This year, I said a prayer of thanks for two things: one, the glorious number of diverse acts coming through Milwaukee, and two, the great taste of my co-Blog Party writers. Milan Zori turned me on to Sharon Jones; Justin Shady introduced me to Nellie McKay.
McKay — who was introduced on the TV show “The View” as a fusion of “rap, jazz and attitude,” years ago, channels Ella Fitzgerald and Lucille Ball into her music. Her music is crazy-hilarious, in a sneaky-sophisticated way. After interviewing her for 15 minutes, I had tears running down my face from laughing so much, effectively disabling me from asking her questions that made any sense.
However, those 15 minutes were pure joy, leading me to believe that heaven must be made up of conversations with Nellie McKay, where all you do is listen to her tell jokes. Here are snippets of the conversation that I could barely keep up with, because I was laughing so hard.
On where her old-school songwriting comes from: I donâ€™t know â€“ I guess itâ€™s a mixed -up sensibility. It comes from all directionsâ€¦I donâ€™t know if it amounts from anything. They all just flung themselves like lemmings into the ocean of the album.
On her musical influences: Iâ€™m kind of undecided on that, if I even like music. Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™s good for human beings to listen to music. It can mislead them to dark paths. You could listen to the wrong song and you can get a speeding ticketâ€¦there are just better places to put your money.
Something random and yummy: Vegan rootbeer floats with soy ice creamâ€¦it’s the most refreshing treat.
On touring in the winter: Hopefully I never stop touring â€¦itâ€™s nice to keep moving, itâ€™s the gypsy in me, I guess. We just did a Christmas single, itâ€™s one of the most depressing Christmas songs ever. (It’s called a â€œChristmas Dirgeâ€ and you can download it for free here, but you can also donate to the Nellie McKay disaster fund, which goes to “my publicist, because weâ€™re using her Paypal account. We already know sheâ€™s dishonest, thatâ€™s why sheâ€™s a publicist.”).
No, she doesn’t like Christmas: The only holiday I like is Halloween — it’s all about the freaks. I don’t go shopping, I donâ€™t have a generous bone in my body, and I donâ€™t want anything â€“ oh no no, waitâ€¦.
On why she’s funny: I would have a better sense of humor if I got it from my mother.
Her favorite part of performing: The curtain call. “I always think it’s the destination, not the journey.”
Random words of wisdom: I think itâ€™s important, considering the world we live in, to make as little sense as possible.
Sophisticated, wry and funny. Does she think she’s all those things? Not at all. Itâ€™s a wonderful illusion â€“ if that has been created so far then I hope I can maintain it. I think it better describes my one-eyed cat, Emerald, though.
On non-ironic reactions to her music (“Obligatory Villagers,” for example, has a song called “Mother of Pearl” that makes fun of feminism): The worst is I’ll play it at some gig and frat boys will go, “YEAAAAAAHHH.” But they do that at Dylan concerts too, when he sings “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” like itâ€™s a kegger song.
On stuff she likes: Most of my favorite records are by dead people or ghosts attached to them. I donâ€™t have a TV. I donâ€™t find it a distraction, itâ€™s more a reminder of all the things wrong. I love to zone out, but TV doesnâ€™t do it for me. A bike ride, maybe. Or playing for pleasure or going to a movie. I buy child seats from automated ticket vendors, and I havenâ€™t gotten caught yet!
On how I just wanted to listen to her make jokes and be funny: Thatâ€™s terrific. We should quit while weâ€™re ahead then! Because itâ€™s all downhill from hereâ€¦