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Paste Magazine catches up with Eleni Mandell.




Los Angeles singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell released her latest album, I Can See the Future, July 10 on Yep Roc Records. The album is Mandell’s first official label release, but I Can See the Future is significant for reasons far more personal than signing a distribution deal. The album was written and recorded in the aftermath of a difficult breakup and her subsequent search for a sperm donor, pregnancy and birthing of twins. It was one of the most trying periods of Mandell’s life, but now, at 42, she is happier than ever and is about to start touring in support of her new album with twins in tow.

We caught up with Mandell before the release of I Can See the Future to discuss recording the album during this period, how having twins has changed her life and connecting with producer Joe Chiccarelli.

Paste: Your new album is called I Can See the Future, and I read somewhere that the title might have been inspired by a visit you made to a tarot card reader 10 years ago.
Eleni Mandell: Well, not exactly. I did see a tarot card reader. I think I’ve had my cards read about three times. With everything I write, the title comes from a song title and a song lyric and it just sort of falls out of my head. I don’t really think that hard. I guess it was a moment of hope that everything was going to work out okay.

Paste: You recorded the album during an extremely difficult time in your life. You sought out a sperm donor and were able to get pregnant with twins. How did all of this unfold exactly? Were you writing and recording while you were pregnant?
Mandell: I wrote the songs when I was touring for my last record and afterward, which was the really horrible couple of years. Not just because I was trying to have kids on my own, which was a big decision, and I felt very sad about it and weird for a while—now I’m really excited about it. I did the right thing—I was also going through a really hard time, realizing that my band I had been playing with for 10 years was kind of falling apart because everybody’s lives were moving in different directions. It was actually really heartbreaking. I do still work with them here and there, but I felt like we were in this thing together, and everything was kind of falling apart at the same time. Then I started on this path to have children on my own and finding a sperm donor, which felt really science-fiction and weird. Then I got pregnant, finally, and when I was eight months pregnant we started recording the record. So it was intense. I wasn’t very spry at that point.

Paste: Was writing the songs during this time a cathartic experience for you?
Mandell: When I was writing the songs and was really depressed and feeling really sorry for myself, I guess it was cathartic. I sort of had to do it because I was so down. Recording the songs was interesting because it was the happiest time of my life—I was going to have these kids. I was really, really huge. To me recording is always really fun. It’s hard work and there are stretches where you’re sort of bored. But getting to play with these musicians was such a thrill for me. I love it. I’m just so honored that these guys wanted to play with me. It’s always kind of a surprise. And then doing that while I was eight months pregnant, it was really fun. I just thought how my kids are going to think I’m so cool. I’ve yet to find out if I’m right. It was physically difficult. I wasn’t singing that great so we had to wait and finish my vocals afterward because I was 197 pounds.

Paste: I was going to say, I feel like when you’re eight months pregnant would be the last time someone would want to start recording an album, to start going to work, basically.
Mandell: I was actually hospitalized for observation after a couple of days after tracking. The reason we were waiting that long was because we wanted Joey Waronker to play the drums, and that was as soon as he was available. I really thought it was pretty cool that I got to do this when I was pregnant. It made me feel really tough. When I was four months pregnant, The Living Sisters, my other band, were shooting a video that was directed by Michel Gondry. He knew I was pregnant and that I had really struggled to get pregnant, and so he said, ‘Okay, we won’t make you do anything too difficult,’ and then I had to ride on the back of a motorcycle and climb out of a bus and all of this crazy stuff. But again, i just thought, ‘Wow I’m really tough. My kids are going to think I’m so cool.’

Paste: They’re going to think you’re a badass. How old are they now?
Mandell: They’re 20 months. So four months shy of two years.

Paste: This may be a really broad question, but how has that changed your life, having kids? Are you still writing songs? Are you still able to be creative?
Mandell: I’m such a better person. I’m a happier person. I’m more fun to be around. I’m more relaxed. I’m not so bitter and melancholy. I don’t write music as much as a I used to. I do sing to them constantly—really, really stupid songs about everything. I’ve always been a little bit lazy, though. I’ve never been the kind of writer that sits down and writes every day. I always expect that there are going to be periods where I don’t write as much. I kind of just feel like, ‘Hey, I just made a record, I don’t have to worry yet.’

Paste: You also released this one on Yep Roc. What has it been like working with them?
Mandell: I really like them. They’re really great people. I got to hang out with them in Austin for SXSW. They have other great people on their label that I really admire like John Doe and Dave Alvin and Nick Lowe. So far the thing that has really been nice for me is that I finally have a real record deal. I’m 42 years old, this is my eighth record as a solo artist. Somehow it just feels so great. My expectations at this point in my life are pretty reasonable The way the music business has changed and the economy and everything. I just feel really honored that they like my record so much, and I’m really looking forward to getting out there and touring.

Read on HERE at Paste.

Eleni Mandell’s new record, I Can See The Future, is now available. Visit HERE to check it out.

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