This article originally appeared in the June 1995 issue of OUT.
It’s the sort of daydream around which Jill Sobule might fashion one of her whimsical songs: she was hanging around her house in Los Angeles, in her pajamas, when a talent scout who had acquired her demo tape purely by accident called to invite her to perform at the Atlantic Records office the next day. Two days later, he called again—from an airplane— to tell Sobule she was as good as signed. All this as a result of “demos that my previous manager, who dropped me, said were ‘Terrible! You’re never gonna get anywhere!’”
If Sobule's going places now, it may be because of the catchy first single from her eponymous new album, an innocent yet seditious ode to alternative romance called “I Kissed a Girl.” “I’m glad I did it,” says the singer, “but musically, it’s the dumbest song on the album—dumb in a smart way but it’s a throwaway.” She certainly never intended it to be a defining statement on her own sexuality: “I’ve kissed a girl,” she states dryly. “I’ve kissed a boy. So what’s next?”
Later, less coyly, she recounts, “I remember having a crush on a girl in junior high school, but I still liked boys very much, and I remember feeling really bad about the crush. If I would have heard a song like ‘I Kissed a Girl’ it would have made me feel better. Wouldn’t it have made you feel better?”
Sobule grew up in Denver in the '60s, memorizing Avengers episodes (“Emma Peel got to wear the coolest leather jumpsuits”) and bemoaning Samantha’s fate on Bewitched (“She had all the coolest powers—and there’s this guy who won't let her use them!”). She played and quit the electric guitar as a child, then, in college started singing and playing acoustic. In 1990, MCA released her debut album, Things Here Are Different. But after sending her on the road, the label dropped her and ditched the second record she had recorded. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she recalls. “I was feeling so horrible and bad, like my music days were over.”
Her pajama days now behind her Sobule is touring again behind her, Sobule is touring again behind a strong new record. The politically astute lyrics on Jill Sobule are both autobiographical and full of irony and tales derived from dreams and harsh reality, all wrapped around quirky melodies with a voice that’s high but firm. “I’m not waify,” she declares. Indeed, if it sounds like Sheryl Crow has melded with Phranc on the slyly sardonic ex-love song “Good Person Inside,” both are better for it. And Bette Midler has already recorded Sobule's Joni Mitchell-meets-Gloria-Gaynor breakup tune, “Now That I Don't Have You.” In concert, Sobule has been known to play what she calls a “Baltic folk” cover of Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive.”
Survive she has. “Thank God this happened,” she says of her unexpectedly sudden comeback, “because I really don’t have any other skills.”