St. Vincent Is Trying to Understand People
5. Maggie Nelsons “The Art of Cruelty”
This is one of those books that I picked up six times that went through a few pages and said, “This is really brilliant,” but it felt impenetrable at first. Then I had that one weekend when the clouds parted and I could just see it and plow through it. It’s about the ethic of being an artist in a way that is so brilliant and not orthodox or waving your fingers. I think it is one of those books that you can reread at different points in your life.
6. Your own STV Signature Series guitar
Part of it was inspired by Klaus Nomis Smoking. And I wanted it to hit my sternum in a special way. I’m cis female so the way it meets the sternum and then has a small cutout makes room for my chest. But only one of them. There is only room for one! I love it. It’s the only electrical I play with very rare exceptions.
I’ve seen the pictures of people from the Met [in the exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll”]because I never got a chance to see it in real life. Most of the time I just like to quietly lower my head and work – and then every now and then I look up and see something I’ve done and it’s mysterious that it is in the world.
7. Wim Wenders “Pina”
I love Pina Bausch’s work. I was really inspired by “The Rite of Spring” where the maiden dances herself to death. There’s this one movement that was like pulling your hand over your head and when you pull it down your elbow goes into your stomach – like you’re open and then impaling yourself. It just moved me to tears. When I was working with my friend Annie-B Parson to choreograph the Digital Witness Tour, I said, “Can we include this, please?” Another big thing: I was obsessed with falling. That was another big part of the Bausch job. How do you fall and make it look violent without harming yourself? I would get a rehearsal room with Annie-B and just practice falling.
8. Vintage RCA 77-D microphone
It’s an old ribbon mic and it just sounds so good and warm. I know these are words that might not mean that much – when people describe the sound as warm, it’s reductive. But it makes things sound and feel true. I don’t mean it has perfect fidelity. What I mean is that when you sing into that mic, what comes back to you feels honest. My friend Cian Riordan who mixed “Daddy’s Home” brought me to this mic.
9. “Hidden Brain” Podcast
There was one recently about the idea of the culture of honor. You know, if someone insults a man’s manhood and there is manhood associated with honor, you must avenge that insult. Many of these “honor societies” have more violence because you have to save face and there are fewer opportunities to assimilate conflicts. The premise of so much of “Hidden Brain” is that we live by the stories we tell ourselves. And as a storyteller, this idea is very liberating for me because if we live by the stories we tell ourselves it means that we can absorb that information and tell ourselves new stories as we get new information.
10. Piazza della Signoria in Florence
The first time I was there with my mother and sisters. I remember just walking around this piazza and having a wonderful time and wonderful conversation and being really impressed with the architecture and history and just that life was beautiful. Another time, a few years later, I was on tour with David Byrne and we had our last show in Florence. I remember going through band members and having the best dinner of my life afterwards. It’s one of those places where I’ve been at very important points in my life and only nice things have happened to me.