Singer k.d. lang is back in the studio after a nearly three year hiatus, and she — and her upbeat new album, ”Summer” — sound happier than ever. Recently, Entertainment Weekly Online sat down at the soundboard in her Hollywood recording studio to hear a few tracks from the album and talk about where lang’s been the last couple years.
You haven’t made an original record since 1997’s ”All You Can Eat.” Where’ve you been hiding?
In normal life! It’s been incredible. It was the first time in a very long time I could be a regular person. See friends. Cook. Ride my motorcycle. Go to the movies. And I bought a house in the Hollywood Hills, which takes up a lot of wonderful time.
It certainly sounds like the time off was good for your soul.
Oh, yeah! For the first time in a really, really long time I want to connect with people. And I have to be honest, I could have cared less for many years, because I just felt like I was kind of selfish about my art. Now, though, I really want to connect with people, with music and in other ways, and that’s a very liberating feeling creatively.
Had you just gotten burned out?
I felt tired. I had been touring and making records for 15 years straight and never really allowing myself to stop. You get so isolated when you get famous and you’re in a bus or you’re on a plane and then you’re backstage. Normal people just don’t enter your life as much. That can start to make you feel lonely and separate from the world. I just had to reconnect.
Is it scary to come back to a world where the pop charts are dominated by kindercrooners like Ricky Martin and N’ Sync?
It’s really hard. It feels like a whole new music scene. And yes, I’m getting older and the stars are getting younger and prettier. It’s definitely challenging to your confidence, but I think what it boils right down to is I’m a singer and I’ll always sing. Whether or not I’m competing on a commercial level is another story. But I think there will always be value in someone who just sings.
Reading the Internet about you can be a little unsettling lately. There are all sorts of rumors about your supposed breakdown and about you gaining 50 pounds. You certainly don’t look 50 pounds heavier.
No, for the record, I haven’t eaten myself into isolation. Frankly, I try to ignore all that because even if it’s not true, it can affect you negatively and take the wind right out of your sails. Why bother with it?
Are you concerned at all about stepping back out into the spotlight and going on tour again?
Actually, I’m looking forward to it. We’ll probably start touring in mid-July or August. The music’s got a big, wild tempo, so I think it suits more of an outdoor shed tour. It’s fun to tour in the summer and it’s fun to play outside.
So what are you listening to these days?
I listen to Morcheeba a lot, but the album that’s most influenced me lately is by Ameliana Torrini, an Icelandic, who is very Bjorkesque. It’s an unbelievable album called ”Love in the Time of Science,” but you can’t get it in the U.S. It’s an import, but really worth finding.
Have you shown up to sing, á la Bruce Springsteen, at some random bar in New Jersey or even at a friend’s birthday party?
No, I’m just not that kind of jam-oriented musician. Those things kinda scare me. Once in a while you might catch me at some completely obscure karaoke bar somewhere in downtown L.A. singing a Patsy Cline tune, but that’s about as far as it gets for spontaneity.