‘80s fave Cyndi Lauper is back with a new acoustic CD and plans
for an upcoming tour
still unusual, but that’s what has earned Cyndi Lauper a special
and enduring place in our hearts. On her new album, the spellbinding “The
Body Acoustic” (Daylight/Epic), Lauper revisits some of the most
beloved songs from her career and reinvents them in fresh, new, acoustic
settings. In doing so she has breathed new life into the songs, revitalizing
them for the new century. Joined by a stellar array of guest artists,
including Jeff Beck, Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco, Vivan Green, Adam
Lazarra (of emo band Taking Back Sunday), reggae performer Shaggy and
the duo known as Puffy AmiYumi, Lauper shines as her true colors radiate.
In a pre-coffee, on-the-way-to-the-airport interview, she talked about
the new album.
Q. Would you say that being on tour and performing the songs
from throughout your career had any influence on the songs you chose
to revisit for “The
A. Oh, all of it was about live performance. And all of this stuff stemmed
out of live performance.
Q. In selecting the songs, would you say there were people around you who
were eager to give you input on which songs to include or did you pretty
much run the process?
A. I just tried to see what songs lived in that dulcimer world. That’s
Q. There was a certain style that you chose to perform the standards
Last.” Did that also have any influence on your performance style
for the songs on “The Body Acoustic?”
A. No, actually, not at all. Because on “At Last” I didn’t
play any instruments; on this, I did. And I basically played dulcimer and
sang or played guitar and sang, which definitely effects how you sing.
Like, “She-Bop” is all live. “True Colors” was
live. I guess there were overdubs, but that was all stemming from sitting
in a room together and playing live. But it was usually me and the guitar
player and the violin player, or me, the guitar player and the keyboard
player, or me, the guitar player and the drummer. Or me, the guitar player
and the bass player. Things like that.
Q. Well, actually, I’m glad that you mentioned “She-Bop.” Listening
to the stripped down versions of “She-Bop” and “Shine” made
me wonder whether these songs were returned to their origins. For example,
when I think of “Shine” and “She-Bop,” I think
of synthesizers and a lot of production. Since you also wrote those songs,
can you tell me if they were created in an acoustic setting or were they
originally created in that synthesizer setting and then returned to their
roots on “The Body Acoustic?”
A. (For) “Shine” we basically sat around the living room, Bill
and I, and we wrote it like that and he played guitar. But it was basically
written on a keyboard. “She-Bop” was written on a keyboard,
too. I’ve been playing it for so long, and it always changes, and
that stems out of a live performance thing. I had happened to do it at
a VH1 concert for Save the Music and the record company was there and they
loved it. They wanted to make a record of these versions of these songs.
It was an opportunity for me to play dulcimer. I mean, how many opportunities
are you gonna get to do every song with a dulcimer. I guess if they let
me play trombone and they said, “Can you do every song playing trombone?,” I
would give it a shot (laughs).
Q. You’re such a trooper. That’s what we love that
A. Yeah, I am.
Q. Also listening to “She-Bop” again I picked up on the line
the “ain’t no law against it yet.” It made me think about
the way things are going, with the current political regime, that that
could change at any moment?
A. (Laughs) Ya think they would be in our personal stuff? I don’t
know (laughs). How would they know? You’d have a look about you.
I don’t know.
Q. Another wonderful thing about the disc is that you’ve
got some great musicians working with you.
A. Oh, they’re fantastic.
Q. How did you go about selecting your duet partners?
A. I had a wish list. And a lot of people on my wish list said yes (laughs).
I thought it was fantastic. Ani DiFranco is a hero of mine. I think she’s
fantastic. She went out, did her own thing, and, basically, still continues
to and is still a very relevant and great artist. And it truly is not compromised.
So I think that’s very heroic. And Shaggy, I think he’s fantastic.
I met him in Holland and I had been listening to some of his material before
he was recording his album and he played me some pre-recorded stuff. I
thought he was fantastic and it was so unexpected to hear the things he
was playing me. Which, if you listen to his new album, you’ll hear
that. Like “Gone With Angels,” the one that he wrote for his
children. Songs like that show a completely different side. There’s
another song called “Repent” which is pretty good and catchy.
It started to remind me of the guy who fought for the rights for the Jamaican
artists; for them to hold onto their copyrights. And that’s the kind
of artist he is. Even with his sense of humor, he’s a very heroic
type of character.
Q. There’s definitely a strong female presence. Sarah, Vivian…
A. Sarah McLachlan is fantastic. She sings like an angel. But basically
her work; she just sings beautifully and how could you not love her voice.
And I had met her once a while back at a songwriters convention, and she
had heard “Water’s Edge” and I had been thinking about
her singing on “Water’s Edge” because she always liked
that song. There was a miscommunication and somebody sent her “Time
After Time” and she really liked that and then when she was there
I played her “Water’s Edge” and she remembered it and
she wanted to sing on that. It was so much fun to work with her and hear
her take on things. I felt a kinship with her. And of course the two of
us are Joni Mitchell freaks.
Q. That’s always good to hear. We love our Joni.
A. And then Vivian (Green), who came from a completely different background,
but has so much heart. I thought that having a diverse group of people
on the CD was very important. And also I wanted a very strong female presence
because I’m female.
Q. Sisterhood is definitely powerful.
A. And then I had the opportunity to work with Jeff Beck and that, to me,
turned out…that was one of those puzzles that came into place that
was so beautiful. It just is what it is and I was very grateful that that
Q. “Above The Clouds” is absolutely stunning and gorgeous.
A. Thank you. I don’t even know; it just happened. It’s great
when those things happen.
Q. The fiddle, the dulcime, and the instrumentation on “Money Changes
Everything” and “All Through the Night” give the songs
a bluegrass quality.
A. Ya think? I thought it was kind of early Rolling Stones, like, “we
all need someone we can lean on” (from “Let It Bleed”).
I’ve always kind of liked their acoustic work. And, ya know, just
because it’s a dulcimer doesn’t mean that it can’t rock
Q. Definitely, it totally rocks. But it also reminded me of the
Grand Ole’ Opry.
Have you ever been invited to play there? And if you haven’t, would
you want to play there?
A. I don’t know. It’s such a strong tradition and they have
their own way, the way they think. I kind of play dulcimer like a gorilla.
So, I don’t know how that would be embraced. I did want to capture
the back-porch feel. It’s not necessarily country, but it has a spirit
of Americana. I wanted to capture that. That’s why I also thought
it was important to pull people from such diverse backgrounds to embrace
what our country is, what it sounds like. This whole hemisphere, the whole
new world in the tradition of Dvorak and Largo and the New World Symphony,
this is the new world and it’s so rich in so many cultures and sounds
that you want to pull in all the people that you can. All the things that
you love and mix them together, like cooking. Not that I’ve been
cooking much lately, but when it comes to music I’ve been doing that.
Q. That’s a great analogy. You included two songs, “Shine” and “Water’s
Edge,” from your independently released “Shine” EP. Was
that a way to expand the audience for those songs, putting them out on
A. I thought they were special songs, and I had wanted to work with Rick
(Chertoff) on them and Rick loved those songs. We worked on them like that
and they took a special hold and they had a life and they came alive in
a different way and I think that was good. We needed songs also that lived
in the same kind of house.
Q. That makes sense. As we speak, you’re heading off to Japan for
a tour, but I’ve been seeing the commercial on VH1 for the show you’re
doing. You mentioned Shaggy and he’ll be performing with you in Atlantic
City at that show.
A. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Him, Scott Weiland, Pat Monahan
from Train, and Ani DiFranco.
Q. You’re also embarking on a tour with Jill Sobule and Sandra
Bernhard. Can you say something about that?
A. That’s going to be a riot. I try so hard to have strong women
with me and just have a really great time; kind of rockin’ chicks
and women who are thinkers. I just think that makes for an interesting