July 11, 2008

After ‘Juno,’ Singer’s Stock is on the Rise


WHO: Ani DiFranco with Kimya Dawson.

WHAT: Indie-folk.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: United Palace, 4140 Broadway, Manhattan; Ticketmaster or theunitedpalace.com.

HOW MUCH: $25-$49.

WHERE TO HEAR: kimyadaw son.com.

Since nine of her songs were featured in the hit 2007 movie "Juno" and made up the bulk of the film's hit soundtrack album (it reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in January), Kimya Dawson has requested only one thing:

That interviewers refrain from asking her the same questions over and over again.

Though Dawson has submitted to scores of interviews since "Juno" star Ellen Page convinced director Jason Reitman that her character would listen to Dawson's music, the indie folk singer is still willing to entertain the possibility that someone might ask a question she hasn't answered a hundred times before.

In fact, it could even become a game, with her keeping score, of course. "Let's see how you do," she says coyly to an interviewer while riding in a car headed to Athens, Ga., from Charleston, S.C.

Over the next 40 minutes, Dawson discusses her upcoming children's CD, "Alphabutt," which she is previewing on her current tour at all-ages shows.

She also fills in a few details of her pre-musical biography ("I didn't start playing and writing music until 1994, when I was around 26") and the inspirations behind some of her recent songs.

Occasionally she pauses to tend to her young daughter Panda Delilah, who will turn 2 this month, or to respond to a comment from her musician husband, guitarist Angelo Spencer, and touring partner (and keyboardist-vocalist) Paul Baribeau.

Dawson has been playing several songs from "Alphabutt," which is due in September and features Panda playing piano and singing. "Seven Hungry Tigers," for instance, deals with "what your concerns would be if those animals lived in your room."

From "Juno" she has been playing "Tire Swing," in which she acknowledges her wanderlust, and "Loose Lips," a determined lo-fi survival anthem.

Both songs also appear on Dawson's fifth and most recent studio CD, 2006's "Remember That I Love You." On that disc, she sings movingly about her mother on "My Mom" and the younger of her two brothers, who is raising an autistic son, on "Better Weather."

"My mom's been sick for 15 years and she just has a lot of demons she battles all the time, and being in constant pain she is haunted by fairly troubling parts of her childhood," says Dawson. "The song is me pleading with her demons to leave her alone."

"Weather""is me letting my brother know how proud I am of him," she says.

Dawson was born in Newark and raised in Bedford Hills, N.Y. "My family home was a day-care center," she says. "I always worked with kids as a camp counselor, at homeless shelters. My plan was to teach."

Dawson says she first met Adam Green, who would become her partner in the much-beloved anti-folk act Moldy Peaches, at summer camp.

One day, Green showed up at the Mount Kisco, N.Y., record store where Dawson worked during the holidays.

"He was, like, 12 and playing guitar," she says. "We just started writing songs together. ... I always wrote a lot, tons and tons and tons of journals. I started putting them to music. It became a way for me to process my thoughts and deal with stuff."

When it is suggested that Dawson's songs are unusually dense with ideas, she giggles. "Paul and my husband are making fun of me just now. They're always telling me that each one of my songs can be 40 different songs."

As the interview ends, Dawson is asked how she thinks it went.

"Not too bad. Not bad at all," she laughs.


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