Quotes

I didn’t plan a music career. People around me knew what was going to happen; I didn’t have a clue.

I left the country the first time Reagan was elected, but nobody knew I had been here in the first place. So that was part of my thinking behind taking this opportunity, the access, the debut, the whole debutante aspect of working for a major label.

They were working overtime to tell journalists that I was no longer on the label. Meanwhile, I’d been fighting tooth and nail to try to get off the label.

Yo! It’s just three chords I’m playin’.

People used to say I had the starving artist look, but it was real. Not because I was anorexic or anything, but just because I didn’t have money for food. I did get ill but I had more of a mental illness than a physical illness.

I told the executives at Mercury, ‘Hey, you’re dealing with an artist who can do gospel in very surprising ways.’ They asked me, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to make an acoustic album?’

I was more daunted by the change of going from being an activist squatter to going to an independent label. That was the real change for me.

Sitting around playing music with people wasn’t as demanding as sitting around a dinner table trying to make conversation.

The main revolution I’d like to start is just getting people to play their own music.

I’ve been through some dark times but I’ve experienced joy too. Now that joy can’t be suppressed.

The two things that are unique in the American character – other than that they killed a lot of Indians – are irony and iconoclasm.

Folk has become narrowcasted as I think most music is today. It’s so entirely unnecessary. Let’s blur all the distinctions if possible; it’s more fun that way.

At one time I was a nihilistic punk with a mohican and a ring in my nose. I think in the course of time I’ll find a middle ground, but I also carry that sense of responsibility. I’m in a position to defeat stereotypes.

Once you’re categorized, you can be dismissed.

My music has a lot of humor but I keep getting compared to humorless women.

If I could actually survive in a foreign country with no money, taking care of myself, I couldn’t be crazy.

I knew I was gonna go to college because nobody in my family had, not on my mother’s side.

Writing and singing does give me some kind of release from the demons of my past, it is a therapy of sorts, but to be honest, my marriage played a more important role in the acceptance of myself than performance has ever done.

I’m one of the few that comes from this vantage point: I never tried to get a record deal.

I’ll do an earth day benefit but I don’t intend to become a spokesperson for the rainforests.

I’m too shy, really to be able to hang out with my heroes for too long.

In New York , I hung out at CBGB’s. I’d go and see these hardcore matinees every Sunday and I’d think, ‘Yeah, this is like a fiddle festival.’

Feminism for me is about empowering women to take control of their own lives. It’s not supposed to create a closed community where like-minded people agree on all issues.

I don’t feel alienated – I’m interested in seeing how things connect.

What I’d like is to have an integrated life again.

I can’t tell you where I’m going. . . but I can tell you where I come from.

I would emphasize the consistency, rather than the differences.

The ability to live with contradiction is in some ways a sign of maturity.

Humans are the only animals that shit in their own nest.

As soon as I stopped sleeping around to survive, that’s when things got really drastic. That dividing line is real clear in my mind.

Yeah, I am a hick. I am naive, and I am sincere and it’s wonderfully unfashionable.

There’s no air that smells sweeter or more mysterious than East Texas air.

I’ve achieved the impossible, you know? When David stood up to Goliath and had his sling in his hand and his punk-rock attitude, I’m sure he felt the way I feel now.

I’m taking Spanish classes – I’ve got an eye towards Mexico.

I thought, this looks like a fucking butcher’s shop. I am not gonna take this sitting down. So they come to get me and I start screamin’, and some cop is just beggin’ me to kick him in the balls. So I do.

Whatever my image is, it’s my image and I have responsibility for it.

Make your own music. It can be done.

I want to see feminism put back into the hands of women who can use from it.

The blues is about singing from the depths of your emotions.

They sign a bunch of women, and they call it a movement. I don’t like the way women in music have been identified as women first and musicians second.

You know how they say prostitution is the oldest profession? Well, wouldn’t that lead you to assume that abortion is the…

Fact is that the original source for a lot of the bluegrass music me and my father used to listen to was minstrel coon songs.

I try to look at this music career thing as the means to an end. And really, at the end of it, I see myself on a sailboat, sailing off the edge of the world.

I describe myself as a knee-jerk anarchist, if that helps.

There was no place whatsoever for a woman in the life and the world that Jack Kerouac described. And women were not going to be invited into it. So it’s sort of like crashing the party. I know I’m here unwelcome and I’m going to rewrite this history so I can be a part of it.

I consider my music to be truly American music. I think American musicians are selling themselves short if they limit themselves to one genre.

I think the word soul has gotta come into it. Music that’s created just for consuming lacks that soul, that swing, that feeling.

I’ve gone through a spiritual journey through all of this. I was lost and now I’m found.

Record Companies know how vulnerable creativity is and that the slightest attack can make artists feel like abused children and they’ll retreat. I refuse to look at them as my parents. I just look at them as equals in a power struggle.

Music is a lot like politics — too important to be left to professionals.

I write about cities the way some people write about lovers.

Authenticity is a real big deal in the music industry. I’ve been packaged in a certain way and while people might not know exactly what I am, they know I’m a darn authentic version of it

Music is not a commodity, it’s a resource.

The thing I fail to do is fully comprehend what’s given back to me by the audience. You would think you would be a performer partly so you could feel all the appreciation or adulation, but I haven’t quite managed that yet.

There was no place whatsoever for a woman in the life and the world that Jack Kerouac described. And women were not going to be invited into it. So it’s sort of like crashing the party. I know I’m here unwelcome and I’m going to rewrite this history so I can be a part of it.

My degree is in Oral Interpretation of Literature, and that seems to me just what I’m doing now.

My grandmother had a Miss Margaret’s School of Dance to teach tap and ballet to kids, but I never studied it. I was raised a Mormon and they’re dancing fools. It’s the only vice they have – dancing.

Not only has this whole mess been beneficial, but it’s been a blessing. Before this, my ambitions were never so great that I would have taken on a multinational corporation and come out feeling so confident and strong.

Squatting was the first opportunity I had to break out of the cycle of homelessness that, for young women especially, makes your self esteem deteriorate.

I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not looking for a fast rocket ride to the stars.

I’m a modern girl, but I come from a place, a history and a heritage. It’s a complicated one, and I’m not going to paint it like it’s simple.

No one’s ever been able to define blues. To me, blues is three chords and something to say. There’s a real temptation to think that blues is singing about misery and sorrow. It’s singing about your experiences, and what I find in blues is the message of hope and inspiration, because you may be singing about your misery, but the fact that you’re singing, that’s the real message.

When I was explicitly political, which obviously people picked up on, I saw the danger of preaching to the converted.

We’re really the first American generation that won’t have the resources to live better than the generation that came before us. The boomers have not only skimmed the cream off the top of the milk, they’ve drunk up all the milk too.

I accepted a change in my life. I didn’t choose that change and those are the best changes to make.

As I look back over my life, before I had any real identity, I was a traveler. I grew up an Army brat, a runaway, an activist, and a musician. All my life I’ve been traveling.

Punk is just as much a form of folk music as anything is!

What kind of religion is it that would encourage the parent to shelter the child from any outside influences and punish it by putting it out in a world you never had any way of learning about?

Some women can be sweet because they don’t know how else to move through the world. I’m sweet because I can afford to be.

I’m a blues woman. I write mostly when I’m sad. I start crying and in the middle of crying I go ‘Mmm that was an interesting sound’.

Everyone thinks young people are alienated from the system. But when you present them with a viable alternative, they will be the first to take it. And then watch out.

I regard myself as a true American musician, and I play every style that is my heritage.

I used to hitch-hike around Europe with only one cassette. On one side was ‘Doc and Merle Pickin’ the Blues,” and on the other was Pink Floyd. I called it ‘Doc Side of the Moon.’

You can’t always find politics with your intellect, because you get tricked by propaganda or dogma. But you can feel the difference between a politic that swings, that is about involvement.

I want to scare the (expletive) out of the powers that be.

I’ve got this cure for boredom and that’s to have no money. Every situation you’re in becomes an adventure…

I try to look at this music career thing as the means to an end. And really, at the end of it, I see myself on a sailboat, sailing off the edge of the world.

Mainstream media would convince you that there’s commercial culture and that’s all – but this other music is still here.

Now that I’ve got media access, I see that it’s one of the biggest diseases of our times.

For me the rallying cry has become: Subvert! Subvert! Use the media against itself; use the industry against itself.

From my experience, I know where the change lies – in encouraging people to speak for themselves.

I’d say it’s been an interesting evening, wouldn’t you?

They did that big, lumbering dinosaur thing, acting with impunity. Fortunately, it was over an artistic principle. I don’t think I could have sustained the fight if it was just over more money or more contractual rights.

They gave me a shot of Thorazine, a real fascist drug. Your neck’s going like this [she flaps her head in an ugly untogether fashion] and if youdidn’t think you were crazy before, you’ll think you’re crazy then. It’s what you call a mental straitjacket – much more liberal than a straitjacket you can see.

Ideals are not something I can control. It’s not logic that convinces me of something, it’s what my heart says. My heart has a way of involving me in things, which can only be good for the music.

I need to be able to decide the direction and the appropriateness of the project I choose to do. Otherwise, let the vice president of business affairs make the record.

Very complicated truths are conveyed through very simple melodies.

The real goal I’m working toward is to do something to help integrate the African and European influences of American music. I think at one time inthe history of popular music they were coming together naturally. The record companies have created a false sense of segregation. It may seem impossible to tear down, but it’s something I’m looking forward to as a life’s work.

I thought, this looks like a fucking butcher’s shop. I am not gonna take this sitting down. So they come to get me and I start screamin’, and some cop is just beggin’ me to kick him in the balls. So I do.”

I started traveling on the premise that I could be poor anywhere, and that’s when the music caught up with me. I wasn’t chasing the music.

I’m a perfectionist, which I think is a mistake.

I was raped. That kind of burned me out on the whole romantic expatriate notion.

People might say I’m difficult, but did you ever hear anyone describe a label as ‘difficult’? By nature, artists should challenge. When they call you difficult, it is a reflection of the imbalance of power.

I had nothing to do with that album. I had nothing to do with the material selected, with the artwork on the cover, the imagery. I couldn’t even control the way that I was being presented to the media, as yet another in a long line of American curiosities, like a souvenir from some guy’s trip to America .

If there’s one thing I want you to know, It’s that you can do it too.

I think people have to choose between living with contradictions or painting themselves into a corner. I have a lot of contradictions.

Because I wrote songs for the love of it for so long I can say ‘I am a songwriter and whether I make money from it or not, I’m still going to write songs because its one of my favorite things to do.’ The fact that it becomes a recording is secondary, it’s not a motivation.

I walked along that slippery slope where if you fail through lack of faith, you sell your soul to the devil.