The inimitable Inara George just released her latest solo record, which has been a long time (just about nine years) coming! I spoke to her about why this seemed like the right time to make Dearest Everybody, and over the course of our phone conversation we also talked about loss, the current political climate, and what sorts of things are on the horizon for her in 2018 and beyond. Read up on all of that below, grab a copy of the LP (out now) and be sure to catch her at Nublu in NYC tomorrow night, DC9 on Thursday night, and/or Philadelphia’s Boot and Saddle on Friday night before she heads back to the West Coast!
So it’s been about nine years since your last full-length solo record; I know you have a family and other musical projects that keep you very busy, so what felt right about the timing of this release? And what felt right about the timing as far as some of the subject matter goes?
Well, having kids and a family and other projects, there are other people involved, and I think something that when it’s not entirely for yourself, you tend to make time for things. If I wanted to write a song for a solo thing, I’d tend to not write it; I’d find a million other things I needed to do. So I think it took a long time to collect enough songs to make the album, and also enough time to know I could fully commit to putting something out. My kids are now in school full-time (“full-time”, 12-3pm), so it gave me a little bit more of an opportunity to do that. And as for the subject matter, I don’t know, maybe it’s just getting older. I think I wanted to make music that felt relevant to what I was going through in my own life, and that’s kind of where it sort of sprung from – just things that were happening in my life, and people around me, and wanting to be sensitive to that reality, I suppose.
Right. And the record also touches on losing your dad at a very young age. We don’t have to talk about that too much if you don’t want to, but I actually lost my dad two and a half years ago, so I feel a little more emboldened to talk about parental loss – it’s obviously different to lose a parent as a young child as opposed to during adulthood, and everyone certainly experiences loss in different ways in general, but how do you feel the experience shaped your worldview?
I’m sorry for your loss – I’m not sure exactly how old you are, but I’d imagine losing a parent during adulthood is really complicated. I lost my father when I was really little, and I’ve said this before, but I think it’s such a great way of explaining losing a parent as a young person – you don’t really know your parents very well, but you have some knowledge of them, and also just the idea that there’s this person that was involved in making you, and then they’re gone, but they’re somehow occupying your body still in a molecular sort of way. Your life stretches ahead of you, and that sort of defines who you are. I lost my father at a young age, and it’s those formative years that determine who you identify as, and there are lines in your life that are intertwined in this way moving forward. I know friends that have lost parents at much older ages, like more recently, I have a friend in her mid-forties who lost her mother, and she’d also lost her father when she was a child. She said it’s just a different feeling, because you’re looking back on your life with them, and you miss who they were, and you’re remembering it in a more backward sort of way. I mean, I guess that’s the thing – everyone has these experiences, and they define us in different ways. But it’s interesting that you asked that question.
Yeah, it’s always interesting to me, because before I’d experienced this loss, I didn’t ever really know how to act or what to say when something like that (loss) happened to someone else, and I just thought about it now when you said “Sorry for your loss.” I’m sorry for your loss, too, but it’s just kind of strange, because I guess you don’t really think about how people will continue to say that to you for like, your whole life, well after the death has happened. And I also don’t know why I ever thought that after it happened to me I’d have this “aha” moment of knowing what to do or say to other people in situations of loss, because it really is so different for everyone.
It’s true. And for me, when someone says “I’m sorry for your loss,” you know, I’m fine. Obviously it comes up, and there are moments that you feel emotional, but there are also moments when it feels more like, “Well, this is the definition of me and who I am,” and it’s not a matter of feeling sad about it, it’s just a fact. So sometimes I can cry at the drop of a hat for some reason, and then other times it’s just what happened, you know?
Of course. And then there’s always the moment when someone will ask, “Oh, what does your dad do?” And there’s kind of this fork in the road where I can say, “Well, nothing, he’s dead,” or “Well, he used to be a horse dentist,” (which is true, by the way) and hope it just gets left there so that nobody feels awkward. I think that’s always my biggest concern, is that I’ll make someone feel uncomfortable or like they’ve opened the floodgates when I’m actually usually fine to talk about it.
Yeah, well, and my friend lost a child, and that’s something I’d never thought of before, and a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think of that. So some people will ask, “How many kids do you have?” For her, it’s very complicated; she thinks of herself as having four kids, and while you don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable, you also want to honor the person that you lost. It’s this strange thing, figuring out how deep you want to go.
Absolutely. Now, I’ll shift gears a little bit so this whole conversation isn’t completely about loss, and I’ll ask you about your creative flow and scheduling on this record. The last time we spoke, you had a Bird and the Bee album coming out, and between your schedule and Greg’s schedule being so busy, I think you’d decided to do very regimented sessions on Fridays or something. Since you were on your own this time, did you still set aside specific blocks to work on it?
I started with the idea that I was going to make this little record by myself, and I got this little studio set up in the house, and I’d record late at night when the kids went to sleep. But I found that it was a bit of a lonely business, and I knew I’d never really make it sound as good as I wanted or how I’d become accustomed to things sounding, because I’ve worked with such amazing people and audiophiles. So I reached out to Mike Andrews, who’s produced all my solo records, and I brought him the tracks I’d kind of worked on already so he’d get a sense of what I was thinking, and together we’d work from there. Every Wednesday my kids go to their grandparents’ house for dinner, so it gives me a period of time where I can work, or if Mike had a couple of hours in the morning one time, we’d do that. Mike composes music, so sometimes he’s working like crazy, but other times he might have two days off, so I kind of tried to be more malleable with this project.
And what was it like to be working on a record during all of the insanity of this administration? That’s been a very interesting thing to ask people, is just how it’s been to be a creative (and just a human in general) in this political climate, especially a year after the Inauguration and with the annual Women’s March coming up this weekend.
It’s so crazy. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but putting my energy into promoting the record, and putting the record out myself has been really interesting. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been fun to really have my hands in everything, so it’s been all-encompassing, and at times I feel like I’m not doing enough in that regard. Last year I went to DC for the Women’s March, and I was feeling very engaged. Not that I’m not feeling as engaged now, it’s just that I’ve taken on this project, and I don’t have as much time to do as much as I’d like. In some ways, I feel like it’s a little bit of a relief, because I feel like I could lose my mind. It’s very disheartening, and I guess that’s the thing about making music and getting together, and trying to make the music feel like you’re in some way connected to people. At my release show, there’s a benefit aspect as well; I try to make whatever I’m doing into an opportunity to reach out to people as much as I can, without losing my head. Having kids, you don’t want to get so bogged down. It’s mostly an information overload; in the early part of the administration, I think I was just so hungry for any information as soon as it happened, and now I just don’t think you can operate in that way without having a nervous breakdown. [Laughs] I think it’s a dilemma for everyone – how do you live your life and then also resist? I try to be moderate in all ways.
Are your kids old enough that they’ve been asking you any tough questions about all of this?
They’re seven and five. Their perception of it (and I feel sort of bad about it, because I don’t want it to seem that way, but it’s hard when stuff happens and it does feel like there’s a bad guy) is that Trump is a bad guy like the Joker is in Batman. That’s essentially how they equate it, and I don’t know if that’s helpful, but as much as I try to say he’s a human…I don’t know, I don’t want my kids to identify people as just good or bad. I think that’s the whole problem with that administration, you know? There’s no grey area, and if you’re not able to have empathy and put yourself in people’s shoes, I think that’s where things start to become really tragic.
I agree 100%. And I do love that you’re incorporating this benefit aspect into your release show. It’s for CISLA, yeah?
Yes. Yeah. It’s a great program.
So it’s partially an art show, right? You recruited something like twelve people to participate?
It ended up being fourteen pieces, but twelve of them represent songs on my record. I gathered up a group of artists (some are friends, and others are friends of Eric Ernest Johnson’s, who did the cover art for the record, and has three pieces in the show) and I don’t know, I wanted it to feel like an intermingling of two different art mediums, making it more of an event. It’s really exciting to ask a friend to make a piece based on something that you wrote, and to be able to present the show. Half of the proceeds are going to go to Communities In Schools of Los Angeles and half are going to the artists. I really love collaborating with people, and I didn’t guide anyone into what they should paint, I just gave them the song and said, “Do whatever you do.” It’s really a cool thing to see how they’ve interpreted what I was thinking. It’s fun for me, that’s for sure.
Photo credit Alexa Nikol Curran
Yeah, it’s an amazing idea! And so what’s your touring band looking like?
It looks a little different, because I needed it to be smaller, and I realized that there’s a vocal component on the record that I think is really important to be represented (I think that’s one of the highlights of the record), so I went in search of an all-girl band, and I’ll have three girls with me. So it’s a four-piece band total. It’s different than the record release show, because I asked the people that played on the record and Mike Andrews (my producer) is playing, so it’s much bigger. (I think there are eight of us on stage for that one.)
Cool! And it’s kind of a limited run of dates, right?
Yeah, it’s not a typical tour, that’s for sure. [Laughs] I’m playing New York and DC and Philly, then will come home, doing three shows up in the Northwest, and then hopefully looking into doing the Midwest, but probably not until March or April. That’s kind of what we did with The Bird and the Bee, and Greg actually didn’t even come on the road; we just broke it up into these little moments. It’s not the most economical way to tour, just because you’re having to fly in and you’re not doing a bunch of shows in a row, but I don’t want to be away from my family. If I had to do that, I probably just wouldn’t play live music. Or I’d just play locally.
Makes sense. Well, we’re super excited to have you in town! And what else (besides all of these very big and exciting things) are you hopeful for in 2018?
Well, I’m hopeful for the midterm elections. I’m feeling really good about that if we look at what’s been happening recently, because that’s been an exciting thing that’s happened with all of this mess; I think it’s invigorated people (if Trump has made one thing clear, it’s that anyone can run for office), so you’re having a lot of people who wouldn’t have thought to run that are doing it now, which I think is great. And then Greg and I are also making a new Interpreting the Masters, which hopefully will be out this year or early next year.