Days before her concert with Elle King at Dallas' The Studio at The Factory on Saturday, Feb. 18, we spoke with Kirke over the phone to discuss her new music and new sound. Over the years, Kirke has become familiar to us on screen with parts in movies such as Gone Girl and shows such as Mozart in the Jungle. With her music, Kirke felt the freedom to reinvent herself, especially with her second album, which she says was inspired by the rock and country music of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“I wanted to highlight music that I don't hear being referenced as much,” Kirke says. “But I’m beginning to hear it more, and maybe that's just because I'm listening everywhere from the new Paul Cauthen record to some Jimmy Allen stuff. So I feel really excited that other people are taking up this wave of nostalgia as well.”
Kirke has spent much of her life in New York City. Her father, Simon Kirke, was a drummer for bands Bad Company and Free. Her mother, Lorraine Kirke, owns a boutique called Geminola, which provided many outfits and costumes for shows such as Sex and the City. Her sister Jemima Kirke played fan-favorite Jessa Johansson on HBO’s hit series Girls.
“Even though I came from a pretty privileged and artistic family, I really wanted to be seen,” Kirke says. There was a part of me that just believed I deserved some kind of attention, and I was like ‘But I better make it good. You better pay attention to me for good reason.’”
These days, Kirke spends much of her time between Nashville and New York. In Nashville, she finds inspiration in the music, the food and the people, despite the fact that much of her time has been “locked down” due to the pandemic.
“I just never thought I would get to live anywhere that wasn't New York or L.A., because I chose to be an actress at such a young age,” Kirke says. “So it's really nice to get to live somewhere a little more surprising. So much of the time I've been here has been kind of locked down, though Nashville isn't the most 'lockdown' place. But I still feel like there's just so much for me to discover here.”
Kirke wrote the entirety of her debut album, 2018's Heart Head West, by herself. For Lady For Sale, she wanted to pay more attention to structure, chorus and “the things you don’t really notice if you’re simply just listening.”
Collaborators on the album include songwriters Courtney Marie Andrews, Patrick Damphier, Carl Anderson and Holiday Sidewinder. Though much of Lady For Sale was recorded in Nashville, Kirke enlisted Fort Worth producer Austin Jenkins to produce the album and co-write a few songs. Houston-based Will Van Horn also plays pedal steel guitar on the record.
“Even though I came from a pretty privileged and artistic family, I really wanted to be seen. There was a part of me that just believed I deserved some kind of attention, and I was like ‘But I better make it good.’” – Lola Kirke
On the album’s lead single, “Better Than Any Drug,” Kirke sings of falling in love, opening the song with “Mary Jane makes me sleep, but my dreams ain't half as sweet as when I'm sleeping with you.” Later this month, she will release a single called “Broken Families,” a duet with Courtney Marie Andrews which the pair originally meant to pitch for other artists to sing.
But for Kirke, the most difficult song to write was “By Your Side,” which was conceived as a “very literal love song.”
“I just thought the verses were kind of garbage,” Kirke says. “I had completed it, but it just wasn't cutting it for me, but I thought it could be really special. I really liked the chorus, and I liked the idea, so when I brought in Patrick Damphier to co-write on that one with me, it was really fun. I was like ‘You just write the verses, we have the chorus, we have the melody already, I just need help, I need fresh eyes on this part.’ And he really brought a poetic sensibility to those verses.”
Apart from being an actress and a musician, Kirke is an outspoken activist for women’s rights. In 2017, she wore a pin reading “Fuck Paul Ryan” on her dress at the Golden Globes in protest of the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
She is looking forward to seeing more of Dallas this time around On her last tour, she only got to go to “The Book Depository, very hungover,” she says. Texas’ ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, Kirke says, is “fucking crazy” and she's worried for Texas women.
“A woman's right to choose is obviously something that is being gravely threatened at the moment,” Kirke says. “I would say that that's gonna be the first domino to fall, if it does again, in a bigger way. That's very scary to me. It feels the most urgent.”