Seattle Weekly: You've recorded five albums, the most recent of which, Little Fugitive (Signature Sounds), begins with "Like Rasputin," which might be the best song you've written. What inspired it?
Amy Rigby: My desire to write a song that wasn't about me. [laughs]
You won't find a lot of singer-songwriters who'll say a thing like that.
I was like, "I'll just write something about Russian history." By the time I got to the middle of the first verse, I was already comparing it to myself. I'm certainly no [Russian history] expert, but I found Rasputin to be a kind of interesting, creepy character. Once I started writing the song, I was like, "What year was that?" I had to look [facts] up.
Right now you live in Cleveland; before that you were in Nashville and Brooklyn. Obviously you write a lot about relationships and real-life things like parenting and worrying about money. But I wonder how you'd compare those cities for songwriting inspiration.
I felt like it took a couple years in Nashville for it to really kick in, as far as it having any impact. I'm not sure about Cleveland yet. I don't know that I'll really be there long—I'm really just there for family reasons. You know how people will be like, "I went to Seattle and I loved it, I've got to move there"—that rarely ever happens with Cleveland. [laughs] But who knows? I've always gone where I've thought I should go for my work. After being in a very business-oriented place like Nashville, it could be a good thing to be in just, like, a real place to live.
When you were in Nashville, did your propensity to write about yourself feel at odds with how the songwriting there works?
I think being there made me want to get as personal as possible, more than I was aware of when I was in New York, [where] people kept saying, "You should go to Nashville, these sound like songs that people down there might want to record." It wasn't until I was there that I thought that maybe the [songs are] too idiosyncratic for that, or they're not glamorous enough or something. I like to think there can be more complexity to [the] people [I write about]. I didn't want to leave out the details.
One Nashvillean trait you have is to include at least one kind of slapstick humor song on each album. On Little Fugitive, it's "Needy Men." Do you do that on purpose?
I think that really developed out of playing and touring solo a lot more. Sometimes I think my sense of humor has become more developed just out of necessity—I have to laugh at things to be comfortable. It keeps me from losing my mind, basically. It's a coping skill in life, and it's kind of ended up being in the songs, too.
Amy Rigby plays Caffe Vita, 1005 E. Pike St., 206-709-4440, with Treva Blomquist, Grrls with Guitars, Amy Roberts, Reb Fountain, and Adriana at 8 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11. Part of Rockrgrl Music Conference.