Regina Spektor Hears Magic In The Inexplicable The rising young singer-songwriter writes about all those things you're not supposed to talk about at parties. Her music defies explanation, but she likes it that way.
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Regina Spektor Hears Magic In The Inexplicable

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Regina Spektor Hears Magic In The Inexplicable

Regina Spektor Hears Magic In The Inexplicable

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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(Soundbite of music)


If you ever have trouble remembering lyrics, singer Regina Spektor knows how you feel.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. REGINA SPEKTOR (Singer-Songwriter): (Singing) It's like forgetting the words to your favorite song. You can't believe it…

GREENE: You have kind of a fun song in here for those of us who sing in the shower and can't remember the words to a song that we really want to remember.

Ms. SPEKTOR: I never thought of it like that, but I'm all about shower singing. The best acoustics in the world are in the shower.

GREENE: Is the song "Eet"?

Ms. SPEKTOR: Yeah, and it's spelled E-E-T because it's more about the sound and not the food intake.

(Singing) Eeeeeeeeeeet, eeeeeeeeeeet. You spent half of your life trying to fall behind. You're using your headphones…

GREENE: That song is from Regina's new album. She's 29 years old and she's this petite woman who bursts to life on stage with her striking red hair and bright lipstick. And this song is a nice window into her world - first that sweet, rich voice comes with some serious piano skills.

(Soundbite of piano)

GREENE: And second, remember the phonetic spelling she uses in the name of this song, "Eet," E-E-T? Well, that heralds back to Regina's childhood. She was born in Moscow. When she was nine, her Jewish family immigrated to the U.S. But before they left…

I understand that when you were learning English, some of the words that you were learning you knew just from hearing, like the Beatles singing it, and that was - you didn't know what they meant.

Ms. SPEKTOR: Yeah, well, I knew all this Beatles music because of my dad having all these cassette tapes and records and he was really into, like, Elvis and the Beatles and Queen and so I knew all the songs, a lot of them phonetically, but you know, to me it was just like a sound, so I'd be like appy(ph) forever, you know, their soft British appy, you know, like - and then later I was like, oh, like, these are actual words.

GREENE: Happy forever, they mean something.

Ms. SPEKTOR: Yeah. Yeah (unintelligible) it's kind of cool because it was almost like my whole experience of that music was like out of focus, and then somebody put the perfect glasses on me and all of a sudden I could see everything that was around and what it meant and what they were saying.

(Soundbite of piano and humming)

GREENE: I read somewhere you talking about that sometimes you'll hum a tune, like when you're walking, but that that often doesn't become a song because you need your piano and you need all the pieces to fit together.

Ms. SPEKTOR: Yeah, yeah, I think that - I think that, you know what? And I think a lot of people do this, actually, because, you know, when you're walking you get into a rhythm. If you start talking on the phone or you - you know, you have something to do or you don't have the chance to take that kind of mood and like go to a piano and write something, it just kind of goes away again, back to wherever the hell it came from.

GREENE: You can't save it until that right moment with the piano…

Ms. SPEKTOR: Not - for the most part, no. I mean I have a few a cappella songs and that's how they happened because there was no piano around. But usually you just forget anyway people - you know, it's like your mind is like an etch-a-Sketch and it just gets - it gets shook.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SPEKTOR: (Singing) Sleeeeeeeeeeep all day…

GREENE: Regina Spektor's music does often defy explanation, and that's just the way she likes it. Really she writes about whatever is on her mind, and she is happy to sing about all those things you're not supposed to talk about at parties: sex, God, and death.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. SPEKTOR: (Singing) Oh, everyone takes turns, now it's yours to play the part, and they're sitting all around you holding copies of your chart. And the misery inside their eyes is synchronized and reflecting it to yours. Hold on, one more time with feeling. Try it again, breathing's just a rhythm.

(Speaking) If I could explain every word of the song or where I was going exactly and put my finger on every idea, then I wouldn't have been very inspired when I wrote it. I would have been more, you know, crafty and intellectual, and it'd be much more with an agenda. You know, I'd have an agenda, I'd have a topic, I'd write a song about it. I don't sit down with like I'm going to write about this and this means this. You know, it's…

GREENE: So you don't want people to necessarily look for the deep meaning in these songs.

Ms. SPEKTOR: No, of course I do, of course I do. But it's like I'm just saying that it's not like I have all the answers for all the songs. It's - I would really hate it if I could, you know, call up Kafka or Hemingway or Salinger and any question I would throw at them they would have an answer for me. I would just be devastated by that because that's the magic of when you read something wonderful or hear something wonderful — there's no one that knows all the answers about it, not even the person that wrote it, hopefully.

GREENE: We're talking to Regina Spektor about her new album and I want to hear the song "Folding Chair" on this new album. Talk about this a little bit.

Ms. SPEKTOR: Yeah, this song is like, I don't know, it's just itself.

GREENE: It almost seems like this capture much of what you're telling your fans, pull up a chair with me and just, you know, listen to what I say and think about it and…

Ms. SPEKTOR: Well, to me whenever I play that song, it just like - it feels like summer. So I - it's just the feeling of sun, yeah, sun and the sea.

(Soundbite of song, "Folding Chair")

Ms. SPEKTOR: (Singing) My feet are buried in the sand and there's a breeze. There's a shadow you can't see my eyes. And the sea is just a wetter version of the skies.

GREENE: Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor. Her new album, "Far," is out this week. You can hear it now at

(Soundbite of song, "Folding Chair")

Ms. SPEKTOR: (Singing) There's the shadow, you can't see my eye eye-eye-eyes. Eye-eye-eye-eye-eyes.

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