After returning to the music scene after a several-year hiatus and headlining her first fall tour, Plumb joined Winter Jam 2014 where we caught up with the singer to talk to her about her new album, Need You Now, parenthood, songwriting, and Audrey Hepburn...
This interview took place on: 1/16/14.
Yeah. Well, the delay in the touring side of Plumb partly was intentional and partly was not intentional at all; it was just life. I have three small kids really close in age. And so, Solomon was born, [I] still toured, Oliver was born, reduced it by 60% -- it was just not really possible to take a lot of touring because I was still learning how to be a mom and taking them on the road was a whole 'nother monster -- so then by the time my daughter was born, I had three and they're all about 18 months apart, and so it was just kind of a natural response to my life to do what made sense for me and my family, so I didn't actually pursue a lot of touring at that time. So it wasn't as much a conscious decision to "I'm not touring, tell everybody 'no'," it was just my team around me. It was kind of an understood "I am knee-deep in motherhood, we have a lullaby record that's out," and so, in between being a mother and potty training and nursing... I mean literally the day my daughter was born, I had three [kids] in diapers--my oldest was not yet potty trained yet. He was 3, and of course my 18-month-old was totally in diapers, and then I had a newborn. Between potty training and nursing and...
Plumb: It was a little crazy. So what free time I would have, creatively, would be spent songwriting or doing a one-off [live show] here and there. That would be really rewarding and fun, but at the same time, I couldn't resurface -- not in a negative way, it was just that that was my major priority right there. It was just being a mom. And I was like, "Y'know what? I'm committed to still being able to do this, God willing, if He'll have me," so to speak. *laughs*
Plumb: Oh yeah! I would go to see someone live, like just on a date night with my husband, and I would itch. Like, "Oh, that would be fun to go do." But the responsibility that I had kind of sitting over here to the right kind of made it seem impossible to do it. And I know for some artists, they make that happen through nannies and all that kind of stuff, but for me, for lots of reasons, that's just not me. I'm just not a nanny mom. I mean, I've had baby sitters and assistants and helpers and things like that kind of make ends meet and connect, but I really, consciously, did not want to go actively tour and come home and find out my son took his first steps and I wasn't there. That's just not who I am. And so I felt like if it's meant to be, it'll be there -- when I can breathe. So it was not so conscious as it was just a response to the circumstances of that.
And then, my daughter was potty trained, and I was finishing writing for this record -- and we actually took more time to write for this record that's out right now than any record I've ever made. And we had more songs to choose from than any record I've ever made, so I feel like that's part of the reason I am comfortable saying this is the best record I've ever made, because we were way more intentional, took a lot more time to make sure everything was right. We didn't just write twelve songs that we loved, we wrote dozens of songs and said, "these are twelve great songs." And there's a lot of diversity there because we'd come out of a session and just love this quirky song, but then felt like it needed to have a brother or a sister on the record. It didn't need to all be rock, it didn't need to all be pop, it didn't need to all be ballad or all dance. I think it's indicative of me, too, because there are a lot of different layers to me that I'm not just silly and I'm not just dark and I'm not just a wife and I'm not just a mom.
And so, to have a record that kind of touches on all of the -- cuz, I mean, "I Don't Deserve You," the current single, was inspired by being a mother and feeling like I just can't get it together sometimes, and I didn't really deserve to be this mom that I get to be, but yet, these children love me regardless of all my faults, and how that immediately parallels God's love to us - of just "I love you, whether you deserve it or not, too." So there's motherly element, and then there are songs like "Chocolate and Ice Cream" that are totally about me and my husband, and then there are songs that--I just love rock n' roll. And so to have a song here or there that's just rock! And it's like when people say, "Tell us what's the depth of this song," I mean there is a story--cuz I'm a storyteller--but at the end of the day, like "Cage" is just a track on the record where the track was there before the lyrics were. The energy of that was there first.
And so, to answer the latter part of your question, the record was finished and we were talking about a 2012 release date, and this was the end of 2011.
Plumb: We put out "Drifting" first, yeah, before the album was finished. I'm comfortable saying the label got a little over zealous about the fact that Dan Haseltine from Jars of Clay is somebody that I had collaborated with on the very first Plumb record, so he is a great friend, and I have a lot of respect for him and I love the song, and meant every word of it and was very proud of it, and [the label] wanted to just, out of the box, run to radio with that to kind of remind radio "She's back, she's out, she's collaborating with her longtime friend (and who she even kind of started in this business with)," and all of that was true, but I think they had really high hopes of the fact that Dan was on it and he was a co-writer in it and I think that Jars of Clay is just in a different place and so radio didn't respond the way that the label hoped the way they'd respond to the fact that Dan was a part of the song. And there's interviews that I did about the song, of what inspired the song, that turned a lot of people off as well, because it was--and it just depends on who you talk to--but I have a friend who is gay and he inspired the song, about his life feeling like the outsider. And [I was] wanting whoever that audience is, whether it's the color of your skin or your sexual orientation or your socioeconomic status, whatever that is, whatever makes you feel a little left out, that you're not alone; there's a sea of people that feel just like you, and that, ultimately, you're never alone, and that the sun will come out, even though you feel like you're about to drown. Just hang in there. The storm will end. I had this idea--we didn't do this for the video, but I had this idea for the video to have individual people to have a t-shirt on that has the reason they were left out, maybe it just says "The color of my skin" or maybe it says they're gay -- whatever it is. And them feeling truly like they are the only person like that, and they're in the ocean and they come over this wave and there's literally a mass--it'd probably have to be computer generated--number of people who have the same shirt on. And it's like--you're not by yourself here. And so, me being open about its inception, turns some people off, and to each his own.
But to be honest, it's kind of a blessing that it didn't necessarily blow up because, months later, when the record was finished, just a couple months after that, my husband and I separated and almost divorced. And so, in that six-month separation, it was really brutal. It was at a place where this record might not even come out and I may not even be signed anymore. So it was kinda good that it didn't explode cuz you don't have thousands of people asking you to tour and do interviews, etc. I was kind of able to lay low a little bit. And then we eventually reconciled and God gave this record a whole new story. So I feel like it would have been a great record without this story, but I feel like it's a fantastic, super excellent record now, because there's more to it than just -- like I'm a listener of my own record! I wrote it as an artist and a writer, but now I'm a listener of it. I'm a fan of it, I think, just like anyone else could be because there's songs on it that I wrote as the writer that mean one thing, but they mean something totally different to me now. Just like a listener will listen to the radio and go "Oh, this must be about 'blah blah blah'"
Plumb: Right! And it's not. It was actually inspired by my 7-year-old son who is, in the most endearing way, kind of Dennis The Menace. There's times where he totally brings me to my knees with like, "God, help me! What do I do with this creative, rambunctious, fun little guy," but at the same time he's just-- like I have to really think about it sometimes: God made him and let me be his mom. Of all the women, he let me be his mom. And then it's like "Wait a minute... of all the mistakes I've made, he still loves me." When you write about something really pure like that, it's really interesting how it ends up paralleling. The metaphor can mean whatever to anybody.
So yeah, I listen to "Need You Now," the single that I wrote about [my] anxiety attacks, and now all I hear is myself crying out on the verge of divorce saying, "I need You right now!" And so I felt like, "Man, God could really use this in a totally different way than I would ever have thought." Cuz it became a song that was kind of a confession and now it's a prayer that you scream at the top of your lungs, contrary to how we're told prayer should be like this quiet...
Plumb: That's it. Interesting. Yeah!
Plumb: Both. He kinda came to me and joined forces on the "Don't Deserve You" remix. And so, now I am sending him stuff and he is sending me stuff. So that day on Instagram, he'd actually sent me something and I wrote to it and recorded it. His manager's words were "fantastic;" that's what he said the other day.
Plumb: Mmhmm. He actually sent me two things of his and then I'm sending him stuff. He's an incredible gentleman. He's a legend, and I'm really honored to be associated with him. Because when you talk about that format and that genre, there's an incredible amount of respect for him and sort of like this stamp of approval on me from him. So, even if it's not him I'm working with, for someone to say "Man, Paul Van Dyck really loves her, so she must have something to offer."
Plumb: No. I don't think so, no. But if another record isn't out super fast, because this record is doing so good, I really count on my loyal Plumb fans to be understanding of that. Like, there's not a new record out because [Need You Now] is doing so great. And because I'm also writing a book. I'm in the middle of writing a book that's coming out this fall.
Plumb: It's about a lot of things. I think I would call it, at this point, a memoir. It would fall under that category. I've had so many interesting experiences--from the way I got signed to the more recent story about my marriage to some of the really amazing things that have happened with my kids to just... I don't know. Without sounding narcissistic, there's some really interesting things about my life. So when I'll do an interview and people are like, "You should write a book about that," it's almost like [this is so I] have something to offer somebody. I can't spend an hour at the merch table talking to them, but I can say "Y'know, you should read chapter 8 of this book." So that's kind of what it's about. The title is unconfirmed right now...
Plumb: Unconfirmed? *laughter* Who knows what it'll be. I don't know yet. But I'm actually co-writing it with one of my favorite authors because I feel like if it was solely left up to me--if you could interview my manager who is sitting to my right--it would never get done. So the fact that she agreed to do it...
Plumb: Her name is Susanna Foth Aughtmon, and one of her books that she wrote that I'm a super fan of is All I Need Is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans. She's just really witty and down to earth and she writes in a way that clearly connects with the majority being women, but there have been husband after husband after husband who read her book and say "I think husbands should read her and then give the book to your wife." I feel like she gets me. When I read her book, I was laughing out loud at things that she was saying. I was like, "I would totally do that. I would totally have said that." And so when it came time to think about who you're going to work with, I didn't just want somebody who's like a big name, or somebody that's "oh, so and so's big publisher." I was like, "No, I want somebody who gets me because I think that that's going to be more authentic and real." So it's Sue. And she's great. But yeah, check her out. Her book is different. It's like these chapters and then there's questions to ask yourself or you could even use them in a small group. So my book will not be that way. But she writes from the perspective of how she grew up as a pastor's daughter and she's a pastor's wife, and so she's really good about that, whereas mine will not be that way at all. There's not any Q&A at the end of my chapters. Hopefully you're laughing at the end of a chapter or you're crying or you're praying for me. One of those three. *laughs* Could be like "That poor girl! Oh my gosh." We might be able to incorporate the fall into the book. Did you hear about a fall that I took Friday?
Plumb: I completely fell off the catwalk. The second it happened I was like "I have to own this."
Plumb: Yeah. I guess I am. I guess when you think about it, I could have hurt myself really bad.
Plumb: Oh man! The catwalk is in a "T" shape and I just stepped back into that little corner where there's no... catwalk. But I naturally walk backwards because, if you'll notice, the camera is on you and when you turn around, up on the screens they're seeing your back. And I don't want to complain about the camera crew, but it's like if the camera automatically switched to another camera when you turn around so they're still seeing your face on the screen, I wouldn't walk backwards.
Plumb: I am a massive Audrey Hepburn fan.
Plumb: Oh yeah, for sure. Let's see, my favorite... Breakfast at Tiffany's is... I feel like that's kind of an obvious [pick] but it's true. Like, I could watch that movie about every week. But I will say, unlike--Audrey's not in this movie--I could watch The Sound of Music every day. Every day. But I love old movies. Big time.
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