Interview: Fiona Apple On 'Fetch The Bolt Cutters' And Self-Imposed Isolation Fiona Apple talks about Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her first album in eight years, getting advice from King Princess to release her record early and what she would say to her teenage self.
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'Fetch Your Tool Of Liberation': Fiona Apple On Setting Herself Free

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'Fetch Your Tool Of Liberation': Fiona Apple On Setting Herself Free

'Fetch Your Tool Of Liberation': Fiona Apple On Setting Herself Free

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Inspiration strikes when it strikes, even if it's while watching a crime drama on Netflix. That was the case for Fiona Apple, who released her first album in eight years this month. It's called "Fetch The Bolt Cutters."


FIONA APPLE: (Singing) Fetch the bolt cutters. I've been in here too long. Fetch the bolt cutters. I've been in here too long.

CHANG: Apple was watching a show called "The Fall," and there was this one episode where the detective, played by Gillian Anderson, frees a girl who had been kidnapped and locked away.

APPLE: Just - it's, like, a throwaway little line that she says. She just says, fetch the bolt cutters. And, like, I shot up from the couch, and I said, that's what my album's called.

CHANG: This album is full of those kinds of sentiments - demands to be let loose, to be let out of a cage. And that is where I started when I spoke with Apple recently about her new album. I asked her, what was it that she needed to be liberated from?

APPLE: The ideas that I had about myself that, on some level, I'll always have - you know, just everything from when you're growing up, everything that everybody says to you about you that you believe and the way that I think that I have internalized a lot of the things that were said to me and then, as a result, hidden myself away or shut myself up. As much as I don't think that I'm known for being somebody who keeps quiet about things, I have really kept quiet about a lot of things, you know? There's a lot to say, and I've kept quiet about some of it.

CHANG: Well, I can tell you there is a lot on this album that hit me hard. Like, what I hear in a lot of these songs is this insistence to be heard - for example, with the song "Under The Table."


APPLE: (Singing) Oh, kick me under the table all you want. I won't shut up. I won't shut up.

CHANG: I mean, the lyrics here - kick me under the table all you want. I won't shut up. Don't you, don't you, don't you shush me. Who are you talking to in this song?

APPLE: I - this is actually about a real dinner that I went to. And I'm not - I can't say who was at the dinner, but I will say that there was a prominent figure of a streaming service at that dinner.

CHANG: Was someone actually kicking you under the table, or you felt it sort of emotionally?

APPLE: They were kicking me under the table with their eyes. And then afterwards, it's like, why did you accost two people at a nice dinner, you know?

CHANG: (Laughter).

APPLE: You know, I was just - I didn't accost anybody. Everybody was saying things and, you know, a couple people said some things that I had some things to say back to. So...


APPLE: (Singing) I won't shut up.

CHANG: I feel like the songs in this album - they're not just about seizing the chance to speak. They're also about wanting people to really hear you.


APPLE: (Singing) I, too, used to want him to be proud of me. And then I just wanted him to make amends. I wonder what lies he's telling you about me to make sure that we'll never be friends.

CHANG: Like, for the past couple years, there's been this more honest conversation in this country about believing women when they do speak up. And I'm wondering - is that also what you're getting at in this album?

APPLE: Well, I mean, it's hopefully what I'm getting at with everything that I do. But the fact is - and it's a fact - if a woman or man goes public with some kind of abuse, they're not doing it for attention. There's no reason that people will lie about that. They know what they're getting into.


APPLE: (Singing) I watch him walk over, talk over you, be mean to you. And it makes me feel close to you.

We know as much as we've given women more of a space to speak and be believed, there's still all the trolls and all the little bros that come back and just beat them down as much as they can. But there still is a huge backlash, and there's a lot of risk in speaking up. And anybody who would think that a woman would get up and put herself in that position for attention is just insane, and I would like to punch them in their head 43 times.

CHANG: (Laughter) Forty-three exactly.

APPLE: Yes, for my - it's for my next year's birthday, I guess.


CHANG: Well, you know, on this thread of speaking up, I mean, your album is a form of speaking up. And I know that you have had kind of an uncomfortable relationship with fame, with being the focus and public attention. And I'm curious - as you're doing interviews for this new album, putting yourself out there again, does it feel any easier these days?

APPLE: After this interview, I'm not going to be doing any more, like, interviews about me and the album for a while 'cause I just want...

CHANG: Wow. We got in there.

APPLE: Yeah. I just - yeah, you did. Well, yeah, you did. You did.

CHANG: Well, can I ask you - how are you feeling about this interview right now?

APPLE: I feel fine right now. I mean, right before an interview (unintelligible) this thing, you know, I'm sitting here going, I don't want to do this. And then I sat here by myself for, like, a minute. And I did, like, a little meditation - just like, let me please try to just be honest and answer questions and not be too worried.


APPLE: (Singing) But it always falls way too soon.

CHANG: It's so interesting hearing you talk about this because the woman that I hear in these songs is an unapologetic woman. These songs are about, look; I have something to say, so listen to me.


APPLE: (Singing) I spread like strawberries.

CHANG: So it's so interesting hearing you have to almost psych yourself up to speak up.

APPLE: Oh, because I'm sure that I'll ruin everything with something that I say. As soon as I - people are texting me, saying, like, wow, this is amazing. Everything's great. And oh, goodness, everything's great. So of course, I've been sleepless for the past few nights - not totally sleepless. But these past few nights, I stay awake just combing through everything, going, where did I make a really bad mistake? Where did I say something awful? Like, I'm just, like - it's almost like - it relates to the thing in "Heavy Balloon" about, like, the bottom being the only safe place, you know? Like, it's like I'm looking for something to be embarrassed about because that's almost my comfort zone, you know?


APPLE: (Singing) People like us get so heavy and so lost sometimes, so lost and so heavy that the bottom is the only place we can find.

So it's - this is a learning experience right now for me to try not to knock it down in some way because that makes me comfortable - like, to try to just be like, nope, this seems like everything - something's going good. Take it, you know? Accept it, Fiona. Don't be, like, looking for the fault in it, you know?


APPLE: (Singing) I've waited many years. Every print I left upon the track has led me here.

CHANG: Your first album, "Tidal," came out in 1996 when you were still a teenager. What do you wish you could tell your teenage self now as a woman in her 40s?

APPLE: Well, that teenager that started - I would tell her, you are on the right track, and there's going to be a lot of people who are going to tell you that what you're doing is stupid. And they're going to be people of authority, and they're going to be the people that you love. And they're going to be the people that you trust. Please do not believe them. They don't know you. You know you. You're doing great. Don't let them stop you. I would tell her that, but I'm glad that I don't have the chance to tell her that because I think that the experience that I did have is worth it.

CHANG: Fiona Apple - her new album is called "Fetch The Bolt Cutters."

Thank you so much. This was a sincere pleasure.

APPLE: Oh, thank you so much. I send my love everywhere.


APPLE: (Singing) Matter in the long run but I know a sound is still a sound around no one. And while I'm in this body, I...

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