Zooglobble: What does “home” mean to you? How has that changed as you’ve grown older, become a parent?
Joanie Leeds: Home is comfort. Home is where you can put your feet up on the coffee table and snuggle up on the couch without feeling like you are intruding or acting too casual. My true home will always be Miami, where I was born and raised. However, the landscape has changed a lot since I grew up there.
My current home is Williamsburg, Brooklyn and after living here for six years, it's starting to feel more like home now that I have a daughter. We have a ton of mommy friends with kids the same age and see many familiar faces when walking outside. It's a nice community! My daughter isn't yet two, but when we walk down the street I can let go of her hand on the sidewalk, and she points to our building and says "home" and walks right up the steps. While "home" can be a bit fuzzy for adults, home is very clear to her. She feels safe and comfortable there and that's so important.
Did you have the idea to do a “home”/Brooklyn-themed album first, or did you have some songs that you noticed were coalescing around that theme and wrote some more?
The theme came first. Actually, I had the album title long ago and wrote the songs around the title. I rallied around the idea of a Brooklyn-themed album after watching our neighborhood go from abandoned industrial warehouses to endless scaffolding covered sidewalks to a co-op infested neighborhood speckled with families and dogs virtually overnight. When I first moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Williamsburg, it took some getting used to. I would walk around for days without seeing a child. Just hipsters, graffiti on every building, and pockets of the neighborhood that were just holding onto their culture before many homeowners sold their properties to real estate investors. It was all planned by our previous Mayor Bloomberg, to revitalize our neighborhood, but no one knew it was going to happen as fast as it did.
It was a shock, even to me. With change (and gentrification) comes good and bad. The streets are safer and cleaner for my daughter, and there are a ton of families now, but the neighborhood has lost some of its flavor as a result. I wanted to tell the story of the good and the bad. The amazing melting-pot culture, how people get along no matter where they are from and no matter what language they speak. I wanted to paint the picture of sitting on the stoop and eating a slice on a typical Sunday afternoon. Explain hipster culture (and maybe make fun of it a little, too). Taking the East River Ferry is the most beautiful way to see the city, and Brooklynites love libraries, farm-to-table non-GMO eating, pizza, Yiddish phrases, taking the subway, and bagels. I wanted to explain it all to the world and give it my twist.
Why was it important for you to do this type of themed album?
A few years ago I made an animal-themed album called What A Zoo. It is one of my best sellers, so I wanted to write another collection of songs. It didn't take long to pick Brooklyn. It's the fastest growing city in the country, right up there with Oakland, California and there is a reason people are migrating from Manhattan (and all over the world) to the Brooklyn borough. It is more than getting priced out of other places, it's the hip, cool Brooklyn mentality. Brooklyn has become a brand.