“I love going where I’m not supposed to go,” says four-time Grammy winner k.d. lang “I’ve always loved being the underdog. I love feeling like I’m starting at square zero again.”
Lang hits the Indianapolis area on Wednesday, June 22, with her new band Siss Boom Bang at the Palladium in Carmel.
Speaking by phone from her Los Angeles home, the Canadian-born Lang, who returned from a tour of the U.K. a few weeks ago, says she has enjoyed playing in fresh settings.
“We’ve played the Troubadour this year in Los Angeles. It’s a small but great classic venue,” says Lang. “Folk festivals are really exciting for me, and playing in beautiful concert halls, and playing in clubs – mixing it up, really – works our performance muscles and our dynamic muscles, and it keeps us really fresh.”
The veteran crooner says she has heard good things about the Palladium from other artists.
Her concert, says Lang, will feature mostly songs from her and Siss Boom Bang’s CD, “Sing It Loud.” The singer is celebrated for her perfect pitch and also, lately, for returning to her cowpunk roots.
“It’s country-punk,” she says, “a hybrid between country and punk. I guess it was rockabilly taken a little more to the extreme, and it was a genre I was involved with in the mid- to early ’80s.”
“Sing It Loud” is her first record made entirely with a band of her own since the pair of albums with the Reclines that launched her career.
One of the songs to be performed will be the album’s title track, “Sing It Loud,” written by co-producer Joe Pisapia, who also is a musician and the band’s music director.
“I think we all feel like outsiders,” says Lang. “Part of us feels like we really don’t fit in anywhere, and I think that’s great. That part of us will be celebrated.”
Another song from the CD on the band’s set list is “I Confess.”
“I’ve been feeling a big connection to my Roy Orbison days,” says Lang. “Roy’s music left an indelible mark on me, and I really wanted to write a song that had that kind of Orbison swagger.”
She remembers Orbison as “a quiet, very spiritual and profound guy. Very powerful, but very peaceful.”
How is it that she returned to her country roots after forays into pop, music from the American songbook and her collaboration with Tony Bennett in “A Wonderful World”?
Says Lang: “I felt it back in my soul. It’s just something that was very natural. It just sort of bubbled up, and there it was. It was an elusive thing. It was instinctual, and I just kind caught it in the wind and followed it. I met Joe, and I just wanted to see where everything was going and just let it go.”
Other songs from the CD also will be included in the program. “Sugar Buzz” likens a lover to the rush that comes from eating too much sugar. “Habit of Mind” is another new title, and then a cover also will appear of the Talking Head’s “Heaven.”
Lang says working on this album, which is infused with warmth and humor, helped her regain something she had lost for a while.
“I was focused on the more serious aspects of singing and music for the past 10 years,” she says. “Working with Tony and getting really educated in the crooning style and educated in the American songbook, and then branching off and focusing more on the Canadian songbook, I’ve been fine-tuning my voice as a crooner.
“Then I started going back into country a little bit and into humor more. Now with this new band, I think humor’s definitely an ingredient. I wouldn’t say it’s the main ingredient, but it feels pretty balanced and pretty soulful.”
When asked if she enjoys reinventing herself, Lang quickly counters.
“I really don’t like the term reinvention, because it sounds like it’s contrived, like it’s more a marketing thing. To me, it’s really about allowing yourself to follow the music, because music is this whimsical free thing that’s just drifting around in the wind. Sometimes it leads you off a cliff and you end up hurting on the bottom of a canyon floor, wondering what the hell happened. At the same time you can also be flying, so I think for me it’s always really about letting go and letting the music be the boss.”
Pointing out the similarities between musicians and artists, Lang says, “When you look at the trajectory or the path that Picasso took, the very disciplined sketching – that established him, that he could make art. And where he ended up in the later parts of his life, they are all stepping stones, and they are all completely related once you have everything in perspective and you can take a step back and look at everything objectively and with perspective. When you are in the music business right now, it seems so short-term, really.”
Veering off on another topic, Lang was asked what her perspective was now regarding Nashville and how she was treated during the time she was performing country.
“My perspective now is the same now as it was then,” she says. ”Sure, there was homophobia. Of course there was. At the same time, I never wanted to be a country artist. I was just a visitor. I think they knew it. I knew it. Everyone knew it. I think it was kind of a user-friendly situation. I think I added some hipness and some new kind of blood and also some edge to country.
“I got an education and got to sort of dip down into the epicenter of what that world was,” says Lang. “Now, for me, it’s the same as it was then: a motel in the middle of the desert.”
When it was pointed out that many members of the LGBT community are country fans, Lang says: “I know. I think a lot of artists are, too, and so are a lot of really liberal west-of-central people. All kinds of people like country music, because I think it’s a place; it’s a mindset. It’s kitsch, but it’s also comforting, and there’s something magical there.
“I know I’ve done a thousand interviews with people, trying to figure out why gays like country music,” says Lang, “but I think it’s because it’s kind of normal – it paints the picture of a normal world.”
For tickets and information for k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang at the Palladium, call the box office at (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.