Amanda Palmer writes for us about the tracks on You Got Me Singing, a new album made with her father Jack.
On the LP, which comprises a range of meaningful covers, both Amanda and Jack share vocal duties - the elder Palmer is a semi-professional choral singer for the National Cathedral in Washington DC.
You Got Me Singing was created "to share songs and time with my dad" says Amanda, who was seven months pregnant during the recording. “It was a really good reason to spend healing time together, sharing our musical histories... I knew that from my post at the mixing desk and the mic, this music was being heard in the womb, and so the song selection was really important... we didn't want this album to sound corny, we wanted it to sound like the connective tissue between three generations. The songs had to be simple."
Jack adds: "I believe nothing is more powerful than love, and that nothing expresses it better than singing. It was one of Amanda's songs that began healing our fractured relationship. Years later, I hope the love that went into this project will perhaps touch listeners in the same way."
To celebrate the release of the album, Amanda and Jack Palmer will be playing at London's KOKO on 3 June.
The album came about because I invited my dad on stage to guest with me every time I came through DC, solo. After the third time I suggested we record for posterity and come up with a bunch of covers. In DC, we would cover Leonard Cohen songs, the very center of the Venn diagram of where our music heroes and collections collide... and though the original songs we covered didn't make the cut ("Night Comes On", "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong"), my dad suggested this one as a perfect capstone to a father/daughter collaboration. It's literal. We got each other singing, for sure.
I'd never heard this song, and my dad, in a move that was emotionally way out of character for him, sent me a phone recording of him singing this song, voice with guitar, for my birthday when I was pregnant with Little Anthony. I fell in love with his rendition and suggested we put it on the record. Even better was when I found out the song's origin story: it was a poem by Eugene Field arranged by a young Lucy Simon (Carly's sister) when she was, I think, 15. Then the sisters sang it as a duet. This wound up being one of my favorite tracks on the record; it's such a perfect lullaby for a baby about to pop out of the womb... and my dad (when he's babysitting) currently claims that when he sings it, it puts the baby to sleep. Score!!!
This one came, totally synchronically, about a month before we went into the studio. My artist housemate Cassandra, who often sends me good music she finds, emailed me this YouTube clip of a rare Melanie song. I thought it was absolutely perfect for the collection and this one was the most fun for overdubs in the studio - I got to use the beautiful old mellotron and every other mallet instrument in the room: glockenspiel and vibes. Such a perfect lonely song - but when your dad's playing guitar on your lonely song, everything feels less lonely.
I was introduced to Richard Thompson a few summers ago during Edinburgh Fringe time, when our family friends The Cunninghams took me to see him at Queen's Hall and I fell instantly in love... especially with the songs "Beeswing" and "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", which became a dual companion of comforting songs as I went through a hard year of loss. I suggested this one to my dad, who'd never heard it, and I knew I'd get my dad hooked because it's a MOTORCYCLE song and my dad is a motorcycle lover… but what a perfect story to divide up into two voices. Richard’s guitar playing is, of course next level, so instead of trying to replicate the guitar playing we decided to be tricky and convert it to piano and a slightly different rhythm. I hope Richard approves.
"Louise..." came from my dad's collection of oldies - it was just a favorite of his to sing and play, and I begged for it to make the cut because it shows off his Johnny Cash voice so beautifully.
I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got was one of my most-played albums as a young teenager, and "Black Boys On Mopeds" was one of my favorite songs from it. Sinead's unapologetic bravery as a singer and songwriter fueled me back then and revisiting her songs is enlightening for me as a songwriter, especially cast against the lack of political progress of today's landscape, because I barely understood what she was talking about when I was listening to that record at age 13. It's a protest song; like so many things I listened to that I didn't realize were just folk songs disguised as alternative music.
I heard this Kimya Dawson song a few years before I was pregnant and burst into tears because I could so easily relate. I suggested it for this record because I wanted to sing it with Dad - guitar, for superstitious luck.
This one was my dad's pick. I wasn't hip to Phil Ochs until he suggested this track, and then I researched (One of the best things about this album was the music I discovered) and then my dad asked if it was possible that he rewrite/modernize some of the lyrics - and I was so proud ... my dad’s poetic side coming out! We had to get publishing permissions (which we did, thankfully), and I was so proud of his changes - he nailed it.
I found Kathleen when I was in my mid-twenties when she put out Failer. This song is such a guitar song, and as I wanted to rep a few more of my contemporary female songwriters, this seemed perfect. I love how this song is the perfect story - you have no idea where it's going until that last line. Also, we made use of the vast array of great musicians in upstate New York and engaged Rob Stein on pedal steel, who waltzed into the studio and did these songs in two takes each.
My grandmother, Christina Beaton, emigrated with her mother and siblings from the Isle Of Skye as a teenager, losing her brother in passage to illness and landing in New York City, where she met my grandfather (Alfred Mockett) who was an immigrant from Deal, Kent. They made a life in New York and gave birth to my mother not long after. My own parents’ divorce (they separated when I was nine months) is something I'll always be trying to heal and patch up through my own art and experience. This song threads together my mother's origin story through my father’s voice. It's also just such a beautiful tune - I sometimes get weepy thinking about that goddamn boat ride.
I heard about John Grant because of his song "Queen Of Denmark", which my best friend Anthony sent me over email in a YouTube link. I was like: "Who IS this incredibly brave songwriter?" I researched his work and found multiple song gems, and nothing hit me in the gut like "Glacier". I wanted some songs on the album that were NEW, so I suggested to my dad we attack it. Meanwhile, John Grant invited me to sing on his new record (on the track "You & Him") so the whole world is full circle, yo.
Noah was a friend’s ex-boyfriend in Boston, known for his comedy troupe "Aspergers R Us" (he's Autistic) and his painfully honest songwriting. I've played it live and always wanted to cover this song in a recording. I figured I could get away with making it a dad record song… and it worked perfectly. Especially as a way to end a record.