Former Gossip singer Beth Ditto has split from the group and gone solo. Jess Jones spoke with her about her wife, being a lesbian icon, and working as a Subway sandwich artist.
I call Beth Ditto on a Friday morning, which by my reckoning makes it Thursday afternoon in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Of course I’ve heard her incredibly powerful singing voice before, but I’m immediately struck by her charming southern accent.
Following the disbanding of Gossip, Beth has just recorded her first solo album, Fake Sugar.
I ask her what putting it together was like, and how it was different from recording with Gossip.
“It was great,” she says. “The co-writer and producer was a woman, and the [development] was by a woman.
“That’s really rare and special, to have two women in control. There was a lot of emotional, passionate processing and conversation. It was really awesome and really different from my other experiences. Music can be a boy’s club.”
Beth compares leaving Gossip to the end of a long-term relationship.
“You have to learn how to trust people in a different way,” she says.
“We were together for 16 years, from the time I was 18 years old. To me it was like being married to the same person since you were a teenager, and for the first time in your adulthood you find yourself trying to date again and have these really intimate relationships with people.
“You have to completely rebuild. Finding a relationship that’s that comfortable again is really difficult.”
On the subject of relationships, Beth has been married to her wife for four years. I ask her what married life is like.
“It’s really nice,” she says.
“Right now she’s downstairs looking at what food we can get delivered so we can watch basketball later. It’s really sweet. I’m a very domestic person. I don’t know about you, but I love to be at home.”
Beth asks me about my own relationship. I tell her I’ve been with my boyfriend five years but I live alone.
“Are you a Libra?” she asks immediately.
I tell her I’m a Virgo.
“My wife is a Virgo!” she exclaims. “You’re such weirdos – in the best way. You’re like little loner aliens.”
“She and I are really good together because she’s really tough on people – heaven fucking forbid you cut in front of her in line. But I would never say anything, and she says I’m too nice to people.”
Beth tells me my birthday is the same as Tori Amos’. I check, and it’s not, but that’s okay – I do share a birthday with Freddie Mercury.
Speaking of Tori Amos, I ask how Beth feels about being a lesbian icon.
“I don’t really think of myself as one at all,” she replies. “Lesbian yes, icon no.
“I don’t really feel like an icon, I just feel like… me. That word, icon, is so funny.
“I have a cat, which is very lesbian of me, and I know Tori Amos’s birthday, which is also very lesbian of me. I’m definitely more lesbian than icon, I’ll tell you that much.”
Beth is excited to visit Australia later this year, and her tour dates are being finalised now.
“I can’t wait,” she says. “I’d really like to come for y’all’s winter.
“Australia, I can’t wait to hold all of you in my arms and eat your food again. You have the best food in the world. Even your Subway is delicious.”
We speak for about five more minutes about Subway. Beth knows what she’s talking about, since she was once a sandwich artist herself, and she says ours is somehow the best.
Beth loves plenty about Australia, from our food to our beaches to our vintage dress shops.
“I’ll move there and open my own Subway,” she laughs.