By Bryan Buss
Originally published on Advocate.com May 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
Jill Sobule was the
original proclaimer of sapphic love with her hit "I Kissed
a Girl" in 1995 -- and, of course, when Katy Perry made it
an anthem for lip-locking ladies last year, the media created a
For her latest CD,
Sobule created a website,
, and fans donated money to finance what became
The California Years
. Sobule was so grateful for the help, she thanked some of her
fans with prizes -- one woman who donated $5,000 even
got to sing on "Mexican Pharmacy," a tune on the album, a
romantic, silly, pointed, earnest collection of pop tunes.
Here Sobule talks to
Advocate.com about being bicoastal, the highlight of her life,
and how Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" affected her
Advocate.com:So you've made the transition to the West Coast. How are you
liking California?Jill Sobule:
I'm a hobo. And I just, you know, like to say I'm bicoastal
just because I mooch off my friends and stay with them in New
York. I love that I have both. I was going to say it's
horrible, I need New York to bring out the stimulation and
write and I need to chill out in L.A., but I have to say the
last record really was stimulated by the landscape and the
people in California. Thus,
The California Years
. I was joking with my friend, saying the next record is gonna
Back to Brooklyn
Your fans donated $75,000 to help you produce your CD. You
must have some pretty great fans!
Yeah, you know, they are. And I appreciate them and I connect
with them and I make sure that they're appreciated and that
there's communication because now I feel like, without a
reliable middleman -- as in a music label -- you've got to
really rely on the people who want to hear your stuff. And
hopefully, it grows, your fan base, but it's that base core. I
love how the Republicans talk about how you gotta appeal to
your "base core." I'm obsessed with the new faces of the
Republican Party, like Glenn Beck and Miss California. But
that's a whole other story! I think I've got really smart,
nerdy fans, that they have a wide variety of lifestyles.
You rewarded them based on the increments donated. When
someone donated $1,000 you would write them a theme song. What
were those like?
They were 30 seconds, but I went overboard and gave people two
different choices. One was kind of 007 spy-ish, and the other
was kind of
Mary Tyler Moore
] For instance, do you know the guy who hosts
Dancing With the Stars
Yeah. He's an all-time fan and he donated and I wrote him a
song... "You're really famous, but you're not a dick." [
] Those were the first lyrics of his theme song.
How was it working with Don Was on the new album?
What I love about him the most is, you know, people can get
jaded, and he still seems like he's that junior high school kid
that's just so excited about music. And I hope I'm that way
forever. It's easy when it's your business, it's easy to get
burnt and jaded and not want to listen to stuff.
Did last summer's Katy Perry hit "I Kissed a Girl"
up your profile any since you wrote the original "I Kissed
Yeah, people mentioned it. What I loved were the "I Kissed
a Girl" wars, like "Kissed a Girl" classic
versus the [Katy Perry song]. But the one thing that was great
was having some young girl accidentally iTune mine instead of
] You know, people kinda push me, like what do I think, and I
always hate to bash another artist, and the song was really
cute. I remember someone sent me an interview [with Perry]
where she said she dreamed up the title. And no, she wrote that
with a professional team, The Matrix, who are older, and she
was signed by the same guy that signed me when I did
"Kissed a Girl." So that was a little
disingenuous.But I have no bad feelings. And I'll say, I still
think it's great to have a song, if I was a little girl, and I
heard Katy Perry's "Kissed a Girl" and I had those
kind of feelings, which I did, I would still feel like, that's
great, that's wonderful. But I will say that maybe mine was a
little more, just a touch more queer than
Girls Gone Wild.
You have an unbelievable pop sensibility, yet you also have
interesting arrangements and a depth lacking in a lot of pop
music. How do you feel about some of the poorly trained monkeys
that are passed off as pop stars and then revered as icons?
Well, you gotta stop yourself from being, "They're no
Chrissie Hynde or Patti Smith." You gotta keep it to
yourself, but with the way recording is now, it's almost like
back to the '50s when you had your singers who were just like
the star-maker machinery, rather than artists themselves. And
also with auto-tunes, someone doesn't really have to know how
to sing. But you have other pop tarts who are like frigging
amazing singers. So it's a mixed bag. There are some that will
probably have legs, and some that will be disposable, but
they've made enough money you don't feel bad about 'em. And
also you want to see how people grow too. It's funny how I was
watching some show and they said, "This generation's
Beatles," and they introduced the Jonas Brothers. [
] But you know, they're young and you'll see how they grow. Who
knows? There are people like Justin Timberlake who was in a boy
band, but he became an artist. I've never watched
, but Kelly Clarkson's got a fucking great voice.
Lilith Fair is coming back. Would you be game to joining
Sure, I was the first time. It was fun. It was when my album
was out and Jewel's album was out. And you could tell that we
were on the same label. They worked her [CD] more than mine and
they put her on the main stage. And my first two shows, they
would put me on the 4 o'clock stage and the tickets said 4:30,
so I'd be starting and people would be putting up chairs. [
] But it ended up being great.
How big a thrill was it to induct Neil Diamond into the
Songwriters' Hall of Fame?
Oh, my God. [
Sings in Neil Diamond rasp
] "Love on the rocks, ain't no big surpriseâ€¦" But the best
part about it was, I got to go onstage with all the people who
were the inductees. And so I was onstage singing "Kansas
City" -- Leiber and Stoller were also there -- but I was
onstage with Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, James Brown, Bobby
Womack, and Carole King. And then I was standing up next to
James Taylor and he looks at me and he goes, "Can you
believe who we're up here with?" [
How thrilling to be onstage with all of them.
Oh, my God, it's the highlight of my life. But it was
thing: One of these things doesn't belong!
How fabulous was it working on Nickelodeon's
Oh, man. That was such a fun gig to do. I want to do it again.
It was just so great, and Sue Rose, the woman who wrote it, was
genius, and [star] Emma [Roberts] was great. It was my first
and only day job I ever had. It was the first regular paycheck.
But it was like a paycheck where every day I would just goof
off and I'd look at the script and then I'd look at the film
and I got to put whatever music I could put into it. And no one
hardly ever changed anything!