want people to feel safe when they listen to my record. I want people to know that when it came right down to it, I would throw my jacket down on the puddle for them.
Aren't you afraid of saying that? Don't most performers want to stay more distant from their audience?
I certainly have been there. It's scary to have people love you for the wrong reasons. But you know what? That's just surface. In reality, they're hearts, they're souls, they're emotions. The whole separation of fan and celebrity is weird. The worship of celebrity is weird--but it's also not weird. I am a preacher, I am a prophet. That's my job--I'm an artist. Let's put the romance and legitimacy back into art. I am here to communicate emotion. I don't have the greatest body, I'm not going to wear the nicest clothes, I could give a shit about designers at this point in my life, but I am a prophet of emotion And that's the truth.
For more about k.d. lang, her new album and tour, and her partner, Leisha Halley, go to www.advocate.com
Kort is writing a book on singer-song-writer Laura Nyro for St. Martin's.
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|Title Annotation:||k.d. lang's tour|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Date:||Jun 20, 2000|
|Previous Article:||OUT OF DARKNESS.|
|Next Article:||Pride across America.|