St. Vincent talks about country music, The Rolling Stones and “Daddy’s Home”
What’s the final stop on the sonic subway ride of a career from rock’n’roll shapeshifter St. Vincent? A platform brimming with scuzzy 1970s grooves.
For her latest album, “Daddy’s Home”, St. Vincent – the brainchild of Texan artist Annie Clark – tells a story that draws on her real-life experience of visiting her father during his 12-year stint in prison for stock handling.
The 14-track album, co-produced by Taylor Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff and released earlier this year, takes a touch of Stevie Wonder influence, nods to Steely Dan, and channels world-building à la David Bowie.
Next month, Clark brings “Daddy’s Home” to the Grammy Awards, where it is nominated for Best Alternative Album. The recognition comes as Clark wraps up a year of co-writing and starring in the new movie “The Nowhere Inn,” returned to Austin City Limits, and remixed a Paul McCartney tune.
A few days before the holidays (to get in the spirit, Clark was planning to throw her family into a Victorian-themed rendition of “Christmas Carol” for the second year in a row, she said), the singer-songwriter discussed country music, the Rolling Stones and “Daddy’s Home” in a new interview from Tennessee. Read on for an edited version of the conversation.
Growing up in Texas, was country music part of the creative puzzle you put together as a kid?
When I was young it was all about Nirvana, you know? So country music, I wholeheartedly rejected. Like, ‘No, no. I am a rocker. But now I love him. I love Loretta, Dolly, George Jones, George Strait. Outlaw country. Tanya Tucker, God bless you. It’s just one of the best compositions in the world. I’m totally here for it, but I had to get there as an adult and run away in my youth.
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You were here in Nashville a few months ago on the same night as the Rolling Stones.
It was really Sophie’s choice for a few fans [laughs]. This is another band that I felt in this trap when I was a kid – the Beatles or the Stones? And I was The Beatles all the way. I’ve always loved the Stones, but I started to love the Stones deeply while doing “Daddy’s Home”.
How? ‘Or’ What?
Just the vibe and the groove and the sound and the feeling went in deep for the first time. Instead of saying ‘Oh yeah. It’s cool. I like this.’ It was like, ‘Oh shit. It’s heavy.’ I’m a huge Stones fan now, which is great. One of the things that tells me is that good music will find you, but also that you will find good music when you are ready. Sometimes you are not ready for things when you first hear them. It has been my experience with a lot of music.
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You mentioned that you were The Beatles from the start. How did it go to know Paul McCartney?
He is absolutely charming and absolutely brilliant. I guess you could call it a milestone, but not even because it’s so off this planet. It’s one of those things where you go, ‘Oh man. I made a lot of mistakes but must have done something right somewhere if Paul McCartney calls me. ‘ Sure, I saw the Beatles documentary, but what I liked so much about it was… I think a lot of people who don’t make music think it’s magic – and that absolutely is. But I found it so refreshing to see how they could come up with a great idea and chop it up and make it great. It was the most inspiring thing.
On ‘Daddy’s Home’ you also tackle a heaviness in the songs. What was it like for you to stay in that open space?
I lived it all [those] stories, so I can write about them. I was the girl with ‘the heels from last night on the morning train’ [in reference to album song “Down and Out Downtown”]. I’ve been the “… At The Holiday Party” girl on both sides: the person who reveals herself through the things she’s trying to hide and the person who sees someone in pain, struggling to cauterize the wound with it. conspicuous consumption. The record, for me, is the process of my metamorphosis into “Papa”. Even though it starts with a story of visiting my real dad in prison and how abject and darkly funny it was, it really is [is] my trip.
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I saw where the album is inspired by Sly and the Family Stone and Steely Dan. What I hear a lot throughout this movie, however, is Prince.
Prince is in everyone’s veins. Prince and [David] Bowie, these are artists that I have listened to so much that I don’t have to think about them consciously reference [laughs].
Have you thought about the next step?
Yeah, always. In my experience, unfortunately there is no shortcut. You just have to take the path. I just follow my gut and my nose on every record and I’m lucky to always be there. Even though I have a number of records now, I have a body of work that feels like I’m just getting started. I don’t have enough time in my life to do everything I want to do musically.