News24

kd lang hits Watershed moment

2008-02-06 16:39

New York - She may write her name in lower case, but kd lang is unpretentious when it comes to her music.

"It's just my job and the thing I've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into," the four-time Grammy award-winner said of her career which has ranged from country girl to cabaret crooner to contemporary singer-songwriter.

"It's been my aspiration and my focus since I was very young and I don't consider it to be any great accomplishment" the Canadian singer, who is releasing a new album, added.

Watershed, is her first new material since 2000's Invincible Summer and her first studio work since 2004's Canadian songbook, Hymns of the 49th Parallel on which she interpreted Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and other musicians from her homeland

"This is pure unadulterated kd lang. A big dose of me," she said lightly in an interview in a Manhattan hotel.

But when asked about the title of her first self-produced album she turned more serious.

Watershed? To me it's a change in direction. It's the visual metaphor of the watershed and how it correlates to the lyrics.

It's about taking stock of one's emotional and moral makeup and one's relationship to self, to others, to music and seeing how fluid that relationship is and seeing obstacles as things to move past rather than to stop you."

Lang has seen her share of obstacles since being born Kathryn Dawn Lang on November 2 1961 in the Canadian prairie city of Edmonton, Alberta.

Coming out as a lesbian

Not the least was coming out as a lesbian in a very traditional, family values-oriented genre of country music.

She won the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her 1989 album, Absolute Torch and Twang and even dressed as a cowgirl to perform at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

Musically she has moved beyond country, even though she still has a soft spot for the music.

"It was a great step and I loved being a part of it and country music will always be a part of who I am," she said. "But I never want to be anything other than a vocalist. I don't want to be attached to any genre."

As a result, she has become almost impossible to define - something which infuriates the record companies.

"I've found myself in a lot of different bins, even in the same store. I've been in country, pop and rock and vocalist all in one store," she said.

"Especially in this day and age of focus groups and demographics and target audiences. I can't tell you how many times I've heard in my lifetime: 'It's a great record, but we just don't know what to do with it.'"

But her outsider status is something she has gotten used to and feels quite comfortable with.

'Issue-orientated'

"I am very issue-oriented, but my issues stem from my natural lifestyle choices. So I've become a poster girl for gay rights, for vegetarianism and so forth."

With German, Scottish, English, Irish, Russian Jew, Icelandic and Sioux Indian ancestry, she relishes being Canadian, even though she has lived in Los Angeles for 16 years.

"I'm kind of a mutt - a real Canadian," she laughed. "I think the long cold winters that clearly define the four seasons tend to make Canadians introspective.

I also think the space and the proximity to nature has an influence on the way people contemplate things."

Lang's parents insisted all four children learn classical music and play the piano. She was also influenced by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Peggy Lee, Patsy Kline, Kate Bush, Rickie Lee Jones, and of course, Joni Mitchell.

Seeing The Sound of Music also impressed her. "My first crush was Julie Andrews. Still to this day I get weak in the knees when I see Julie Andrews."