The finishing touches were being put on to "Watershed," k.d. lang's newest album scheduled for release in February when she recently spoke with Randy B. Hecht -- but she gave a sneak preview of the sound of the CD, which she produced herself. "It's quite lush-sounding," she said. "It's kind of genre-less to me. It basically sounds like a culmination of all the sounds I've touched on in the last 25 years. So it kind of incorporates my entire past." Following the CD's release, lang will tour Australia, Canada, the U.S., and likely some U.K. cities. You can also catch her performance on January 26 prior to Olivia's Caribbean cruise.
Have you done Olivia cruises before?
Yes, I have. It's really fun, it's actually really cool. I was a bit cynical about it when I was first asked to do it -- I don't know why -- and when I showed up there they were really nice, really organized, and the audience was great, so I had a very good experience. I'm really looking forward to doing something special for them again.
Is it odd to do a concert and then have someone from the audience be in the next cabin?
I don't actually stay on the boat. We have to get on to the next date. We do it where they dock, and I go on the boat and do the show and then leave.
So you're a port of call.
Yes. [Laughing] I've been called that before.
How do you choose music for your own travels, whether you're touring or on vacation?
I don't really listen to a lot of music when I'm working, just because my ears need a break and I need a break from music. When I travel on my leisure, it really depends where I'm traveling. If I'm traveling somewhere pretty exotic, I generally don't listen to music, because I like to listen to the music that travel supplies me with. I go a lot to India, and there's always music blaring on the streets from car radios; there's music everywhere in India, so there's no point in taking music there. So it really depends on what the destination is and why I'm traveling.
How much of an association is there for you between particular songs and places?
Oh, a lot. A song will always transport me to a place. Always -- whether it's a place in time or a geographic place. To me it's inseparable. It's like smell and memory, it's just intrinsically linked.
Have you found that travel is conducive to your songwriting or to other facets of your creativity?
Oh, most definitely. I love to hear the soundtrack that that particular location or environment conjures. We were in Tahiti about a year ago, and we went to this little island…there was a little French restaurant there playing café music, and it was very bass- and drum- heavy. It really inspired me, and it was while I was writing my record and working on my record. Things like that always happen. Or if I'm in India and I hear Bollywood strings, I get really excited by the concept of strings.
You've mentioned India twice. Is that your favorite travel destination?
I wouldn't say it's my favorite. It's a place I go every year. Certainly it's a place I love to go. It's kind of a spiritual destination for me. I'm a Buddhist, so we go there to practice. For vacations…I always like to go places I've never been, so it's hard for me to say my favorite vacation spot is…actually, it's home. But in terms of when I choose to travel for leisure, I always choose somewhere I've never been.
What destination is at the top of your wish list?
I would have to say Vietnam or Cambodia. Asia's always got the most allure for me. Asia never ends for me. China, Japan, India -- all of those are so fascinating to me.
What new connections to gay culture have you encountered through travel?
[In 2002] I did the Australian Gay Games. I sang at the opening ceremony. It was really overwhelmingly beautiful to see representatives from China and Iraq and Afghanistan walk through that door at a time of turmoil. It was right when the Bush administration was going haywire. It was really an amazing thing to see people come through that door that were supposed to be our archenemies, and yet the gay culture was the thing that trumped any political platform.
Five travel essentials:
I travel so light that it's insane. I take one bag no matter where I go, no matter how long I go for. So in that is always my passport; my rosewater spray, which I always have to have; my mala [Buddhist prayer beads]; my iPhone…and…I think I only have four things, that's how light a traveler I am.
A culture [in Japan] that is dying, unfortunately, is the public baths. I think they are so amazing and such a beautiful part of Japanese tradition. I always seek them out.
Australia is my favorite place to eat, bar none. In Sydney [my favorite eatery is] Longrain, which is a Thai restaurant but very cutting-edge. That's a great place to eat.
Santa Barbara, Calif:
I just finished a tour at Santa Barbara. I was finished at 8:30 p.m. and changed my clothes immediately and rushed to La Super-Rica, which is one of my favorite taco stands. Just an amazing place. I usually go to more ethnic, more low-key hole-in-the-wall places.