Takes One To Know One … AMANDA JOE WILLIAMS > 6/15
Days before her brand new LP release > The Bear Eats Me > Jail Weddings’ Gabriel Hart chats up Amanda Jo Williams on crushes, dreams, being the matriarch of outsiders, and the mighty onomatopoeia
Gabriel: A couple years ago, me and my dear friend Brad Caulkins decided we had tandem crushes on you. It was a light-hearted elbow-in-the-ribs “may the best man win” type gentleman’s bet, but we were both clearly too nervous to engage you in anymore than brief small talk before we would run away giggling in self-induced humiliation. One day, completely out of the blue, I received a text from you saying that I had been in your dream the previous night. I took this as a small but considerable victory over Brad, and of course he was comedically furious. Now, when I asked you what the dream was about, you texted back, “Oh I don’t know, there was a hot chick and a monster truck, it was weird.” Would you care to elaborate on any of this?
Amanda: haha, i remember that. i drove to the bottom of a road in Woodstock, NY and sent that text at the stop sign. no one was waiting behind me to go. i remember the dream to have some sexy vibe thing going on.. i remember thinking after i sent it that maybe i had weirded you out. then i said, whatever.
G: From an onlooker’s point of view, you’ve seemed to carve out these little niches…these tiny universes governed by your steel-eyed cult of personality. As a bi-coastal woman that was raised in the South, where would you call home if there was a gun to your head?
A: home would be Philadelphia as of 2 days ago but I spend a lot of time in Woodstock, NY. before Philly i was in the country in PA, near Kutztown for a year. before that L.A. for about a year or more. before that in the country in PA near Hazleton. before that Big Indian, NY. before that Woodstock, NY. before that Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, Manhattan. before that GA. before that in my mama. i didn’t want to come out.
G: As a frequent wielder of rogue grammar, what are your thoughts of the power and effect of the onomatopoeia?
A: oh god, i don’t know. i just dropped my green tea bag into a jar. it sounded like “pump.” if i sang “pump pump oh baby, throw me to the sign of fastball” some might think i meant to fuck, some might think fist and air action, a few shoes. less than one percent would guess it was the sound of a green tea bag into an almond butter jar! i don’t know how to answer this. onomatopoeias are like not directly the thing- a distant cousin. a 2nd cousin you would do. it’s the thing but not the thing.. like a voodoo dead bird she said not to touch but you did anyway and got sick, whereas dork man with money head was fine.
G: To me, the title track of your new record “The Bear Eats Me” has always been one of your epic-feeling but bewildering songs. Can you describe any specific inspiration for the tune or it is merely the abstract stuff of dreams like most good songs tend to be?
A: it’s both. i was sitting on a brown leather couch in Weatherly, Pa. it was a young day. then suddenly i crapped a song onto the couch and it was “The Bear Eats Me.” the song is brown too. i was having dreams of this mother bear coming after my kids and me, and me protecting them. there were actual bears in the yard too. up the trees. i was scared sometimes. i’d run fast to get the mail and then lock the door. also, this is a love song. not real love but obsession, and snippets of events- “one long look, and one blue eye.”
G: Most of the way the press tries to pin you has seemed so far off the mark, but one thing that comes up a lot is the term “outsider.” This is a blessing and curse to those who have created something unique – no one seems to know where to place it. To whom or what do you feel any kind of artistic kinship to?
A: just my life. the things i’ve done and felt. obsessions. i can tell you music i like: Nirvana, Flashdance, “The Rose” -Bette Midler, CCR, old country, heehaw, 90’s country, the music they played at the skating rink when i was like 7, Poison, Milli Vanilli, NKOTB, Patsy Cline, Tommy Santee Klaws, the sound under water in a swimming pool. when i was 8 or 9 (that just brought back this memory) my brother and i spent a lot of time at the public pool. there was one troubled boy there (i won’t say his name) who was a couple of years younger than me… he was picked on a lot. he and i were fighting and i dunked him. i remember his physical weakness in my body still. this is sad.. when he was 15 he ended up killing a little girl in the neighborhood. did some weird things. when i heard i remembered the dunking and felt scared. you never know when some one will snap. there was another boy there who had one ball. we knew all kinds of things. i was flat chested and after seeing a mother with no titties whatsoever, i started to pray to God hard for boobs. i knew though it wasn’t going to happen for me, despite my mama’s nice ones. my sister got a boob job in high school. she’s so cool and wild and does what she wants.
G: I understand you are a Mommy. How do you juggle your music and any domestic obligations you may have? Do they ever become intertwined inspiration?
A: well, my daughters inspire me with their talent for almost everything, and their sweetness and intelligence. when i’m recording at home or writing a song, my boy Jack (5) goes and gets his cap guns and fires away. there’s always some banging or shooting on recordings at home. i don’t mind so much. in fact, i wrote a song today, and Jack hadn’t played with his pistols in months.. as soon as i hit record, “BANG!” bang bang boom, bust, smash, crunch etc. when i get ready to record my next real album i’ll go to a studio or get a babysitter. i don’t play out as often as i would if i weren’t a mama, i guess. i’m such a homebody so hard to say about that. i probably wouldn’t be living in Philly either. i’d probably be in L.A… that’s for one day, maybe, when the kids are grown. i change how i feel from day to day so… the love i have for my kids is the biggest i’ve ever known and how deep it goes, it inspires and touches each song i write now. so even if a song is about something shallow or is shallow, there is mama love in it, and it will be warm there.
G: For better or worse, I like to stay as far away from politics as I can. My way of protest is creating an alternate world in my head where tyranny is simply not allowed. Now that I have made this interview about me, do you think this philosophy makes a person ignorant and “part of the problem” as a result?
A: no. i think you’re doing the right thing. be the change you want. don’t be a victim. let’s say “hey, there are fairies in the woods.” let’s tell our children that. it may not be so at first. it may take years to see them, to create them. but one day, if your vision is strong enough, with enough people a shared vision of peace and love, it can be… don’t go down their war and hate road. don’t believe in the bad guys.
G: What would make 2012 the perfect year for Amanda Jo Williams?
A: she would make millions of dollars and travel to every country. she would write a song with Prince. she would eat every oyster kind in the world. her body would be toned and strong. her songs would be played all over the t.v. and in movie theaters. Werner Herzog would invite her to play paint ball or tennis. she would be very nice and loving and good. Amanda would think only positive thoughts and only care about things that really matter. Jesus would come down as the alien he is and blow people’s minds into no hunger or death. no fear and dreams for all. she would feel such an overwhelming love that her cells would spread apart and there would be no Amanda except in all things.. her human at peace.