Q&A: k.d. lang

When Canadian pop and country singer-songwriter k.d. lang performs at Ryman Auditorium Oct. 3, she will offer 25 years of hits to her adoring audience. The focus will be her newest release, Sing It Loud, recorded in Nashville and featuring accompaniment by her band Sis Boom Bang.

The Grammy and Juno-winning artist, best known for hits such as “Constant Craving” and “Miss Chatelaine,” has issued another winning entry in a wonderful catalog that encompasses country, traditional pop and blues. In advance of her Nashville concert, lang speaks with Out & About Newspaper about gays in the media and her deep and abiding love for country music.

What's so special to an artist about performing at Ryman Auditorium?

Well, it's the history and the mojo of the place. So much music has been infused in the seats, in the beams and the windows. My friend Minnie Pearl's picture is in the dressing room. The Ryman has so much history. It's really about the glory of Nashville and the glory of country music.

Your first major successes came in country music. Describe your relationship with the genre today as compared to the late Eighties?

It's basically the same. I love singing and listening to country music. Now, I have to disclaim that by saying it's not all country music. I love more classic country music; that's where my tastes lie. As a singer, I just love the lyrical content and the melodies. Country music gives me room to move around emotionally. It facilitates a lot of application of both the voice and the soul. I've always approached country music with a sense of humor. All that I loved about country music and what I drew from it was a self-effacing humor, whether that be from Minnie or Cousin Jody or Stringbean. That's really important in life and in music.

Your favorite country singers?

Oh, George (Jones) and Tammy (Wynette). Loretta (Lynn). Patsy Cline, that goes without saying.

You've moved effortlessly through different genres in your career, starting with country music and segueing into pop and adult contemporary. What's motivated that diversity?

My listening at the beginning of my life was more classical music. I didn't come to country and jazz until my late teens and 20s. I think of myself as a musical nomad. If I get inspired by something, I don't necessarily stop myself. There's no reason I can't go try something and move through the different genres. Inspiration is one of the most important ingredients in music. I can go from an opportunity to make something in the traditional pop sense like the Tony Bennett album or do something with Sis Boom Bang. I never would've imagined I'd get to work with these artists like Tony or Roy Orbison or Loretta Lynn.

You've released a couple covers albums, but the new album features a lot of your own writing. Is it more natural for you to be the songwriter or to interpret others' material?

My main instrument is being a vocalist, so I just enjoy going back and forth between being a songwriter and being an interpreter. As a writer, there's such an emotional connection to the song that's innate and it's something where you know something so intimately. As an interpreter, the palate is way more open and there's more subtext to play with, so that can be interesting.

As a lesbian in the music industry, how have you handled the extra pressures and expectations?

I don't really think about it, but there has been a definite change in the audience. With Queer Eye and Ellen being on the TV, with gay marriage being openly talked about, the culture of gays and lesbians is being infused into the basic culture of America and Western civilization. It's less alien, and it's less scary and less threatening now. It's been absorbed into the daily understanding. I definitely notice that some of the reactions and interactions with the audience have progressed. I've had a broad spectrum and a broad demographic at the shows.

Tickets for k.d. lang's performance range from $24.50-$64.50 and can be purchased at the Ryman website.


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