These days, anti-folk ingenue Regina Spektor has a lot to be excited about. She’s about to release her sixth album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats. She’s also touring with an obscure little outfit called Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Not bad for a girl who was self-releasing her own albums just a decade ago.
“Tom Petty was the first person to really hear the record,” Spektor says. “He heard the record before it was even mixed.”
Spektor admits she was completely intimidated by the prospect of having an icon give her unfinished work a listen, even if that icon happens to be someone with with whom she shares a paternalistic relationship. Petty was encouraging and supportive, which gave her an added confidence when it came to releasing Cheap Seats. Given her formidable vocal range, and a track record of making dynamic albums that are mature well beyond her years, it doesn’t seem as though she would feel insecure about the prospect of unveiling new songs. She does.
“I’m scared to show everybody my work.” Spektor says, admitting to a profound vulnerability and overprotectiveness of her art. That comes at odds with her tough, scrappy city kid view of herself. In Spektor’s case, that city is New York via Moscow. At the same time, the spritely redhead is smart enough to realize when she should lighten up.
“I mean, I’m not going to war,” she says. “I’m just bringing music to people.”
Spektor is the first to admit that Cheap Seats’ producer Mike Elizondo is the laidback yin to her tightly wound yang. Elizondo is best known for working with the likes of Dr. Dre and Eminem, as well as singer/songwriters like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morrissette. He also worked on Spektor’s 2009 album Far.
“He’s a complete virtuoso,” gushes Spektor, “and he has this California way of mind that is a holy grail to all neurotic people. I’m always hoping it would rub off on me.” Their opposing natures really seem to work, and C heap Seat s sounds big and theatrical without being overproduced. Even some hip-hop beats manage to work their way into the landscape.
As if to demonstrate her finely cultivated East Coast neurosis, Spektor complains of her experience trying to watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a hotel room while on tour. “There was this strip at the bottom of the screen that just gives you trivia! It was like this film was an information delivery system instead of a work of art,” she says, adding, “It’s really bad for our brains.”
Hopefully, no one will tell her that her video “Fidelity” is given the “information delivery system” treatment on VH1’s reboot of Pop Up Video.
Regina Spektor performs Sat., May 12, 8pm. $39.50-$49.50. With Only Son. Tower Theater, 19 S. 69th St., Upper Darby. 610.352.2887. livenation.com
PW's Music Issue 2014