Margaret Cho lost her voice over the weekend and is very sweetly describing her new and first comedy music hybrid album “Cho Dependent.” She gushes on the “warmth and love” there was between her and her famous collaborators like Andrew Bird, Fiona Apple, Jon Brion, Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco and the New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman, who worked on music to her lyrics. It’s fielding a balance, she said, between being known as a comedian but have great standards for a musical output.
Is it, perhaps, like having two sides to a coin, an alter-ego?
“It’s no ‘Sasha Fierce.’ Though maybe I oughta…” Margaret Cho laughs. “It’s still comedy.”
The longtime comedienne’s +1 Records effort is the product of a year and a half of cobbling together songs in a variety of methods, whether laying down recordings live in her rudimentary home studio, or by dubbing over tracks laid down remotely. Considering artists from Ben Lee to Tommy Chong hail from all over the world, it seemed that a complete album materializing, ultimately, was a miracle. Or is just that Cho is the glue that can bring it all together.
“I feel like I have a real knack for collaboration. It’s at least one thing I know that I know I’m good at,” she says. She already had pre-existing friendships with artists like Brion, DiFranco and Apple and respected the music of acts like Tegan and Sara. Through those connections, she was able to get in touch with Brendan Benson, Patti Griffin and even got down to shoot a video, “I’m Sorry,” with Bird (below). Check out, too, her clip with Grant Lee Phillips on “Eat Sh*t and Die”; both were shot by Liam Sullivan of “Shoes” fame.
“Dependence” was also an opportunity to shine a light on another of Cho’s hidden acumen: alt-country music. The album runs the gamut of cabaret tunes to faux-pop, but there is an extra emphasis on folkier tunes.
“I love country. I especially love alt-country,” she says, citing Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams and Dave Rawlings. “If I could have a true, distinctive country voice, it’d be Emmylou [Harris] or Dolly Parton. But I don’t. Maybe could do a good impression, instead.”
The Cho Dependence 2010 tour has already kicked off, with a stop in Provincetown, Mass., tonight. Cho says that it’s more of a comedy show than a traditional music tour date, though she’s making sure to throw in a few tunes. She expects that friends like Lee, Brion and Apple may show up intermittently throughout the tour.
She also has another song release coming out soon, a combined effort with friend Lucas Silveira of The Cliks on a song dubbed "Stick It In," which will be released as an online exclusive and will also be included on the next music album.
Cho also hopes to stop off at more music festivals next year like she did at Bonnaroo this past summer, for the opportunity to present her show to audiences outside of the comedy circuit. “You can get really experimental and wild and theatrical,” Cho explains, which would explain at least a couple of dramatic characters who she’d also love to collaborate with on the next musical endeavor: Linda Perry and David Bowie.
Cho is also currently preparing for the February return of “Drop Dead Diva” on Lifetime.
Below are Margaret Cho's music videos with Andrew Bird and Grant Lee Phillips, in "I'm Sorry" and "Eat Sh*t and Die," respectively.