Bridget Everett

Bridget Everett on her recent shows and new album

From left: Adam Horovitz, Bridget Everett, and Carmine Covelli. Performance view, Joe’s Pub, November 7, 2012. Photo: Mateo Suarez.

Bridget Everett is a New York–based performer and lead singer of the band the Tender Moments. A denizen of Joe’s Pub—Everett is former cohost of Our Hit Parade, along with Kenny Mellman and Neal Medlyn—she currently performs at the venue monthly with her band. Here, she talks about her love for singing and the community of performers who feed her passion. In addition to releasing their first album this spring, the Tender Moments will be playing at Joe’s Pub on March 20 and April 24, 2013.

I MOVED TO NEW YORK in 1997 to be a singer but I never had a clear idea of how that was going to happen. Before that, in Phoenix, Arizona, I was singing at karaoke bars and performing the national anthem at baseball games during spring training. I think there must be something locked up inside me that is a little dangerous or violent. While singing at those karaoke bars, I would get up on the bar and shake my fists and scream because I needed to. So Phoenix was fun but I reached my limit. In New York a friend took me to a Kiki and Herb show and it blew my mind. Then I started going to see performers like Murray Hill and Sweetie. I knew that these downtown performances were exactly what I wanted to do. After a Kiki and Herb show in Washington, DC, I met Kenny Mellman, aka Herb, at a karaoke bar. He heard me sing and then asked me to perform at one of his shows. I swear to God: All roads to success have stemmed from karaoke for me.

Neal Medlyn was one of the regular guests of a show I hosted with Kenny called Automatic Vaudeville. Seeing Neal’s work was another one of those mind-blowing moments. He taught me a lot about body empowerment. He used to do this crazy thing where he would come out onstage in just a sweater and nothing else, and then sing a sweet song. He’s been really instrumental for me in learning how to let go. For instance, I think a lot of people aren’t used to seeing someone my size move around in tiny clothes—I’m not enormous, but I’m a tall and big woman. But I feel very comfortable in my body, especially when songs speak to me.

It took me a long time to get where I am now: I’ve given myself permission to let go. My performances tend to be very physical with sometimes loud and aggressive movements, but it really stems from love. I have learned a lot from the performers around me—Erin Markey, Jenn Harris, Molly Pope, Murray Hill, Cole Escola—about doing whatever the fuck you want and committing to it. They’re all really entertaining and wild and dangerous. I feel like my performances encapsulate that danger and unpredictability too. But what’s really allowed me to develop into a persona has been my audiences. At Joe’s Pub, they kept allowing for more—letting me, or maybe even asking me, to go further and further. I think that’s why Our Hit Parade was so successful: because of the way the audiences and the staff at Joe’s Pub really welcomed us and never said no.

I don’t think most people understand where to put me, because I’m not really a performance artist or an actor or a comic or a singer; I’m a hybrid of things. I’m not saying I’m reinventing the wheel in any way—I’ve just learned a lot from a lot of different places and I’ve had to make a language that made sense for me. My training is in opera and vocal performance, which in some ways has really nothing to do with where I am now. But if I hadn’t trained my voice, I wouldn’t be able to use it in the way that I do without destroying it.

I’m excited to have an album; it’s been a dream of mine. One of the musicians in my band is Adam Horovitz, aka Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys, and he has given me a lot of creative support. I thought our album should just be covers but Adam encouraged me to write my own songs. He embraced, supported, and encouraged the ridiculous work I was doing. For instance, one day I thought up this song about different kinds of titties while we were playing catch with some friends and he said: “Sounds like a hit, go home and write that.”