Regina Spektor Still Doesn't Write Anything Down Through early live bootlegs uploaded to the Internet by fans, Spektor culled 10 years' worth of songs for her new album. "It gives me so much relief to know that they're somewhere," Spektor says.
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Regina Spektor Still Doesn't Write Anything Down

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Regina Spektor Still Doesn't Write Anything Down

Regina Spektor Still Doesn't Write Anything Down

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.


REGINA SPEKTOR: (Singing) You're like a party somebody threw me. You taste like birthday. You look like New Year's.

CORNISH: And this song, "The Party," is from the new album by Regina Spektor. It's the latest in a line of critically-acclaimed and successful pop records with her trademark vocal curly-cues and contagious piano melodies.


SPEKTOR: (Singing) And we're coming out right along to sing my new song.

CORNISH: Spektor came to NPR to talk about her latest release, "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats," but I couldn't resist asking her about one of the first public radio interviews she did back in 2005.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Regina Spektor is our musical guest.

CORNISH: It was for the program, The Next Big Thing, at WNYC and we took a listen together.

SPEKTOR: I just wrote a song last night and I don't know if I remember it, but I really want to remember it.


SPEKTOR: So I'll try.


SPEKTOR: Wow, that's so slow.


SPEKTOR: (Singing) I never loved nobody fully. Always one foot on the ground.

CORNISH: What's it like hearing that now?

SPEKTOR: It's weird. It's such a mindtrip. First of all, I completely forgot, completely forgot that that actually happened like that. Wow.

CORNISH: And, at the time in the interview, you talked about writing that song the night before and staying up until 3:30 in the morning and hoping you weren't bothering the neighbors.

SPEKTOR: (Unintelligible) hear it in my voice. Yeah.

CORNISH: But you also said that you never write songs down. And is that still true?

SPEKTOR: Yeah, unfortunately. I try to be better now, at least about recording little things because sometimes I still have, like, things just disappear. You know, you always think, oh, I'll never forget that. That's so obvious. And then, of course, you forget it completely.

CORNISH: That sounds scary to me, as a fan, when you say disappear. I feel like there are lost Regina Spektor songs somewhere.

SPEKTOR: There's so many. There's tremendous amounts. I mean, I actually - I am so lucky because, almost from the beginning, people would record the shows and I just - I am so thankful to them, first of all, for taking the time and putting it up online and sharing it with other listeners. But also mainly with myself because there are so many songs that I would not know how to play and it gives me such relief to know that they're somewhere.

CORNISH: On this album, "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats," it sounds like you have songs that span a couple of years, like just because we're listening to the Regina Spektor album now, it doesn't mean that these are songs that have come from the last year of your life or the last...

SPEKTOR: Yeah. Oh, yeah. No. It's more than a couple of years. I mean, there are songs on this record that must be 10 years old or more.

CORNISH: Like what?

SPEKTOR: Probably "Ne Me Quitte Pas," which on the record, is called "Don't Leave Me."


SPEKTOR: (Singing) (unintelligible).

This song is one of the songs that I released on my record called "Songs." It was self-released record and I didn't really know anybody in the music industry at that point, really. I was out of college and I was playing a lot in bars and cafes.


SPEKTOR: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

I met this really awesome guy who became a really good friend of mine, Joe Mendleson. He would introduce me to music. He played me - like, for the first time I ever heard Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel or a full Elton John record was all through him and...

CORNISH: I like that you said a full Elton John record.

SPEKTOR: Well, because you know - it is true. Well, because you know what it is with me? I'm so backwards in the fact that, like, a lot of the time, I'll know somebody's music, but I won't connect the name of the person to the music, you know, because I sort of felt kind of in that immigrant bubble where it was hard for me to kind of connect the dots.

CORNISH: And we should say that your family emigrated from Russia when you were what. nine years old?

SPEKTOR: Yeah, yeah. Nine and a half.

CORNISH: So this was, I believe, maybe the late '80s, so it might make sense that some of those names - you're still connecting the dots on some of those pop culture names.

SPEKTOR: Yeah. I know. I feel like such a music late bloomer, but the thing is, you know, I listen to tons of music. It's just that it wasn't so much pop music. It was more like I listened to tons of classical music. I feel so lucky to have learned, you know, classical piano and have my amazing teacher in Russia and have my amazing teacher in America.

CORNISH: One song that showcases, I think, a lot of your influences would be "Firewood."


SPEKTOR: (Singing) The piano is not firewood yet.

CORNISH: Towards the end of this song, there is a kind of orchestral breakdown. I don't know a better way to describe it. That makes me think, oh, yeah, classical music training.


SPEKTOR: I picture it as like a little kid learning how to play in my mind. So it's cool that, to you it seems like classical and, to me, it seems like totally amateurish, but that's the awesomeness of having - I don't know - just letting things out of your hands and into other people's worlds and having it be completed by them.


CORNISH: When you mentioned being happy that people upload videos of your song, it's almost the opposite of what most artists are saying now about their work.

SPEKTOR: Yeah. I mean, I can't really relate. You know, I grew up poor and, you know - and there are a lot of people that grew up a lot poorer than I am, so, to me, I just - I think that if somebody doesn't have an easy life, they should at least have access to free books and films and music. And I think that I feel very lucky to live in this time where people can go online and get everything I've ever made, whether they have a lot of money or not.

CORNISH: Well, Regina Spektor, thank you for talking with us about this album.

SPEKTOR: Thank you so much, Audie. Thanks for having me.


SPEKTOR: (Singing) Thought you ought to know by now - I thought you ought to know by now, everybody not so nice, nice. Everybody not so nice, nice. Baby, baby, baby...

CORNISH: Regina Spektor talking about her new album, "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats." And NPR Music will live stream a Regina Spektor show for free on May 31st. You can check it out at


SPEKTOR: (Singing) That there's a small town in my mind. How can I leave without hurting everyone that made me?

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