You might have heard of the “Proust Questionnaire.” It’s a set of questions about values and dreams improperly attributed to French writer Marcel Proust. (He actually answered it a few times, but didn’t come up with it himself.) We came up with our own version, because what we do for a living, spend our money on and why usually reveals more about our personalities than we’d expect.
Neko Case, singer-songwriter, is releasing her career-spanning vinyl box set, “Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule,” on November 13th and she talked to us from Vermont.
When did you realize music could be a career?
Neko Case: I realized music could be an actual paying career in the funny way that I didn’t have time to show up to either of my two jobs anymore because I was on tour all the time [laughter]. So it was more like, “Well, this one’s kind of paying the bills. So maybe ride this dolphin into the sunset, or until the dolphin kicks you off.” There are still moments I think I made the wrong decision. It’s like, “Oh, I’m a husband-less troll, there’s nobody here but me on my windy snowy rock that I”m going to shovel by myself for the next six hours.” But then I go, “Nah, I’m Jeremiah Johnson man. Wanted for murder [laughter]. Living on my own. Kicking it with bears.” You know, it’s kind of romantic.
Fill in the blank: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you _________
Case: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a presidential election.
In a next life, what would your career be?
Case: In my next life, I would kind of like to devote all of my time to farming. Unfortunately, I have to leave a lot because I’m a musician as I said and there’s a lot of touring, because despite what people think that’s how we make our money, not from selling records. So we’re out there, like little mules in the Borax mule train. Muling is fine, but I’d like to mix my muling up a little bit.
What is the hardest part about your job that no one knows?
Case: I don’t know if it’s hard, or so much just savage truth [laughter], is that there is pretty much zero glamour involved in being a touring musician. There’s a lot of truck stop toilets, that are exactly the same as truck stop toilets that you used when you first started touring. Which I’m not complaining about, a truck stop toilet is still a toilet, but there’s no hot tubs, there’s no custom-made fancy tour buses with steam rooms on them. Unless you’re at a certain level, which most of us aren’t.
What is something you bought that you now completely regret buying?
Case: When I first started making a little bit of money — meaning cash in my hand that I wasn’t used to, ever, in the history of my life, because I grew up incredibly poor — I started buying clothes that would look nice on stage, dresses that were kind of nicer, and well made. And then about 10 years later I realized I absolutely hate wearing dresses. Why did I buy those? And there’s this weird psychology with money that you don’t realize, which is, you don’t necessarily do the right thing. You do what you think you’re supposed to do with it. And, to me, having $3,000 over the course of a month was just unheard of. I felt like an absolute billionaire. And I just realized, I had never been taught anything about money, and it’s just a learn as you go. And it’s kind of a, “Boo hoo, yeah whatever lady” situation, but, the point is money has a bizarre psychology that will really mess with you. It’s a wild horse of a jerk.