Actress and singer/songwriter Lola Kirke discusses the longing and love behind her lively second album ‘Lady for Sale,’ balancing her music and acting careers, and her upcoming tours.
by guest writer Scott Bates
Stream: ‘Lady for Sale’ – Lola Kirke
When I find myself longing for something, wanting something, it creates a kind of void in my life, and a lot of the songs are about what lengths you’ll go to to get what you’re wanting.
While Lola Kirke is perhaps best known as an actor, having starred in the Amazon series Mozart In The Jungle and worked with such acclaimed directors as Noah Baumbach and David Fincher, she’s also an accomplished musician – her new album Lady For Sale is out now, and she’s currently on the first of two UK tours this year.
Weed is proof of God
That’s what it says on the bathroom wall
of the bar where she’s singing
Should’a quit when she was winning
Like when Cassandra and Nelly were here
Back in 08 and carved it in the mirror
Where she stares
Blowin’ kisses to the air
Cause there’s no one there, but the man upstairs
He never listens to her anyway
An old push up bra and out of tune guitar
She’s getting ready to play the…
Released in late April, Lady For Sale is marked out by its singular ’80s pop-meets-country rock sound, and presents a woman at a crossroads, heading in the direction she hopes is right. It’s Kirke’s second album, following 2018’s Heart Head West, and is a strong record alive with honesty and energy.
The title track is almost self-parodying, a satirical take on what a musician must be to achieve success in today’s hugely competitive climate. The rest of the record, however takes a somewhat more subdued – but never ineffective – approach to the themes of uncertainty and striving for meaning in life that are so important to Kirke, both personally and as an artist.
Lady for Sale is out now via Third Man Records.
LADY FOR SALE
NAME YOUR PRICE
DON’T ALWAYS END UP SO NICE
HER DREAM’S GETTING OLDER
BUT THE NIGHTMARE’S NEVER OVER
LADY FOR SALE
CAN YOU AFFORD THE PRICE
Stream: “Lady for Sale” – Lola Kirke
A CONVERSATION WITH LOLA KIRKE
Atwood Magazine: Where did Lady For Sale come from?
Lola Kirke: I began writing it at a really confused place in my life. I’d fallen in love at a very inconvenient time and I had no idea how to express that or what to do about that; it seemed very chaotic to pursue it, so I just started writing about it instead. A lot of the songs were written in a kind of way to convince myself that it wasn’t the right choice. But I did end up pursuing it, and a lot of the other songs were born out of collaborating with the person I wanted to be with. They grew from this kind of dark sound into a more fun, ’80s/’90s nostalgia, through the fulfillment of desire.
A lot of the songs on the album have that retro '80s vibe. Was that something you were always aiming for?
Lola Kirke: Absolutely, yeah. Austin Jenkins who produced the record – he also did Leon Bridges’ Coming Home – he is so good at feeling an old aesthetic and updating it and making it feel like something that can live in a more modern world. We really sat down and said, “Which artists are we going to be mimicking?” and a lot of the artists that came up were like The Judds, Tanya Tucker, Glen Campbell. I would come to him with a song idea and we’d try to put it in that sonic program, follow that map.
Why did you choose to name the album after the track Lady For Sale?
Lola Kirke: It’s funny that I ended up naming it after that track, which is about wanting success as an artist and what an artist needs to be, as the rest of the songs are about a different kind of longing. When I find myself longing for something, wanting something, it creates a kind of void in my life, and a lot of the songs are about what lengths you’ll go to to get what you’re wanting. In the lead-up to putting this album out there I actually thought I was tougher than I was, I was like “Lady For Sale, fuck yeah!” and actually it can be so maddening, so painful to put yourself out there and have, like a “For Sale” sign around your neck and have people walk right by you! I really understand why people don’t try at all.
You’re an actor as well as a musician - which came first?
Lola Kirke: I wanted to be a child star – that was my goal, and it failed! Which I guess I’m grateful for. Music was never something that I thought I could do. Growing up in the ’90s I didn’t know many women or girls who played music, it was really unusual. Maybe like the flute, but no girls played the guitar or anything. I was given a ukulele when I was in high school, and that was the jumping off point for me to learn some really easy 3-chord country songs, and from there I went to guitar, and in college I had an all-girl country band, but we were really bad! After that I did consider that music was something I could pursue, but I still wasn’t sure. I started acting professionally a little bit before I started performing music, is the short answer!
How do you find it balancing the two?
Lola Kirke: It’s kind of confusing to me, having this career as an actress where I’ve achieved a certain level of success, and then being a musician which I’m not yet as successful in. It’s definitely difficult, I’ve definitely had to make sacrifices, take risks and see them not pan out. I’ve passed over tours to do a movie, only to see the movie either flop or never even be made! But I do love acting very much. There definitely are questions for me, like “What do I want from both of these things?”
You have two UK tours this year - June and September. Will this be your first time playing here?
Lola Kirke: I’ve played in just London before. My first tour this year, in June, is supporting Courtney Marie Andrews, who actually co-wrote my song Broken Families, she’s a really dear friend and somebody I’ve looked up to for a long while so it’s nice to go out with her. For the most part I’m going completely solo, which will be interesting as this album is very highly-produced, there’s like 45 instruments on each song, whereas on tour it’ll just be me and my guitar. It’s been really exciting for me to reconceptualise my songs this way, and having to learn these songs on just my guitar makes me think like “Oh, I’m becoming a better artist!” I’ll be coming with my full band, which is a trio, in September.
Scott Bates is a freelance film and music writer from Yorkshire, England, now based in London.
Stream: ‘Lady for Sale’ – Lola Kirke
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