The DE­SIRE to be loved and ac­cepted is so STRONG that I think au­then­tic­ity is very dif­fi­cult.

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I once pledged that I would never lis­ten to mu­si­cians un­der 25 be­cause I fig­ured they wouldn’t know any­thing about life. As if to prove my point, you re­leased Ingénue when you were 30. It’s timely now, but where were you in your life when you wrote it? “I had de­cided to move on from the coun­try thing that I was do­ing and fo­cus on my early, deep in­flu­ences from singers like Joni Mitchell, Peggy Lee and Kate Bush. I wanted to get into the mu­sic that I felt was more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of who I was mu­si­cally.” Can you ap­pre­ci­ate the al­bum for what it is, or is it still tied to the ex­pe­ri­ences that in­spired it? “I don’t pine for or think about the re­la­tion­ship that in­spired it, but I do re­call the feel­ings of un­re­quited love, or I think it was more of an ob­ses­sion. I hadn’t lis­tened to it for 20 years, but when I started to pre­pare for this tour, I had to. And that first lis­ten was a lit­tle strange. It flooded me with all sorts of mem­o­ries. It’s dif­fi­cult to lis­ten to it, not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause of the im­pe­tus of the mu­sic it­self but the ex­pe­ri­ences that un­folded around and af­ter that time. My life sort of changed. But now I’ve hope­fully tran­scended the stick­i­ness of the mem­o­ries. Hope­fully I can de­liver the mu­sic in a way that en­com­passes those mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences as well as the au­di­ences’ ex­pe­ri­ences.” When I read old ar­ti­cles of mine, I flip be­tween think­ing “Oh, that was pretty clever” and “Oh, I wish I could go back in time and change that.” [Laughs] “Ex­actly. Ab­so­lutely. And ev­ery day it changes. It de­pends on my mood as a lis­tener.” I’ve read that in the past you didn’t like to read or lis­ten to mu­sic on tour be­cause you got too dis­tracted. Now that you’re a Bud­dhist, has this changed? “Yes and no. Bud­dhism gives one tools to deal with that mon­key mind, but I don’t lis­ten to mu­sic on tour be­cause I’m pretty tired from singing and more mu­sic ex­hausts me. In terms of read­ing, yeah, my mind does move around. I’m slightly dyslexic, and I also have some is­sues with words get­ting big­ger and smaller, so it’s kind of a chore.” A lot of Ingénue is about long­ing and un­re­quited feel­ings whereas Bud­dhism is about let­ting go. Could you have writ­ten this al­bum if you were a Bud­dhist back then? “That’s a good point. I think you’re ab­so­lutely right. I don’t think I could have writ­ten it. I think my ex­plo­ration of long­ing and de­sire was writ­ten as a pref­ace to where I ended up go­ing. I do feel like my prac­tice has kind of al­le­vi­ated that in­ces­sant need to fill up space, which I prob­a­bly had when I was in my 30s.” My favourite au­thor is a Bud­dhist, and I’ve no­ticed that the tone of his writ­ing has changed. He has be­come a bit more com­pas­sion­ate. “Who is this? Ge­orge Saun­ders?” That’s ex­actly right! [Laughs] But go­ing back, I don’t think it’s nec­es­sar­ily unique to Bud­dhism, but it does seem to change the art that peo­ple cre­ate. “I think it does. I think the prac­tice, or the path, gives you more tools and a deeper, wider per­spec­tive on your hand­i­caps while be­ing in the hu­man realm. [Laughs] And with that, as you said, it gives you more com­pas­sion. I find that, for me, in­ter­pret­ing mu­sic has got­ten eas­ier than writ­ing—be­cause I feel like I can’t com­pletely ex­press all my per­spec­tives in a song, for ex­am­ple. It seems out of my ca­pac­ity.” How has your re­la­tion­ship with your voice changed over the years? “I have more of an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for it. I’m get­ting older, so my voice is chang­ing a lit­tle bit. It’s not quite as smooth as it used to be. I’m also re­al­iz­ing that the in­ten­tion and nar­ra­tive ap­proach is re­ally what makes a great voice. It’s that abil­ity to trans­fer the song into some­one else’s emo­tional state. To me, that’s the im­por­tant thing. So I’m re­eval­u­at­ing what it is to be a singer.” It’s easy, in hind­sight, to think of equal rights for LGBTQ peo­ple as in­evitable. But in old ar­ti­cles about you, ev­ery­thing was about you be­ing gay. It’s main­stream now, but did it feel in­evitable at the time or was it still dif­fi­cult com­ing out so early? “It felt in­evitable to me. I come from a fam­ily where three out of the four kids were gay. My own per­sonal cul­ture was com­fort­able and im­mersed. I al­ways ap­proached the is­sue know­ing that, num­ber one, I never rep­re­sented the whole gay cul­ture (it’s a di­verse cul­ture) and, num­ber two, that it was about to burst out of the closet—and not al­ways in a pos­i­tive way. Peo­ple were be­ing outed against their will, and I tried to be avail­able to an­swer ques­tions. I never wanted to get into the po­lit­i­cal side of be­ing gay, but I did feel the in­evitabil­ity of the LGBTQ rev­o­lu­tion. I don’t think it’s over, by the way, but I def­i­nitely think we’re well on our way.” One of the things I’ve re­al­ized is that only you can know if you’re be­ing au­then­tic. Peo­ple have al­ways as­sumed you are, but have you al­ways felt au­then­tic? “I have very strong opin­ions about au­then­tic­ity. I think it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to be au­then­tic. And this is the Bud­dhist in me speak­ing. It re­ally only comes when you truly shed your at­tach­ment to your ego, and I don’t think many peo­ple do that while they are on this earth. I think we’re sus­cep­ti­ble to judg­ment and be­ing con­trived and in­flu­enced, and the de­sire to be loved and ac­cepted is so strong that I think au­then­tic­ity is very dif­fi­cult. I think chil­dren have it. I think it gets carved out of them as they get older. I think you can whit­tle away at your ego, and you can try. You can lis­ten to your in­ner voice as much as pos­si­ble, which is the gate­way to au­then­tic­ity.”

Do you think you are more that way now? “Yes, I do, but I also think this may be a re­sult of less de­sire to suc­ceed. I feel like au­then­tic­ity is a type of ac­cep­tance of, and sur­ren­der to, who you are in­stead of try­ing to be­come some­thing. I think that at this point in my life, I wouldn’t say I’m wind­ing down but I’ve plateaued and my real work is in­ter­nal.”

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