Joan As Policewoman - Feel the force

Joan As Policewoman

No, we don't understand the bizarre name either, but Joan As Policewoman's songs are truly breathtaking. Camilla Pia is bewitched

Musically, there isn't much that Joan Wasser hasn't done. From violinist in the Boston University Symphony Orchestra and Dambuilders guitarist to working with a diverse range of acts, including Antony and the Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed, Sparklehorse, Dave Gahan, Elton John and the Scissor Sisters, the multi-skilled singer-songwriter seems to have spent most of her career teaming up with others. But she broke free in 2006, finally taking the bold steps to go it alone with inspired results in the form of debut solo effort Real Life

Now Wasser's back with a wonderful new record, driven by delicate piano, those trademark swoonsome vocals and refreshingly honest lyrics. It also features the talents of David Sylvian and old chum Wainwright, but when we catch up with the eccentric character in her Brooklyn home, she has no plans to return to collaborating full-time.

'Being a solo artist is great,' she purrs in a charming New York drawl. 'I spent a lot of time playing with other people which was good too but it really was time for me to find out what I had to say and I am comfortable saying it now. I certainly wasn't in the past, but it's been nice taking all of that experience and putting it into my own adventure.'

And what a journey To Survive has been. The beguiling collection of songs was written mostly in the shadow of Wasser's mother's battle with cancer, which ended in her death last year; subsequently the album addresses themes of suffering and loss along with the euphoria of new love and the 'hideous choices' of US politics, proving that the Brooklyn lass is not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve when it comes to writing.

'My music pretty much is my heart,' she says. 'There is no divider there, and I take it really seriously. I write about the deepest things happening to me because I imagine music to be a place where my emotions and intellect meet to work things out.'

She adds: 'I guess I want people to use this record for what they need in their lives, because life is hard and music has really helped me through difficulties. I feel like I'm always trying to give something back, because music has given so much to me.'

With a relentless schedule which includes touring and recording, both for solo and side projects, Wasser's appetite for songwriting and new ventures is insatiable.
'It's important to me to keep trying out different things, it's what keeps me going. Like today I'm thinking I'd love to work with Dolly Parton or Neil Young. Can you set that up for me?' she guffaws. 'Do it. Put in a call . . .'

Joan As Policewoman plays the Oyster Stage, Sat.


Returning for a second year after its successful debut the boutique festival has corralled headliners Kasabian, Manic Street Preachers, Bloc Party, Paolo Nutini, Grinderman, Franz Ferdinand, Sigur Ros and Goldfrapp. There will be five stages: 'The Oyster stage', 'Guitars and other Machines', 'Manicured Noise', 'Unknown…

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