BY BRiAN LUSH
It’s beginning to feel a lot like a new year after listening
to ‘WASH U CLEAN’- the third album from singer-songwriter BETH
album’s slinky and seductive opening title track gets you going with
equally slinky and seductive baritone sax riff. The song slams into
with its raucous percussion and THORNLEY’s fractured and mysterious
that sexy purr voice of hers only helps matters. I would be lying if I
that this title track – brimming with hit potential – set the tone for
perfection that is to follow but the truth is – who the hell knows what
THORNLEY is going to do next? Things get crazy again – not to mention a
puzzling – with the bubbly beach blanket bop of ‘YOU’RE SO PONY’ but
oh-so-fun moments are cushioned by some of the warmest, fuzziest,
balladry this side of FIEST as evidenced by the epic scope of ‘STILL
and the wistful drum roll of ‘EVERYONE FALLS’.
ROCKWIRED spoke with BETH
THORNLEY over the phone. Here is
how it went.
From ‘MY GLASS EYE’(her previous release)?
That’s a good question. I think I’ve got a little more
experience in making albums and writing songs and I think that shows up
on this record. I like to think that I’m improving. My big goal is to
keep getting better because there is just so much more to learn about
songwriting. I don’t want to plateau. I would also like to think that
biggest thing that is different is the experience and willingness to
continually grow. I think in terms of general songwriting, I’ve sort of
on the same kinds of things in that I’ve got the rocking kind of songs
storyteller kind of songs and I’ve got the tender songs so I keep
trying to hit
the variety that I like to hit but what I think really makes this album
different is that ROB CAIRNS and I are growing as a team.
with ROB CAIRNS.
He’s really good. He’s easy to work with because he’s always
got a ton of ideas. One thing that he never gets tired of doing is
the best way to do a song. For me, what he does never falls short. Even
takes longer and even if he gets tired and weary, he will keep going
feels that he has brought everything to it that he possibly can.That is
what impresses me the most. It inspires me as a
writer and a musician to never let good enough be good enough. He is
listening to what other people are doing and finding inspiration and
from other people. I think that is what I like most about what he does
I find it easy to work with him. We have the usual opinion collision
never have to worry that he’ll make a wrong or a bad choice.
that all of the
work that has gone into making this CD is behind you, how do you feel
I’m really excited about it and I’m really proud of it. I
think that maybe another difference between this one and the last one
it just seems to really feel like a professional project to me – not
other ones weren’t – but I do see the growth and I feel very proud of
feel like it’s a strong project. I’m relieved and I’m happy and I’m
it. I know there are things that we could’ve done better and things we
done differently. There is always – when you are talking about art –
improvement and room for change. There is that old saying – art is
finished, it is only abandoned. I’m okay where we abandoned this album.
good about it.
don’t think you
could’ve made that saxophone riff on ‘WASH U CLEAN’ any better.
I came up with the opening riff as a way to get ROB to pick up his sax
again. He hadn't played his sax in years because as a
his day gig) he mostly uses keyboard (to trigger a lot of different
guitar, bass and drums but he doesn't have much call for sax.
love the BEASTIE BOYS
and so I came up with an idea that would make both things
happen. It ended up being a sort of 60s funk song as seen
eyes of classic BEASTIE BOYS and THE DUST BROTHERS, but without
sampling. We recorded the drums for the song at the DUST
did music begin
My parents are musicians so music was in my family. I was
made to play piano and sing in the church choir and do those kinds of
also played the flute in high school. All of that had stayed with me. I
always know what I was going to do with those skills but I’m glad that
up where I did.
Early on when I was learning to play, it was all classical
with BACH and DEBUSSY and MOZART and all of the usual dudes were
inspirational for me. I loved choral music. I grew up singing in choirs
the time I had gotten to the college level we were singing great pieces
music and found the lushness of those great big choral pieces to be
inspiring. I look back at some of those pieces and the chord
moved me and when I write I try to find chord progressions that move me
even though it’s a completely different genre. I want to feel
something. I want
to feel what I felt when I was singing in hundred –voice choir. I still
those chord progressions to make me feel something. Since I started
rock n roll road, its people like CAROLE KING and DAVID BOWIE and THE
THE BEATLES and trying to modernize that kind of classic piano pop. I
the more current songwriters like AIMEE MANN and ELVIS COSTELLO and BEN
I try to throw it all into one big giant pot. I guess I’m going to BACH
I’ve read about you, the press has made frequent comparisons between
every kind of hipster singer songwriter. How do you feel about that?
It always makes me cock my head and go ‘huh’. I’ve gotten
such a gamut of comparisons and I think the reason is because I like to
variety of styles. Everything falls under the pop umbrella but I don’t
into one mood and stay there. I like to switch moods. Maybe that is a
word than ‘styles’. I don’t switch genres or style but I certainly
moods. I think when I switch to certain moods it reminds people of a
artists. I think that is where that comes from. I get certain people
that I remind them of male artists, which is strange because when I
wouldn’t remind anyone of a guy. I think that is where it all comes
what point did the
Not long before I wrote my first album which was about seven
years ago. I was taking voice lessons because I had always – on and off
voice lessons. I had realized that I was never going to be ARETHA
which is really quite funny when you hear me sing to think that I would
try going for that. I just love that gospel sound and the vocalists
that can do
those riffs. I had to realize that my voice was never suited for that
that I was never going to get there. After I embraced that, my vocal
ROBERT EDWARDS told me ‘Why don’t you try writing? I really think that
could be a songwriter.’ I thought ‘Why not!’ so I gave it a try so I
and started writing and some of the first songs I ever wrote ended up
first album. I kind of took to it like a duck to water. It was one of
times in my whole life that something felt comfortable the moment that
down to do it. It’s not that it’s not struggle for me. It is and I’ve
work really hard at it but it was something that I wanted to work
at. It was my vocal coach’s idea to give it a try.
does the process
of songwriting work for you?
A lot of times, I will have an idea as I’m out and about in
the world and driving, which is slightly dangerous. An idea will strike
I’ll get to thinking that I need a piece of paper and a pen which is
not a good
idea when I’m driving. I’ll have an idea or a feeling about something
going through my daily life. It’s usually events that I see happen to
people or something that happens to me. After a while a phrase will
my mind. The words will come in fragments. I’ve even got a file on my
called ‘fragments’. The next time I sit down, I’ll just start writing
that lyrically, and if I get enough words, I feel like I can go from
Sometimes the music comes first and lately, I’ve been trying to let the
come first because I think that would be a good way for me to try to
as a songwriter. I just think going about it the same way all of the
songs off of ‘WASH
U CLEAN’ resonate for you the most and why?
That is a hard one! They are all my children and I’ve heard
that answer from other artists before and I don’t mean for it to be a
but every single track has its own personality and it’s own message.
really hard for me to pick. I’m about to say the title of a song and
I am about to mention one song I feel like I’ve left everything else
wouldn’t put it on the CD if I didn’t think it was ready. ‘BONES’ is
me and ‘NEVER YOUR GIRL’ is special to me although I don’t know that it
resonates with everybody else. ‘WASH U CLEAN’ is completely fun. I love
one and I’m really glad that I had the presence of mind to write a
song. ‘STILL CAN'T HIDE’ is a song that I also really love.
responded to the music in a live setting?
I think they like it a lot. We’ve only played these songs at
a couple of shows. We’re getting ready to go on tour in about two
weeks. All of
the songs from this album are new and we’ve only played them out a
times. We did a show last year in June and a few of them made an
then we had another show in October and a couple more made an
show that we did last weekend was the first time we played all of the
material. I think people were listening. We were at a great place in LA
THE HOTEL CAFÉ. It’s the kind of place that people go to actually
the best audience in the world and they were with me from beginning to
start with the more up and friendly songs and then I got to more of
stuff and then I try to leave them with ‘WASH U CLEAN’ so that people
dance at the end.
Yes! I really am. It’s a great reason to get out there and
play every night. You don’t get to do that too much in LA. It’s really
go on the road and have a reason to go someplace new. I like car trips
riding in a car and going somewhere new and meeting people and playing
people who’ve never heard of me. The anonymity is fun.
the time that
you wrote your very first song up until now, what has been the biggest
That I do it! Seriously! I can’t believe I’ve managed to
pull that off. I don’t know where that came from. I’m just grateful
would you like
someone to come away with after they’ve heard this album?
Perhaps the desire to buy my CD! Actually – now that I’ve
had a beat or two to think about it – I think that music is a gift.
go and hear it, it is always a gift. There is something about being in
with people and having a shared experience with art and I just hope
that when I
sit and I play that it is a good thing and that people feel good
it and they come away feeling like they’ve been filled back up to a
extent. I think we all sit in our homes and we watch TV – and I watch
share – but I think that we forget what it’s like to go to a play or to
to hear live music or to a concert hall to see a ballet. There is just
something about art happening in the moment that replenishes and fills
soul up and makes you feel grounded and connected. If there is anyway
can manage to do just a little bit of that, then that is what I would