http://www.rockwired.com/beththornley.JPGFEBRUARY 17, 2010
It’s beginning to feel a lot like a new year after listening to ‘WASH U CLEAN’- the third album from singer-songwriter BETH THORNLEY. The album’s slinky and seductive opening title track gets you going with that equally slinky and seductive baritone sax riff. The song slams into fifth gear with its raucous percussion and THORNLEY’s fractured and mysterious lyrics. And that sexy purr voice of hers only helps matters. I would be lying if I said that this title track – brimming with hit potential – set the tone for the pop 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 little puzzling – with the bubbly beach blanket bop of ‘YOU’RE SO PONY’ but these two oh-so-fun moments are cushioned by some of the warmest, fuzziest, quirkiest pop balladry this side of FIEST as evidenced by the epic scope of ‘STILL CAN HIDE’ and the wistful drum roll of ‘EVERYONE FALLS’.

ROCKWIRED spoke with BETH THORNLEY over the phone. Here is how it went.

What’s different this time around?
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 a bit on this record. I like to think that I’m improving. My big goal is to try 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 the biggest thing that is different is the experience and willingness to continually grow. I think in terms of general songwriting, I’ve sort of touched on the same kinds of things in that I’ve got the rocking kind of songs and the 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.

Talk about working 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 exploring the best way to do a song. For me, what he does never falls short. Even if it takes longer and even if he gets tired and weary, he will keep going until he 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 constantly listening to what other people are doing and finding inspiration and learning from other people. I think that is what I like most about what he does and why I find it easy to work with him. We have the usual opinion collision but I never have to worry that he’ll make a wrong or a bad choice.

Now that all of the work that has gone into making this CD is behind you, how do you feel about the finished work?
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 is that it just seems to really feel like a professional project to me – not that the other ones weren’t – but I do see the growth and I feel very proud of it. I feel like it’s a strong project. I’m relieved and I’m happy and I’m proud of it. I know there are things that we could’ve done better and things we could’ve done differently. There is always – when you are talking about art – room for improvement and room for change. There is that old saying – art is never finished, it is only abandoned. I’m okay where we abandoned this album. I feel good about it.

I 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 composer (that's his day gig) he mostly uses keyboard (to trigger a lot of different sounds) guitar, bass and drums but he doesn't have much call for sax.  Also, I 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 through the eyes of classic BEASTIE BOYS and THE DUST BROTHERS, but without the sampling.  We recorded the drums for the song at the DUST BROTHERS' studio.

How did music begin for you?
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 things. I also played the flute in high school. All of that had stayed with me. I didn’t always know what I was going to do with those skills but I’m glad that I ended up where I did.

What music inspired you specifically?
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 fantastic and inspirational for me. I loved choral music. I grew up singing in choirs and by the time I had gotten to the college level we were singing great pieces of music and found the lushness of those great big choral pieces to be completely inspiring. I look back at some of those pieces and the chord progressions that moved me and when I write I try to find chord progressions that move me as well 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 want those chord progressions to make me feel something. Since I started down the rock n roll road, its people like CAROLE KING and DAVID BOWIE and THE KINKS and THE BEATLES and trying to modernize that kind of classic piano pop. I also like the more current songwriters like AIMEE MANN and ELVIS COSTELLO and BEN FOLDS. I try to throw it all into one big giant pot. I guess I’m going to BACH to ELVIS COSTELLO.

In everything that I’ve read about you, the press has made frequent comparisons between you and 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 do a variety of styles. Everything falls under the pop umbrella but I don’t just get into one mood and stay there. I like to switch moods. Maybe that is a better word than ‘styles’. I don’t switch genres or style but I certainly switch moods. I think when I switch to certain moods it reminds people of a certain artists. I think that is where that comes from. I get certain people saying that I remind them of male artists, which is strange because when I sing, I wouldn’t remind anyone of a guy. I think that is where it all comes from.

At what point did the songwriter emerge?
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 – taken voice lessons. I had realized that I was never going to be ARETHA FRANKLIN which is really quite funny when you hear me sing to think that I would ever 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 sound and that I was never going to get there. After I embraced that, my vocal coach ROBERT EDWARDS told me ‘Why don’t you try writing? I really think that you could be a songwriter.’ I thought ‘Why not!’ so I gave it a try so I sat down and started writing and some of the first songs I ever wrote ended up on my first album. I kind of took to it like a duck to water. It was one of those times in my whole life that something felt comfortable the moment that I sat down to do it. It’s not that it’s not struggle for me. It is and I’ve got to work really hard at it but it was something that I wanted to work really hard at. It was my vocal coach’s idea to give it a try.

How 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 and 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 as I’m going through my daily life. It’s usually events that I see happen to other people or something that happens to me. After a while a phrase will come into my mind. The words will come in fragments. I’ve even got a file on my computer called ‘fragments’. The next time I sit down, I’ll just start writing about that lyrically, and if I get enough words, I feel like I can go from there. Sometimes the music comes first and lately, I’ve been trying to let the music come first because I think that would be a good way for me to try to get better as a songwriter. I just think going about it the same way all of the time might limit me.

What 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 cop out but every single track has its own personality and it’s own message. It’s really hard for me to pick. I’m about to say the title of a song and the minute I am about to mention one song I feel like I’ve left everything else out. I wouldn’t put it on the CD if I didn’t think it was ready. ‘BONES’ is special to 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 that one and I’m really glad that I had the presence of mind to write a really fun song. ‘STILL CAN'T HIDE’ is a song that I also really love.

How have people 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 couple of times. We did a show last year in June and a few of them made an appearance and then we had another show in October and a couple more made an appearance. The show that we did last weekend was the first time we played all of the new material. I think people were listening. We were at a great place in LA called THE HOTEL CAFÉ. It’s the kind of place that people go to actually listen. It’s the best audience in the world and they were with me from beginning to end. I start with the more up and friendly songs and then I got to more of serious stuff and then I try to leave them with ‘WASH U CLEAN’ so that people could dance at the end.

Looking forward to touring?
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 great to go on the road and have a reason to go someplace new. I like car trips and riding in a car and going somewhere new and meeting people and playing for people who’ve never heard of me. The anonymity is fun.

From the time that you wrote your very first song up until now, what has been the biggest surprise for you?
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 that it showed up.

What 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. Whenever I go and hear it, it is always a gift. There is something about being in a room 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 listening to it and they come away feeling like they’ve been filled back up to a certain extent. I think we all sit in our homes and we watch TV – and I watch my fair share – but I think that we forget what it’s like to go to a play or to venue 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 your soul up and makes you feel grounded and connected. If there is anyway that I can manage to do just a little bit of that, then that is what I would like to offer.

http://www.rockwired.com/brian.JPGBRiAN LUSH (FOUNDER, EDiTOR-iN-CHiEF)
BRIAN LUSH holds a BA in Creative Writing from  the UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO. He established ROCKWIRED on New Years of 2004 and hasn’t looked back since. From January 2005 to March 2009, LUSH was the host of the weekly internet radio show ROCKWIRED LIVE. He produced the program for the AMERICAN RADIO NETWORK. As the editor-in-chief for ROCKWiRED MAGAZiNE, LUSH is hands-on when it comes to interviewing and building a lasting rapport with the artists that come ROCKWiRED’s way. As a youngster, BRIAN LUSH had no idea what kind of seed was being planted by reading magazines such as HIT PARADE, HIGH TIMES, SPIN, REQUEST (remember that one?) and even ROLLING STONE (but to a significantly lesser degree). “Those were the days before the internet and being a rock journalist looked like the coolest job imaginable.” says LUSH “But reading these magazines had me imagining that one day I’d be the artist giving all of the clever answers to some poor guy with a tape recorder. Well, life has a way of surprising you. Now, I’m the poor guy with the tape recorder and asking all of the questions.”

CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT: djlush@rockwired.com