Interview with Regina Spektor.

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Josh and I had the privilege of interviewing Regina Spektor over the phone last Saturday. I have to tell you, it was probably one of the greatest highlights of my life so far. We’ve adored her work and music since the beginning. And interviewing her on the phone was like a dream. She was so sweet, candid and fun to talk with.
We discussed the experience of performing, her feelings on college, her favorite places in New York City, her upcoming appearance on SNL, the process of creating music, how fans make her feel, her motivations, her new projects, and her goals for life.
Here are excerpts from our conversation that we’ve edited and shortened slightly:
JOSH: It was just amazing seeing how the fans loved seeing you up on stage (we were at her DC concert last Wednesday)…what does that feel like? What does that feel like to have so many people yelling your name and yelling “I love you?”
REGINA: It’s really really really good. [laughs] I don’t know – it feels kind of like a shower or something. Cause it just kind of pours over you in this way, it feels so positive and just, really great.
Shows feel like everybody’s going through something together. And then there is this atmosphere that happens or this world that happens and only the people that are there really understand it…
The amazing thing to me about live shows is that anybody could write about it or try to explain it to someone, but really it’s just this very personal experience shared between the people that are there in the same room. You can’t get any kind of a film or recording or description or a review…and that’s what I love about it, because it’s just between those people.
But then sometimes it gets to be too much, like when some people just yell out something because they just want to be heard or something. It kind of breaks the fourth wall all the time… and then that becomes kind of hard. But I’d say that happens .001% [of the time] and the rest of it is just loving and really cool.
JOSH: We actually saw you perform at SUNY Purchase a few years ago. It was kind of the same thing – more of a connection for you since it was your old school.
REGINA: I remember that show, I loved that show. That kind of a thing is very emotional. First of all, I guess it wouldn’t be so if I hadn’t loved my school. But I loved SUNY purchase so much.
Even today, I get to play [college shows] and we always put a few in, in every tour because I love schools so much and love college kids.
I think it is that I miss college, and it’s my way to get back on campus and walk around and be like, “I was taking that art history or renaissance class too, you know?”
I just think that universities to me are awesome. It’s such an amazing privilege that for a few years of your life that your job is just to be a student. And you’re a grown up, but your job is just to get smarter, you know? It’s very nice.
JOSH: Speaking of NYC, we loved living there. Since you’re from there, have grown up there, are living there now, and talk about NYC in your songs, what are your favorite things about NYC? Do you have a favorite neighborhood or favorite places to eat, maybe a favorite pizza place?
REGINA: You know there are so many places. The really good places – I love.
First of all, I love all the nature in the parks. Central park is one of my most favorite places in the whole world!
I love Union Square Park and the big Barnes & Noble in Union Square.
I love The Strand book store. And there are tons of little places…
I love Twelve Chairs in SoHo. It sort of feels like the most Tel Aviv I’ve found outside of Tel Aviv. It’s this very Israeli-Russian place to eat. You can get really good borsch there, and the best Cappuccino I’ve had outside of Europe is at Twelve Chairs. You’re making me miss it!
NAOMI: When do you get to go back?
REGINA: For Saturday Night Live [on October 10th]! I’m flying in from Atlanta. Next week, I’m playing SNL. I’m really bracing myself! You know, it’s kind of intense! I prefer recording records and playing live shows to doing television things. They feel terrifying to me. But I also feel absolutely amazed that they’ve invited me to play there! It’s like, “What? Me? Ok!”
JOSH: You’ll be there with Drew Barrymore, right?
REGINA: Yeah – which is really cool actually because I’ve known her since my first ever tour when I opened for The Strokes. I’m really excited. It’s going to be so much fun!
I just hope I don’t get too nervous because that takes out the fun. But I’m going to [pretend] to be like all…too cool for school – who cares – another TV thing!’
JOSH: Speaking of performing, one of the things we really wanted to ask you is what motivates you? What makes you want to sit down at the piano and play? Is it the music? Is it the fans and the connection with them like we talked about? Why do you create music?
REGINA: Well, playing shows and writing music to me almost feel like completely different jobs. I know they are connected because you can’t go play shows if you don’t write any music, but they don’t feel interconnected.
When I write a song, I’m completely compelled by just that song. I feel inspired and excited, and I just do that. I don’t think about how can I perform this or how can I translate this into actual reality or something.
Then making the record feels like a completely different job. All of that experimentation feels very exclusive to me and the people I’m making this with. And for better or for worse, [I’m] not really thinking about the people who will be listening to that at all. I know that sometimes I think I should give that more thought, but I can’t really seem to. I can’t seem to care if people will like it or connect with it or not because I feel so strongly about it myself, you know?
And then of course when I’m completely done, then I really care. Then I obviously get the jitters and the nerves and hope it doesn’t suck and somebody or people will find what they’re looking for in it, or some sort of connection or help or happiness. Whatever they need I hope they find in it.
And that’s when the shows start, and I really just do those for the people – to connect with people and bring music to people. It’s a pleasure to play them, and I love playing them. It would probably feel terrible if I didn’t feel that connection or didn’t like the people I was playing for. I know it’s ridiculous, but most of the time when I feel the audience I’m always just like “wow, these people are really good people.” And that always just gives me inspiration to play with them.
NAOMI: Outside of performing and outside of song writing, what other goals do you have for yourself?
REGINA: Like, as a human person? Goals? Oh, a lot.
I guess just all the things that everybody wants:
To feel like they’re actually doing something and not just reenacting the same thing over and over, and not getting stuck.
Just opening your mind and seeing more of the world and trying to understand how people live and what they think.
All that stuff that will sound really fluffy and disgusting if you write it down. Just be part of the world. Really really live. You know?
One of my big goals is to just not do things out of fear but [to] be really open, which is hard I think. It’s a full time job for people to stay really open. It’s like a second job.
But also – I don’t think it’s good to just do one thing. I don’t think if you’re a musician you should not just be immersed in music. I think it’s really important that if you’re a musician [to] try writing a play or something. Things need to complete other things.
I’ve been writing music for a Broadway show…
NAOMI: We heard that! That’s exciting!
REGINA: Oh, it’s amazing. I hope my part is good, but the whole thing is just amazing. It’s like the coolest thing.
It’s interesting – I’ve been learning a lot about things I had no idea about. Like the whole theater world has its own language. It’s just different: so many great ideas and structure and actors and the whole way you connect with actors – I just love it. I’m very interested in it.
NAOMI: We’re excited to see it and hear it!
REGINA: Me too! The thing with that is, I’m such an immediate gratification person – I want it like, now! And it’s in two years which is such a long time to wait for something, especially when you feel it is coming together but then you realize it’s not even close.
I feel like all the people who work in plays or in film or write a novel, they have to have so much patience. They’re in it for the long haul, unlike musicians who go write a 3-minute song and immediately get to go play it. You know?
The longest I’ve had to wait is to have a record released, and it just drives me crazy those few months. So it’s a new experience for me, definitely.
JOSH/NAOMI: Well thanks so much for talking with us!
REGINA: Thank you! It was my pleasure. Thanks for talking with me! Have a great weekend!

  1. T.A.G.

    Thanks for the interview! I am interested even more in her music now that I know more about her as a person.

  2. jasmine

    eeeek! that must have been so terribly exciting! i'm so happy for you that you got to do this, naomi! i would love an opportunity like this, and i know it meant a lot to you. 'cause duhhh, it's regina! she sounds so sweet, down to earth, interesting, lovely, i'll stop now. thanks for sharing & letting me live vicariously through your experience. :)

  3. this is maybe one of my favourite blog posts ever.

    thanks so much for sharing this. it makes me want to see one of her shows really badly! she seems so genuine + interesting.

    i'm really excited to hear what she does with the broadway show.

    thanks again!! what an amazing opportunity for you & husband!

    xx

  4. ohhh.my.gosh. jealous is not even the word. wonderful, wonderful interview. love that woman.

  5. that must have been so awesome! i love her music! wow you both are lucky ducks;)

  6. that must have been so awesome! i love her music! wow you both are lucky ducks;)

  7. she sounds like such a beautiful person…even in the interview ;)

  8. Sum

    This must have been an incredible moment in your life! Awww…so cool to talk with Regina Spektor on the phone! She's eloquent in the lyrics of her songs and the words she says! She's amazing!

  9. Oh my gosh that is so exciting! I can't even imagine how you and Josh must have felt getting to chat with her!

    This is my favorite interview I've read, maybe just because I feel like I know you and Josh from reading your blog, but this seems so much more personal than magazine and TV interviews.

    Congrats on having such an awesome opportunity!

  10. how very exciting for you two and such a joy to read. i've been a fan of her music for quite some time and now i'm a big fan of the person behind the songs. thanks so much for sharing!

  11. rebecca

    my oh my oh my. i love this. i just love it. and i'm listening to her right now. and i'm excited for you! how amazing.

  12. wow !! thats so so cool:) I really love her even more now <3

    She really does sound like a nice person and so cool you both got to interview her !

  13. great job on coming up with relevant questions and helping it flow along. sounds like she was pretty easy to talk to…which is exciting because it is so wonderful to find out that those artists you admire are actually good, nice, friendly people just like you and i. what a wonderful opportunity…is it because of your blog success that you were able to pull this off? i'm sure there's a story there….and you are the perfect bloggin woman to get to do this!

  14. delaney

    i can't seem to get my thoughts together enough to say anything other than "OH MY GODDDDDD!!!!" at the moment

  15. geri

    holy cow! how exciting was that!

    (and she seems way down to earth girl. way cute and nice too. i'm defiantly a fan.)

  16. Love it! Regina is such a talent! Great post! Check out my new blog! :-)

  17. Morgan

    Oh. My. Heavens. How lucky are you two!!!

  18. so very, very jealous!!

  19. kes

    So awesome. I met Regina once in Paris a few years ago…for all of five seconds! I am so jealous you too got to interview her! Thanks for sharing it with us. It made me smile.

  20. amanda

    Oh wow, fantastic interview guys.
    Congratulations on talking to Regina!
    She is awesome.

  21. brittany

    Wow! What an amazing interview to have, and what an amazing person she is! Thank you for sharing!

  22. Cathi

    Great interview, thanks for sharing!

  23. This is so so great. Two amazing women in one place. I also think it's great that Josh likes her music so much, my boyfriend does too and that's one of the reasons I'm so in love with him.

  24. Maddy

    Oh my gosh, this made me so happy! Thanks for posting it!

  25. Claire

    That is fantastic! What a privilege to get to do an interview like that. It must have been soo exciting! Thanks for posting it!

  26. Sara

    Oh my gosh, that's incredible. You're a lucky little duck and I'm wicked jealous!

  27. ah! scream! what a great opportunity!! how did you come by connecting with her personally??

  28. Brita

    What an incredible experience!! I am 100% jealous. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  29. kristine

    YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND ARE SO LUCKY! I am such a huge fan of Regina Spektor… I saw her play a few years back in Phoenix and even though it was a sold out show with hundreds of people there, it still felt so intimate. Probably one of my favorite concert-going experiences, ever. Thanks so much for posting this!

  30. you lucky ducks! adorable interview.

  31. Emmy

    How awesome!!! Glad you got that experience you definitely adore her.

  32. great interview you guys. I can't wait until she comes here next month!

  33. Lidia

    So good!!! I love Regina…and I love this blog =)

  34. How fantastic! Thanks for sharing it with us. xo

  35. @

    i'm ecstatic with envy! what a radical conversation and experience! regina ROCKS!

  36. Brittan

    oh my gosh. oh my gosh! i. love. her.

    great questions, you guys! i totally mean that, not just an empty compliment. i was like "oooh, good one" the whole time.

  37. Victoria

    I interviewed her for the radio station and she is a beautiful human being. I loved how real she was in both your interview and mine. I was so star struck!

  38. Diana

    Congrats on the interview! I must try that Twelve Chairs place once I'm in NY!

  39. oh my gosh isnt she amazing?
    well done on interviewing naomi and josh! well done

  40. i loved this… a lot.

    …a lot, a lot :)

  41. Emily

    Amazing!!!
    That would definitely be a dream come true.
    I'm so glad you got to talk to her!

  42. you got to interview regina. insanely jealous right about now.

    great interview, by the way. good questions, awesome answers by r. spek.

    again, SO SO SO jealous!

  43. OMg, this is really cool. I think she has amazing lyrics, amazing voice, amazing everything. I would freak out, if i had the chance to interview her.

  44. she's seriously one of my favorite musical artists, so this just made my day! thanks for sharing with us!

  45. Avery

    ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

  46. Belle

    Oh my gosh!!! that is just so incredible! fabulous interview and congratulations xx

  47. Awhh she is such a sweetie! She sounds exactly like I imagine her to be except even better! Can't wait to see her on SNL!

  48. I can't believe you got to do this. I mean really, who can say that they have interviewed one of their favorite artists? I got chills reading it. I love her, and can't wait to see her in SLC next month. sigh…. until then I will just have to read the interview over and over ;)

  49. emma

    I'm really really jealous, but very happy for you both at the same time. Great interview :]

  50. boots

    wowsers! how special, you must have had butterflies.

  51. jones

    lucky ducks. i was mesmerized during that entire show and I'm pretty sure that my husband has a new crush. he was truly impressed with how playful, not to mention talented she was.

  52. Sloan

    Great interview. Her goals for herself are inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  53. Mandy

    amazing interview love her!

  54. geeez that's amazing! she sounds incredible. i love it when you find out the people you admire are so much cooler and nicer than you even thought!

    dance anthem is probably my favorite song right now.

  55. wow, you guys are so lucky to get to speak to her!

  56. Oh my goodness, I'm so excited for you that you got to do that! How exciting!

    I loved reading it. Thanks for sharing! She is not only ridiculously talented, but seems like a genuinely kind person.

  57. Care

    GREAT interview, I got goosebumps! She is so incredible and I got to see her at the 930 club in DC two years ago and get to see her in three weeks in LA, I cannot WAIT!

  58. wow, very cool. you two should call up "entertainment tonight," i think you would be hired in a second!

  59. holy crap, ahhhmazing! eeeek! i'm not sure i could talk, i would just freeze up. you all had great questions!

  60. I cannot even describe my jealousy! But I'm sooo glad you two got to do that – it's so exciting!

  61. oh wow! Awesome experience. Thanks for sharing!

  62. Saltina

    What a fantastic opportunity!

  63. how amazing!! you guys did such a great job! i probably would have started crying into the phone!

  64. Julia

    Hi Naomi!

    You introduced me to Regina when I first started reading your lovely blog! I love her music so much. I just purchased tickets to see her here in NY. I cannot wait.

    Have a wonderful night!

  65. Wow, I think I just got high reading this interview….just the excitement of knowing that you actually spoke to her on the phone. CRAZY!! She's amazing…I have loved her so so long. And I die for Tel Aviv…it's kind of my favorite place…..

    Seeing her in NYC Oct 14….so excited!!!

  66. Teresa

    Holy cow! You are so, so lucky! Great interview.

  67. Shayla

    Ahhhh I simply adore her!!! Excited for SNL now!! Thanks ♥

  68. Bes

    Oooh, that's so neat! Congrats on interviewing her! :)

  69. -L-

    Taza and Husband:

    I’ve selected your blog as one of a group I’ve recently discovered, which deserve special mention. Pick up your One Lovely Blog Award from my blog Chasing Education

  70. Mandy

    No way.
    You are so cool.

  71. Dot

    you are so legit. That's awesome.

  72. Martha

    This is so awesome. I was just catching up on SNL last night and that was the first time I saw her perform. She is so gorgeous and unique. Great interview. You guys really are rockstars!

  73. Just wanted to tell you guys- I saw her last night at Radio City and it was truly magical. I think she is probably the most talented, adorable artist ever. I told my friends about your interview with her and we all agreed you guys are ridiculously cool. She played a song I've never heard before and it had the funniest, cheekiest lyrics- all about judging a person by their eye color.

    Just amazing. Oh, Regina!

  74. I love that women. I can't believe I'll be seeing her tomorrow.

  75. CaL

    this is an amazing interview!!! i saw her oct. 2009…when this interview was done at the greek theater in LA…she was amazing!

  76. wow!! i love this interview, i used to listen to Regina Spektor`s songs but I don`t have any idea who she really is. i love her songs, its messages and all. now, it`s more fun to know her better. ♥

  77. i finally read this interview! (i'm snowed in, and you know how that can be.) this has got to be such a great memory. :)

  78. Sarah

    I never get bored reading this post. I love Regina. way too much. She's brilliant!

  79. ah! regina is my hero and will always be. i cant believe you were so fortunate to talk to her.