F: I've never had a chronic problem with stage fright. I've been performing since I was a child. I sang in boy choirs from the age of 7 or 8. I was a soloist shortly after that. I've been playing guitar since about the same time. I used to play guitar at open mike situations in my home town of Plainfield New Jersey. So I'm very very used to being in front of people and performing. Now there are some situations that make me very very nervous. One is if it's a very large crowd and especially if it's a very large crowd that is not there specifically to hear me. Which is usually the case, that is, it is unusual for me to draw more than 3 or 4 hundred people, and that's about the limit of my comfort level. If I'm performing for more than that, I'd be a little nervous anyway just because of the size of it, but more typically, when you have those larger numbers of people, they're not there to hear me. They're there because it's a festival or to hear the head liner. So I feel that that I have to prove myself. Emphasizing the word "feel". I think actually audiences are very welcoming and very forgiving, but it's not always easy to remember that. For instance, I opened for Judi Collins at a concert in Oregon earlier this year and I was very nervous. There were 4,000 people there. A few had heard of me but certainly most had not. So I *felt* that I had to win them over and that they would not be forgiving if I messed up. In those situations, unfortunately, I tend to spend more of my time thinking "what's the next line of the song?" and "Am I going to forget it?" instead of paying attention to what's happening in the present with the audience and with me and really emphasizing the communication of the ideas and feelings of the song.
C: Is the communication just more difficult with a large crowd too?
F: No, I don't think so. It's just a matter of the quality of the sound system. You know it is true that people closer in can see better but I think mainly I communicate with the words and the music. I don't have any problem singing for a large crowd in terms of communication, provided that the sound system is adequate. I know the people that play stadiums and huge halls, they like to go back to their small club, but I haven't been plagued with that problem yet. Now the other situation that would make me nervous, other than simply size of the audience and the fact that they don't know me already, would be if there were particular people in the audience that either I wanted to impress or felt that they might be critical of me in a particular way. I'm thinking that if there are for instance, record company executives in the audience or people that I admired tremendously like Pete Seeger, or people whom I think could help me significantly professionally, I would feel pressure to do well and therefore I would be anxious. How I handle the stage fright that I do feel under those circumstances - I take deep breathes, I remind myself that the audience really is on my side and they want me to succeed and finally I concentrate on loving the audience. In a sense I see myself as a performer as a counselor to the audience and if I can focus on loving them through my music then what they think of me or what's going to happen if I make a mistake is really irrelevant because all I have to do is love them. That's the essence of my work.
L: How do you handle being "up" even when you may not be feeling that way?
F: Pretty much the same way. It's much like, "what does a therapist do if he or she has had a bad day?" When the client comes in you don't say "Gee I'm sorry I've had a rough time. Can I tell you about my problems?" You tell someone else about your problems, you don't tell your client about your problems. Again I get in touch with the love that I feel for my audience and I put myself in that space of just loving them. Now when I first started as a performer, I would not say anything at all revealing about how I felt, because I didn't feel safe enough to do that and in a sense I didn't feel it appropriate because certainly you don't want a performer who is so vulnerable, so upset, so needy that the audience feels embarrassed and like they really have to take care of the performer. It's not a healthy relationship between audience and performer when that happens. On the other hand, I have come to feel that a certain amount of vulnerability and honesty about where one is at that moment is appropriate and actually charming in that I think the audience does like to know something about what's really happening for the artist. So that it's not just a canned, slick performance. For instance, a couple of years ago in Oregon, I was one of first people to come upon the body of a man who had thrown himself in front of a train. And that night I performed in Portland. This was at the Eugene AMTRAK station that this happened. At first we weren't sure if he was dead but the paramedics came and he was dead. It was very upsetting. I was still kind of in shock when I went on stage and I talked about what had happened. I still gave a good show, but I just felt it would almost be dishonest not to talk about it. That I would feel like a phony, pretending everything was fine when I just had this disturbing experience. The same was true in 1988 when the woman I'd been involved with for 4 years broke up with me and I was very very sad. I was grieving for months. And I talked about it a little bit from the stage, not a lot, because again I don't think it's appropriate for a performer to ask the audience to be his therapist. And I think that the audience would get uncomfortable if one obsessed on stage about how terrible one felt. It wouldn't be a good time. On the other hand, to acknowledge what's going on, briefly and honestly, I think draws the audience in and enables them to feel part of the performer's life in a way. Which I think is nice and actually feels right for both the audience and the performer. So within limits I will be candid about what is going on for me.
L: At the Live Album concert, you came out and said that it was a terrifying place to be. I was wondering if that actually made it easier than if you had tried to pretend that it wasn't terrifying.
F: Oh absolutely. It was very important for me to do that. Now the Live Album concert was a little bit of a special case. These were people who came knowing that it would be a live recording. I think a lot of my very strong fans and friends turned out, as much to support me as to hear a concert. So I was willing to ask a little more of that audience than the average audience including, as you know, asking them to listen to the same song 3 times until I got it right.
C: What was the reason for redoing that?
F: "Guenivere and the Fire" we did 3 times. I think we may have done "Simple Living" twice. The first one just didn't have good energy. It just didn't click. "Guenivere and the Fire"... I muffed a line the first time. Instead of "Her Mum hung the nappies by the fire" it came out "Her mung hung the knackies by the fire". That eliminated the first one and the second take was going great until the very last verse and I just blew a line.
C: I remember that, I wasn't sure if it was something more subtle for "Simple Living"
F: It was. "Simple Living" it was just that, I was sure, I couldn't tell, but Johnny just said it just didn't flow. It just didn't have a good feel to it. The reason I said at the outset that it was scary for me and my perfectionism and all that stuff, I really wanted to create the space to give myself permission to make mistakes. To just come out there and say "Look we're going make mistakes. 'Course we're going to make mistakes." And that was as much for *me* as for the audience - A reminder for me as well as for the audience. Just to say "Hey we're all in the same boat here. We're trying to make a record album that sounds good. So let's do it."
L: I don't know if you already covered this in your songbook, about how you got started?
F: I think I did. And I'd be happy to respond to it now because of course I do that in interviews all the time, but since we've got a lot of questions and I don't know how long my voice will hold out...
C: come back to it if we have time..
F: we'll just put the citation "in the songbook" and that should cover it.
L: Why did you decide to be a folk singer vs having a 9-5 job?
F: Well, I was trying to do both. I was a full-time attorney and a part-time singer/songwriter and both law and song writing require a lot of cranial space. Not just space that is occupied but also space that is unoccupied. I think there needs to be a certain amount of free attention available so that songs can work their way through one's unconscious and also so that legal ideas can work their way through the unconscious. I would get ideas about how to argue a case, legal theories to use, when I was jogging. Likewise I would get ideas for songs when I was jogging. The more I was emphasizing songwriting in addition to law, the more I think both suffered because there just wasn't room in my head to do both. So I thought out of fairness to my employer and fairness to me as a songwriter I needed to make a decision. I didn't know how that decision would work out. I initially attempted to arrange a one year sabbatical from my law job. But they said they were too small an office to assure that I would have a job when I came back. They said they would welcome me and try to make something available but they couldn't promise it. So I just made the leap and hoped for the best and that was 13 years ago.
L: This question's about how you carefully cloaked your sexual preference, in previous years, but in last year's tour, you announced it.
C: I gave a description of the Live Album concert in which I mentioned the patter between songs including where you announced it. Somebody said "Doesn't matter to me either way, but I was sure he was gay" and I got a couple of other responses that were similar.
F: I think a lot of people assumed that I was gay because I sing gay affirmative stuff. I doubt that it's because of my affect, which doesn't usually strike people as gay. I can be silly (which is nice) but no one has ever described me as "swish". So I assume that the reason people assume that I am gay is because I sing gay affirmative material. And that's kind of sad, of course, because it means that people assume that if someone is singing gay affirmative material he must be gay because otherwise "why would he do that?" In other words it assumes that the only people willing to affirm gay rights are gay people because heterosexuals either have better things to do or they are afraid to. The reason I did not talk from the stage about my sexual orientation for over 10 years had mainly to do with the desire to be inclusive. That is we live in a heterosexist culture. Most performers, most movies, TV shows etc. are explicitly, relentlessly, inescapably heterosexual. So for me to be vague about my sexual orientation, I thought, was a nice thing to do. Because it meant that whoever came to my concerts, whatever their sexual orientation, they would not feel excluded. They would feel potentially included. So that's why there are no gender references in my love songs. And I thought also to the extent that people did not know my sexual orientation and that this was an issue for them. Something they thought about or worried about or speculated about. This was probably a healthy process for them. If they were straight, then either they had to think "Fred's gay" and deal with that or they had to think "Fred's straight but he's gay affirmative" and deal with that. And for gay people it would be a similar process. I figured the not knowing was kind of a healthy thing. And it might kind of jiggle people's prejudices and assumptions.
C: It's interesting that so many people did write that they assumed one way or another. That people had that need to put people in slots.
F: Exactly, I think a certain amount of ambiguity can be a healthy and a positively subversive thing. But as time went on, and especially in the last year or two, as gay rights has moved to the forefront of political discourse and has in turn triggered a right wing backlash, I decided it was much more useful now to identify clearly as a heterosexual who supports gay rights. Because heterosexuals need models of heterosexuals who are explicitly pro-gay. And gay people deserve to know that there are heterosexuals who energetically support gay rights. I think it's very useful for both groups to have those models available. For gays and lesbians it cuts down on their isolation. Because if only gays and lesbians support gay rights, then it's a perfect ghetto. Everybody within supports gay rights and everybody outside of it presumably does not. And of course, that's not true. And it better not be true, because obviously if it were true then gays would be outvoted every time. One of the things I am saying now in concert is that "in a democracy, it's the challenge of the majority to defend minority rights and we're not doing a very good job of it." Around about the same time I made this decision, I was also starting to get feedback from gays and lesbians who when I did mention that I was heterosexual, they seemed delighted, relieved, and a number of them said "Gee, I always assumed you were gay, but you really ought to let people know that you are heterosexual" because that is a much more powerful statement, than to have one more gay man saying "go gay rights," how much more powerful to have a straight man saying that." So that's what that's about. The other reason I didn't used to say that I was heterosexual had to do with not wanting to collude with homophobia. It would have let people off the hook if I had said "Oh I'm heterosexual. Don't worry about me, even though I sing those songs. I'm fine. You can buy my albums, you can hire me, without being uncomfortable. It's just a civil rights thing. Don't worry about it." I feel pretty confident that I have lost bookings either because of the gay affirmative material I do or because people thought that I was gay. I'm sure I've lost some simply because my material is political but I think that that alone is probably not the whole story. I think that homophobia has probably played a role in it as well. There is a larger question of how many audiences and how many people who book venues are comfortable with the kind of material I do generally, which is emotionally, politically, and intellectually provocative. Most people don't want to feel deeply, or think deeply, when they go out for an evening of entertainment. They want to be entertained. I feel very strongly about entertainment. I *want* to entertain my audience. But I don't want *just* to entertain my audience. That limits my appeal and my market. That said, I do think that the gay affirmative material has been particularly harmful to my commercial prospects. On the other hand, it is much easier for me as a heterosexual to be outspoken on gay issues because I am not subject to the oppression in the same way. I am less likely to be beat up or harassed. And just as important, I don't fear being beat up or harrassed because I don't struggle against that oppression on a day-to-day basis myself. So it's really appropriate for me to take on other people's oppression precisely because I am not a victim of it.
C: As far as what you said about people not wanting to feel strongly, one time I saw you perform Light in the Hall, and the girl next to me was in tears. For a very short while, I was angry at you, and then I realized that you're not the one to be angry at. It was just SUCH strong emotions being brought out that I was angry. I was wondering what your feedback has been. That is probably the most emotionally laden songs that you do. What sort of feedback have you gotten?
F: Overwhelmingly positive. .. from everyone and especially survivors who were thrilled to hear the story told. ...Especially in a public setting. It breaks the silence. It contradicts the silence and isolation around that issue. For some people, it is just too painful to hear. The fact that someone is crying suggests, to me, that it is not too painful. If it is too painful, tears will probably not come. What's going to happen is that someone will shut down and dissociate. Either leave the room, or if they can't do that, they don't feel comfortable doing that, then just leave emotionally. And that's a tough situation because I had to balance the pain of people who found the song painful to hear against the feeling of delight and empowerment and the healing benefits that other people felt. And as far as I could tell, there were many more of the latter than the former. What I eventually did was simply this, I recorded the song and once the song was available on the Jaguar album, I stopped singing it live. On the theory that it was not out there, in the world, available to people, that it would be found and used by people who wanted to hear it and wanted to use it. And it is being used by many many survivors and therapists. Often in a counseling setting, which is a much safer place to handle the emotions that come up than a public concert. I continue to get requests for it, and if someone is particularly urgent about wanting to hear the song, I offer to play it for them after the show, just personally backstage. And I do. Besides the discomfort and pain that some people experience hearing the song, I also have to be cognizant of what it does to the concert experience. It is like dropping a bomb at the concert. Although I think that enabling people to feel deeply is one of the highest purposes of my music, I also have to be thoughtful of the consequences. Will people be SO devastated, so moved or disturbed, as the case may be that they can't really hear the songs afterwards? What kind of shape are they going to be in when they leave? Will they want to come back to another concert? Or will they think, "ah, no, maybe I'll rent a video instead"? I think it is necessary to strike a balance between provoking people's deep emotional response and giving them a good time. I do that all the time, in my sets. I have humorous material, I have serious material, I have lighter material, I have heavier material and I try to balance them. Light in the Hall is just off the chart in terms of the emotional impact that it has, so I've decided to let it do its work in its recorded form.
L: When you set up sets to be a particular mixture, how do you feel when people call out requests for songs, or have requests for songs?
F: I am delighted to get requests for songs. The best time to get them to me is actually before the show starts, to find me, or send a note to me or what have you. The second best time is to give them to me early in the break. The worse time to give them to me is calling them out late in the show because by then I've already planned whole set. I plan the whole concert set before I walk on stage. It is sometimes possible to work in a song with very short notice, so that you could call out a song and I could sing it - right then and there. But it gets trickier because I have to be concerned about the dynamic flow of the concert and it may be that I've kind of painted myself into a corner late in the show. For instance sometimes people call out Larry the Polar Bear when I'm about to do my encore. I love Larry the Polar Bear, but it's a funny song to close the whole concert on because it's not a sing-along, and I prefer to close on a sing-along, its a sort of extended story song that requires a fair about of attention and energy from the audience to pay attention to and appreciate and finally it ends on a long slow acoustic fade. People aren't even sure when they are supposed to start applauding. Of course, I COULD close a concert on it, but it's a little strange. And certainly anything heavy would be inappropriate to end a concert on. To close with Every Man or Face at the Window or something like that would just not be appropriate at all. The more notice I have the more I can work the song in to the set list and the greater chance there is that I will get to it. Also, obviously, there are some songs that I want to play. Some of them are old favorites and I want play them because I'm sure that there are people who want hear them even if they have not made the request. Others are new songs that I want people to hear and are not going to be requested because people never request a song that they've never heard of. So I have my own agenda. Usually there is room to do a certain number of requests but after that it's going to get a little tricky because I'm going to then have to sacrifice songs that I really think other people will appreciate. Often someone will come up afterwards and say, "Oh, I'm so disappointed because you didn't sing..." this song or the other song. And sometimes it is because I was planning to sing that song and I dropped it because someone else made a request. And, in fact, I was right to have planned to have sung that song. I was right to have assumed that someone would want to hear it, but because I got the request, and I wanted to respect the request, I took the request and had to drop the other song. So certainly it is always in people's best interest, if they come to a concert and really want to hear a particular song, they should request the song, rather than coming up afterwards and saying "Oh, I'm so disappointed you didn't sing the song" At which point I often will quote Ruth Pelham who has a song called If You Want Something, You Gotta Ask For It, which is very good advice. If people have requests I would urge them to make them as early as possible in the evening. There are some songs that if I'm going to sing them, I have to have time during the break to practice them because they are not in very good practice. Then there are some songs that I just don't remember the words to any more. And even if they are requested as soon as I walk in the door for the sound check I'm not going to do them because I can't.
F: Sure that's one. Song called Oops, it's not recorded, but there are songs that I've recorded that I can't do anymore that I used to do all the time. Because I don't perform them enough and the words are just not in my head.
C: What about, there is a particular song that I've heard you do about twice, No. 1 with a Bullet? Is it still around?
F: First of all, I wrote it very much in response to the Gulf War situation. Although some said, "That song is a classic because it will always be the case" - that the United States will intervene militarily around the world for either selfish or crass political motives. Mainly, I'd like cut Bill Clinton some slack and I'd like to think that he will not be as reckless militarily as his predecessor. The other thing is that it is an uncharacteristic song of mine in that it's sarcastic and angry and negative... in a positive kind of way, of course. It also slams the military mentality it is therefore of the same character as the Marine's Lament and so to do both of those songs in one concert would be overkill. Now, in truth, I'm pretty sure that I stopped singing No. 1 With a Bullet before I wrote The Marine's Lament. But certainly I would not do them simultaneously. I think they are both vulnerable to the criticism that they are sarcastic and angry. People have asked about The Marine's Lament, of course overwhelmingly, it gets a positive response and that's why I continue to do it. I do feel ambivalent about it because it is not a song of love and kindness towards homophobes. Although I aspire to love and kindness, sometimes I do get angry and the content and character of much of the public discourse around gays in the military infuriated me. Compared to how angry I was, The Marine Lament is very very mild.
L: How do you make the decisions on what songs to record?
F: Well, a number of factors. One is just how popular the songs are. Often when I write songs I don't have a very good idea of how strong they are and that only becomes clear as I perform them and people request them and come up afterwards and say, "Oh, that new song, I really really like it." That's very helpful to me, because I don't know. I have certain instincts and judgements as a songwriter as to what are my stronger songs and what are not. But I don't think those instincts are infallible. Specifically about the song Oops!, I think if I ever did a children's album, that might be a really good song for it. Any humorous song can wear thin on an album, heard over and over again. If I'm singing to an audience that knows my material very well, where the overwhelming majority of them have heard me before, it's very challenging to me to sing If I Were a Moose because even though everybody wants to hear it, nobody laughs. Maybe they smile, but it's not laugh out loud funny any more because they know the damn song. There is no surprise in the song at all. Likewise Talking Wheelchair Blues, I'll sing the song, especially when people in wheelchairs are present. Sometimes I get requests for the songs ("Oh, please sing the song.."), I sing it, and nobody laughs because everybody knows the jokes. That's kind of demoralizing to me as a performer. It's a catch 22. You sing the song because people want it, but because they already know it, they don't laugh. I think you have the same problem on an album. I think basically The Heart of the Appaloosa will stand repeated listening more than If I Were a Moose. In fact, both John McCutcheon and Michael Aharon, the latter of whom produced the album, recommended to me that I not record If I Were a Moose and I said, "phooey, I'm going to record it any way" because I think it is a strong enough song. I don't think that one should make a blanket prohibition against humorous songs. And I'm very glad I recorded it because its gotten wonderful air play and has won me many new fans. With a song like Oops!, I just made a judgement that it wasn't quite strong enough for an album. Certainly as a humorous song, I felt it would wear thin very quickly, besides which it has this kind of irritating falsetto Oops! line punctuating the song. I thought it might drive people nuts to hear that over and over again. I stopped singing it also because a song that I know that I'm not going to record, just commercially it doesn't make a lot of sense, besides which there is very fierce competition now, in my own mind, among the songs that I sing, because I have enough material that I'm very proud of to fill two concerts. I'm already making tough choices. Sometimes songs just don't make the cut any more. The nice thing is that ever single song that I've ever performed is somebody's favorite song. The bad news is when that somebody show up at a concert, they're going to be disappointed because I don't sing THEIR favorite song, which is another argument in favor of requests rather than coming back to me afterwards and saying, "You didn't sing my favorite song" - Well, how was I to know?
L: Have you considered going more "commercial", referring to where you sell your material?
F: I would love to go more commercial, in the sense that I would love to sing to millions of people. I have no qualm and no scruple about being the next Bruce Springstein. But it is very clear that the music industry is not interested in my being the next Bruce Springstein unless I did something very very different from what I do. And that I'm afraid I can't do. I don't know how to write songs that don't mean something important to me. And I don't know how to write songs to "fit" a particular fashion or style. Obviously, I'm willing to work in a rock and roll medium, most of Jaguar is a kind of rock and roll medium. But I can only go so far outside of what I know and do well before it becomes both phoney and unsuccessful. I like the Jaguar album. I think it is very successful musically. I shopped it to the major labels. They were not interested. And it lost me a lot of folk air play, that I would otherwise have had if I produced the album acoustically. In other words, as Phil Ochs wrote, "God help the troubadour who wants to be a star." You have to stay true to yourself and to what you do. And do it well and do it to the best of your ability. Frankly what makes Bruce Springstein a star or Pete Seeger or Tracy Chapman or the Beatles is a sense of authenticity. Whatever they do, they do it well and it is a good fit, for *them*. There are some people who are successful whom you don't get a sense of authenticity from. Who are clearly just writing and performing to formula. But there are also people who are *tremendously* successful who just do what they do, and people go "Wow, that's really interesting and distinctive. I like that." Rather than my trying to imitate somebody else, I think that it makes a lot more sense for me just to do what I do and if success comes to me, that's great, but waiting or hoping for commercial success and trying to change what I do in order to cultivate it I think is self defeating.
L: Are you happy about doing the Jaguar album the way you did?
F: I suppose that if I had known then that it would not be picked up by a major label, that it would not get much folk air play, that it would not advance my career I probably would have produced it much more acoustically. But notice what I just said. What I just said was that had I known then what I know now, I would have made a *commercial* decision to make a folk album. Which is the great irony. People might hear Jaguar and say "Oh God, Fred's just selling out. He's just trying to go commercial." But the reality is that from most folk singers, the more production you put on, the more you're slitting your own throat commercially, because you have then strayed from the pigeon hole, the label that people need to categorize you. The truth is that the production on Jaguar was from both commercial and aesthetic considerations. The aesthetic was that I was writing songs with kind of edgy rock groove to them, so that the production we gave them made complete musical sense. The commercial consideration was that I was hoping that a major label might pick the album up and I would get air play on what is now called triple-A (which I think is Adult Alternative Album) stations. That didn't happen. But I have no regrets about it artistically. Because I think it works artistically. It doesn't work artistically if you don't like rock and roll. I like rock and roll. What is important to me is not so much the form, be it folk music or rock and roll, as the content, which is about changing the world, trying to alter people's awareness and consciousness, trying to generate a deep emotional response. And I'll do that in whatever form makes sense. Having grown up in the folk tradition with the Folk Revival of the '60's that is the form with which I'm most comfortable, but if Columbia Records came to me and said, "We love your message. We're not going to touch it but we want you to play rock and roll with a full band and we will bankroll your next tour and publicists and the whole star-making machinery so that you will get your message in front of large audiences. You will be able to sing Denmark 1943 and Scott and Jamie and I Will Stand Fast to 50,000 people at a pop." I would say, "Where do I sign?"
L: One of the people on the list, seems to be a guitar player and wants to know if you are going to publish the chords and the percussion techniques...
F: He asked about the percussion techniques on Jaguar. Obviously there is a lot of percussion on the album, so I assume he means live. There are no percussion techniques live. The only thing I do on Jaguar is I mute the chord, that is I don't allow the guitar to resonate. I'll lift off on the fingers of my left hand just enough to stop the sounding of those strings. That is the extent of the percussion on Jaguar. I will, in the next song book, give some of the chord formation that I use. I can't possibly give all of the chord formations that I use because it would just be prohibitively expensive. What I would say is, and this is a general offer to anyone, "if you are a guitar player and you want to figure out how I play something, I will always be glad to show anyone after a concert how to play something." I`ve done that many times and all they have to do is ask.
L: Are there things you are not Politically Correct on?
F: I first heard the term Politically Correct in the 1970's as a self satirical joke among left-wing activists. I gather that some people on the left have at some point in history used the term seriously, as in "Let's do the Politically Correct thing." Fortunately I never heard anyone use it seriously, because had I done so, I would have fled the premises. It was always used as a joke, when I heard it, in the 70's and it was making fun of the tendency of people to do things out of guilt or because they think is what they are supposed to do. I think that that is a universal tendency having nothing to do with the left or the right. In the 80's, of course, the right-wing and the national news media got a hold of the term, and they applied it initially in the context of academia and the question of free speech in an academic setting. Some colleges and universities were promulgating codes regulating speech. And also some professors were feeling pressure not to be out-spoken in their views if their views were deemed right-wing or offensive to various interest groups. The question of free speech on campus is a very complicated one and it is a legitimate issue. On the one hand there is a strong value in freedom of speech, freedom of thought, academic freedom. And there is also a strong value in having a livable environment for residents of a residential community that they cannot freely leave without forfeiting their education. In other words, I think it is one thing to display a Nazi flag in a public demonstration on a city street. And quite another to hang a Nazi flag from a dorm window on a college campus. It is one thing to burn a cross at a public demonstration which one could choose to avoid and another thing to burn a cross in somebody's yard when they live there because that's where their dorm room is. So the question of what is offensive speech varies depending upon what is the context, and these are all issues that we can all talk about and argue about and I think that there are legitimate views on both sides. But, the term Politically Correct soon became used as a club against *any* progressive idea. First there was this mythology developed that some left-wing mafia had taken over our colleges and universities, which is certainly news to most left-wing professors, who wish that there were such a mafia, but there is not. Most left-wing people on campus struggle as most left-wing people in this country struggle because it is not a particularly supportive or congenial environment. But then the term took off and was exploited to discredit and trivialize any progressive idea, having to do with women, gay rights, people of color, the environment, health, *anything* that suggested that there might be a better way to do things than the status quo. So basically in the 1990's to be a liberal is to run the risk of being tagged as "Politically Correct" which is extremely invalidating because is suggest that if you are liberal, you don't have any ideas, you simply march in lock-step with the Politically Correct crowd and once again, the impulse to conform exists on the left, but it exists in ANY political subculture. It has been a remarkable and devastatingly effective bit of political jujitsu, by the right-wing, to take this term "Politically Correct" and use it to trash and ridicule any progressive thought or attempt to organize. Which is ironic because it ends up being a tool of the real thought police, on the right. If I say, "excuse me, I think this proposed policy is insensitive to gays and lesbians", immediately someone will say, "Aw, you're just being Politically Correct". Now what happened to my idea? I'm sensitive to the use of the term Politically Correct because I think it is used in a very regressive and unhelpful way. As far as my own songs and concerns go, I write about what I care about. Not because it's on some list of the liberal agenda, but because it strikes me as important. I advocate for the rights of disabled people, of women, of gays and lesbians, of poor people because I care about their rights, their dignity, their lives. I think sometimes the charge of Politically Correct and the discomfort with what seems to be Politically Correct, I have to speculate that it comes out of people's own guilt and discomfort. That they worry that maybe they are not doing enough, so that they see a liberal issue or a liberal effort, or a liberal campaign to their sense of their own goodness. I think a lot of this comes people who used to be active in the 60's but are not any more and idealism itself is threatening because they abandoned it. It pricks their conscience a little bit. So rather than feel the discomfort of that prick they want to invalidate and trivialize the impulse. Really the question of Politically Correct, to me, I would phrase it instead as a matter of validating people's experience and respecting their hurt. So that I don't refer to women as "girls" and "chicks" because women are human beings and have a right not to be called "girls" and "chicks". Now, in private, with women I know and trust, and who know and trust me, I might well use "girls" and "chicks" in a joking way, knowing that they know that I know better, but I wouldn't do that in public because there not that same level of trust. Likewise I can make extremely politically incorrect or potentially offensive jokes in private with people who know me and trust me and understand that underlying the joke is a tremendous dedication to justice and respect for oppressed people. But the media is full of insults to oppressed people. I am just trying in my own small way, offer something a little different. So that if people who belong to groups that are chronically kicked around in the society, if they come to my concert, I like them to know that they are not going to be insulted for a few hours that night. I think that's a legitimate concern on my part. Modest though my commercial success has been, I am still part of the media. I am a media figure and when I walk on stage I have power. I have the stage, I have a microphone, I have a sound system - I'm creating the environment that people will experience that night. I think I have a responsibility to treat people respectfully. One of the things I try to do is tell the stories of disenfranchised people, of silenced people in a way that will help them feel empowered, that will affirm their dignity. I think that's a good thing to do. Certainly I have said things and I have written songs that some people don't agree with, on either side. I got a letter from a man in Minnosota objecting to my comparing Republicans to Nazis. And, as I wrote him, I was not comparing Republicans to Nazis rather I was making specific argument that Republicans at their last national convention that by exploiting homophobia for political gain were playing the same dangerous game as Nazis. From the left, there was controversy over Light in the Hall. I think the great majority of survivors who heard it found it empowering and useful, but there was a minority of survivors who found it very painful. And they and their allies communicated their upset, and in some cases, offense to me. I did a tremendous amount of correspondence and research to try and get some good read on how wide spread the objection was and I concluded that many more people were benefited then were injured by the song. The Marine's Lament has been somewhat controversial. Although it has been by and large welcomed with great acclaim by the gay community and their supporters which of course are together the majority of my audience but some have complained that it is a pissy song. So is that a case Political Correct? Because I am not always filled with love and kindness towards my political adversaries? I don't know. No one has yet complained about the song, Too Many People, but I am sure that there are people of a Marxist bent who are very troubled by it, because generally Marxists are hostile to the idea of population control. I try to preempt most of those arguments in the song, by saying "Gotta love them babies" and it is true that unequal distribution is absolutely critical in creating many of the problems we have, but even if you have equal distribution, even if you have environmentally sound practice, eventually you have to face the population question. Until you do, you're just shooting yourself in the foot. So I got tired of being coy about that and as an adult, I've had plenty of experience on the left, I think that that is a song that certainly goes against the grain of traditional left-wing ideology. I think the key to the Political Correctness question, is that I try to treat people respectfully. That's what its about.
L: The question reads very differently if you substitute respectfully or considerately for Politically Correct.
F: Sometimes I'll say something spontaneously from the stage that I regret because you're thinking on your feet and you'll say something that might be trivializing or offensive or not-loving. That happens sometimes. And sometimes I'll say something not-loving because I'm pissed off. But, you know, I'm allowed to be pissed off. I'm human.
L: How do you handle it if people try to be friends just because you're a celebrity or do you find that people who are friends are only there because you are a celebrity?
F: I think often people find me very attractive because of the content of my songs. Obviously I put the best of me, the best of my thinking, the best of my impulses into my songs. My songs are about love and peace and justice and caring and healing and empowerment. Those are wonderful things that we all long for. So, it's not surprising that people would look at me and project all of those wonderful things onto me. And of course, they're right, I do feel and believe all of those things, but then there's a lot more to me than that. I think sometimes people are drawn to me, either they get a crush on me and would like a romantic relationship, or they just want to be friends because they want what they project upon me in their life. That's understandable and probably inevitable. Because I already have friends who are wonderful and fill my life, and because most people who approach me to be friends because they've heard my music are probably not going to be able to give me back as much as what they are seeking from me, it's not a very solid basis for a reciprocal and respectful relationship. If they're approaching me as a member of audience and say, "I want to be your friend", I have to be a little skeptical that it's going work, as a fully functioning egalitarian friendship. I've become friends with people who have produced my concerts, but I don't think I've ever really become close friends with a member of an audience. I don't rule it out, it could happen, but you start with so many assumptions about who I am and what I'm like because of my music that it's a funny way to start a relationship. And when people have attempted to become friends or lovers or seek a relationship that doesn't seem to make sense to me, based upon my needs, I just tell them it doesn't seem to make sense to me. I try to treat people with respect and caring but not to the point where I'm going to put myself off balance, to violate my sense of privacy and my boundaries, just because somebody wants a particular outcome because of their needs. I will be clear with people. People ask me to dinner of coffee or what have you and sometimes I'll just say "no, I don't think that really makes sense."
L: About the recent Supreme Court case - the rights of satirists vs. the rights of song writers.
C: I'm not aware of the decision.
F: There is no decision yet, as far as I know, but the case is being heard. It involves a rap group, 2Live Crew, that took Pretty Woman and turned it into Hairy Woman. It's terrible, it's disgusting, it's misogynist - and whoever administers the copyright to Roy Orbison's song sued, saying "this is not even a satire, this is just a ripoff". It's a great case because, what IS 2Live Crew trying to say? Are they making fun of the song, Pretty Woman? Well, they sing quite a bit of it before they get to the changed lyrics, so I gather that the plaintiffs are saying, "you're just ripping off this song". My recollection was that 2Live Crew offered to pay royalties. Which implies that they are not trying to get away with not paying royalties for somebody else's song, but they did want to change it. Why did they want to change it? Were they making fun of the song, or were they making fun of hairy women. If the former their satire is not very clear, if the latter the content is pretty abhorent. But then abhorent content in a First Amendment question. I don't think it should be a copyright question. So I loathe the message of the song, but as a general matter I think that satire should have very, very broad license and I don't think that the original copyright holder should have the ability to suppress it. If you can demonstrate to the satisfaction to a judge or jury that it is not a satire, that it is simply a ripoff, that is, that it has really no message and the only reason is to take advantage of the notoriety of the original song, then you have a claim, but I think you have a claim only for the royalties. I gather what the plantiffs want in this case is to prevent 2Live Crew from being able to use the song. Generally I don't think that's a good idea. I got permission to use the MTA song as a basis for Sergei in the Milky Way.
L: Kingston Trio? Who has permission?
F: It wasn't written by the Kingston Trio. It was written by Bess Hawes and Jacqueline Steiner who assigned their copyright to a publishing company. So I got the publisher's permission. But I had to pay more than simply the royalty covering the music. I wasn't thrilled with that, but I didn't really object to it. But if the copyright holder had denied me permission to use the song, I think that would have been wrong. Under traditional copyright law, they might well have been able to do that. I asked Tom Paxton once if he had changed the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky for his song Yuppies in the Sky in order to avoid copyright problems and he said, "Absolutely". I think that's unfortunate. I think it would be a stronger song if Tom had been able to use the original tune. It would have been funnier. It's funny as it is, but it would have been funnier still. With my song, Walk on the Supply Side, there was no way that I was going to deviate for the original Walk on the Wild Side tune, which I thought was absolutely vital to what I was trying to do. I asked for permission from Lou Reed's management and was denied. Legally, I would have been very vulnerable to a lawsuit. Don't know how it might have turned out, I would have certainly argued First Amendment and maybe I would have won, but maybe I would have lost. But I decided to take that chance, on the theory that the best possible thing that could happen to my career would be to be sued by Lou Reed for using Walk on the Wild Side as a satire of Reaganomics. It would have cast Lou Reed, this anti-establishment icon, as a rich powerful establishment figure trying to suppress this obscure political satirist.
C: David vs. Goliath.
F: Exactly. So fortunately or unfortunately, it never happened, and I was never sued. But I did it with reckless disregard for the legal consequences. I think a law that would said that Lou Reed could stop me from writing and recording Walk on the Supply Side would be a bad law.
L: How do you deal with writer's block? Do you have it?
F: In a good year I might write 5 or 6 songs. This year I think I've written 2, to date. This calendar year I wrote Marine's Lament and A Dream in the Light. I have others in progress, maybe I'll finish them before the end of the year, so maybe I might write 3 this year. That's a slow year, now is that writer's block? No. Because I don't think it's a problem. Writer's block is only a problem if you think "I have to write something". I don't think I have to write anything. Because I have a new album out, a lot of those songs are new to people because they've never heard them before. And if I wrote a bunch of songs and started singing them this year, I'd just have a lot of frustrated people saying, "Well, when is that song going to be recorded?" I'd have to say, "I don't know, maybe a couple of years from now." So there is very little incentive to sing a lot of unrecorded material.
L: How many did you write last year? It seems like there have been a lot.
F: People say I'm prolific, but I'm sure I didn't write more than a half dozen songs last year. Probably fewer than that. Let's see... Guinevere and the Fire I wrote last year, The Other Side of the Wood I wrote last year, Hot Frogs on the Loose I wrote in December of '91, but Sergei I wrote last year, Smile When You're Ready - 91, Simple Living - 90, Rodney King's Blessing - 92, The Hug Song, of course is old, Friends First - 92, Too Many People - 92, If I Were Taken Now - 91, Marine's Lament - 93. Everything Possible is old. So how many is that?
L & C: 6, half dozen
F: So that was a good year. As I said, a good year - 5 or 6. Slow year - 2 or 3. So that's why I come out with an album every 2 or 3 years. People think of me as prolific. I don't know why. I don't think that's particularily prolific output, but, is that writer's block? It is only writer's block if it's a problem. So had I not written 6 songs last year, then 2 songs this year would have been a problem. But usually what happens is when I choose to write a song about something, I can just focus on it and write it. It doesn't always happen. I've written some terrible songs that I had hoped would be good songs, and it didn't work. But, I usually have a number of ideas on deck that I can turn to. I've got a half dozen ideas for songs right now, that when my schedule becomes a little lighter and I think "By golly, I think it's time to write a song", then I can sit down and do it.
L: Another definition for writer's block might be if you had an idea that you wanted to write, but couldn't come up with the right words for it.
F: That happens all the time. But to me writer's block is when you can't write. Generally I'm capable of writing something, the only question is, "Is it good?" or not. My image of writer's block is either they sit there and stare at a blank page or they write something, look at it and say "This is terrible" and throw it out. I generally don't have that problem. If I write something it is usually going to be alright, the question is, "is it strong enough to crack the line-up of my songs?" or "is it strong enough to put on an album?" That's basically my criteria. Typically what happens is I'll go maybe 6 months without writing a song, and then I'll write a song. Big deal. To me that's not writer's block. Now if I had a record company breathing down my neck, saying, "we want a new album from you every 12 months" - I guess that would be writer's block and then I'd have to come up with something, but I don't know if that something would be any good.
C: Once you've performed a song, do you ever rework it significantly?
F: It's rare, because before I perform a song in public, I play it for a lot of people. Usually at least a half dozen different people and I try to do it one-on-one because I don't want people's opinion influencing somebody else. If I played it for a half dozen people at once and 4 of them liked it but 2 didn't, maybe the 2 that didn't wouldn't say anything. Or maybe even if they were assertive they would already have felt "oh well, I guess .. aw .. those other people are right" I want each person to hear it fresh and give me their reaction. A song of mine is heavily worked over, heavily edited before it is performed in public. After that it is still possible to change it. It hasn't happened lately. It did happen in the Long Underwear Song on my first album. Originally I sang "the Lord in all his wisdom" because that's the way the phrase goes, and someone said "how about 'the Lord in all her wisdom'?" And I thought, "That's great" because it makes a statement about sexism but the song isn't about sexism, it's about long underwear, it's about energy conservation. I liked the idea of sneaking in that concept in a song where it was not the main thrust of the song, so I made that change and I think it made the song better. I also changed the last chorus to Annie from the original version. In the original version basically said "Don't you worry about Annie, she HAS a partner, she IS in a relationship" And a couple people complained, saying, "you don't have to be in a relationship to be ok. What if she's single? Would she not be ok if she were single?" And I thought that was a pretty good point. There's an example, was I being Politically Correct because I was respecting the needs and concerns of single people and not going along with couple-ism? What do you mean Politically Correct? I made a judgement that leaving it the way it was was going to hurt the feelings of single people and contribute to what is in fact a very pro-couples culture. So I thought, "Hey, given the chance to undo some of that damage, of the culture that says "you must be in a couple or else you are pathetic and unsuccessful" -- absolutely, let me take that opportunity to work against the grain", so that's what I do.
L: How do you get your material for your true life songs?
C: That question came from a friend of mine that wondered if organizations
gave you ideas or individuals or what.
C: That question came from a friend of mine that wondered if organizations gave you ideas or individuals or what.
F: Songs come to me through a lot of different channels. Sometimes I just happen upon a story. That happened with Scott and Jamie. I was reading the newspapers while it was happening, then I interviewed the two men, the gay parents, because one of them was a friend of a friend of mine. So there is a story that initially I encountered it through the news media but then I personalized it by talking with the individuals to whom it happened. Denmark 1943 - I had been wanting to write a song for Jewish Liberation against anti-Semitism for some time. Then I saw a flyer put out by the Gay community in Boston, declaring what they called the "Denmark Campaign" and urging people in Boston on a given date to wear pink triangles in solidarity with the Gay community. "Just as", said the flyer, "King Christian of Denmark wore the yellow star in solidarity with Jews in Nazi occupied Denmark." And I read that and I thought, "Damn, what a GREAT story" then I tracked it down in the library and the best authorities I could find said, "there is this story about King Christian wearing the yellow star but actually it never happened." What did happen was that virtually the entire gentile population of Denmark mobilized to help the Jews, which I thought was at least as good a story, it just takes a little longer to tell. So I did a lot of library research on that song.
C: Is that where you found the individual stories in that song?
F: Yes, no personal interviews at all. On the other hand, At the Elbe came from the newspaper clipping initially, and then when I researched it, I ended up talking to some of these veterans on the phone about what had happened 45 years before. Called them in their homes, in small towns in the South. Sometimes people who are activists in a given field will suggest to me or request that I write a song. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. It depends if I can figure out how to write the song, come up with an angle that works. I labored long and hard to write a song about Sandino - Augusto Sandino of Nicaragua - an historical song about him. Wrote the song. It was lousy, I never performed it.
C: Everything Possible was as a request wasn't it? That worked very well.
F: Yes. Although when I wrote it I had no idea whether it was a good song or not. There is a fine line between simplicity and cliche and sentimentality and I wasn't sure where that song fell. And for years it was just barely part of my A repertoire. I thought it was good, but I didn't think it was great. And then once the Flirtations started covering it, and it became broadly embraced by the Gay community, it then became one of my big hits. But that was really because of the Flirtations initially.
About writing other people's stories, I heard Tillie Olson speak in Cambridge years ago. She's the author of Silences and Yonnondio. She's a working class feminist author and she said, "No, it's fine to tell other people's stories because other people often don't have the ability or the power or the access to skills or access to the media to tell their own story. And what's important is to tell those stories with respect and authenticity." So that's what I try to do. Obviously I have not lived the lives of many of my songs, but I try to listen, I try to do the research so the song works and rings true not only to people outside of those communities but within those communities. And if they don't ring true to the people about whom they are written, I usually find out. But I have been fortunate in being able to write songs that do seem to convey the experience of other people. And by and large, I get tremendous appreciation and gratitude from people within those communities for telling their story. Especially as someone outside of those communities. For instance, I've been told by lesbians just how deeply moved they are to hear a straight man sing Annie. It can be particularly affirming to hear somebody outside of your experience who seems to "get" what your experience is about. Obviously it has be done respectfully, or else you're just ripping somebody off. But Annie is a good example. I specifically wrote Annie to be a song that people who have never been to a Woman's Music Festival, who have never been to a Holly Near concert, would be able to hear and to learn from. I didn't write it principally as a song to affirm lesbians, although that is a secondary purpose of that song. The primary purpose was to try to shift the homophobia of the general audiences and the folk audiences that I sing to.
L: How do you define success?
F: This is pretty good; this is from Ralph Waldo Emerson. "What is Success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo Emerson. I don't where that's from. It's just printed up by a printing company.
C: I've seen that in people's signatures on the net.
F: The only one I don't really go for is "the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends". I don't think that success is necessarily earning the appreciation from any critics. In my case, fortunately I have, but I'm not sure that you have to achieve something in the public eye to have succeeded. Of course "honest critics" doesn't necessarily mean public. I don't know, maybe I'm just so uncomfortable with criticism in general that I don't like that line so much. "Betrayal of false friends" sounds a little overwrought to me. I've had some painful experiences with friends, but I would never say that I had been "betrayed by a false friend". I'd say "people who were having a hard time did not treat me as well as they might have." But that doesn't mean that they were false, just that they were having a hard time. But I like the rest of it very much. When in doubt, quote Ralph!
L: When are you going to write a song about electronic pen pals? (with tongue firmly in cheek)
F: Don't... hold... your... breath. Actually I did write a song about computer romance. On-line Romance.
C: I'm sure I never heard it.
F: No, it wasn't good enough. It didn't make the cut. It was very silly, it made a lot of the usual puns. It was kind of like Bob Franke's song On the Mainframe, Baby. There was a lot of sexual innuendo, and stuff like that. I thought it was superficial and didn't move the world forward in any significant or insignificant degree, so I dropped it.
L: Guinevere has a less hopeful ending than a lot of your songs. Was it just the way the story came? or was it deliberate?
F: It was the way the story came. Generally I try to choose stories which are empowering, but sometimes... generally they turn out well, but sometimes they don't. Obviously I chose Denmark 1943, that story, rather than the story of Poland during the Holocaust, because I thought it important to share that story. People already know that the Holocaust did not end well for most Jews in Europe. Although actually I don't even know what percentage of Jews was killed. But certainly we all know that a lot of Jews were killed and we are impressed with the horror and the terror of what happened. So I thought, "Let's try and find the hope, the love, the courage in the Holocaust", and that's why I choose that song. But other stories don't end well. Scott and Jamie does not end well, and neither does Guinevere and the Fire. Now with Scott and Jamie, it's kind of a slender reed for hope: "Love is love .. and the heart holds a place for love's return". That's about as much of a happy ending as you get there. But basically, no, it's a tragedy. And that's what the song is about. It seems to me that what redeems tragedy is the nobility of the characters, the wealth, the goodness of the characters. So even though Scott and Jamie did not end well, you have a strong sense of the goodness of those two parents and of the goodness of the two boys. And that's what you're left with. You are left not only with the anguish and anger of that unhappy ending but also with a sense of the goodness of the people involved. Now with Guinevere, I'm certain you have a sense of the child's goodness. I wept when I wrote that song and whenever I *think* about the song. This happens with a number of my songs, when I *think* about what I'm singing, I start to lose it, I start to cry, so I can't really think about it, I can't focus on the meaning of what I'm singing and sing the song at the same time. I have to distance myself from it, I have to back off from it. Not too long ago, I was singing Guinevere and the Fire, and it was a small crowd and the audience was fairly well lit, (that's because there was no stage lighting :->) I was looking at a woman in the second row, (middle-aged woman) and got to the last verse where the old aboriginal woman was saying "we could have helped" and I saw this woman gasp as she suddenly "got" the song - that not only could Gwen have run *past* the aboriginal camp, but she could have run *to* the aboriginal camp, and the irony of that and how her own mother had figuratively dug her own grave by the racist stories that she told. I saw this woman gasp and tears fill her eyes and I almost lost it right there because I had been just singing the song, doing my job, playing the chords, singing the words, knowing that the song has impact, but not really paying attention to it. And then all of a sudden it was brought home to me, "Oh my God, this is a really moving story. This is a tragedy - a human tragedy." And I started to tear up and I just had to look away from her and just ignore her and just think, "what's the rest of the song? What are the rest of the words? I've got to finish the song." But I think the reason Guinevere works despite the unhappy ending is that you do have the humanity of the child. To me, the child is completely a victim of her culture, of her environment. You have the mother, who herself is a very sympathetic figure. She married young, she had all these kids, her husband is presumably a drunk. She's just trying to make a go of it on this isolated farm and, oh yeah, by the way, she's kind of a racist. Most white folks were in her society. So to me there are no bad guys in that song. The bad guy IS racism. And to me when you can have a story without bad guys and you can really notice that there aren't any bad people, there are only bad ideas and bad prejudices, that's a very uplifting concept. One thing I regret about Denmark 1943, although I don't think there is any way around it, for dramatic purposes, clearly I make the Nazis bad guys. Were the Nazis bad guys? Well, of course. They did terrible things. Were they inhuman demons, not like any of us (thank heavens)? Well, no, don't be ridiculous, of course they were human being and there were very "good" reasons for what they did. That is, there were reasons. You can't cover everything in every song. The song is 6 minutes 45 seconds as it is and within that time, yeah, basically the Nazis are bad guys, they are the enemy. I wish I could have somehow talked about how they got that way. But I didn't, so that's the way it goes. With Gwenevere, there aren't any enemies in that song. I think that the moment of communication, the moment of truth between the old woman and Gwen really makes that song, in that you understand that Gwen has learned a lesson, has learned something from this terrible tragedy, and so have we.
L: What was your most embarrassing/memorable moment on stage?
F: I haven't had a lot of terrible, embarrassing moments. Usually when something bizarre happens, I'm able to make a joke of it, and people who are already embarrassed will respond positively because I'm sort of rescuing the awkward moment. Probably the most embarrassing thing for me was when I was doing a split bill with Cheryl Wheeler, Bill Morrisey and I think there was a third but I can't remember who it was. Dick Pleasants was moderating. The Ride Far benefit for AIDS research. That's pretty fast company. And it was a real honor for me to be there. It was not that big of a crowd (fortunately) because it came at the end of the summer and I hadn't been playing a lot and I wasn't in very good practice but I thought, "Well, I could play Heart of the Appaloosa and Cranes over Hiroshima in my sleep" but I actually forgot lyrics on both of those songs - one after the other. So I felt pretty embarrassed. That was also a time when I was burning out. I was burning out on all the travel I was doing, I was frustrated at my lack of greater commercial success (it was either 88 or 89). I've come to terms with those things since. But at that time I was not in a very good place. It was not surprising that I messed up, because I wasn't really engaged in what I was doing.
Now, most memorable. I've shared the stage with some really wonderful performers and all of those have been memorable. Singing with Pete Seeger or John McCutcheon, recording with Cris Williamson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, - there have just been some very magical musical moments that have meant a lot to me. Certainly I felt very supported and loved at the live album recording - that was very powerful for me. But it is not like there is just one that leaps out.
C: In your active, involved life, what are you doing now outside of folk singing?
F: I've applied to be a Big Brother in the Big Brother/Big Sister Association, which I'm very excited about. I am attempting to organize a car co-op - get some people to share one car because although I do NOT want to go back to owning a car if I can possibly avoid it, still it's been very expensive to do without a car given the amount of intercity travel that I do, and I would like to cut that expense by having occasional access to a car. I'm also proud of being car-free as a philosophical matter so as a matter of pride, I don't want to go back to owning a car, whereas starting a car co-op is also something that is sort of progressive, new, cutting edge and philosophically defensible. I'm also trying to organize co-housing in Cambridge.
C: What's that?
F: Co-housing is a form of housing where people each have their own dwelling unit, which would include bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining area, what have you, perhaps somewhat down-sized, but then would then share with others a central kitchen and dining hall, so that it would combine the privacy of a single family dwelling with the community and co-operation of a co-operative house.
I meditate every day. I often do walking meditation at Fresh Pond. I've been working the program in a book called "Your Money or Your Life" by George Mennenberger and Vicki Robin, [ed. note - seems to be by Joe Dominguez and Robin] which is about developing a more rational relationship to money and being more frugal. I'm having a good time with that. I try to exercise every day. I'm pretty good about that. Those are some of the things I do in my spare time.