Amanda Palmer is heading south for the winter. Decamping to Australia has been a regular and fruitful seasonal migration for the songwriter and author, having spawned her 2011 album Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, bestselling 2014 book The Art of Asking and many friendships along the way.
“I’ve come to Australia almost every winter for the past 10 years,” Palmer says. “I absolutely love the place: I love the food, I love the strong flat whites, I love the art, I love my friends. I’m in a long-term non-monogamous relationship with the country.”
It’s an open relationship that even the Australian Government has been happy to make official, recently granting Palmer and author husband Neil Gaiman five-year ‘distinguished talent’ working visas.
For one of the most prominent success stories of online fan crowdfunding, “work” for Palmer is quite a flexible term. In the last two years, “the lion’s share” of Palmer’s income has come directly from fans via subscription website Patreon. “It’s overwhelmingly liberating,” she says.
One of many videos Palmer has put together with the help of her dedicated fans
“I still wake up most days and cannot believe that I can simply make the art I think up, push a button and get paid. It seems too good to be true. I can literally work in any medium, I can put out any kind of product or art or act of creation. Basically, if I can think it up, and it’s good work, my fans will support it.”
Like all good things, there is a cost. Commercial autonomy has unleashed a torrent of unconstrained creativity, from a folk album with her father to a Bowie tribute album recorded soon after the singer’s death. But there’s one thing that Palmer’s been lacking since 2012: a crop of new, original songs.
“I’m going down to Australia with the specific task of sitting at my desk and actually penning some new material.
“I’m not like Nick Cave, I don’t sit down at my songwriting desk and get up in the afternoon, I’m one of those guilty undisciplined songwriters who’s never had a set schedule,” she says. “In my old lifestyle, especially pre-tour, pre-Dresden Dolls and certainly pre-child, I had a tonne of fucking free time! I would get song ideas, they’d kick around in my head for a day and it wasn’t long until I had a long expanse of time where I could sit down, capture the idea and nail it to the bloody board and carve it up and serve it to the piano and make it sound delicious… I like this metaphor,” she laughs.
“And now that I’m also an author, full-time social media commentator and wife and mother - and world traveller and promoter of my own shit all the time – those long languorous windows of songwriting possibility go. But you do find yourself having to economise your time,” she counters. “And instead of cooking a meal in a slow and leisurely way while dancing around the living room drinking a bottle of wine, you just get to fucking work and sit your ass down to make the world’s most delicious omelette in 20 minutes ‘cause you’re hungry and need to eat.”
Now she’s in Australia to break some eggs, renting a room near Fitzroy with little more than a piano and a notebook, and performing a run of shows around the country to test new material, including two nights as part of Adelaide Fringe.
“My life has been so explosive that I have to build a wall within it to be able to close the door behind me and write without also needing to feed a baby, or deal with a phone call, or a husband or all of the mundane beautiful projects of adulthood. So, Nick Cave may be on to something. He often is.”
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25
Header image: Photo by Kyle Cassidy