There is always that lingering voice in the back of one’s head during interviews that nags, “Don’t say anything stupid, or square or lame.”
So of course, the first question I ask Amanda Palmer, the trendsetting Internet phenomenon who is set to take the stage at Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh Monday night, has to do with the curse word in the title of her current tour.
One can’t help but look at the title, “An Evening with Amanda F****ng Palmer,” and think, “Doesn’t this negatively affect ticket sales in some small way?”
“Honestly? It’s never even occurred to me,” Palmer says. “This is the only interview that I am doing for the tour; I didn’t hire a publicist, I am promoting the tour entirely through the Internet, and the Internet, at least the parts that I use, doesn’t mind the language. It clearly hasn’t been a problem, because almost all of the shows are sold out.
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“If I were doing one of my TED Talks, or headlining Carnegie Hall, I don’t know that I would hoist that upon them,” she says with a laugh, “But for the small theaters and clubs that I am doing this time around, I think it’ll be okay.”
Touring those small venues is a luxury that Palmer has been having difficulty finding time for lately, due to a career that has begun to include multiple facets of the entertainment industry.
In February 2013, the singer-songwriter gave a TED talk, the storytelling conference series that has captivated millions of online viewers, which was expanded into the memoir “The Art of Asking,” published in November of last year. Her performance in Raleigh will include both music and readings from her book.
Palmer hesitates to classify herself in any specific way as an artist. “Performer. Sometime entertainer,” she says. “I don’t know, sometimes I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned going into show business is that it’s not really my job to classify myself. Luckily I’m not forced to very often.”
But Palmer has been asked to elaborate on several fan interactions from the past. The most controversial of these, or at least the one to receive the most press, occurred during her summer 2012 tour, when she announced on her website that she was seeking fans to play with her onstage during each stop. The site noted that fans’ compensation would be the experience itself or a T-shirt. Working musicians flooded Palmer’s website and Twitter feed, criticizing her idea, and forced her to drastically change her plans.
Now two years removed from the arguments her idea of alternative compensation caused, Palmer has no regrets.
“You know, I find it impossible to look back with regret, because everything in the past just leads to something else,” she says. “And the most beautiful thing about that controversy was that it led straight to my TED Talk, because I felt so called upon to explain to a world that seems to be misunderstanding my approach and my community. The most critical part about that controversy was feeling so misunderstood. It wasn’t that I felt people were disagreeing with my morals or my ethics, because that happens all the time; I’m politically left-wing, and right-wing people yell at me all the time over abortion and gun control, so that doesn’t bug me.
“With the musician controversy, I was dealing with people who just didn’t get what was going on, and they didn’t have the actual facts, and that was actually painful. Being misunderstood and being judged for the wrong reason is one of the most painful things you have to tolerate as a human being. I don’t think I would have ever given my TED Talk if I didn’t have a deep need to explain just how this community works, and what is possible, and how not all human exchange is monetary.
“That talk sparked and inspired an entire book, and I thought that one little incident, which to be quite frank, was a huge pain in my ass and really marred the drop of my album, ultimately became something really beautiful. At the end of the day, I ended up loving that I had to explain it. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Palmer makes it clear that she is looking forward to the current tour. She feels it has been too long since she was able to concentrate on the one thing that she believes she was put here to do: Bring music to the community of fans that she holds dear.
“Amidst all of this chaos of the book and the TED Talks and the controversies, the reason that I am happiest to be going on tour right now is to remind people how I wound up here in the first place,” Palmer says.
“Which is because I’m a musician and a songwriter. That really is the fundamental work that I was put on the planet to do, and especially over the last year its felt like I’ve had a disconnection from it. I never feel as at home as I do when I am onstage, behind a piano, and I’m transmitting music to a roomful of people. I forget that sometimes, but all of this wouldn’t have a point if I wasn’t sharing my music, which is what brought all of these people to me in the first place.
“I think music is the source, music is the center, and everything else is a beautiful satellite.”
Who: An Evening with Amanda F****ng Palmer
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Fletcher Opera Theater at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh
Info: 919-996-8700 or dukeenergycenterraleigh.com