Jen Foster first picked up a guitar when she was 8 years old and it wasn't long before she was winning talent contests at her Catholic all-girl high school. After graduating she moved to Los Angeles with hopes of becoming the next big thing, but found herself relegated to the coffee house circuit (and working a dead end job as a receptionist at a luggage company), so she packed her bags and headed east to Nashville. Determined to "grow into a big fish in that relatively small pond," Foster recorded her first official release, Everybody's Girl, in 2003 and in 2008 she started Fosterchild Records. Her video for the song "Closer To Nowhere," which will be featured on her upcoming album Thirty-Nine, shot to number 1 on LOGO's Top 10 Videos and spent over six months on the chart.
Foster's new single, "I Didn't Just Kiss Her," is a tongue-in-cheek response to Katy Perry's hit single "I Kissed A Girl" and has already scored her new fans and bit of controversy. Out caught up with the singer to discuss the song, her feelings about Katy Perry, and why Sarah McLachlan and lesbian sex go hand in hand.
Out: Do you remember the first time you heard Katy Perrys I Kissed A Girl?
Jen Foster: I remember thinking, Isnt there already a song called I Kissed A Girl? and it was the Jill Sobule song and I thought they were going to play that -- but then they played the Katy Perry song and I thought, Wow. Somebody finally did it -- somebody finally took it even further than the Jill Sobule song.
[Sobule's song] was so sweet and innocent.
I love that one too. Katys took it to a whole new realm.
Weve covered Katy in the magazine several times and weve gotten such vicious feedback -- both pro and con. Whats your take on her song and her intentions?
I read that theres a lot of outrage in the gay community toward her and a feeling that shes exploited the gay community, but I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt and find out more before I make judgments on something like that. Ive done some reading up on her and she seems to be very supportive of the gay community. I think shes a little bit taken aback by the reaction -- shes like, Hey! I love gay people! I read that both of her parents are ministers and she said, Theyre fine with it and if theyre fine with it I dont know why other people arent fine with it. Whats the problem? So, as a songwriter and an artist myself, I always give people leeway to express whatever they want to express. I think she was just making her own little statement -- if shes not gay, shes not gay. We shouldnt be offended by that.
Within in the gay community I think theres that sentiment of Either youre for us or youre against us -- even the bisexuals are often given a hard time of it for being uncommitted -- but thats so limiting.
There are so many voices amongst us. Its almost like reverse discrimination sometimes within the gay community. We need to be as open-minded toward them as we want them to be toward us.
Personally, as a queer musician, do you feel tokenized or pigeonholed in regards to your sexuality?
I just put it out there and Im open about who I am and people have to interpret that as they wish. Of course nobody wants to be pigeonholed but is it fair to say Im an out artist? Yes, I am and I embrace that. But would I say that my music has universal messages that can appeal to everybody? Yeah, I also would say that. So I hope I can reach a point where my music can be embraced by both the gay community and the straight community.
Whats the reaction been to I Didnt Just Kiss Her?
Its been surprisingly, overwhelming positive. Honestly, going in I was a little bit nervous because Im well-known for writing folk ballads -- songs with a little bit darker, deeper depressing stuff in them -- so this was a step out of the usual for me. Of course I was a little bit apprehensive thinking, Oh my God, this could get a crazy bad reaction -- or a crazy good reaction. But I thought, This is a part of me. Im going to put it out there and see what happens. Have I gotten a couple of emails from people who were offended? Yeah. I actually responded to those emails -- not angrily. I just wanted to explain that this was done with a sense of humor and Im not trying to get in anyones face or offend anyone. I just wanted to have fun with the subject.
What did they take offense with specifically?
The one letter I got directly was from an older fan of mine -- a woman probably in her late 40s or early 50s. She said that she thought I took it too far and that sometimes being in your face can come back to bite you in the ass. I told her that her point was taken and that I did understand that this was risky, but that this was a part of me that I needed to get out there and that I hoped people would take it in full context with the other songs that I have and wouldnt take it so seriously.
Love Katy Perry or hate her, theres something to be said for visibility and I think shes offered that to the queer community -- whatever her intention was.
Exactly! In my mind the gay community should be thanking Katy Perry because what she did was open up the debate again. She opened it up where people could say I kissed a girl or I didnt just kiss her -- whatever it is she opened up a conversation which has given us more exposure. Thats something we should be grateful for.
When did you decide to pen a response to Katys song?
It all began with the melody and the groove of the song. I had other lyrics to that same song but the lyrics were more cerebral -- more political -- and I thought that groove and that melody was so hooky and I wanted to get that out there. So I thought, This needs lyrics that you cant mistake. This needs lyrics that are as compelling as the music. With that, I just started playing with the melody and the first thing that came out of my mouth was I didnt just kiss her and it just flowed and literally within an hour Id written the whole song. It just hit me as a no-brainer. I was like, Oh my God, this could be an amazing chance to get some exposure for my other music and for the song itself.
Its a great make out song. It reminded me of when you responded to our Top 100 Greatest, Gayest Albums of All Time poll last October and said of Sarah McLachlans Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Lesbians all across the world have had sex to this record. A LOT of sex.
Do you know what? Sarah got wind of that comment! This is the most amazing thing. I got this Google alert for Sarah McLachlan and lesbian not long after that and apparently some lesbian interviewer had pointed out that musician Jen Foster says your album and quoted the article! So Sarah, in her response, just laughed and said, I love that! I love that people are still having that reaction to that record and it makes me feel good to know that people are having a good time and having good sex to the record. So it was awesome to know that my name and Out magazine had been mentioned to Sarah McLachlan.
What other albums get you in the mood?
Sade? Lately I havent even had time to have sex. [Laughs] You need to recommend some albums to me. [Laughs]
Yeah. We need to change that.
Ive been so busy writing songs and on the road. My girlfriend is like Hello! A little attention over here!
"I Didn't Just Kiss Her" is available for download from iTunes.