Tucker Finn’s debut solo album, The Cup & The Lip, is a work of poetic artistry that hits you in the soul. It’s not filled with love songs, it’s more of a slap of reality to your face. Her voice doesn’t sing as much as it matter-of-factly narrates a tale of life’s pitfalls. It is the stoicism with which she sings that makes her debut so intriguing to me. She isn’t crying with rage when things don’t go her way, she just plainly states the facts, “My get up and go, it just got up and went. And I know what I did, but it’s not what I meant. And now I’m frittering, God-given talents away. But other than that, I’ve been doin’ OK.”
Finn has led an interesting life so far; she graduated from architecture school, fronted the band The Jane Waynes and was part of the art department who created the gorgeous set design for Baz Luhrman‘s Romeo and Juliet adaptation. We had a chance to ask her some questions about her childhood and what shaped her knack for creativity.
AfterEllen.com: What kind of family did you grow up in?
Tucker Finn: I grew up in a Toronto suburb as an adopted kid and I had an older sister who was also adopted. While my family had its flaws, my parents were the type that came to every baseball game, every guitar recital…so that made things confusing. I learned early on that things are never simply good or bad but usually a bit of both.
AE: What is a cherished childhood memory?
TF: It’s very Canadian: Dead of winter in the driveway shooting hockey pucks at the plastic targets in my hockey net.
AE: Did your creative talents start at a young age, like were you an impressive Lego-player or Silly Putty molder?
TF: My dad started drawing at a young age and passed his excitement for it on to me. We had a room in the house for drawing and painting called the Art Room. We also made 8mm movies and staged modest dramatic events in the family garage. Publicity was handled by word of mouth and the lawn chair seating would fill up quickly with neighborhood kids whose legs didn’t reach the ground. People joke that Lego aptitude leads to architecture school. I guess it was true in my case but I was also encouraged by my folks to go to University since no one in my adoptive family had ever been.
AE: Explain how working on your solo album was different for you creatively than working with The Jane Waynes.
TF: With the Jane Wayne record, Cowboy Songs, every decision had to pass through the band no matter what. Even when a democracy is the right thing, it can be frustrating especially when you are the in-house band manager. For The Cup & The Lip I could do what I wanted: Write a song at the last minute and elbow out a perfectly good one; change a chorus lyric on a pre-existing song; come up with out-there ideas and be very serious about them. These types of changes would be met with some resistance by the old band if only because there were so many of us trying to agree on something. There was always lots of voting. But I have to confess that I can be pretty pushy once I think I’m onto a good idea.
AE: You’re kind of a lesbian trifecta with your musicianship, set designing and graphic novelisting – how does being so skilled in all three help with a) your creative efforts b) the dating game c) coming up with a kick-ass Halloween costume?
TF: Creatively, I think trying out different things helps you to develop a clear voice as an artist. You can start to recognize a steady point of view. It’s hard to have any impact as an artist without a very strong angle on things.
Regarding the dating game, I don’t know. Maybe having multiple creative interests has made me seem interesting on a first date or something, but I am as messed up as anyone so it doesn’t take long before the ability to draw a perfect Snoopy simply doesn’t cut it.
AE: What comes first for you, the melody or the lyrics?
TF: Lyrics always come first but I am mixing that up on the next record. It’s good to change the process, I think. Sometimes I’ll write on the piano instead of the guitar for the same reason. I’m very limited on piano but that just becomes part of the adventure.
AE: When you aren’t being creative, how do you let your brain rest – or can you?
TF: I don’t rest well. If I have spare time I want to learn something or do something.
But one thing I do whenever I feel like I need some down time is toss the dogs in the car and go for a big drive. Even still, I can’t resist bringing a notebook. I think everyone gets great ideas at the wheel.
AE: What was your coming out story?
TF: I was 26. I was in a relationship with Elvira Kurt. We had a wall in our apartment where we hung a big collection of hats. When I came out to my parents my dad said to me, “I knew you and Elvira were more than friends.” “How so?” I asked. And I was thinking, “oh no, did he find a Pat Califia book lying around? A bottle of lube?” And then he said to me in a tone like he had a real hot piece of evidence, “You don’t hang your hats on a wall like that with just a friend.”
AE: What do you think we — especially the youth of today — can do to help make positive change for the LGBT community?
TF: The way I see it, people are scared of everything. We’re trained to be that way. We tend to have a tiny circle of people and things we want to protect and everything outside of that circle is viewed as a potential threat. It’s a very small way to live and also a very common way. Youngsters need to find a way to encourage people back out into the larger world. That’s where compassion for everything lies. It’s in a chance meeting or a meal with a stranger.
AE: Which pop culture icon do you think you’d be most like in real life?
TF: When I was a kid, I loved Kristy McNichol. I got an address from Teen Beat magazine for her fan club, sent her my photo with a little note that said, “My friends think we look alike. What do you think?” I never heard back which nearly ruined my eleven-year-old heart. It’s true that my friends would say “Oh my god you totally look like Buddy from Family (the TV show).” I was elated. What could be better? I had no idea, nor did they, that what they really meant was “you’re a homo.”
Check out TuckerFinn.com to hear songs from The Cup & the Lip.