Tuesday, February 12, 2008

my k.d. lang story

like a push me-pull me, I tell ya.

call me Doolittle.

I escape from Manhattan maybe an hour early, head home (it was brutally cold this morning with a ferocious south to north wind), barely drop my backpack when the phone rings.

see, I'm supposed to interview k.d. lang at 5:10 this afternoon but this is earlier. and the news, no matter how professional publicists try to sugarcoat, is not good. we're already on a ridiculously tight deadline (almost as bad as the John Sayles assignment and that one, of course, blew up like a bad joke) and now k.d. has lost her voice. as in, she ain't going to be doing phone interviews.

but they really want her to do this so can we do it by e-mail?

this does not mean that ms. lang and I are going to do the IM thing. this means that I'm supposed to submit a certain number of questions (I have no idea how many because I've always turned down these e-mail only interviews in the past, including with Rickie Lee Jones who I really would like to've interviewed) and sit back and wait for the answers.

and I don't know. I don't always write with the utmost of confidence, but I'm pretty certain I'm a good interviewer. and without the whole back and forth, rebuttal, follow-up questions, parry and thrust, I just didn't think I could do a good job.

too much like a puzzle. you know, take the answer to question five and put it in this paragraph, then transition to her answer to question six.

but I didn't want to pass entirely (waiting, of course, wasn't an option) and I didn't want to stand up my editor (who was completely understanding and supportive from start to finish on this one) so we decided to kind of split the difference - no feature, and we wouldn't kill entirely, but rather we would run a shorter, straight Q and A with an explanatory intro re: the e-mailed exchange.

so I've got to type out some questions (because it's not like I've got a list of questions written down for a phoner (or in-person, for that matter)). and again, I don't know how to really do this (having never done this before) so I go back and forth - short question, long question (meaning questions that should elicit short answers, then long answers). then the questions start getting a little bit more involved because at some point I'm like, She doesn't have to answer any of these if she doesn't want to. Nobody's going to force k.d. lang to answer these questions, so why not pile them on?

and so I did.

big, thick, involved questions. chunky with extra vegetables. just like mom used to make.

and I sit back on the couch and ponder what I will do with my suddenly free evening (no transcribing of a twenty minute interview). and I might even pump up a little thinking about how I'll have no transcribing to do at all. and that sometime later tonight, or tomorrow morning, I can actually begin writing this piece that's due on Thursday. except all I really have to write is the intro because the rest will just be pulling out the best e-mailed exchanges and letting them rest on their own laurels.

and then the phone rings.

I'm actually off the couch by now. I'm actually in the kitchen heating up some sloppy joe mix (not the northeastern sloppy joe like you get at a sub shop, but southern sloppy joes, like ground beef and a can of manwich) because this unexpected freedom has built up an appetite.

I answer the phone.

it's k.d. lang's management. k.d. lang "wants to speak with" me.

I hem, I haw. she's lost her voice. what does she want? am I supposed to be ready to do the interview? management doesn't know and for a second or two I'm quite nervous. have my questions pissed her off? does she know that I'm heating sloppy joes?

then I realize that if k.d. lang wanted to tell me off she would've let management do it. that management would've insisted on doing it. because you don't want the writer pissed off at the artist if you can help it.

but I'm still a little nervous (interviewing k.d. lang means something to me; I mean, I'm not sure I can think of anyone in the past twenty, thirty years with a stronger, more powerful, impressive voice; and I don't want that voice pissed off at me).

and I'm still a little nervous when the phone rings again. and it's k.d. lang.

she's read my questions, confesses that she's a terrible typist, and even though she is supposed to be resting her voice she's decided to do the interview.

I ask her if she's sure (I don't want it to be my fault if her voice doesn't heal properly), and she says, Yes, let's get started. but that I should only ask her "the good questions." I ask if she remembers which ones were the good questions, she laughs and we're off.

(to see how the story ends (I don't really know myself just now) tune into the Philadelphia Weekly in about nine days (I'll be here to remind you))

ms. lang's latest album, Watershed, was released just last week. and she has concert appearances upcoming in Philly (2/24), New York City (2/26-28), West Palm Beach (3/1), Chapel Hill (3/5), Newark (3/12) and San Francisco (3/25 & 3/26) among other stops. the three NYC shows are already sold out.

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