k.d. lang: Bringing It All Back Home Sing It Loud, lang's 13th studio album, is her first with a band of her own since the records that launched her career more than two decades ago.
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k.d. lang: Bringing It All Back Home

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k.d. lang: Bringing It All Back Home

k.d. lang: Bringing It All Back Home

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As a short-timer in this host chair, I get the privilege of revisiting an artist I first spoke to in 1992. K.d. lang had just released her award-winning album "Ingenue." My then-10-year-old daughter and I would twirl around the kitchen to "Miss Chatelaine," and "Constant Craving" can still be heard on a car radio.

This past Tuesday, k.d. lang released her first album made with a band of her own since she and the Reclines worked together 20 years ago. The new recording is called "Sing It Loud" by k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang. She joins us from NPR West in Culver City, California. Welcome back to the show. It's a pleasure to talk to you again.

Ms. K.D. LANG (Singer, Songwriter): It's an honor to be back in this chair.

HANSEN: I remember what you said when you recorded "Ingenue," you had to do it and you needed a root canal so...

Ms. LANG: Oh yeah. You know what, actually I can feel it right now just in retrospect.

HANSEN: Bringing back memories. I have to say, k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang, that has a very nice ring to it.

Ms. LANG: It does have a nice ring to it. And you know what? It absolutely encompasses the vibe of the band and the music. We recorded it July 4th weekend and the second everybody walked into the room, the energy was palpable, and therefore the Siss Boom Bang became the name.

HANSEN: Like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Ms. LANG: Exactly, exactly.


Ms. LANG: Exactly.

HANSEN: I mean, you've been doing this for such a long time. Was there something about working with this band that maybe, I don't know, kind of lit your fire again?

Ms. LANG: Absolutely. You know, I just really allowed my muse to be my guide and I just go with whatever I'm feeling. And I was really feeling like I wanted to sort of revisit my country roots. And I met a fellow named Joe Pisapia backstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. And I just kind of fell in love with the guy and we started writing. And the first time we tried to write together, two songs popped out immediately.

And, you know, collaborating with these guys really, it just happened to be so easy. Everything was so easy and so spontaneous and natural. It was beautiful.

HANSEN: I want to play a cut. It's actually the first cut on the album, and it's called "I Confess."

(Soundbite of song, "I Confess")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) I confess I need you badly. Hold me in your arms and love me madly...

HANSEN: "I Confess," the first cut on "Sing It Loud," k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang. This is the breakout single and the first time I heard it I thought Roy Orbison.

Ms. LANG: Yeah, definitely. Definitely Roy. Well, you know, I had the good fortune of working with Roy in my early days and he's just had such an indelible influence on me. And I guess I've never really sort of ventured into harvesting or cultivating those influences musically. But, you know, it's so funny because really you absorb these influences almost by osmosis and then, you know, how many years later - it's been 22 years later - they just come out. And I just think it's beautiful. It's kind of like, you know, when there's no rain in the desert for a long time and then it rains and then these beautiful flowers pop up.

(Soundbite of song, "I Confess")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) Life without you only brought me heartache, I've had all the lonely I can take...

HANSEN: You also revisit other influences. I'm actually thinking about this really fun song on "Sing It Loud" called "Sugar Buzz."

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Tell us about that one.

Ms. LANG: I don't know why I decided I had a bee in my bonnet that I wanted to write a song called "Sugar Buzz." So, I was, like, texting Joe. He wasn't getting it at all, but he wrote back some lyrics and I wrote, texted some lyrics. And the next time I got together with him, I had been working on this verse on the guitar. And it came time for some lyrics and I said, wait a minute, wait a minute. And I pulled out the text and I literally sang the lyrics that we had been texted over top of what we'd been working on. It was amazing. It was done.

(Soundbite of song, "Sugar Buzz")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) Oh, sweet thing, you're just like a sugar buzz, doing to me just what sugar does. The hardest fall there ever was...

HANSEN: I'm speaking with k.d. lang about her new album, "Sing It Loud."

Your music has, I mean, you've just gone on this journey investigating all kinds of genres from pop, contemporary; you sang with Tony Bennett. Where do you think this new recording fits in your continuing musical journey? You talked about returning to your country roots.

Ms. LANG: Yeah. It's a little bit country but it's also a little bit rock. I feel like my split personality is Donny and Marie, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: That's funny.

Ms. LANG: I feel like at 50 I've decided to become a rock star, which is, you know, typical of me. I always seem to work backwards.

HANSEN: But, you know, in opera some of the best female voices are mature ones. Do you think your voice has matured?

Ms. LANG: Yes, I do. I think I have allowed my voice to experiment with the different genres. And I think that I have just really enjoyed the journey of getting to know my voice and seeing what it's capable of, what it's not capable of.

HANSEN: What is it not capable of?

Ms. LANG: I'm not really capable of singing extremely fast phrasing. I can't, you know, k.d. languid, I think, is what best describes me. But, yeah, phrasing is difficult for me.

HANSEN: And, I mean, you treat records that you're interpreting, which is different from songwriting, but you treat them equally.

Ms. LANG: Yeah, although it's sort - I guess the approach would be different because there's a natural umbilical cord between the songwriter and the singer. But when you interpret, it's almost like a blank canvas. You can create your own subtext, your own relationship to it. You can extend it or gravitate towards one particular aspect of it. And I don't think you can do that with songwriting.

HANSEN: Is "Sing It Loud," the title tune, written as almost an anthem? The banjo, for example, reminds me of Pete Seeger and the song itself is about self-empowerment.

Ms. LANG: Yeah, I think so too. That was written by my partner, Joe Pisapia, and he actually wrote it for his niece. And when I heard it, I automatically gravitated towards what you just described. This sort of playful anthemic song for the unique or for the individuals of the world and I just had to sing it.

(Soundbite of song, "Sing It Loud")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) Sing it loud, sing it, sing it, sing it loud, sing it, sing it loud, sing it, sing it, sing it loud, sing it, sing it loud, sing it, sing it, sing it loud, sing it, sing it loud, sing it, sing it, sing it loud, so everyone knows who you are...

HANSEN: Speaking of the individuals in the world, you know, as someone who's been out for a long time, do you see yourself as a mentor to younger generations of gay men and women in the, you know, It Gets Better kind of way?

Ms. LANG: Yes and I no. I mean, I am fully aware of my influence and my responsibility to society in general representing the gay community. But in the same time, I don't represent the entire gay community because it's a vast, vast community, as one can imagine. So, I really just try to be open and accessible to questions and to people's, you know, interest in it.

HANSEN: Yeah. You represent yourself.

Ms. LANG: Yeah, I represent myself.

HANSEN: I saw a headline that begs me to ask a question. Do people still mistake you for a man?

Ms. LANG: Oh yeah.

HANSEN: Really?

Ms. LANG: I love that, though. I love playing with concepts, you know?

HANSEN: Um-hum, um-hum. Let your androgynous looks work for you then, huh?

Ms. LANG: Definitely.


(Soundbite of song, "Sorrow Never More")

HANSEN: The new CD, "Sing It Loud," ends with a really upbeat song, "Sorrow Never More." I mean, say goodbye.

Ms. LANG: Yeah.

HANSEN: It sounds like you're in a really good place both professionally and personally.

Ms. LANG: Yeah. Well, you know, I think I've realized that to be happy you have to make that decision. And it's really about changing the actual chemistry of your mind and going, I am going to be happy. That's what "Sorrow Never More" is. It's just, it's a manifesto, I guess.

(Soundbite of song, "Sorrow Never More")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) Troubles, what are they? The pebbles in my shoes. I walk away these blues in my barefoot way...

HANSEN: k.d. lang's new album is "Sing It Loud" by k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang. She joined us from NPR West. Oh, thank you so much. It was so nice to talk to you again.

Ms. LANG: Oh, it's such a pleasure. I'm a huge fan.

HANSEN: And you can hear more from "Sing It Loud" at NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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