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Amanda Palmer Conquers Doubt To Balance Art And Motherhood


In September of last year, we had a conversation with musician and artist Amanda Palmer about the dueling demands of art and motherhood. Palmer is a former member of the band The Dresden Dolls, and she now crowdfunds her independent work on the site Patreon. When we spoke, she was pregnant with her first child and had recently been confronted in an email by a fan who was afraid Palmer's new role as a mother might detract from her work as an artist. Amanda Palmer's son is now 6 months old, and she recently released a new song. It is called "Machete."


AMANDA PALMER: (Singing) I have never liked the box of knives you said was a paradox because you're kind but withstood a childhood that robbed you blind of...

MARTIN: Amanda Palmer joins us now on the line to talk about how things are going in the new chapter of her life. Amanda, thanks for being with us again.

PALMER: You are so welcome. It's a pleasure to be here.

MARTIN: Let's start by talking about this new song because it does have special meaning to you. This is a tribute to a friend of yours - a dear friend. Can you tell me how it came to be?

PALMER: I had a best friend and mentor named Anthony who died this summer, a couple of months before the birth of my son. And I got an idea for a song the night before his memorial was going to take place. And I felt like I was at this crossroads of my life because I was all alone in my apartment. Neil, my husband, was out of town and it was 2 in the morning. And I was, like, wow, I'm either going to write this song (laughter) with the baby strapped to my chest. Or I'm just going to do what I really want to do, which is breastfeed this baby and go back to sleep.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

PALMER: And I did it. And even if it wasn't a good song - and I think it did turn out being a good song - it was one of those moments where I felt I was sort of taking matters into my own hands and saying - all right, I'm going to be a mother and an artist, and that means I have to now walk the walk and get up at 3 in the morning and sit down at the piano and do this thing.

MARTIN: So it sounds like those fears that you harbored before your baby was born - about not being the same creative artist, not having the same level of creativity and inspiration in parenthood - as a mother. It sounds like all those fears have not borne out.

PALMER: (Laughter). Well, actually, you could say that those fears have borne out, but fear can be a really great creative driver. You know, I mean, on the flipside of that, there's still always a nagging insecurity that you're not getting the balance right. And there's always going to be critics. Someone criticized me on, you know - in a YouTube comment yesterday saying - it really seems like she's trying too hard to make music with this small child. And I was, like, oh, good grief. No one tells NASA that they're trying too hard.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

PALMER: People who try hard are awesome. I'm going to go back to trying hard. Excuse me.

MARTIN: Your husband, Neil Gaiman, is an artist, too. He's a writer. Does he get any of this? I mean, he has kids also from another relationship. But has he ever had to grapple with this kind of public scrutiny of whether or not he can be a parent and an artist?

PALMER: No. He never has, and he's said as much. And as he watches me struggle and as he watches the, you know, the many-headed beast of judgment that is other people on the Internet and other people in the world scrutinizing me, he sympathetically shakes his head and says I'm so sorry this never happens to me. I am a dude.

MARTIN: Amanda Palmer - musician, songwriter, performance artist and mom.

Thanks so much for talking with us, Amanda.

PALMER: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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