Interview: Kimya Dawson from Juno Soundtrack

The Juno soundtrack was initially rolled out to digital retailers in December as the film was opening in select cities. Juno has steadily gained momentum in the marketplace thanks to strong word of mouth — and an unusual degree of synergy between the movie and its soundtrack. The film’s young star, Ellen Page, suggested using the music of The Moldy Peaches, and the 19-track Juno soundtrack includes eight songs featuring that band’s Kimya Dawson. The album debuted on the Billboard Top 10 — largely on the strength of digital sales.

We had the honor of sitting down with Kimya Dawson to talk about her work with the Juno soundtrack, Moldly Peaches, and what’s next for the singer! Here’s what she had to say:

You’ve done a ton of collaborations over the years, is there one that sticks out as your favorite or perhaps your most exciting?

I love playing and recording with other people, and I hope to do lots, lots more of that, but as far as a favorite… wow, I don’t know… They’ve all been fun for me. I sang on one of my brothers’ songs, and he’s just my favorite. He doesn’t ever record, and he doesn’t ever play out, so the fact that I got him on the foretrack and sang with him, means a lot to me. He only has 7 songs recorded.

I really love the song that I did with the Mountain Goats as well…

I also think it’s really fun that I have a song with Stephen Jenkins from Third Eye Bye and David Johnson on the same song. Then I have a song that has Vanessa Carlton and Regina Specter on the same song. Plus a million other friends that perhaps people haven’t heard of, but that I think are amazing. I just think it’s good to get a lot of people together.

You have a very unique sound with your solo album. How would describe that sound to those that haven’t heard you?

I am a folk singer. It’s more about the words than the music. My songs are very lyrical. I try to cram as much information into a few minutes as I possibly can. I’m no guitar virtuoso, that’s for sure [laughs].

Now when I was reading about you online, I saw the term anti-folk associated with you a lot. Can you describe what exactly that is?

It’s just a community in New York of artists and musicians that hang out together. I used to hang out in those places. It’s been awhile though since I’ve really been around that scene. I don’t even know who is apart of it anymore. But it’s not a genre or a movement necessary, it’s just more of a community.

Your music on the Juno soundtrack really fit the feel of the film perfectly. How did you come to be involved in that?

Jason Ritman asked Ellen Page what she thought Juno would listen to. She said the Moldy Peaches, so they downloaded a song together and Jason liked it. The song happened to be “Anyone But You”. He decided to actually write the song into the movie. Then a few months later, he told me he wanted to use some of my songs as well.

Can you talk a little bit about the meaning behind ‘So Nice, So Smart’?

That’s a hard one. That’s a song that I wrote when I was really, really sad, and I felt like a friend of mine simultaneously screwed me over and some other friends of his. Many hearts were broken at the same time. And I wrote that song, he heard it, and he was really upset. I was really upset. We ended up working it out, and we’re really good friends. But I’ve never played it live, so it’s kind of crazy that it was in the movie.

Have you seen Juno?

Yeah, like a lot [laughs].

What was your impression? Were you a fan?

Yeah, I’m a huge fan. I would be a huge even fan even if my songs weren’t in it.

Now did you know Ellen Page before? Or did it happen to be just a coincidence that she was a fan of your music?

It was a total coincidence. There are many kids like her that like the Moldy Peaches. She’s just a really smart, funny, nice kid from somewhere weird and out there, and she loves where she’s from. She’s not interested in all the Hollywood crap. She’s really cool. She emails me sometimes, and I email her. And she’s just like any other person. She’s just super nice. Her and Michael both are just really special people.

What is it about your music, both solo and your work with Moldy Peaches, that you think fits so well with this film?

I think that it’s a little bit sad and touching and a little bit funny at the same time. That’s what’s being said. There’s a lot being said [laughs]. I feel like the dialogue and the lyrics are kind of in a similar style. Just like bam, bam, bam.

What’s your inspiration to create your music?

I started initially to get myself out of a really tough spot emotionally. I used to be really self-destructive. I just hit a point where I knew I had to chance my life or I was going to die. The first Moldy Peaches was two weeks after I got out of rehab. I just celebrated nine years sober, so music has just really kept me on track. I started it because it was a really healing thing for me and it still is. It’s just one of those things where I could read negative reviews, but it saves me. So even if no one else likes it, it helps me and it’s going to be a really important part of my life.

Was there an album that you heard growing up that really changed your life and made you think about the possibility of music for your future?

I have this thing in my possession that I like to call the “Sting letter”. When I was in 8th grade in alternative school, I heard “Dream of the Blue Turtles” on a class retreat in the forest. I don’t even know why… but that album, at that moment, just changed how I viewed music and how I thought about things. And when I was in high school I wrote a letter to Sting, it was like six pages long [laughs]. But yeah his albums “Dream of the Blue Turtles” and “Nothing Like the Sun” really totally rearranged my brain, and I wrote him a letter that just laid it all out for him. I never sent it though. I was scared of how he would react if he had read, and I still have it, I still have the Sting letter [laughs]. So every time I get a letter from a kid telling me that I what I do is important to them, I think about the Sting letter, and about how I felt when I was younger. It helps me to stay connected.

So what’s next for you?

We’re doing an East Coast tour, lots of promotional stuff, lot of in-store, and some venues as well. We’re going to go down as far as the Raleigh/Durham area and then fly back to the West Coast and some things in Seattle and Portland, and then head down to California. In March and April, some of my husband’s good friends from France are coming, and they have an amazing band, and we’re going to do a big tour with them.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

– Juno Soundtrack


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