1)You are originally from Michigan, started off as a musician in Texas then moved to New York City. Did the change in atmosphere and lifestyles have an effect on your music and you as a person?
I have lived in nine different states actually and just moved back to Michigan, so I’m not sure if I should count that state multiple times… I have nomad genes I guess. I think all that moving around has given me really eclectic tastes in music. I like lots of different styles and sometimes it makes it hard for me to focus I think.
2) Your style is so unique and fruitful. You combine so many different genres, who are some of your biggest influences?
Prince, Portishead, Pierre Boulez, Edith Piaf, PJ Harvey, Dirty Projectors…
3) You have worked many time with Sufjan Stevens. What is it like to be making music with someone as creative as him?
I toured with Sufjan for many years and sang on Illinois and in that capacity it was really like working with a composer and serving his vision. I think that time for me was about learning to become more confident in performance.
4) 2009 has been a quiet year for you. What are you up to? When can we expect a new record?
I guess it’s been quiet for My Brightest Diamond, but it still feels kind of hectic. I left New York and moved to Detroit and have been touring in The Decemberists. I’m working with Bryce and Aaron Dessner [of The National] on a piece called “The Long Count” which will be performed at Krannert in Champagne, Illinois on September 11th and also at BAM on October 28, 30 and 31.
5) Recently you lent your music to Dark Was The Night. Why do you feel it was important to be apart of this compilation?
I was really happy to add “Feelin’ Good” to that compilation because I’d been looking for a home for that recording and no better home could be found than to support RedHot, which is an amazing organization that has put out 14 albums in order to raise awareness and funds for AIDS. We performed the Dark Was The Night event at Radio City Music Hall earlier this spring and it was a really special evening for me. The collaborations that happened with all the artists in the rehearsal process was so beautiful. It was a really clarifying for me, because you realize that the media and our culture do so much to turn everything into a competition and music is not about competition. Music is about dropping our ego boundaries and realizing that we are connected to each other. It exists to facilitate that oneness and that was very much the theme the whole event.
6) It is my understanding that you studied composition under the great Padma Newsome. What did you learn and take away from him?
Padma made me think about rhythm and color and voicings in new ways. There was so much I didn’t know- even the ranges of the instruments were new information to me. We listened to a lot of orchestral music that I had never heard and that was really exciting too, studying the scores of Dvorak, Ligeti or Boulez. As a vocalist I was not familiar with those guys, so he tipped my toes into a new pond.
7) Theater has always played a major role in your live sets. Why is this?
There is not much narrative on the whole, but I do like to dress up and we have had puppets, balloons and circus toys on occasion. I like the visual element inherent in music and the ability of spectacle to make its subject larger. It’s like using a magnifying glass.
8) You have cited one of my favorite film directors of all time, Jean Pierre Jeunet as an inspiration to your last record, "A Thousand Sharks Teeth." What is it about Juenet's work that inspired the music?
I love his sense of humor, the color of the films, the beauty he finds in strangeness. I wanted Shark’s Teeth to look something like the darkness of “City of Lost Children” because it has that sci-fi element as well as the bizarre and the grit. I thought more bassoons and marimbas would do the trick.
9) You have played with so many great artists, those mentioned in this interview and more from The National to The Decemberists. Is there anyone left that you are still dying to work with?
I recently sang on a new record that David Byrne is making and that was sort of a dream. I have a record coming up with a classical composer Sarah Kirkland Snider which will be an adventure in the space between the worlds of classical and rock music. Other than those upcoming records however, I really want to be at home for a while and write new songs. I’ve been touring so much that I think I’ve written two or three songs in two years so I’m kind of twitching to make my own music soon.
My Brightest Diamond video for "Inside a Boy" (Above)/ MBD Live at Vinyl in 2007 (Below)
Special thanks again to Shara for this interview!!