7 p.m. Thursday,
The Plaza Theatre
‘It's gratifying to be up there with U2 and Taylor Swift," says Neko Case from her farm in rural Vermont about her latest release, Middle Cyclone, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts. "All of us just hanging out … that lasted an entire week."
Case then unleashes an adorable laugh. During our 30-minute interview she chuckles and giggles often, occasionally dropping a big, hearty guffaw. On record, Case's haunting vocals and the sweeping reverb-and-twang production makes every lyric seem, well, pretty damn serious.
Middle Cyclone has already been dubbed the best album of the year by Amazon, and the acclaimed artist is having a lot more fun with the songwriting process than most realize. For instance, on the song "People Got a Lottta Nerve" she seems to refer to herself as a "man-eater."
"I do like the Hall & Oates song, but it's actually not myself," says Case. "It's a tiger. It's a literal song about man-eating predators."
Case (who plays Orlando for the first time ever this week) pens songs about nearly everything except herself. Unlike most songwriters, especially those lumped in the alt-country bin, Case avoids dropping diary entries.
"I kind of get more of a thrill from writing about characters and making up stories," Case says. "But, that said, mine is the only experience I have, so I'm sure I'm all over the place in them — with no hard facts. You know what I mean?"
But is there a man-eater inside the gorgeous singer with the fireball hair and rich, seductive voice? "There's no autobiography — not so much," says Case.
Perhaps to best understand Case, or at least how her mind works as an artist, one should survey the album cover of Middle Cyclone. We see Case, barefoot, beautiful and somber in a dark dress, crouched on the hood of her 1967 Mercury Cougar, wielding a magnificent medieval sword.
"I thought what I would do is think if I was a 10-year-old boy in 1978 making an album cover," says Case. "I would want to have a sword and a muscle car. I just went with that."
Her explanation also sums up her lyrics, which are both fascinating and fun.
"I think the cover just reflects kind of some lightheartedness," says Case. "You can't take yourself seriously if you're posing all Beastmaster on the front of the cover. It's kind of like, ‘Well, this is ridiculous but this stuff is kind of awesome!'"[email protected]