Born in the Soviet Union, Spektor began studying classical piano when she was six. Her family emigrated in 1989, landing in New York City, where she continued her classical training. Spektor eventually studied composition at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College where she graduated with honors. She began writing pop songs in her late teens and made her recorded debut in 2001 with the self-released11:11, a collection of songs heavily influenced by jazz and blues. Songs followed in 2002 and Soviet Kitsch in 2004.
"It felt like those stories where a person sets out from their village, ties a sack on a stick and sets off to experience the world -- and then comes back home."That's Regina Spektor talking about the adventure she embraced making her dazzling new album far. The journey saw the New Yorker striking new, creatively rich partnerships in new locations with three inventive producers - Mike Elizondo (Dr Dre, Eminem), Jeff Lynne (ELO, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Traveling Wilburys) and Garrett "Jackknife" Lee (R.E.M., Weezer). And then there was the Manhattan homecoming, her sack now stuffed with new possibilities, to David Kahne (Paul McCartney, the Strokes), who produced Spektor's already-brimming 2006 triumph Begin to Hope. "It was great to get to work again together, but I felt I had learned so much since the last record working with all these people that it was like something entirely new," she says.With far, the listener is also the adventurous villager, taking a jaunt into the unknown, a chance to experience new things, to let yourself go, to discover unexpected things along the way. . . and then to return "home" enriched and elevated. And as the guide is Spektor, an artist with an acute sense of detail both in music and words, a way of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary and the extraordinary into part of the fabric of life.As has been the case from her very first recordings in her college basement, the essence remains Spektor's voice and piano implying if not outright stating full arrangements, whole worlds of sound and image."A daunting mix of naivety and arty knowingness," raved the UK's Guardian of her talents. "She pulls words apart with such rapacious glee it's as if she's never spoken before. She throws broken-down sounds against the walls of her piano-driven songs just to hear them bounce and shatter. . . . Less disturbing than the Brothers Quay, more honest than the Brothers Grimm, Spektor is a storyteller with a vivid past and bright future."With far the full spectrum of colors springs from those seeds, right through the art and video elements that have grown as part of the project in collaboration with her long-time friend, photographer/filmmaker/visual designer Adria Petty."The whole record is about perspective and reveals," Spektor says, sitting in a beachside California bungalow, a piano painted as a blue sky with white clouds parked in the driveway following a video shoot for the song "Laughing With."And much is revealed. In "Wallet" a found billfold opens up a universe. In "Folding Chair" she wiggles her toes in the sand and projects a scene of domestic bliss before momentarily becoming a dolphin (at least vocally). In "Blue Lips" she leaps from the micro-close up of "blue lips, blue veins" to the macro "blue color of our planet from far, far away" in the span of a note, or as easily as a tale can shift from observation to allegory in her talented hands."That's a beautiful image for me, to go from the tiniest invisible thing to the biggest invisible thing," she says. "There are certain things that have always been part of my personal perspective that comes through the songs, like I'm definitely a very positive person, not very morbid, kind of sarcastic and at times judgmental and at times there's through it all a giant love of humanity."And as always with Spektor, each enunciated word (or wordless vocal interjection), each finger on the piano keys, tells a story itself."My songs depend on so many things going right," she says. "It's an obstacle course or relay race, the baton has to be passed to the next runner. It's like a magic trick. If one word is off, then it falls apart. Or like virtual reality, if anything is off, you question everything."That the four producers were able to accomplish this and fashion her meticulous, singular vision into the seamless whole that is far is no small thing. That she trusted them to do so is also quite the big deal."I come from wanting to arrange everything myself, basically directing myself," she says of the evolution that ran from with the one-woman recordings she made at college in New York (the self-released 11:11 album) and through her initially-indie and eventual 2004 Sire Records debut Soviet Kitsch and Begin to Hope, her first truly "produced" recording. "As time went by I was slowly able to allow more and more participation. With this record it was the most I ever had, and with the next record there will probably be even more. I keep learning. "I still do a tremendous amount of arranging," she says. "It's just when you have so many ideas about the songs, it's very hard to let new people in. Everybody had their own style, but all of them are the type of people that allowed me to feel I was with them."Lynne, who produced "Blue Lips," "Genius Next Door," "Folding Chair" and "The Wallet," even got her to do something she'd thought impossible before."On the last record I started harmonizing with myself for the first time, but I never sang with someone else on my records," she says, noting that she'd first learned of Lynne from his work on Tom Petty's Highway Companion album and had no idea of his past credits. "His voice is so beautiful. It was a singing choir with Jeff and once we started doing it we did it on a bunch of songs."And with Elizondo she did something else she'd never done in one spare-moment session with drummer Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Tori Amos) for the song "The Calculation.""With 'The Calculation,' we had already finished the other songs and Matt had a couple of extra hours before he had to leave for the airport," she says. "It wasn't a song I'd even played for Mike. I was, 'I don't know how to jam with people, never grew up playing that way.' I come from classical music and the idea makes me feel kind of weird. But Matt and Mike, having been in a billion music projects, love jamming. So, 'Why don't we jam out on this?' And me going, 'I don't know how!' So I played the song once for them, and then we sat down and I played piano in the control room, Matt was in the live room and mike sat next to me on the couch and played bass - and it was one take! Really cool. Just turned out to be really fun."With Lee outside of London, it was an idyllic reverie that provided its own inspiration."Cows walking around, a beautiful spot right on the river," she says. "It was Garrett and two engineers; the atmosphere really laid back and fun. And Garrett started bringing in different musicians. I told him I'd always wanted to have a tuba as the bass and he found a great drummer who was in another project with a tuba player. And I arranged strings for 'Laughing With' but instead of a traditional quartet we had two cellos. I'm drawn to that, the lower sounds - bass, cello, tuba, that warm bottomy sound. And we did 'Dance Anthem of the 80s,' and I usually play that just by myself with a piano, but I did a show last summer and my friend Reggie Watts beat-boxed on it, so we had him send his tracks to London and programmed it and played over that. And I got to us a Vocoder for the first time and fell in love with that! Amazing instrument. . . would make me sad when I heard my voice through it. Sounded like the saddest instrument in the world."And then "I came back home to be with David Kahne, who I really love and have now had a few years of friendship. That was very special. The irony of it was when we did Begin to Hope, David had just moved back to New York from L.A., so I was the first person in his studio in the meat-packing district. So then when I got back for this he was moving into another studio, so I was the last person at the old one and I was the first person in the new one."Even as she listens back to the album and relives these experiences, she has trouble putting her finger on just what this represents in terms of the personal and artistic growth. Once again it's a matter of perspective. On this, she may just be too close. "It's kind of like watching your own hair grow. Then all of a sudden you wake up and have long hair."
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