From years as a statuesque street performer handing flowers to passers by, to marrying famed author Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer’s life has been almost as unconventional as her musical career. The latter, traversing theatrical duo The Dresden Dolls and finding TED talk fame in talking about how she connects with audiences, has ultimately thrived on swimming upstream.
For the last few years, Palmer’s solo work has taken some unconventional roads. She’s been accompanied on tour by an ever changing cast of local musicians who she brings on stage for impromptu jams, replacing her backing band night after night. She plays guerilla gigs in parks and at roadsides for fans who can’t afford tickets, or simply want to see her twice.
She’s spoken openly about empathy, and about her trio of abortions, then later explored the complexities of parenthood and raised money through a committed team of 15,000 personal backers. Being away from a label, she’s found, is a real route to independence and personal control.
“I’m really good at forgiving myself, which is the theme of the show,” she says of her current record. “I’ve been touring for so long that I’ve found an approach to stage work that involves never being bored. If you’re going to do this job for decades, you’ve got to figure out a way to love getting on stage every night, or you just won’t last. Or become really grumpy. I like it too much to ever want to feel like I’m just closing my eyes and doing a routine.”
“Some things haven’t changed since the early days of The Dresden Dolls. My connection with the actual human beings who come to see me is a massive ingredient in my ability to get up there every night and tear my heart out of my chest,” she says of her deeply personal new album, ‘There Will Be No Intermission’. “I wouldn’t want to do it alone.”
“I know there’s a real element of catharsis in it, not just for me, but for everyone who’s watching. The crowdfunding has really changed things. This kind of thing is actually really hard to describe to people, because I think people think about crowdfunding, Kickstarter, Patreon, they think about the financial side of it all.”
“They don’t think about the vast emotional connection that it gradually fosters between me and all these people. I try to write about this, and I also talk about it in the stage show. It’s really hard to explain what it does to an artist to be solely and unconditionally trusted and supported. I didn’t even quite realise what I was getting into when I started using patronage. I just thought it would be a reliable way of gathering people together and getting paid regularly.”
“It turned the flame way up on my ability to be brave in my artwork. I knew that I wasnt going to have to run songs about abortion and miscarraige past guys at the boardroom table at a major label, who were just going to listen to this kind of material and roll their eyes, thinking ‘what are we going to do with this, it won’t play well on radio.”
“I sort of knew that intellectually, but making this record knowing that I had 15,000 people unconditionally supporting it, no matter what was on it, and that it was already pre-sold, that I could say and write anything, was a level of artistic liberation that I’ve never felt before. I’m getting older and less afraid in every department. But this has fast tracked me to a place of really hardcore authenticity. There’s no dude in marketing to tell me that a ten minute song to kick off a record is a bad idea.”