Tracy Bonham: A '90s Rock Star, Reborn A lot has changed in Bonham's life since the release of her last full-length album. Reflecting her newfound optimism and stronger sense of identity, the singer's latest record, Masts of Manhatta, finds her sounding revitalized.

Tracy Bonham: A '90s Rock Star, Reborn

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

To introduce our next guest, we're going to play a couple of songs, compare and contrast. She does. First, "Devil's Got Your Boyfriend," from Tracy Bonham's new album.

(Soundbite of song, "Devil's Got Your Boyfriend")

Ms. TRACY BONHAM (Musician): (Singing) (Unintelligible) me, like in the movies, like perhaps, the body double - a doppelganger. He called me from his car while his hands were on her. Oh, what an animal - animal. Loud, say it loud and clear...

SIMON: There's an urban beat. But now try this...

(Soundbite of song, "We Moved Our City to the Country")

SIMON: This song is called "We Moved Our City to the Country." It practically screams green mist, hollers gentle rolling hills. The contrast is the art and it reflects the art and life of Tracy Bonham. Her CD is called "The Masts of Manhatta." Tracy Bonham joins us from New York.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. BONHAM: Thank you.

SIMON: And, so what set this into motion for you?

Ms. BONHAM: It was during the time in my life where I was writing a lot about the duality of living in the city and in the country. I had just married my husband; we were exploring upstate New York in the Catskills. Mainly because we knew if we were going to stay sane while living in New York City, we're going to have to find a little getaway place. And coming back and forth from the city, songs were emerging, just about, you know, what it's like to be transplanted up into the country. We're city folk and I realized at one point, wow, I actually have a record and I'd like to release it.

SIMON: So, give us some idea about the rhythm of your life between the city and the country.

Ms. BONHAM: Well, you know, at first it became, it was one of those things that you felt like you were being pulled one way and the other, and one way and the other. But now it's just become this flowing thing. It's just a part of our lives. It's not a question.

SIMON: Let's get to this new CD. I want to play my favorite song...

Ms. BONHAM: Okay.

SIMON: ...on this CD, if we could.

Ms. BONHAM: Sure.

SIMON: And you refer to this as the song that changed your life.

Ms. BONHAM: Interesting. What could it be?

(Soundbite of song, "Your Night is Wide Open")

Ms. BONHAM: (Singing) Chinese lanterns strung above downtown Los Angeles. Glow softy, makes the (unintelligible) at the party, sooner or later, sooner or later, sooner or later it all belongs to them. But for this moment, for this moment, it belongs to us. Wake up baby, open your eyes, look where we are today.

Ms. BONHAM: You know, I took a kind of a classical approach to writing the music for this. However, the lyrics are about a text message that I received...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BONHAM: ...that did change my life. Jason and I were friends at the time and I was on the road and I was being a little grumpy, as one can be, you know, when you've got a 20-hour ride ahead of you. And he and I were having a little conversation via text. And I had complained. I'd said oh gosh, I'm not ready for this ride, it's really tough and my guitar player's got a buzz on in the backseat and this is going to just all go wrong. And he responded to me: your night is wide open. That stopped me, you know, in my tracks and I went: whoa. And I think the love affair began right then.

(Soundbite of song, "Your Night is Wide Open")

Ms. BONHAM: (Singing) Your night is wide, your night is wide open.

SIMON: You should explain, youre married to Jason Fine, who is the executive editor of Rolling Stone.

Ms. BONHAM: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: It's got to be a tough audience to have at home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BONHAM: Yeah, but when he likes something...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BONHAM: ...it's the greatest feeling in the world.

SIMON: The named "Masts of Manhatta," borrowed from - let's say for an end -borrowed from a Whitman poem?

Ms. BONHAM: Yes. And actually, I think the original text he leaves off the end, the island was actually called Mannahatta.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BONHAM: Spelled M-A-N-N-A-H-A-T-T-A by the Lenape people, that's what they were called. Whitman was referring to the buildings of lower Manhattan as masts of a ship.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. BONHAM: And the poem struck me as a celebration of the city but also finding the balance. I think I really connected with this poem because he was finding a balance. He was finding stillness in the moment. And it's a daily, you know, its a daily thing. You've got, especially living in the city, you've got to remind yourself to not let it get to you.

(Soundbite of song, "Reciprocal Feelings")

Ms. BONHAM: (Singing) I'd like to be my own best friend. Turns out there's no reciprocal feelings. What a total snob, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo. Sometimes I write her letters and I've seen her hands and I know they're not broken. So...

SIMON: Little kind of pep talk you give yourself?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BONHAM: Yeah. Yeah. It's the ego talking about the higher self as if the scene was some playground recess or something.

(Soundbite of song, "Reciprocal Feelings")

Ms. BONHAM: (Singing) So I let it slide, let it slide, let it slide. Day-to-day rejections. Still I can't erase, can't erase, can't erase feelings that we're close...

SIMON: I just love that, like some playground recess.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BONHAM: Well, you know how catty it can get...

SIMON: Yes. Absolutely.

Ms. BONHAM: ...when you were younger. Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Tracy Bonham's "Reciprocal Feelings," from her new CD "Masts of Manhatta." A song I have to ask you about, its called "Angel Won't You Come Down." Who's the angel, Tracy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BONHAM: Well, this song was written probably around the nine month, 10 month mark of our adoption. My husband and I are in the process of adopting a child. And, you know, with the start of a family and the idea of starting a family, there's a lot of questions and a lot of hope and then a lot of frustration. So I decided to sit down and write to our mysterious prospective child.

(Soundbite of song, "Angel Won't You Come Down")

Ms. BONHAM: (Singing) You add up the hours, days and the minutes, if there's any sense to this it'll all come to total your greatness, make up for what we missed. Not like we've got high standards. It's not like we got big demands. It's not like we are looking for perfection, a godlier connection or something to make us complete.

But, angel, won't you come down, won't you come down?

SIMON: It's pretty nice that you write a, you write a song to the child youre going to - the child is in your life already.

Ms. BONHAM: Yeah. Exactly. I mean the child is definitely in our lives and also could be in the world at this point, and that to us is exciting and I love the idea of, you know, when the child old enough, when that child actually realizes that, you know, that this process we, you know, it was a seed and we're all excited and, you know, in that - it's weird bit I just thought of this, the Whitman poem, he actually speaks to the future reader.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. BONHAM: And so I kind of feel like it's a similar thing where I'm speaking now, but it's in a future time and then those times will kind of mold(ph) together.

SIMON: Well, Tracy, been delightful to talk to you.

Ms. BONHAM: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.

SIMON: And good luck in everything, okay?

Ms. BONHAM: Thank you.

SIMON: Tracy Bonham, her new CD is called "The Masts of Manhatta," speaking with us, of course, from New York.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: And you can hear a couple of songs from Tracy Bonham's new album at NPRmusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of song, "Angel, Won't You Come Down")

Ms. BONHAM: (Singing) Won't you come down?

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