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Fiona Talks "Machine"

Singer-songwriter recounts her five years out of the spotlight

Fiona Apple's third studio album, the revised Extraordinary Machine, is now finally slated for release on October 4th -- years after her last effort, 1999's When the Pawn.... So what has the enigmatic, twenty-seven-year-old singer-songwriter been up to for all that time? Her prolonged absence from the spotlight can be divided into three phases, Apple tells Rolling Stone.

Phase One: "I Don't Care." After touring behind When the Pawn..., Apple bought a home in Los Angeles. "The first couple of years, I didn't have anything left in me to write about," she says. "That was a good thing, because it meant I'd done my job on the last batch of songs. I was riding a wave of independence. I wasn't trying to write; I just figured if the songs came to me, they came to me, and if not, 'Oh, well, it's been fun.'"

Phase Two: "Come On, Now." Apple had been having lunch with producer Jon Brion every Tuesday when Brion finally said, "Let's get started again." "I gathered scraps for songs," she says. "And I ended up writing the rest on the way, a totally new approach for me. The upside was that I'd finished all these songs that otherwise might've been left in 'I don't care' land; the downside was that I didn't have enough time to live with the songs before recording them, so I really didn't know what I wanted."

Brion had introduced Apple to producer Mike Elizondo, who has worked with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. "Fiona, Jon and I chilled for the better part of the day," says Elizondo. Five months later, he got a call from Apple's management. "She said, 'I have this batch of songs; I'd like to come up with different versions,'" Elizondo says. "Jon was not involved, but he was cool on all fronts. I took a song at a time, learned it, then from scratch made different versions, different grooves. Fiona was open to experiment. There were no boundaries."

Phase Three: "The Untitled Phase." Fiona worked with Elizondo at Phantom Studio -- located in the back yard of his home in L.A.'s Westlake Village -- laying down piano and vocals. ("Extraordinary Machine" and "Waltz" are untouched from the Brion sessions leaked online earlier this year. And FYI: Apple's label, Sony, never shelved the record.) Live drums were overdubbed by Abe Laboriel Jr. and ?uestlove of the Roots.

"I've got a bundle of songs of which I am exceedingly proud," Apple says. "And I'm excited to see how I handle the whole trip this time around, being that I'm finally at the point where I can call myself an adult without losing myself to the giggles."

AUSTIN SCAGGS

Posted Aug 30, 2005 12:00 AM

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