Interview with Elizabeth Elmore of the Reputation and Sarge
by David Ensminger, originally published in Left of the Dial
Do you think people would prefer that you be less blunt?
Probably depends on whom you ask! I don’t know if I’m that blunt in person in the sense of lacking tact or anything. But I do say what I think, and I’ll challenge someone on what they say or how they behave if I need to. I’m not aggressive, but I can be assertive if it seems necessary. In the law world, it’s seen as a good quality, and the gender thing doesn’t come into play but in the rock world. It probably rubs some men the wrong way because they’re not always used to it. I think it antagonizes them sometimes.
The mix and match, cut and paste, alter-ego musical sensibilities of Elvis Costello seem almost a perfect fit for your growing and expanding musical persona. What led you to covering the song?
It’s sort of strange. I actually discovered the song a long time ago through the movie Georgia where Jennifer Jason Leigh sings the song. I figured out that it was an Elvis Costello song and immediately got the original. I fell in love with it and mentioned once to Chad Romanski (Sarge’s drummer) that I wanted to cover it some day. He said that if I ever did it, I had to let him play drums. Around that same time, I was hanging out at Jay Bennett from Wilco’s loft and mentioned that I loved the song. He said that if I ever recorded it, I had to let him do it, and I made him agree to play piano at the same time. Anyway, four years later we were getting ready to record this CD and I decided I’d like to put it on there. I was trying to figure out how to sucker Chad into playing on the CD anyway, so I convinced him that since he’d have to come into the studio anyway, he might as well do the entire record. Then I called Jay and held him to his promise to record and play it and suckered him into co-producing a few other songs as well!
“There are people who are truly songwriters and then there are people who whatever the best work that they do is a product of where they are in their life and what their experiences in a short, condensed period of time have been. I get worried that what Sarge had going for it was a product of me being at that crazy age where everything is exciting and interesting and new…”`As you now settle in with the Reputation, have these anxieties about the songwriting process been assuaged, or do you worry that you, like Paul Westerberg, will be much less interesting as an “adult” than as a young frantic songwriter?
Well, I suppose the Westerberg thing is a matter of opinion. I’m not that familiar with his new stuff, so I don’t want to implicitly agree with your statement by ignoring it. But yes, I did worry about it with Sarge and I guess I continue to worry about it. Whether it’s true or not? I could say, “that remains to be seen,” or “that’s for other people to decide because I don’t have a clue.” I suppose it’s combination of both. Anyway, to answer your question, no, my anxieties about writing songs haven’t lessened, and I sorta doubt they ever will.