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Interview:
Fiona Apple -- Fiercely Free
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

A year and a half ago, Fiona Apple figured she was done making music. The Grammy-winning singersongwriter was battling with her record company over her third album, “Extraordinary Machine” — and she wasn’t that happy with it herself. So she camped out at her home in Venice, Calif., not doing much of anything. “I really just didn’t have the fi ght in me, and I kind of quit,” says Apple, 28, who released a re-recorded version of “Extraordinary Machine” to rave reviews last September. “I felt like ‘Well, it’s not that important for me to have this career, and it’s such a drag to try and fi ght and get this stuff done.’

“So I was the one who said I wasn’t gonna record anymore, and I was serious about it. I would’ve found something else to do.”

Then the people spoke.

An elaborate Free Fiona campaign surfaced on the Internet, started by Dave Muscato, a musician and Apple fan from Columbia, Mo., who launched a freefiona.com Web site. Other fans pestered Epic Records, Apple’s label, to release the album and shared theories about why it was being delayed. Eventually, the first version of the album surfaced online.

Not surprisingly, it caught Apple’s attention and made her rethink her position.

“I was really flattered by it,” the New York-born Apple (née Maggart) says of the effort, though she never visited the Web site herself. “I felt really touched that they cared about me and had respect for my music and would make such an effort on my behalf.

“But I also took it as a case where it was about me but it was also about something more at the time. These people were really upset about the kind of music that makes it out there, which is pretty much crap a lot of the time, and they were trying to do something about that. I just happened to be the vehicle for it.”

It had been quite a ride for Apple up to that point. She had actually bowed out of the music biz after touring to promote her second album, 1999’s “When the Pawn ...” and breaking up with her boyfriend of three years, fi lm director Paul Thomas Anderson.

It was Jon Brion, a collaborator on both of Apple’s albums to that point, who convinced her to return to the studio with him.

The process gave the notoriously mercurial artist a chance to vent her feelings about the breakup, but she was dissatisfied with the results.

“I just didn’t feel that I was totally present for the recording of it,” she explains. “I think that something inside of me sabotaged the situation, and I just didn’t help Jon at all. I didn’t know what I wanted — what sounds I wanted, which songs I wanted to do.

“I just kind of chickened out and left all the work to Jon, so it became more of a Jon Brion record than my record. A Jon Brion record is a great thing, and I do love the recordings we made together, but I wanted to be able to say they were mine.”

Apple did hook up with Dr. Dre associate Mike Elizondo to re-record “Extraordinary Machine,” but at that point Epic, which also didn’t like the first version of the album, was only willing to fi nance the project on a song-by-song basis — a condition Apple was not willing to accept.

“There was a point where I really didn’t think it was going to be done,” she says.

But the label changed its tune in the wake of the Free Fiona groundswell.

“Those people drew so much attention to it that (Epic) called up and said I could do it how I wanted,” Apple recalls. “That’s what saved it.”

“Extraordinary Machine,” which still includes two recordings from the Brion sessions, debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold nearly 500,000 copies. Apple hit the road opening for Coldplay before launching her own tour.

It’ll soon be time to think about what she wants to do next, but Apple says she’s learned not to make any predictions.

“I have absolutely no idea what I’m gonna do after this,” she says. “My whole philosophy is I never know if I’m ever gonna write again. I don’t know if I’ll make another album right away or if it’s gonna be another six years — or never again. Your guess is as good as mine.”



Fiona Apple and David Garza perform Wednesday (August 9th) at the State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $65 and $45. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit

Web Site: www.livenation.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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