Q & A With Fiona Apple
San Francisco Chronicle   
Nov 7  '99

  by Aidin Vaziri

 The title alone could fill this page, never mind the emotional baggage that comes with it. Fiona Apple, 22, releases her second album this week. Apart from the 90 words (beginning with the phrase ``When the Pawn . . .'') in its title, the disc reaffirms the singer-songwriter's place as one of the most intriguing voices of our time. Elegant and openhearted, she takes on affairs of the heart on songs such as ``Get Gone'' and ``Paper Bag'' with alarming clarity, adorning each track with a melody as haunting as her watery blue eyes. Her debut recording, ``Tidal,'' went platinum despite her tenuous relationship with the media. Older and wiser, Apple now tells us, ``I don't regret anything.'' 

Q: Despite all the great things that happened for you after ``Tidal,'' your best songs are still sad ones. Do you have a fascination with them? 

A: It's not a fascination. It's just that when I feel like writing songs is usually when something has upset me. I write selfishly. I write them to satisfy me at one particular moment, and they just happen to pay off for months afterward because it can be my job. 

Q: Are you looking for answers in your songs, or are you trying to make other people think about things you already understand? 

A: I'm definitely not doing it for other people. That's just a great side effect that does make me proud. I'm really just doing it to satisfy myself and clarify how I feel about something. If I'm fighting with somebody in my life, I'll go and write a song, and after I write the song I'll know how I actually feel. 

Q: Do you think there are certain things that are too sacred to sing about? 

A: No, because I can always disguise it. I probably sing about everything that goes on in my life, but it's never in a place where somebody can figure out exactly what's going on. Even if they could, they're probably wrong. I kind of mix and match situations and combine people in my songs. 

Q: So nothing is taboo? 

A: The personal things that I won't write about, I wouldn't write them because I was afraid somebody was going to know what it was about. Those kind of things might just not fit in a song for me. But there's nothing I can think of that I haven't put in a song. 

Q: Are you wary of new relationships now that you have become a celebrity? 

A: No, not any more wary than I already was. 

Q: Do you see yourself as different from most women your age? 

A: Yeah, but I don't know any women my age. Most of my friends are older. For some reason, they're just the people I end up being around. But there's always a way to relate to anybody. Being human is enough. 

Q: So Fiona Apple actually likes people? 

A: I love them, but I don't necessarily like being around them all the time. 

Q: What about people in the media? They were a bit ruthless when ``Tidal'' came out, yet there are no songs on this album addressing that. How did you choose to purge yourself of those feelings? 

A: By making a good album. I purged those emotions by crying after seeing something that upset me, by yelling after seeing something that upset me. 

Q: Were you really that affected? 

A: If somebody makes fun of you in print, it's basically the same thing as someone making fun of you at school. I don't think I'm paranoid. I think there is something about me that makes people in the media really want to f-- with me. 

Q: Do you know why? 

A: I don't really know why. I can have a sense of it if I take myself out of my shoes and go, ``Maybe this is how it is to them.'' But, then again, why? Where is all this energy coming from to knock me down? It doesn't seem like it's my problem. 

Q: What do you think causes the reaction, then? 

A: It seems like it's some kind of boredom, because I'll probably react to something, and that's great for a story. Once that starts to happen, it becomes a pastime for people to make fun of that one person. I guess I've become that person. 

Q: Do you think you could have handled things better? 

A: I could have done things in a different way and still got my message across, but I don't want to compromise by having an image. I don't want to have to worry about saying something that's going to be wrong that contributes to a public image of me. I don't want to worry about that stuff. I don't want to worry so much about not making mistakes, because I'll drive myself crazy. I want to be able to say what I want to say when I want to say it. But it doesn't seem to work that way, does it? I don't regret anything. 

Q: Do you still feel as if you have to prove yourself to anyone? 

A: To myself, I just need to prove that I can deal with this a second time. It was only the first time that I wanted people to understand me. I got slapped in the face for it. Now I don't know what my point is, I'm just proud of the work I've done, and it needs promotion. I have been discouraged in the intelligence of a lot of people out there.