A Conversation with Amy Rigby (continued)
PM: And it's hard to find artists in singer songwriterdom who really incorporate genuinely pop elements. There's "new folk" people and this and that, but that's just another turn of that same diamond. I mean, the people who actually have pop mentality in their chord structure and in their lyric and melody approach are few and far between.
AR: Yeah, I guess that's true. So hopefully that's part of what attracted Signature to me, that what I'm doing is just a different take on being a singer songwriter.
PM: So do you know where that attraction began?
AR: I know that Jim Olsen, one of the owners, saw me play up in New England. I was opening some shows for Richard Shindell, who had put an album or two out on the label. Opening for him worked really well, even though it might not seem like that natural a fit. He's kind of a folk god at this point, he's got great lyrics, and people come really prepared to listen to intelligent lyrics. So even though my approach is a little more punk rock, or more pop, people could still get into the lyrics, I think.
PM: Yeah. You will, for instance, talk a little differently about sex and relationships than Richard Shindell will tend to.
AR: Yeah, that's true. A little more blunt, I guess.
PM: And a little more fun, if I do say so myself.
AR: But so I think that they saw me doing some of those shows and also some festival stuff that I did up in the New England area, solo and with the band. I think a lot of the people who go to those shows got into music through rock, and now there just aren't the places to go to find music now. So when I'm actually in front of an audience, they don't even remember how much they loved rock until they see somebody like me, and then it comes back to them. They remember when they see Springsteen or somebody who's been around and popular forever, but they don't go seeking it out. You know what I'm saying?
PM: Right. They don't go see anybody new.
AR: Yeah, they don't know that there are still people doing that who are their contemporaries. I think that can be surprising to people. Maybe that was part of the deal for Signature, too.
PM: It's always been part of Puremusic's mission to bring not just roots or folk but pop music for grownups to their ears, because there's no label for it, there's no way for pop musicians who are grown up to find their audience.
AR: It is hard. Not to say that you'd want people [laughs] like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young and stuff to go away. That's part of it: I don't think any of us expected people to still be making really viable, meaningful music into their fifties and sixties, but some of them are.
PM: Right, there was no precedent.
AR: But that leaves very few slots open for the rest of us to kind of come in, you know what I mean?
PM: Yes. Like you can't get a job here until somebody dies, and nobody's dying.
PM: Everybody cleaned up, people aren't overdosing on drugs anymore. That's the problem.
AR: [laughs] That's part of it, yeah.
PM: Your songs are so funny. I can't help but think they should really be strung together with spoken word and be in the theater. Has that been tried yet by you, or will it be?
AR: It hasn't been tried. I mean, I love the idea. I think that's probably a matter of me meeting up with the right person who could help me put that together. [laughs]
PM: Surely you and your co-writer Bill DeMain, who's had some theater experience, could string together the spoken word to put that show together.
AR: Well, it's definitely a nice idea. And yeah, between the two of us, we probably could come up with something. I like the idea a lot.
PM: I helped out with Annie Gallup's two theater shows.
AR: Now, what did she do?
PM: Well, she, as you know, has some very funny songs, but they're of a very different sort. But these were more serious shows of song cycles of twelve or fifteen songs, with spoken word bits in the middle, joining the songs. And they were both very good shows, and had good lights, and went over very well. She hasn't brought it on the road yet, but in her theatrically versed town of Ann Arbor, it went over really well.
AR: Yeah, that's a great idea.
PM: And I really would love to see you do that same thing. She didn't do too much acting, per se, in between the numbers, it was mostly about the songs. In your case, I would think there'd be plenty of room for that.
AR: [laughs] I like the idea--like sketches, you mean?
PM: Yeah, sketches, exactly. Because, I mean, you're expressive with your face, you have big eyes, and you talk with your hands--
AR: No, it's a cool idea. I think it's a good way to go.
PM: It's another alternative, really, to get the baby boomers out.
AR: Right. They'll go to the theater. I noticed that, because I went to see this play Off Broadway in New York, this trio called Betty. They'd been kicking around up in the Northeast for twenty years. And somebody--either them or someone else--hit on the idea of doing this show that was like a history of them. And they were in it, and so they kind of acted out how they got together, how they stayed together as a band. But it was amazing to go to the theater on a Sunday afternoon, and it was just packed with people in their forties--thirties, forties, fifties--watching a show about music. But if you had put Betty, the band, on in a club at 10:00 or 11:00 at night in the same neighborhood and charged five or ten dollars to get in, people wouldn't have gone. But here they were paying $40 a ticket. That's an eye opener.
PM: That's very interesting. I've often heard it said that if there were two doors, one said "Heaven" and other said "Lecture on Heaven," the lecture on heaven would have people lined up around the block.
AR: [laughs] That's hilarious. But it just seems true. I think you're right. It's almost like, with my lyrics, too, being so kind of close to the bone, sometimes I think it's just maybe a little uncomfortable for some people. But if it was in a theatrical context, people wouldn't feel like they were seeing, like, my story. You know what I mean?
AR: Like they weren't hearing about my life--which they're really not, because it's fiction, even though it's real. They're songs. It's not like I'm getting up there and everything that I'm saying is absolutely what happened to me.
PM: Of course.
AR: But maybe it comes across that way a little too much to people. But if I call it theater then that distance is built in, so maybe people can feel a little more comfortable about it or something.
PM: And you know, that show is just a setup, a prologue, epilogue, and five sketches. That's all that is. You already have all the songs.
AR: Right, right.
PM: I want to see that show. I'm going to start bugging Bill DeMain about that right away.
AR: Yeah. continue