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Regina Spektor on Her New Concert Film and Upcoming ‘Nine Inch Nails–y’ Sleeping Beauty Musical

Russian-born singer-songwriter Regina Spektor has come a long way since the Strokes helped introduce her to a wide audience with their 2004 Room on Fire tour. At 30, she headlines large venues on her own and has released a pair of hit albums, 2006's Begin to Hope and last year's Far. With her new Regina Spektor: Live in London — directed by Adria Petty and recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo last December — Spektor notches another career milestone: the concert film. We caught up with her recently after a long night out, and she explained how the movie came to be.

How are you?
I am making myself a cup of tea, 'cause I went to sleep at five in the morning.

Steep that tea for an extra-long time.
It’s going to be a very strong cup of tea.

What do you love about concert movies? Why’d you want to do one?

That’s a lot of questions. I was up very late. But I can do this.

Take a sip of the tea.
I’ve had a really hard time getting used to being filmed while playing live. I get horrendous freeze-up — "Oh, the camera is on. Do it for real now." It makes you mess up every song you know. I used to be just so nervous that my leg would be, like, shaking on the pedal and it would slide off, because the stylist gave me tall shoes and I don't know how to walk in heels. And my voice — I would go for a note I can sing in my sleep and I’d be off key. I always wanted people to have something of good quality [on film], and when I’m old and I’ve forgotten how to play piano it’d be nice for me to have. And since Adria is such a good friend of mine, I trusted her completely and it wasn’t like there was a film crew with me. Instead it was like a beautiful friend was traveling with me for the entire U.K. tour. I wasn’t self-conscious because it was her.

The idea of making a concert film says something about the state of your career. You don’t do that until you’ve kind of been doing this a while. Is there a sense you’ve reached a landmark? Sort of like with the Kings of Leon playing Madison Square Garden.
I was there with them and I just spent the whole time being proud. They’ve gotten so ginormous. Like, I played with them when we played to like 500 people in Norway.

With a new Strokes album coming out and everyone anticipating that, do you feel like the class of 2001 has reached a certain moment? Are you guys adults now?
You’re talking to a person who went to sleep at six in the morning. It's really amazing, but in my own brain I'm such a fan that I don’t lump myself in with them. I don’t feel like, "I have a concert film, so yup, I made it." It’s more like, "Oh cool, I allowed my friend to help me make some cool shit and I didn’t fuck it up that bad."

In the movie, the faces of your fans are so radiant. They all look like models, they’re so well lit ...
They’re my favorite part to the whole movie. It’s my favorite part of playing shows, because I have this ginormous piano and I’m turned sideways so I don’t get to see much. But in the middle of the movie, I have an a cappella song and I get to stand up and see who's there. And I get really happy because they’re so beautiful. I look around and it’s like, "These people look so sweet and smart."

You’re currently co-writing a musical about Sleeping Beauty?
It’s kind of based on Sleeping Beauty, yes. But it’s really very trippy, too. It’s very fun. I work on that every day now. That’s like my job.

What do you do to psych yourself up?
Well, it depends. The story goes all over the place. I really have to go song by song. Yesterday I was writing this really creepy song, sort of a nightmare song. I got to be like Nine Inch Nails–y.

You have this amazing collection of red lipstick. What’s your favorite color and brand?
It’s not a collection. It’s the same lipstick — it’s a MAC line and it’s really brick red. The only thing with really red lipsticks like that is, I put it on before a show and I wipe it off right after the show otherwise your lips will fall off. It’s really drying. If you wear that stuff, wear a lot of lip balm.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The New Yorker