Regina Spektor performs Wednesday at the Music Hall, 301 W. 13th St. Only Son opens at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $45.
It’s hard to find a review or interview regarding Regina Spektor that doesn’t include the word “eclectic.”
For more than 10 years, Spektor, a classically trained pianist from New York via Moscow, has developed a reputation for delivering recordings and live performances that are as quirky and clever as they are steeped in musical and lyrical tradition.
In a Saturday phone interview with The Star, not long after returning from London (and getting over a flight-induced earache), Spektor said tonight’s show will include almost all her new album and songs from all over her catalog, which should please her growing legion of earnest fans. She also talked about the rewards of performances and recording.
Q: When you perform live, how intent are you in re-creating the sounds on the recording?
A: It’s really not so much about how the recording sounds as much as getting all the parts that become part of the song as they are recorded. I’m not so concerned that a part on the record was played on the oboe but live it will be played by a piano or cello. It’s more about that the part is there. Some of those parts are as important as the lyrics.
Q: Compare live performance with recording. Do you prefer one, or are they both different but equally rewarding?
A: Playing live is so different from recording. It’s a completely different atmosphere. I love it. It comes from being there, in the moment, and the energy you feel with the audience and the love you feel in the room. Every performance is different and becomes its own unique, completely unrehearsed experience. And it depends on so many things you can’t re-create each time: what the hall is like; what the audience is like; what the weather is like; how you slept the night before.
I love the spontaneity. You can play the same set three days in a row and it’s different every time. What’s interesting is, you’d think things would be predictable. Like, if I feel really great, I’ll have a great show; if I feel sad or in a bad mood, I’ll have a bad or harder show. The thing is, there’s no correlation. You’d think it would matter, but it doesn’t. It’s really a surprise every time because you’re not in control. It’s in no one’s control, really, which makes it exciting.
You may have illusions of control during a show, but you end up resigning yourself to that moment you don’t. You could be feeling amazing, then all of a sudden you make some weird mistake so you start feeling bad and then the song opens up to you — a song you’ve played 100 times — like never before, and it means something new to you.
But I also love sitting in the studio 16 hours a day, locked away and making crazy sounds and figuring out a path to each and finding a world for each song. In our modern world, if you can play piano you can play everything; it’s all hooked up to a keyboard. It’s fun. I love the ability to play oboe or clarinet or trying things I don’t play in real life.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved as a songwriter over the past 10 years?
A: I think that’s a hard thing to do for myself because my songs aren’t recorded in chronological order. I’m always pulling from different time periods. On this record, some of the songs had been written three months earlier, some were written 11 years ago. So it’s kind of hard to draw anything specific about them. But I really feel like this is the best record I’ve ever made.
Q: What influences you as a songwriter, performer and musician?
A: I’ve always been really into education and learning and having my own master classes with people as often as I can. Even though I’ve been out of school for a long time, I love the feeling of sitting in a class and learning. Touring is a learning experience. I did a tour in April with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and being with them and listening to them and hearing their stories and hanging out, I learned so much that whenever I start the next record, it’s going to be full of those experiences.
Q: Who else has taught you things or influenced your sound?
A: (Producers) Jeff Lynne, who I worked with on “Far,” and David Kahne and Mike Elizondo. I really liked working with Mike. He’s like a virtuoso bassist, acoustic/upright and electric. We program a lot of instruments, and he builds these sounds based on my descriptions, and he really gets my descriptions. If I say I really want to make something sound icy, cold and metallic, then he comes up with something that sounds to me like frost.
| Timothy Finn, The Kansas City Star