If you're planning to go to the Morrissey show at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday, make sure to get there early so you don't>"/>
If you're planning to go to the Morrissey show at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday, make sure to get there early so you don't miss what promises to be a fantastic, theatrical opening set by Kristeen Young, the New York City-via-St. Louis singer/keyboardist who's performing as a duo along with long-time drummer Jeff White. I first stumbled across Young -- who's been recording and sporadically touring with various bands and as a solo artist since the early '90s -- a decade ago, when a publicist-friend of mine sent me her solo debut, Meet Miss Young and Her All Boy Band. I was immediately struck by her classically trained voice -- feral, confrontational, operatic in its range and resonance -- and her lyrics and music, equally powerful and visceral. Forever likened to Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Siouxsie Sioux, Diamanda Galas, and Polly Jean Harvey (you can perhaps hear bits of those folks in her work, but those comparisons are mostly lazy), Young has operated in relative obscurity for the bulk of her career, suffering label problems (she's currently unsigned in the U.S.) and critical polarization regarding her strong persona, despite releasing several extremely compelling albums (mostly on European labels) and collaborating with David Bowie, Placebo's Brian Molko, and others.
But things seem to finally be looking up for Young -- last April she was hand-picked by Morrissey to open a string of European shows, and the pairing went over so well that she's been his global tourmate for the entire year since. She's also gigging behind an excellent new album, The Orphans, which is probably her most potent disc yet.
I recently spoke with Young over the phone -- after the jump, she talks about her association with Moz.
Tell me how the whole Morrissey tour came about.
It started in a crazy way, in the most cinematic way. His producer was Tony Visconti, and Tony had been to one of our shows and he’d videoptaped it, and he was editing it in the studio where they were working on Morrissey’s album and Morrissey walked in and saw the video and was like, 'Who’s that?’ It was like a movie or something, the way it was explained to me. And then Tony said, 'Well I’m doing their album [The Orphans] next -- I’ll send it to you when it’s finished,' and he did, and at that point it was two weeks before Morrissey's European tour was supposed to start, so they already had their opening bands scheduled. But one of the bands didn’t work out, so he called up and said, 'Can you come over here to Ireland right away?' And we did, and then it worked out so well that he kept asking us to come tour, and he got rid of all the other opening acts! It just kept going on and on, and of course we’re more than excited to do it.
So were you a big Morrissey/Smiths fan before all of this happened?
Oh completely! I really do believe he’s the greatest writer of the 20th and 21st century, I really do. I adore him, and I love watching him every night. I never get tired of him. I’ve told him this before -- I feel like he formed me, you know, a part of me …
And how did he react to that?
Ummmm...[she pauses, then begins to laugh hysterically] I think he liked it!
Are you guys buddies? Does it feel normal to just hang out?
It’s not normal. I mean, I go back and forth with it, because in some way I can't believe it happened. I never set out with a goal to...it happened kind of in a roundabout way. So yeah, I mean I have those moments where I feel incredibly lucky and everything, like, how did I get to this place, particularly after years of struggle. But in another way, and if you write this I hope it looks okay, but it also feels natural to be around him, too, because I did grow up with his music and so...it makes sense. I’m a nervous person anyway, and it takes me a long time to get comfortable around people, but I feel very comfortable with him, I feel comfortable conversing with him. He’s a complete surprise of a person – he’s such a joy in every way. Discovering things about him, getting to know him, is just a joy. He’s the most good-hearted person. I think a lot of people have misconceptions about him, I think they maybe think he’s mean because he’s so sharp-witted, but he’s the most loving person.
When you're performing, do you ever see him in the wings watching your set?
Yes [laughs]. I try not to look in his direction. I saw him last night and my legs started shaking. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me and sometimes it does ...not bother me, but it makes me nervous. He’s always sitting in the shadows. But I get nervous anyway, I’m a nervous person. It’s very complicated!
His fans are among the most rabid anywhere in the world -- have you found that they've been accepting you at shows?
It really depends from show to show. But yeah, generally I really feel like we’re doing well, and I get a lot of really great letters and we’re selling CDs, so it's been really good overall.
Do you ever worry that your identity as an artist might be getting too strongly linked with Morrissey?
Nah, I don’t think I really am in the position to worry about that, because I dunno, the other option wasn’t that great! I don’t really care. I’m having the best time of my life -- this is the best period of my life, so I don’t care about other people’s perceptions of it.