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On way to Broward Center, K.D. Lang recalls ups and downs of 'Ingénue'

It has been 25 years since the album “Ingénue” introduced K.D. Lang, a barely known Canadian country singer, as a crooner of remarkable sensitivity and range on songs rendered in velvety despair, including “Constant Craving,” “Save Me” and “Tears of Love's Recall.”

The album established Lang as an influential trailblazer, both culturally as a lesbian pop star and as a unique performer who has inspired a range of singers, from Brandi Carlile to Madeleine Peyroux. As none other than Tony Bennett has said, Lang is merely “the best singer of her generation.”

Following the release of a re-mastered anniversary edition of “Ingénue” last year, Lang embarked on the Ingénue Redux Tour, a track-by-track appreciation of the album, which begins a new North American leg in Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 7.

Reviews of the show have been uniformly adoring. The Los Angeles Times said Lang’s performance “shimmered with dreamy textures [and] a kind of cinematic grandeur.”

Lang, 56, splits her time between Portland, Ore., where she’s a big NBA fan (“Damian Lillard, he’s my guy”), and Calgary. Speaking by phone from the mountains near Squamish, British Columbia, Lang spoke about “Ingénue,” her critically lauded 2016 album with the songwriting supergroup Case/Lang/Viers and her ongoing struggle to find inspiration to make more solo music.

You spent Canada Day riding a motorcycle around Calgary, which you described in a tweet that said, “Proud to be living in this country.” What were you feeling that day?

Canada is feeling very, very, very different these days. I lived in the States for a long time. Due to life’s circumstances, I ended up back in Canada. I was just driving around, and we were up in the northeast [part of the city], where all the East Indians and Muslims and a lot of ethnic immigrants live in Calgary. We went for dosa, which is a South Indian cuisine, and I just felt really proud to be driving around. Everyone was super happy. It was a beautiful day. I get turned on by inclusion and people peacefully coexisting. That makes me very happy.

“Ingénue” was released in 1992, which was an interesting year for music. R.E.M. had “Automatic for the People,” Madonna had “Erotica,” Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was dominating the airwaves and there was “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young. Where did you fit in?

Yeah, it was a big year — and I fit nowhere. Especially since I kind of switched direction on “Ingénue.” I moved away from the country-pop thing, and I really felt like I was going in an insular, opposite direction from what was happening. Mariah Carey was big. Music was very forward and extroverted, and “Ingénue” was super introverted and kind of down-tempo. So I wasn’t really thinking about how it fit in. I was just writing it because that was what I needed to write at the time. And I thought I was going to get killed. And I did. The first few reviews were just, like, terrible.

It’s easy for an album to get lost. Why do you think that record did not get lost?

I think because Warner Bros. and Sire Records, they really believed in me and they took the time to develop it. There was a DJ in Atlanta, and he started spinning “Constant Craving,” and it got a lot of phone action, and it built from there. And then, obviously, coming out in the Advocate brought a lot of attention. I don’t think “Ingénue” would have been as successful … It’s a funny, doubled-edged sword, because it brought a lot of attention and a lot of success by coming out, but at the same time it presented a glass ceiling, financially, as we know things do.

Do you still feel that glass ceiling?

Well, it’s shifted. Because now age plays a factor, and my own motivation plays a factor. I’m not so motivated to be involved in the music business, anymore. But I think it still exists. I think you can do so well, and then there are certain limitations. But, like I said, some of them are self-placed.

Are you having fun on this tour?

Yes, I am, because it is extremely musically rewarding. … We play the record in sequence, in its entirety, but we open up a few songs in the middle of the show, and the musicians I have with me are very capable and apt to go exploring. So it opens up a really interesting dialogue between us onstage and also for the audience. It gets pretty open, and that’s beautiful.

Your set includes music by three revered Canadian songwriters, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, on “Help Me,” “Helpless” and “Hallelujah.” Do you feel a particular kinship to any of those songs individually?

Well, “Hallelujah” has become a song that has a lot of gravity. It has been and has continued to be a signature song, with Leonard’s passing, especially in Canada, because I sang it at the Olympics in 2010, and I made that record, “Hymns of the 49th Parallel.” It’s become a signature song, but I think it’s pretty close to being retired. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be doing it.

You have been performing “Honey and Smoke” from the “Case/Lang/Veirs” album [which includes Neko Case and Laura Veirs]. Can you talk about that album? Is that something that might be repeated in the future?

Maybe. That record did really, really well in the U.K. It got a lot of great reviews over there. It was such an amazing experience. The writing process was so fraught with all sorts of emotion, and it was very arduous. It was very hard to get us all in one location and all focused. It was [laughs] a real trip trying to get that record written. But once we had the songs and once we started recording, things really started to channel into a super-creative, easy ride. And the tour was also very fulfilling. It really kind of reset or refocused my love for music. Watching other people’s creative processes was really nurturing to me in some way.

You guys seem so natural together. What was the impediment to songwriting?

Oh, ego, for sure, No. 1. [Laughs] I think they would all say that. Because we’ve all been the drivers of our careers for so long and we’re all … strongly independent in our songwriting. So to come into a place where there can’t be a boss, where it was equanimity at its finest, that is a very difficult thing to hone.

Did anything surprise you about the making of that record, or about yourself, maybe?

Well, it’s pretty awful to see your ego, face to face, that close up. To realize how set in your ways you are, how sure you are that you know the right chord. It was hard, but it was beautiful.

What’s your next project?

I have no new projects. I have been in a bit of a void creatively for quite a few years, other than Case/Lang/Viers. I feel like it’s OK. It’s kind of shocking, because I feel like my voice is in really good shape right now — in a way, it’s the best it’s ever been. But I really don’t feel like I have anything to … I don’t feel motivated at all or inspired at all by anything new. For years, I would sit on the road and think about how I should spend more time with my mother, and how I should spend more time in nature, and doing very simple mundane things, the details of life, and that’s what I’m doing. [Laughs]

Does it bother you that inspiration isn’t nearby?

It does bother me on certain occasions. Certainly, there are days when I’m, ‘Oh, my God,’ but I also have to trust … I may be finished, I don’t know. I honestly don’t feel like forcing it is the right thing. It’s never been my style. If it is over, it’s over. I’m happy with my body of work. But if it isn’t, I have to wait for it to show up.

K.D. Lang begins the fall North American leg of her Ingénue Redux Tour 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Guitarist Mak Grgić will open the show. Tickets start at $30. Call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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