By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun
7:53 AM EDT, September 26, 2012
Much has been made about President Barack Obama's budding friendship with Jay-Z, but there's another, perhaps more surprising artist you'll find on his iPod: Regina Spektor, the imaginative 32-year-old singer/songwriter whose latest album, "What We Saw from the Cheap Seats," debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in June.
After Spektor played at the White House in 2010 for a celebration of Jewish-American heritage, the president hand-picked the Moscow-born singer to perform at a fundraising gala.
Given Spektor's classical piano training and penchant for writing quirky, constantly surprising songs, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise. She's been winning over fans since her first major tour in 2003, opening for the Strokes. Since then, Spektor has released four well-received albums, toured the world and married Jack Dishel, former guitarist of the Moldy Peaches.
Spektor recently spoke to us about opening-night jitters (her tour, featuring Dishel performing as Only Son, begins on Oct. 2 at the Lyric Opera House), dealing with hecklers and if she's nervous the upcoming election.
Before you take the stage, how are you, emotionally, on opening night?
Actually, I'd be hard-pressed to find a show I don't get nervous for. I don't think it's just an "opening" thing, but just shows in general. I think for most people, you get a jolt of nervousness and energy. I think opening nights have more of a "[expletive!] This is really happening" kind of thing. You're a little less sure-footed on opening night, but I always feel like every show seems nerve-racking in its own way. I don't get on the rails and just chill. [laughs]
Your career began by opening for high-profile rock bands such as the Strokes and Kings of Leon. What did you learn most from those early tours?
With the Strokes, it was my first-ever tour. I had no idea about sound checks, monitor mixes or anything. It was just me and my little backpack. There were a lot of times I got heckled and [the Strokes] really took a lot of time to teach me to navigate my way through that. I was used to playing bars where you could get heckled, or playing a place where no one was listening. But that tour was a whole new level. One of the great things they taught me was to not let it go by and pretend you didn't hear it. You can address it.
This summer, you returned to Russia to perform for the first time in 23 years. What was it like?
It was really mind-blowing. To go back to a place you last saw when you were 9-years-old was really intense. People have really intense feelings when they see their house in the suburbs they hadn’t seen in years, so it was like that, on steroids. It was very emotional. You think you remember everything. I had very clear memories of my childhood but it’s amazing when you step back into that world — the smells, the sounds of the language, the taste and just how many things instantly rush you.
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