As she’s gotten older, the stage has become a far more comfortable place for Fiona Apple.
Back in the early 1990s, when Apple was a sultry teen sensation in a world of singer-songwriters, performing was more of an exercise in anxiety. She fretted about how she was perceived, whether she was good enough, whether the right people were impressed. She didn’t enjoy the spotlight, which is part of the reason she dropped out of it and took six years before releasing her latest album, “Extraordinary Machine,” last year.
These days, however, Apple is looking forward to all sorts of things going on tour — her bus, her band, and notably, her time on stage. She no longer feels the pressure to be perfect — which has improved her performances.
AP: Did the time off make you more relaxed?
Apple: It has a lot to do with the time off that I had, because I realized that after six years of not doing this kind of stuff, it doesn’t define who I am, and I’ll be just fine without it. It’s not a life or death thing anymore, or at least it doesn’t feel that anymore. And I also think it is also getting a little bit more grown up. I’m more secure in who I am and I don’t need everybody’s approval as much (laughs) ... As much!
AP: What was the hardest part of getting back into the routine of a tour?
Apple: Trying to just remember my own songs, because for the whole time [off] I wasn’t doing anything. Pretty much when I’m done recording and taking songs on the road for the first time, I never play them again. I was really nervous about not being able to remember how to play. You would think that through all that time, if that was a worry, that I would try to practice, being that I have a piano in my house! But I have always been someone who does their homework on Monday morning, so those are my worries.
AP: How do you balance your classic songs and new material?
Apple: I don’t really think about it. I just made a list of songs that I like from all from all of my albums. There’s at least half of the songs from the show are from this album because that’s what I’m doing now, but I just like to sing the songs that I enjoy singing, except for a couple of songs. I’m not all that crazy about singing ‘Criminal’ and I put that in the show because ... I don’t know why. But other than that, I kind of let everybody else, like the guys in the band ... I kind of let them make up what the show should be.
AP: What do you do the pass the time on the road?
Apple: I read a lot. I’m not writing anything. I’ve got my brother coming out with me this time, so he’s here for lots of different things, most particular for moral support, just so I can have somebody to dump all my bad moods on so it doesn’t affect the people I work with (laughs). I like to spend a lot of time alone in my room.
AP: In the past there have been times when people have pointed out when you’ve gotten upset on stage ... does that ever still happen to you?
Apple: I think you’re referring to my Roseland show [in New York City] when I got off the stage. I get upset on the stage all the time — I use the stage as the place as a place to vent everything that I’ve got going on in my head — so there’s always a little bit of being upset up there for some reason. That’s just the place that I take stuff out. But I don’t get upset in the same way that I did when I had to stop the show [at Roseland]. That was a different kind of meltdown (laughs).
AP: What happened then?
Apple: At the time, it was said that I couldn’t hear myself, but I had done millions of shows where I can’t hear myself and it doesn’t make you stop the show, it was just a whole different situation. I think I had made that show in New York so important in my head, because there was so many people there that I wanted to impress and it was my home town and everything, and I was fighting some people where were close to me when I was off the stage. I was just frazzled and basically started to have like a panic attack crying fit on the stage. And that’s what makes it good that I don’t care so much about it anymore.
AP: Do you pay attention to reviews?
Apple: No, I don’t read anything ever, because it seems unnatural to me. I feel like somebody shouldn’t be able to read what other people are writing, it’s like eavesdropping or something. I don’t want to know what people are saying about me, it’s of no consequence, all I can do is just be myself, and I’m way to sensitive to handle anything. ... I know myself well enough that I know it will make a difference and I don’t want it to so I just keep my head down.
AP: How do you think your connection to your fans has changed?
Apple: I have no idea. I can’t even remember what I felt it in the past and what is was like in the past. There’s only certain parts of the show where I come out of my little head space enough to look around and see that there’s an audience there, so, I really don’t feel like I have a clear perception of what my connection is with my fans because I love them, but at the same time I try and pretend like they’re not there.