Vale: How do you pick songs?
CONNIE CHAMPAGNE: For the lyrics and how I relate to what they say. I think the audience knows real quick if you’re being fake. I’m not saying everyone should get a shitty boyfriend and go to jail . . . I mean, I did, but I wouldn’t recommend it! But it helps to experience that if you’re singing a sad song and want the audience to feel the emotions involved.
Suffice to say, the stupidest thing I ever did was get hooked up with this guy who ended up dumping me on Valentine’s Day for my best friend. [laughs] It sounds like a bad Country & Western song. He asked me to meet him at the Cafe Flor, and my former best friend showed up five minutes later. A big fight ensued and afterwards I was sitting on the street crying. The police came and I asked them to take me to the hospital—I had a black eye and bruises all over. It was really sick; it was so Billie Holiday, and stupid. Mind you, I’m not even 21 years old at this point. So, the police take one look at my dyed black hair and weird make-up and go, “We’re taking you in because you don’t have any identification” (I didn’t have any). I got hauled away to jail by San Francisco’s finest for sitting on the sidewalk crying with no identification. [laughs] Whenever I think of the lowest point in my entire life, I think that would have to be it.
R/S: That’s the kind of experience you turn into songwriting—
CC: I was always writing songs. During the early Tiny Bubbles period, I was trying out the Tin Pan Alley approach, talking to songwriters and asking them to help me out. I’ve been fortunate because some really good people wrote songs for me: Mark Eitzel, John Flansburgh, J.C. Hopkins, and others. Plus, I was doing my own songs as well.