Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer and author.
Amanda Palmer is a cult legend, if you are a fan you probably dream of attending a ninja gig and meeting the woman herself, and thing is, there is a good chance you *have* had her tweet you back, answer your email, hug you in person or know someone who has. This is because Amanda knows how to connect with her fans and make people feel seen. The Queen of couchsurfing, crowdsurfing and crowdfunding, Amanda’s TED Talk on the Art of Asking has been viewed over 6 million times and the book she wrote as a follow up should be on your bookshelf or e-reader.
What’s happening in the world of Amanda Palmer for 2015?
I'm not entirely sure, but I think it's going to involve getting myself back into touring, because people seem to have forgotten - what with all the TED-talking and book-writing - that I'm actually a musician, songwriter and performer above all. And sometimes the only way to remind people that you Do a Thing is to simply Do The Thing. So I think it's time to book some venues and go back to Doing The Thing.
Describe the most generous person you know. How have they influenced you?
The most generous person I know is probably my cousin Judith, through my husband Neil's side of the family. When I think about the older women I know, they're often the most generous, and not in some dippy-wishy-washy way: they have a fierce generosity about them. Their ability to draw boundaries around their own generosity, to look you in the face and say "I'm going to do ALL THESE THINGS FOR YOU, BECAUSE I WANT TO, but NOT THIS THING, because I HAVE NO INTEREST IN GIVING YOU THAT, BECAUSE THAT WOULD IRRITATE AND EXHAUST ME" is truly inspiring. It makes you realize that they are giving from their cores, from a place of mindfulness, not from a place of desperation. I grew up with a very strange sense of service, in a town and culture where things were very academic, theoretical. I understood generosity intellectually, but I didn't understand the possibility of giving selflessly as an enjoyable act, an end in itself, because there were so many scores being kept around me. It wasn't until I was much older that I started to understand the pleasure of giving, helping, and feeling useful as genuine act as opposed to something you did for points, for appearances. I'm glad I escaped that particular cave, I didn't realize how dark it was in there until I stepped out into the light.
Can you name an everyday action that makes the world a better place, yet is underrated?
Yes. Smiling unthreateningly at people in the street. For sure, it's easier to do if you're a woman - men can really be misinterpreted, and that's always such a shame. But the small act of smiling at someone when you walk past them on the sidewalk - man, it can create unfathomable ripples of joy.
Can you tell us three things that inspire you and why?
I'm relentlessly inspired by brainpickings.org, which is run by my friend Maria Popova. Her site runs on the generous donations of others, and she spends her days threading together inspiring bits of history, writing, letters and research in a way that gives me a little bit of hope for humanity every time I visit her world. (She also has a tumblr and twitter feed).
I recently saw a documentary called "Alive Inside", about the connection between music and alzheimers/dementia that blew me away. It's impossible to see this doco and not wonder why we aren't spending more energy creating a better system for the elderly, why we aren't doing simple things to help each other. It's a bit of a backwards inspiration, but I've been reading "This Changes Everything", Naomi Klein's painful-but-true tome on capitalism and climate change, and really trying to take it all in. It's impossible to read a book like this and then simply go about your day without realizing that everything around us, everything we know, is about to - one way or another - shift drastically, and as the minutes tick by, our lack of movement is sealing a bleaker and bleaker fate. It inspires me to keep my eyes open and, possibly, shift in ways that are painful, but ethical.
And further, the book department, I've been recommending "How to be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran to every man and woman I know. It's a hilarious and necessary read about modern feminism, and it made me feel far less alone in this weird struggle I feel I'm always fighting against my own constructed ideas of femininity. I really am convinced that if men and women could just get their shit together, fully recognize each other as equals and human partners, and let go of all the baggage of the past...we really could turn the world around. We don't have forever to fix this ailing planet, and with the amount of untapped female power and resources on this planet, I think it's the miracle we might need to get ourselves out of the jam we're currently finding ourselves in.
Check out Amanda’s epic TED talk below on the Art of Asking and the book that grew from it.