Into the Woods With Rain Phoenix

The Singer-Songwriter Offers a Sneak Peek of the New Papercranes Album

On papercranes’ new record, Let’s Make Babies in the Woods, Rain Phoenix’s use of stream-of-consciousness writing is taken into the recording studio. “I would come up with the melody on the spot, and let this 'accidental' melody impart the songs with meaning,” she explains. “If I had words and melody before we tracked the rest, the musicians approached it the same way by improvising to the melody I had put down.” Mostly, she says, tracks were recorded in just one take. Two different drummers played on each song, lending it a raw, less-produced sound compared with the band's previous record Vidalia. “Flea [of Red Hot Chili Peppers] played trumpet on ‘Dust Season,’ which gave the song this haunting, dirge-like quality that I loved,” says Phoenix. “For me this record was about personal growth, stretching out of my comfort zone as a writer and vocalist. I wanted it to feel alive, curious, fertile.” Below Phoenix talks to Sara Cline, the producer of today’s exclusive Gift Horse Project film.

When did you finally commit to a musical career?  

You mean, at what point did I stop sabotaging myself? About two days ago. 

The acting youʼve done has been well received. Do you still harbor a passion for it?  

I do––I enjoy it... but Iʼm picky. And itʼs not something I can do in a collaborative way at night when Iʼm sitting in my living room. Itʼs one of my passions, but the one that drives me the most is music.

What do you think enables certain talented musicians to cross over so seamlessly into acting––Tom Waits, Will Oldham, Björk––and vice versa?  

I think itʼs the ability to access the creative flow that we all have, and not be afraid to use it. If we feel drawn to a different art form, chances are we can do it. I always wonder why thereʼs any surprise to that .... Like with Tom Waits, his songwriting is poetry, and I think great film acting requires the ability to see the importance of words and the things that come between words. Itʼs part of that poetic mind. And itʼs about subtlety, the ability to write a great line or act a great line and create the space for silence.   

What led you to create Gift Horse Project?  

Meeting Kathy Eldon [mother of photojournalist Dan Eldon, who was killed on assignment in a war zone] and experiencing that light behind her eyes. What she did with her sonʼs activism after his death, and what she is still bringing to light with other young activists who want to see change in the world... that lit my fire. There was a spark and she threw butane on it.    


Let’s Make Babies in the Woods cover art photographed by Eliot Lee Hazel.
Courtesy of Manimal vinyl, the track will be released early 2011.
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