Q&A: Gossip's Beth Ditto On Pop, Politics, And Being 'Related To Half Of Arkansas'


Gossip, "Casualties Of War" (live at SXSW)

When was the last time you were home in Arkansas?

Halloween.

Are you treated any differently by the locals?

In Arkansas?!? Uh, no. I'm related to half of Arkansas. If we ever play a show in Arkansas, it's just literally my entire family, and then Nathan's dad and sister. I swear to God. I'm like [to the promoter], "You know what, don't even worry about a guarantee. We're going to wind up buying pizzas for everybody." It's nice to tour, because it really is a reality check. You go back there, and people treat you exactly the same. I have a really great family, an incredible family.

A big family?

Huge. And incredible.

Throughout your career, Gossip has always had a fantastic attitude. You dished out southern soul with sass, but you always did it with a kind of class...

Aw, thanks!

Even when you were sweaty, with makeup running down your face, and taking your clothes off, you still came across as a girl you could take home to meet your mother. Where did this mix of no-nonsense attitude and charm come from? Is it a southern thing?

That's a great question. I think you're right; it's definitely a southern thing. I never really understood what charm was; I was like, "It's not that hard to be nice to people." And my friends who weren't raised southern would be like, "You know, it is for some people." I guess I just wasn't raised that way. I've never met a stranger. You just say "thank you"; you hold the door open. To me, it's common courtesy, but honestly I think it is partly being brought up in the South. It is a real culture and a real cultural difference. It's the same when people think people from New York are really rude—no, it's just a completely different way of living, a completely different pace.

But I think that we have parents that we have to answer to. My mother would die if she found out that I treated someone rudely. And my mom is not a ladylike lady; she's pretty rough-and-tumble and really awesome. She always says she doesn't know how she got three girls who always wear makeup and love clothes. My mom hates clothes; she only wears jeans and T-shirts. She's great. When I was down there, I was wearing a dress, I got it at Goodwill or something. And she was like, "Shouldn't you wear a slip under that?" I was like, "I wasn't going to." And she was like, [makes a disproving noise]. I was like, "Does it make you uncomfortable?" And she was like, "I think you should wear a slip under that." Can you see my underwear? "Well, no, but it doesn't have a lining." [laughs] I was like, "Oh yeah! That's real here," you know what I mean? Those are still real concerns of the Southern culture. I don't think people are necessarily holding onto that in California. To me, that sums it up. There you go.

What is the one message from A Joyful Noise you'd like your listeners to walk away with?

Life's too short to be hateful. Let it go.

Gossip play Terminal 5 tonight.

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