On August 18, I had the honor of having a phone chat with Mandi Perkins, who has just released her major-label debut album, Alice In No Man’s Land. In addition to having lots of interesting and thoughtful things to say, Mandi is easy to talk to and so kind. It was truly a pleasure to be able to ask her questions about her music.
I didn’t have any way of recording the chat, sadly, so this post will not be a word-for-word transcription of our discussion; rather, it’s sort of an interview/article. :)
The first question
I asked Mandi about how it feels to have released her first major-label album. She told me that “the whole thing” and “to be able to just live” off of making music is “all you can ask for.”
A singing lawyer?!
We got on to the subject of her education (she first graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English and then graduated from law school and passed the California State Bar) and Mandi talked about how she “loved school, wanted an education, but didn’t want to practice law.” Instead, she wanted to pursue her passion: music. But all her hard work at school didn’t go to waste! She told me that she feels that the “subjective” nature of her English studies at UC Berkeley and her “objective” studies at law school helped “[structure her] way of thinking,” and in effect, how she works with her music.
Mandi noted that although “I write specific things,” she tries to do it “in a way to make people understand” the sentiment behind her words. She hopes she “made an album people can relate to.” (I think she did just that!) To say it in a few words, Mandi writes “real stuff in a real way.”
Mandi’s musical style
I asked Mandi how she defines her style of music, and after thinking for a second, she said “melodic rock – passionate, emotional, smooth.” Mandi makes an effort to make the lyrics and ideas that are “sometimes hard to hear really palatable.” She wants to “present [those concepts] in a way that’s easy to listen to,” with a sound that is “not too shiny, but not too dirty.” In the end, though, Mandi notes, you just have to “give it to people and hope that people like it.” Or, to use her favorite Latin phrase, res ipsa loquitur – “the thing speaks for itself.”
The age of the Internet
Mandi noted how “blogging – communication – is integral to an artist” today. I asked her if she thinks having an online presence allows her to better connect with her fans, and she answered “absolutely.” She gets “tons of email” and even said that such communication from fans was one of the “[reasons] why I wanted to get the album out.” Mandi thinks that having a MySpace (which started getting really big in 2004/2005, around the time she “started pursuing [her] music career”) enables her “to communicate with so many people.” Mandi said “I don’t know what artists did 10 or 20 years ago” without the Internet. (I don’t know what fans did either – without the ‘net, I’d probably never have heard of Mandi!!)
Stay in school!
I mentioned a little later in our talk that I’m in college at the moment and Mandi reminisced about how she wishes she were “back in school” because of the experiences you encounter. She told me how one day, I’ll look back at my days in school and just think “‘Oh my goodness!'” because I learned so much during that time. Mandi also emphasized how it’s important to “get an education” – wise words!
Mandi told me, when I asked about what music artists have inspired her, that she is “drawn to artists who are real” and “gravitates to artists who are honest.” Her brother introduced her to her first musical loves, like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Who, and she heard the “golden oldies” courtesy of her mom. Once she began finding her own favorite artists, she found musicians like Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks – “artists who spoke their truth.”
Alice In No Man’s Land
Mandi gave some really interesting insight into the production of Alice In No Man’s Land. She feels it is an “organic album,” probably due to how she “wrote words after a situation [would happen]” and went into the studio “with 1/4 done demos.” Then, she would “arrange the music around the demos” with the “great musicians” she worked with.
Mandi noted that her first, independently released album didn’t turn out “exactly the way [she] wanted it,” that it was “a little more raw” than she would have liked. Thankfully, Mandi said that with Sony, “they wanted me to be myself” – which is a fantastic thing, because Mandi told me that “[she needs] to rock”!
What’s your favorite album?
Mandi confided that she loves Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Who’s Tommy, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and Counting Crows’ August And Everything After. And her own album, of course!
“Who I Am”
Of her debut single from Alice In No Man’s Land, Mandi explained how it’s an “empowering song” about how she felt like she was that person that someone would feel like they could call when no one else they wanted was around, and deciding that she’s “not gonna be that person.” “Who I Am” is about “respecting yourself” and when Mandi performs it live, she said, “I feel empowered, shinier.” (At this point we both agreed that “shiny” is a great word!)
Mandi really seemed to enjoy talking about performing live. She talked about how “Everybody Knows” is one she loves to sing live, that it’s “so real – could not be more real.” Mandi said that she heard about someone she respected doing something she didn’t think was right and was “so disgusted” that the “words [to the song] just came out of my mouth” in the studio.
Mandi also likes to perform “Why Pretend,” a song that she notes was “something I needed to say.” Mandi enjoys singing “Alice In No Man’s Land” too, “a beautiful song about transitioning to a major label” but one that can also be taken to be “about starting something new.”
To the fans!
My last question to Mandi was if there was anything she’d like her fans to know as they listen to the album. Mandi explained that Alice In No Man’s Land is “not a real place” but “about you being who you are.” “The world is weird,” she said, and the album’s about “how you use your voice” to deal with it. Mandi likes fairy tales, and the title of the album does indeed refer to Alice of Alice In Wonderland. Mandi talked about how “Alice was bummed out, so she closed her eyes and was in a different world.” Mandi felt the same way when making the album but didn’t want to just close her eyes – she “wanted to write!”
I had such a great time talking to Mandi. I really appreciated her taking the time to talk, and being such a wonderful person to interview! Thanks also to Louise at Nettwerk for setting this up! :)