GM: Self-esteem is finding peace in yourself, rather than in actions or achievements. Do you feel you have that?
Madonna: Yes. That’s one thing that’s always been really important to me, that my happiness is self-generated. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been hurt or mistakenly put my happiness in other people’s hands. I’ve done that a lot, and every time I do it, I get f##ked. If you aren’t happy on your own, there isn’t anybody who’s gonna make you happy in a lasting way.
GM: Isn’t there a part of you that’s still looking for another person to make you feel good?
Madonna: I think everyone has a soulmate, but I don’t think you can attract one until you say, “I’m cool by myself.” On the other hand, I feel like we all have this unexplained longing and yearning for the other half of us. Oh, what do I know? Don’t ask me. I’m sure I’ll change my mind in 10 minutes!
GM: How have you been able to change from being defensive to being more open?
Madonna: By realizing that I’m responsible for everything that happens to me. And if I go around spewing bitterness on everybody, it’s just gonna scare people away. I’m not going to make myself feel any better. I truly believe I’m getting what I’m supposed to be getting. And if I don’t have it. then I’m not supposed to have it. Though I have my moments of longing, they’re much more fleeting. They don’t paralyze me or hold me captive. It’s there for a minute. Then I go,”That’s so stupid and indulgent.” and I let go of it.
GM: How have you maintained your intense work ethic while fostering inner awareness?
Madonna: By staying focused and being disciplined, but not being so concerned with the result. Every time I make a record, I think, “What if I never can write another song again as long as I live?” But then I do. I don’t think you can lean into things too hard; I think you have to let things happen. If you say to yourself, “No big deal, I’m a survivor; the universe will take care of me,” then I think ultimately you’ll be fine. But if you’re constantly going, “Oh my God, I might be a failure,” you sabotage yourself.
GM: Do you ever worry that once you tame the demons that originally motivated you to become an artist, you’ll no longer have that burning desire to create?
Madonna: It’s feeling that inspired you, and if you continue to feel, whether it’s coming from a negative place or … I mean, it’s all about self-discovery. So whether you’re discovering positive things or negative things, I don’t see why both of them can’t inform your work. I don’t think you have to suffer to be creative, even though it is very helpful.
GM: How did your Florida neighbor Gianni Versace’s death affect you?
Madonna: I felt a great sense of vulnerability. I became incredibly paranoid. Then I realized there aren’t enough bodyguards in the world to protect me. I drive everywhere I want. I go by myself. If someone wants to kill me, they’re gonna kill me. And if it’s my time, it’s my time. My best protection is good karma. And that’s all there is to it.
GM: How did the song “Shanti/Ashtangi” come about?
Madonna: I do Ashtanga yoga every day, and I had to learn all of these prayers. I love chanting them, and I decided to take a crash course in Sanskrit because my yoga teacher explained to me that not only do the prayers have meaning, but the actual saying of the words also produces a feeling of balance and bliss in your body through the sound resonating in your vocal chords, going up into your head and traveling down your spine.
Buddhist monks sit in rooms all day and chant “om” because they believe it’s a path to achieve pure consciousness. I’ve got lots of CDs of people chanting and singing in Sanskrit, but they are with very old-fashioned instruments like sitar and things like that. I wanted to bring this music into the 21st century.
GM: Why hasn’t Maverick put out more records along the lines of your taste?
Madonna: Wait till you hear these two new groups we signed. One’s Swedish, called Baxter, and the other is Lucy Nation (from England). I feel like the stuff we’re doing now is right up my alley. I mean, I love Mc’Shell Ndegeocello, love Alanis, and I love the Prodigy. Those are records I would buy if they weren’t on my label.
GM: How do you keep juggling all the different parts of your career?
Madonna: I take turns focusing on things. There are times when I really get involved with the record company, and there are times when I’m focusing more on my music, or times when I have to push it all aside and just pay attention to my daughter. It requires being incredibly organized. It’s very irritating to the people around me. And once in a while I think,”Oh my God, I can’t do it! I’m gonna explode!” But I’ve got a lot of good people working for me, and sometimes things fall by the wayside, and that’s the way it goes.
GM: You’ve achieved the kind of fame that most entertainers can only dream about, yet still you keep going. A lot of stars would have quit or burned out by now.
Madonna: Yeah, but they’re stars, not artists. I mean, there isn’t any set number of things you say to yourself, like, “I’m going to make 10 albums and 10 movies and travel around, and then I’m gonna pack it all in and go live in the mountains.” I mean, life motivates me and the discoveries that I make as I go along. And every time I make a discovery, I have to somehow turn it into something. It’s just part of my nature. And as long as I feel inspired, I’m gonna be motivated. Whenever I’m around great works of art, whether that’s a movie or a painting or some music that just blows my mind, it just makes me want to do more. It fills me, and that is what we should all be doing for each other.
GM: What do you have left to do that you haven’t done already?
Madonna: So much you can’t even imagine. I want to have another child. I’m dying to go to India and spend several months. I never want to stop making music. There are a lot of movies I want to do. I want to direct. I want to learn how to paint. That’s a good start.
GM: And how many lifetimes do you hope to —
Madonna: — I’m gonna get it all done. Believe me.
© Grammy Magazine