photography / SHERVIN LAINEZ
story / LOGAN BRENDT
When asked about all of the shows she’s playing in support of her sixth album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, jet-lagged songstress Regina Spektor is astounded by the time that came and went. “It was so beautiful and emotional. It sort of feels like it was a crazy dream and I can’t believe that it actually happened,” she says, quick to add with a laugh, “except it happened, because I have, like, five suitcases’ worth of laundry.”
You can’t help but smile when you hear Regina Spektor speak. She’s like a fairy tale princess with moxie and it sort of makes you wonder if cartoon bluebirds ever fly to her, landing on her piano while she sings. But she’s also not afraid to speak her mind (sweetly, of course). When asked why she named her newest album what she did, Spektor jokes, “I’ve decided my next record is going to be called, Please Don’t Ask Me Why I Named This Record.” Always preferring room for interpretation in her music, she continues, “It’s the same reason why I prefer not to talk about lyrics. I love to not limit them; I love that it’s different to different people.”
Like her other albums, this album is an accumulation of songs Spektor has written throughout the years. “I write as I live my life,” she says. “When it’s time to make a record, sometimes I’ll have a song in mind and think, ‘This song has been waiting for six years and I really want to try and record it.’” Regardless of when the songs were written, Spektor, who describes her relationship with the piano as “intertwined” and “loving,” always charms with her musical storytelling. Through her vocal inflections and piano accompaniment, she proficiently plays with truth and wit.
Long before she ever moved from her native Russia at just nine years old with her family to the United States, music had always been Spektor’s first love. “I really wanted to get good at the piano; I imagined playing pieces that were too hard for me,” she says about her musical beginnings. However, Spektor certainly didn’t imagine coming into the fame and success that she has now. Once she started writing songs in her teen years, she did it without compromise. “I think that if you do things without compromise, you sort of mentally prepare yourself for the consequences of that. So in that way, [my success] has really exceeded anything by far of what I prepared myself for,” she says.
While Spektor enjoys other mediums of expression, like documentary films, oil painting, and literature (she took painting and writing classes outside the music conservatory she went to when she was younger), she’s still not apt to betray music, even in thought. Despite my prompting, she finds it difficult to fantasize about what she would do besides music if she ever had to, saying that no matter what, she would “still sing all day.” After a little while, she twinkles, “Could you read for a career?” After I suggest that, for example, she could read and edit novels, she playfully jokes, “I would be such a bitch editor. I’d be rolling up my sleeves with glee, with my red pen just ready to change everything.” Letting her know that I feel relieved that she’s not my editor, she laughs even more sweetly and loudly than before— a laugh so full of energy that it lights up the room.
Lively with a great sense of humor, Spektor also knows how to translate her sadness into the songs that she writes, but doesn’t necessarily write the songs about any particular events in her life. She says, “You just process the world and the things that happen in your life and then you write a song; sometimes it’s not a direct correlation. Sometimes at my saddest I’ve written a really happy song and vice versa.” Insightfully, she comments, “We’re not these linear machines—the same way that time in the universe is not this linear thing. We’re these complicated eco systems ,processing things at all times.”
Since Spektor’s fans have used her music to lean on during periods of hardship and loneliness, she reflects on the love and gratitude that she has received from them in return, saying, “Very often it’s wordless. The atmosphere at a concert makes me feel such an outpouring of energy that I don’t even know where to put it. It makes me cry. It’s really beautiful.” However, sometimes it can be the words that are most memorable. For instance, when Spektor played a show in Moscow this past July, she received a card from a young girl with the words, “I will love you always”. Spektor remembers, “She said the songs were friends for her and had never failed her throughout all kinds of things in her life.” Feeling honored to know that her songs have been a use to others, she adds, “For me, that’s the kindest thing a fan could ever tell me.”
One of the other forms of gratitude Spektor also received from her fans while in Russia was an abundance of flowers. “It’s very traditional in Russian culture to bring bouquets of flowers to concerts, operas, and ballets. I grew up with that,”she says, referring to the over thirty bouquets that she was presented with. “I couldn’t believe that I was on the receiving end of it.” Clearly touched by the memory, she then gracefully exclaims, “I felt like I was a prima ballerina on opening night at the Met!”
More of Regina in the #6 Fantasy Issue out NOW.