The Absolutely Last Year of Women in Rock

Published in RW #3, 1994

Interview by Jayne Wayne

It seems like every year of the past five years or so, some kind of publication proclaims that particular year to be the "Year of the Woman." As is evident in the popularity of such top-selling female artists as Jewel, Fiona Apple, Meredith Brooks and Hanson, female artists in rock continue to dominate the charts. I think that this is an indication that "women in rock" is more than just a passing fad but rather a permanent part of the musical landscape. It's no longer the "Year of the Woman," it's just the way things are. The Reglar Wiglar sent female reporter (someday they'll just be called reporters!) to interview the reigning diva of female singer/songwriters, Annie Baldwell, in our continuing effort to give balanced and fair coverage. We believe Jayne let Ms. Baldwell get at least one word in edgewise.

RW: First off, let me just say that your music is a great source of inspiration for me, especially when I'm in an artistic frame of mind. When I want to be creative I will often put on one of your albums and sort of meditate, get in the mood, you know?

AB: Thank you, yes.

RW: And then I find myself more ready to create—to paint or draw or work on my novel—it really gets my creative juices flowing and I find that very invigorating and quite refreshing. Are there any artists or groups of artists who inspire you to make music?

AB: Well—

RW: —And I'm not just talking just about music, it could be a painter or sculptor, writer, poet, some computer generated art can stimulate the right side of the brain. Are you a fan of computer generated art?

AB: Not really.

RW: You're right, some of it is a bit flat—not dimensionally so much as emotionally.

AB: Can I answer your question?

RW: Of course, be free, this is your interview. I wouldn't want you to feel restricted in any way. Please, speak your mind. Don't hold back. Tell me what you think.

AB: Great.

RW: Which question are you referring to? The graphic art question?

AB: No, you asked me where I get my inspiration.

RW: Right, right. I'm curious to know how you go about mentally preparing yourself before you work. What gets you, Annie Baldwell, in the mood, so to speak.

AB: That's a good question because I have a somewhat unique approach—

RW: Yoga, right? You do yoga! I used to. It really helps me loosen up my spirit as well as my mind.

AB: Actually, I find television to be quite stimulating.

RW: Television? Ha! I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh. It's just that, well, who am I to criticize, I don't even own a TV, but it seems rather an insipid approach to art. I have always considered television to be the antithesis of art—the destroyer of creativity. Perhaps that sounds a bit archaic, but—

AB: Well, that's part of it. TV cleanses my mind. It leaves it blank so I can work from scratch.

RW: Tabula rasa! That's magnificent! What a naive and guileless approach to art. The naiveté. That's beautiful. Maybe I should give it a try. The duplicity of it intrigues me.

AB: I'm flattered.

RW: What do you think of men?

AB: Excuse me?

RW: Men. What do you think of them? I personally find then to be very distracting, almost purposely so, and very stifling to the creative process—sexually stimulating for short periods of time perhaps, but that's such an overrated experience and almost completely without merit as far as any creative longevity is concerned. But I find that having a lover and having my art are sometimes two contradictory things. Sometimes I will just tell my lover, "No, I can not have you both. I can not have a menage a trios with you and my muse, as it were, metaphorically speaking. Is this true with you?

AB: I'm not sure I understood what you just said but I think I disagree with some or all of it. Men can certainly be a distraction but it's not an unwelcome one as far as I'm concerned.

RW: Not an unwelcome one? Very interesting. An unwelcome distraction would be what? Cats?

AB: Aaaaaah, I don't know . . . the phone ringing maybe, or doing an interview with a lot of really long, pointless questions.

RW: Ha! That's funny. You have a good sense of humor and a good sense of yourself, that's very important especially for people as creative and talented as ourselves. That's good. So what do you find is the underlying theme to your music? What kind of message typifies your music? I find that self-empowerment is my strongest theme, or the most noticeable running theme, that stands out in my writings and my paintings. If one were to analyze my work, that's what they would ascertain almost certainly.

AB: I really don't analyze my music that much.

RW: Come now, it's not megalomaniacal to do so. You can admit it.

AB: I would if it were true. You said you find TV to be the death of creativity, well, I find over analyzing to be the death of creativity and spontaneity and fun and just about everything else. It's a sign of anal retentiveness and it really serves no purpose other than to give talentless busybodies something to do.

RW: You may be right! I really shouldn't be so analytical. Maybe I should try something different. A little less structure perhaps. This is good. I find talking at—I'm sorry, talking to other artists to be very therapeutic, don't you?

AB: It depends on who the artist is, I guess.

RW: You're right, there are a lot of fake people in the art community, especially in music. Some artists just take themselves way too seriously.

AB: Exactly my point.

RW: So when Annie Baldwell writes a line like, "I am a woman nothing more/Not some fucking metaphor," that really doesn't mean that you feel persecuted by men who try to force their own ideas of sexuality on you, thereby stripping you of your identity as an individual and leaving you with nothing more than your genitalia as your only defining characteristic, because I thought for sure that's what you were getting at.

AB: Yes and no.

RW: So, if it's not too difficult for you, perhaps you'd like to talk about some of the pain in your life, some of the things that you've had to overcome, because as artists, people like us are more sensitive to the pain and suffering—not only in our own lives, but in the world around us. It's almost like a gift and a burden. A lot of artists, like ourselves, find it difficult to sustain lasting relationships with people, lovers in particular, and often turn to drugs and alcohol to insulate ourselves from the pressures of day-to-day existence in this world that we understand only too well—perhaps better than non-artists or those not as artistically inclined as ourselves. Do you agree?

AB: I'm a pretty grounded, happy person actually.

RW: Well, sometimes the most grounded, happy people are the most likely to be the ones that are torn apart emotionally on the inside. Sure, on the surface everything appears to be peachy, as they say, but upon closer examination of the self under the microscope, inner conflicts are revealed. Have you ever had a drug problem?

AB: No.

RW: Drinking problem? Any kind of rehab environment-type situation?

AB: No.

RW: Well, that's OK if you don't want to talk about it. I know there are some demons in there somewhere.

AB: If you say so, Jayne.

RW: That's all my questions. I've really learned a lot talking to you. Thank you very, very much.

AB: That's it? We're done?

RW: Unless you'd like to talk some more.

AB: No, that's fine.

Published in RW #3

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