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To Tell The Truth
Amanda Palmer's Unflinching Look at the Human Condition is Pure Art

By Lee Valentine Smith

There Will Be No Intermission is the latest album from singer-songwriter-artist-activist Amanda Palmer. The collection, which Palmer calls "exercises in survival," is an intensely personal look at loss, life and death.

With sober ruminations on abortion, miscarriage, grief and parenthood, it's hardly a lighthearted romp, but in Palmer's hands the songs - and even the album cover - offer naked honesty.

Before her tour began in March, INsite spoke with the candid performer by phone.

Your music has always been a vital artistic expression but There Will Be No Intermission is really on point for the times we're living in.

It's a strange time to be alive and I think it's really lit a fire under the ass of a lot of my artist friends. I think we feel responsible in some way. Not that it's our job to try to fix anything but we do have to somehow capture the zeitgeist and bring our A-game.

The job of any fine artist is to hold up a mirror for society and this album does that on a very personal level.

You can't really capture the moment by shouting about politics. It doesn't really work that way, especially given what is going on in America right now. It feels like, as a woman, the most politically courageous thing you can do, far beyond marching and voting - all of which are very necessary - is to just simply stand up and shamelessly tell the truth about your experience. It is the sharpest political weapon we have right now.

Truth as a weapon for change.

The truth! Who knew? But the unadorned truth. The truth about what it is like to be a human female mammal on this planet right now. It's a strange and inspiring time to be a woman. It feels like people are finally ready to hear things that they just didn't want to hear until very recently.

It's an unflinching approach to performance.

There's something really satisfying about writing a record like this and putting it out with no feeling of fear and to not be bracing for impact as hard as I might have six years ago. That's been my own personal journey. But I also feel like the universe has met me halfway lately. There's always a little bit of a quaking, especially when you're releasing something so vulnerable. And if you've been pilloried as flagrantly as I have in the press for being that annoying narcissistically oversharing woman that everybody hates. You can't help but to close your eyes and pray that you won't be misunderstood.

Many artists have that little moment of "Is this any good?" apprehension before releasing something out to the world.

But I didn't have that with this album. That's not where the fear comes from. It really comes from the leftover cultural baggage of getting my face slapped over and over again for wanting to say what I wanted to say. You just start flinching even though you know you've got every right to stand there, because you're traumatized.

But it's the naked truth this time.

Well, you mean the cover?

That's a beautiful statement in itself. I mean the record inside the package.

Yeah, I like to think the world has evolved. At the same time, the internet is getting more and more censorious. I can't put my album cover up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter without the threat of my account being shut down. But my audience has really risen to the occasion and they've started making drawings and paintings of the cover to post!

So it's becoming a sort of cultural touchstone.

(Laughs) art is the new art! No more photographs, we've all gone back to pen and ink and paint because the church allows it.

And social media is the wall of the cave.

Exactly. We're headed back to the cave, when things were more simple. Make America cave again, right?

The record was released on Woman's Day and the tour is also very female centric.

That was not an accident. But I kind of squirm when I think about that. Because I've spent my whole career not wanting to get stuck in one ghetto or another. Of not going to get stuck in female-singer- songwriter land. I just felt like I was always trying to outrun getting stuck in the box that someone up there on the giant Supreme Court of the music industry was going to stick me in, you know? And really balls-out feminist was not a title I ever wanted for myself. It felt like a dangerous place but now I just don't care. I have other, more important things to be concerned about, beyond where this record is going to land in everybody's opinion. It just doesn't matter anymore.

That freedom is the key to making great art. In the wrong hands this record would have been a harrowing listening experience. But you are delivering a universal message.

That's because it's the truth. There is not a human being alive who isn't dealing with or going to deal with grief and suffering. Sorry, that's just the deal. And that is one of the most beautiful and necessary attributes of art, it helps us feel less alone.

Amanda Palmer plays Friday, May 17 at Cobb Energy Centre. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. For more information, please visit cobbenergycentre.com.

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