Lana Del Rey has not given up being an Angeleno, but she talks about living a different kind of life in frequent stays in Oklahoma in a new cover story for Interview magazine. The singer also goes deep into the subject of mental health issues during a pandemic — hers, and the world’s — as she chats with Jack Antonoff, the producer of her forthcoming album, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” which additionally comes up for lengthy discussion in the new Q&A.
As is Interview magazine’s custom, the star is interviewed by a friend — in this case, Antonoff, who also collaborated with her on 2019’s “Norman F—ing Rockwell” — who probes in mutually agreeable areas but leaves other burning questions alone. (For now, the biggest burning question among fans is: When is “Chemtrails” coming out? The introduction to the story says “this month,” but a Sept. 4 date that was previously on the books for the album release has already come and gone. Del Rey’s label, Interscope, has said it has no firm date as of now.)
It’s not clear when the interview was conducted, but it did find Del Rey and Antonoff at a moment when work on the album was not yet completed. And it finds the producer catching the singer on the phone as she road-trips through the American Southwest. “I’m on the I-40 with 8 hours and 50 minutes left to get back to L.A. It’s been a long drive back from Oklahoma,” she tells Antonoff. Later, she says, “Sometimes I’ll go into a gas station on Route 66, mask on, glasses on, yada, yada, and the teller will be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re that singer!’ And I’m like, ‘What the hell? How did you even recognize me?'”
Why Oklahoma? Del Rey isn’t asked and doesn’t say, but she has previously been known to be dating Tulsa police offer and “Live PD” star Sean Larkin (even though, in a Larkin interview in the New York Times in March, he described the then-current state of their relationship as “just friends”). Whatever the reason for her current visits, Del Rey says, “I’m driving back from there and I didn’t want to leave.”
Antonoff wonders “if we’re going to be making records in Tucson or Tulsa next year,” and Del Rey answers, “It’s funny, the record was Midwestern-sounding before I even went to the Midwest. What’s interesting about having a true muse — and it sounds kind of ridiculous — is that you’re at the whim of it. When I’m singing about Arkansas, even I’m wondering why. The one way I would describe the Midwest, Oklahoma in particular, is that it’s not cooked or oversaturated, and there’s still space to catch that white lightning.”
As for that new album, Del Rey says “we’re incredibly close” to finishing it — at whatever point the interview might have been conducted — despite “how much I’ve been distracted by poetry this year.” (Del Rey recently released her first book and audiobook of poetry, “Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.”) “I’ve been really stressed about this album,” she admits, almost in contrast to Antonoff saying the making of it felt looser. “From the top, we knew what ‘Norman’ >was. But with ‘Chemtrails,’ it was like, ‘Is this new folk? Oh, god, are we going country?’ Now that it’s done I feel really good about it, and I think a defining moment for this album will be ‘White Dress/Waitress.'”
That’s one of three specific songs she mentions — another being “Dealer,” an outlier whose fate was still TBD as of the interview. “The one thing that makes me upset is that if I hadn’t been so distracted with my personal life and my poetry, I could’ve broken it down in a more delicate, precise way,” she says. “I guess the way I could’ve done that is just by adding one more defining song to it. Right now it’s really, really good, but I don’t know if it’s perfect, and that really bothers me. I think I need to add that song, ‘Dealer,’ where I’m just screaming my head off. People don’t know what it sounds like when I yell. And I do yell.”
And yet, at other points in the interview, Del Rey comes down on the side of anti-shouting as she emphasizes her love of melody. “The one thing that I know that I can do regardless of where I’m at in my process is make a beautiful melody,” she tells Antonoff. ” I don’t really care if you mush an amazing life story into an alternative record. If the melodies don’t stun me, I kind of don’t care. I think it’s interesting if you’re yelling and shouting and talking about where you’re going and what it’s been like, but to me that’s not a record. That’s a therapy session. … It’s a diary you should read for Audible or something.”
As she did in a controversial series of Instagram posts during the summer — a subject that goes unremarked upon in the interview — Del Rey speaks about her own fragility, as a real thing and not an image construct, and she also refers to panic attacks.
“Every ex I have, every girlfriend I have, every family member I have, even the ones I don’t speak to — they know the ins and outs of why I sometimes catch sheer panic out,” she says. “I’ll say, ‘Today was a bad day and it’s because of you, and I don’t even know you anymore.’ I don’t necessarily think there’s much value in doing that —i t’s just what’s true. I don’t ever feel bad for saying to someone, ‘I’m having a panic attack because of what you’ve done.’ That’s black-belt life, like 3.0. What’s insane is that the pandemic has brought up all of these mental health crises and domestic crises that were always there, that I always sang about, that people had so much to say about in terms of, ‘She’s just feigning emotional fragility.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, not really. You’re feigning emotional togetherness despite the fact that you’re a wack-job Monday through Friday.””
Del Rey takes some comfort in the general populace’s awareness of its own anxiety possibly having caught up with hers during the pandemic. “I don’t feel like I’m doing okay. I just know now that I was always right,” she says. “I think there’s been existential panic for a long time, but people haven’t been paying attention to it because they’ve been too busy buying shoes. And shoes are cute. I love shoes. But now that you can’t go shopping, you have to look at your partner and be like, ‘I’ve lived with you for 20 years, but do I even know you?’ … I got a lot of s— for not only talking about it, but talking about lots of other things for a super long time. I don’t feel justified in it, because I’m not the kind of artist who’s ever going to get justified. I will die an underdog and that’s cool with me. But I was right to ask, ‘Why are we here? Where did we come from? What are we doing?’ … I also think it’s a really good thing that we’ve gotten to this point where we have to bump up against ourselves, because it’s not going to be the same when the Beverly Center reopens.”
Del Rey also recounts for Antonoff the experience of having Joan Baez agree to sing the ’70s hit “Diamonds and Rust” on a tour date last year. That involved a small bit of compulsory road-tripping. “Nobody necessarily wants to show up to do a giant show for 15,000 kids at Berkeley, but she told me that if I’d drive out 80 miles from Berkeley, then we could practice at her kitchen table, and if it was good, she would do it,” Del Rey recalls. “She corrected me on all my harmonies, and by the end, it was great. Then we went out clubbing to this Afro-Caribbean two-step place and danced all night. She f—ing outlasted me.”