Rickie Lee Jones :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

With a career that stretches back to her 1979 self-titled debut, Rickie Lee Jones has been creating music that transcends the every day while wholly embracing every ounce of its being. Her emergence from the same scene that birthed Tom Waits, Chuck E. Weiss and others helped make her an instant success, but her albums have consistently been an evolving work, going from her early master-work Pirates up through the Walter Becker produced Flying Cowboys and the majestic The Evening of My Best Day. The Other Side of Desire is her 12th studio album of original material and is out this week. AD caught up with Rickie via phone to discuss the new album, her move back to New Orleans, the benefit and drawbacks of ego and how it's nice to feel like you've given something to the world.

Aquarium Drunkard: It's been about six years since you last put out an album of original material [2009's Balm in Gilead] and that's one of the longest stretches of your entire career. But a few years ago you did a covers album [2012's The Devil You Know]. You've talked in the promotional material for this album about waiting until you had the songs together you wanted to record. Was doing the covers album a way of sparking that creative process in some way?

Rickie Lee Jones: I don't think so. I think, to be honest, it was just to make some money. [laughs] It was just to keep myself working. You know, I was getting into a place where I wasn't working at all and was just touring. I had run out of money and had to just tour and tour. So to get myself into the studio - I had two songs that I knew I wanted to do. I wanted to do "The Weight." I was waking up every day singing "The Weight" and singing "It Never Entered My Mind" by Frank Sinatra. And then I added on this Rolling Stones song ["Sympathy for the Devil"].

And people said, 'you know, you do these 60s soul songs so well. You should do a record of those songs.' I didn't do a 60s soul record. But that's kind of how I went in the direction of the 60s generally speaking. But then I didn't have a group of songs from the 60s that moved me. So we ended up picking things like "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and things that had been suggested. I don't know if I should share this, but I struggled with that record. So I suppose, in a way, it told me the way to go. It was like: 'You have to leave here now. There's nothing left in L.A. for you. If you want to be a writer, you have to go somewhere else.' So I'm really glad I moved. It really helped.

You know, I know people don't like to hear 'I did it for the money,' But money has really told us what direction to go. When people are poor, they often do some of their best work. They want to make some money, right?

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