If Annie Clark has a motto by this point it’s probably, “It just is”. Over the course of our hour together she utters the phrase almost half a dozen times - often accompanied by a shrug and a wry smirk - displaying all the composure of someone long accustomed to rolling with the punches. And let’s be real, she’s had enough practise in the near-decade-and-a-half since ‘Marry Me’, her first full-length as St. Vincent.
As Annie would no doubt be the first to admit, few of the challenges she’s faced have been particularly unique. In fact, many come with the territory of being a success in her field, be that navigating the nomadic nature of life as a touring musician, or managing the sudden scrutiny that increased exposure and widespread critical acclaim attracts. Nor does she expect any sympathy for the fact that, pre-pandemic, she had scarcely spent more than a fortnight in one place her entire adult life - or for the fact her love life became tabloid fodder for a short time in 2016. But as the inspiration behind her superb new album ‘Daddy’s Home’ attests, some of her personal stresses have been a little less run of the mill.
In 2010 - when Annie’s star was in its early ascendency - her father was given a 12-year jail sentence for his involvement in a $43 million stock fraud scheme. Understandably shocked and very much focused on protecting her younger siblings back in Texas, she chose not to discuss this turn of events publicly at the time, despite press speculation. Look back at her 2011 LP ‘Strange Mercy’ now, however, and you’ll find covert clues as to the events’ impact, most memorably in the cryptic reference to a “father in exile”, who is only viewable “through double pane” glass. It’s taken ‘til now - two years after his early release from prison, and a further three albums on - for Annie to finally share her perspective on the experience.
“This story was halfway told against my will a few years ago, when I was briefly the subject of the tabloids,” she says today, speaking over Zoom from her home studio in LA. “And that wasn’t anything I wanted to talk about [at the time]. But now, there is a bit of a silver lining - he’s out [of prison]. But it’s also like, now I get to tell MY story. And I get to tell it with humour, and compassion, and cynicism, because it’s MINE.”
You can trace all of these traits in her new record’s title track alone. A slice of sleazy, ‘70s-inspired funk, flecked with filthy organ chords and the occasional swell of saxophone, ‘Daddy’s Home’ finds Annie reliving her experiences visiting her father in the facility, from the startling contrast between his “government green suit” and her “fine Italian shoes,” to the surreal moments she spent signing autographs for the other inmates’ families.
“I’m sorry, that’s hilarious,” she grins of the latter. “It’s wonderful, AND it’s hilarious.” When we joke that perhaps that was the moment she knew she’d become a household name, she laughs. “Well, I mean, I suppose it was a good barometer of popular culture in a certain way. But also, when people are in there, it’s like they just need bright spots outside [of jail] to focus on.”
As featured in the April 2021 issue of DIY, out now.