Manning up


By Noah Michelson

You're so good at mining that shared trauma but you yourself don't come across as morbidly depressed. Why are you so good at sad songs?
I think I have been really depressed. Depression and anxiety have been -- for most of my life -- things I've really struggled with. But it's a struggle that I feel like I've kind of won. That's the amazing good news: you can really sort of bust out of that stuff. But it literally has to be your top priority -- becoming better. And becoming a better person is also part of that because it doesn't happen if you just go, I want to feel better! I want to be happy! The goal has to be becoming a better person. And understanding that your happiness is part of becoming a better person and realizing that you're not somehow exempt from the good part of the lottery, either. You can't allow yourself to be a martyr to your own depression like, I'm so special and I'm depressed. You have to have compassion for yourself but you can't stay stuck in that martyr-y mindset.

Have you ever tried to force yourself to write a happy song?
I think I've deliberately sat down and tried to write songs about topics that didn't have any strong emotional resonance for me. And I think that was a response to the idea that there was a criticism about me that I wasn't happy enough. But I think that was early on and later I was like, Eh, I don't fucking care. A song like '31 Today' was not remotely written when I was feeling in that kind of mood. But I felt that the music felt like that -- that the piece of music that I had went with it. The first line that I had was 'drinking Guinness in the afternoon' and it made me think of a time when I was about 31 and that was sort of my life. I'd meet up with people and we'd start drinking and it was the afternoon. You're sleeping late and you're getting up and suddenly you're having breakfast and you're drinking! I wasn't even a big drinker -- that wasn't necessarily my thing, but you find yourself doing it and that's almost worse. So that's why I started thinking about that period of time.

Are there songs that you just can't bring yourself to play anymore?
I think that there are probably a couple of songs that I feel aren't very well written -- or overwritten probably.

Do you want to name any names?
It's funny because I have been listening to all this older stuff and trying to remember -- or at least try to figure out what the key of it was. I was thinking about the song 'Fifty Years After the Fair' ' it's too wildly overwritten. There's a tag and then a tag of the tag and then the end part of the chorus and then another chorus -- it feel likes too many sections.

It's incredibly indulgent but I love it.
It's like one chord change and now we're going over here and now we're going over there. [Laughs]

A few years ago on your message board one fan was asking a few others how he could get you to play 'Voices Carry.' And a couple of people responded, 'Don't ask her. She doesn't want to play it.' But you still do play it occasionally, so, you must not totally hate it?
I think it's OK. Lyrically it doesn't have a lot going for it. Sometimes my criteria for whether or not I enjoy playing a song has nothing to do with the song. Sometimes I realize, Oh, I've been playing this in the wrong key and I have to change the key because it's not fun to sing because it's not in a good place for my voice. So sometimes it's as simple as changing the key and I think 'Voices Carry''s lyrics aren't super great. I do play it sometimes and I think especially on an all request night [I'll do it]. I'm thinking of making a two song 'Til Tuesday limit. Presumably there's not going to be a lot of 'Til Tuesday requests, but you know what? I'm not going back and learning the catalog. There are three 'Til Tuesday songs that I'll know anyhow.

What are the chances of a 'Til Tuesday reunion?
I can't really picture it but I guess if I felt that millions were clamoring for such a thing? [Laughs] I don't think I'd completely object to it but I don't think I'd do a whole tour.