Don’t try to pigeonhole Josephine Foster. She has recorded albums of psychedelic rock and Tin Pan Alley, music for children, blues, Spanish folk tunes, 19th century German art songs and a song cycle based on the poems of Emily Dickinson. Although her soprano may be a little unusual, it’s arresting.
Foster recently released a new album, Blood Rushing. She spoke with NPR’s Scott Simon about finding her voice, collaborating with her husband, singing at funerals and embracing small-town life.
On finding inspiration in opera
“I guess when I first heard an opera singer, I was in a small room, and she was singing a Verdi aria. It was just so … you know when your hair just kind of flies back and you feel the vibrations? How is that possible that this woman has such a force? It seems supernatural. I loved that experience. I wanted to have a vibrating voice. I didn’t want one of these sort of pansy voices from the pop singers that just sound like a thin little noodle, trying to be a girly-girl. I wasn’t into that.”
On her past life singing in funeral homes
“I remember being backstage in the funeral parlor with the body, and then back with the priest or the reverend in the secret chambers, musty and dark. … I guess a rock club is just about like a funeral parlor to me, one step away — dark and dreary and smells bad, not too many windows, or the shades are drawn.”
On how she knows when a song works
“I look for something that, immediately, I want to listen to again. The rhymes, I want them to be so delectable that I want to repeat them again and again and I can’t forget them. It’s because my memory is not so strong, so I have to carefully build a song for my own memory. … My ideal is that all of the things that I love are in my head and I don’t have to depend on anything — that they’ll all just be safely there. And if they don’t fit in there, maybe they’re too long or something’s just not right.”