Ingrid: It’s all right there in the lyrics – “Do you know what it feels like / for a girl? / Do you know what it feels like in / this world / for a girl? / Strong inside but you don’t know it / Good little girls they never show it / When you open up your mouth to speak / Could you be a little weak?”
Madonna: Exactly. So, it was a combination of that, and also just feeling incredibly vulnerable that inspired the song.
Ingrid: Did you know you had something when you wrote it?
Madonna: I just knew that I had something true.
Ingrid: So, the search is to find the true stuff?
Madonna: Yes, the search is to find the true stuff, but also to find how to put it, because a lot of times when you find the true stuff it’s not very attractive. It doesn’t come out in a very digestible way. And if you’re trying to illuminate people, or inspire people, or wake people up to something, you know – and, believe me, I’ve learned this from other things I’ve done – you’re not going to get very far if you attack people or rub their noses in it. Anyway –
Ingrid: You know, the last time that we really had a chance to talk to each other [for a story in Vanity Fair] we were talking about having kids, and you said when you met the right person you wanted to have another kid. And get married again. And now it’s all happened. Between all the pieces that we’ve done on you in Interview over the years, and that feature, I feel like I sort of meet up with you at every chapter in your life.
Madonna: Oh yes. Well, a lot has happened since the last time I spoke to you, for both of us.
Ingrid: That’s right.
Madonna: But it only took me 40 years to find my soul mate. [laughs]
Ingrid: Did you know that this was happening when the relationship was beginning?
Madonna: No. Not in the beginning. I knew he was a formidable human being, and a great talent with a brilliant mind and all that stuff. But I just felt like there were too many problems. So I thought, Well, great – I’ve just found a great friend.
Ingrid: Then what?
Madonna: It took a long time for me to see beyond that – and I think probably that’s why it’s worked. Because I didn’t have the usual distractions of idealistic romance and lustful longings. I’m not saying I wasn’t attracted to him, but you know, you go through all these things in your head. You go, OK, first of all, let’s just talk about how geographically incompatible we are.
Ingrid: It sounds like, in this case, it was a good thing.
Madonna: It takes so long to really get to know somebody, and we had a very protracted courtship. For one year our relationship was mostly writing to each other.
Ingrid: How great.
Madonna: Yes, it was great. It was frustrating at the time, though. I wanted to rip his head off sometimes. [Both laugh] But in retrospect, it’s a great way to get to know someone, without being distracted by how gorgeous they are or something else, because you forgive people a lot when you’re distracted by those things that aren’t as important as the other things.
Ingrid: I’m thinking that writing has had such a huge role in your life, hasn’t it? From when you were a teenager in Michigan reading Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton in your room, right up until now.
Madonna: Oh yes. You have to be able to write before you can come into my room. [laughs] I mean write me a good letter or fuck off.
Ingrid: Well, you know it’s interesting, because when I started to see the visuals that were produced for the packaging of Music [with photos by Jean-Baptiste Mondino], and then the videos, it got me thinking about you and writing, and also about you in the larger context. You once told me that when you were younger you had a romance about cowboy poet types. But, in fact, all that has evolved – you’ve married a Scotsman, and become your own cowboy poet. [Madonna bursts out laughing]
Madonna: Yes. Totally.
Ingrid: Instead of this myth of the American West being embodied in a guy, you did it.
Madonna: Right. I produced it myself. I just love the whole iconography of the West – the kind of sturdy earthiness of it, the earthy, rural poet. But it’s got to have an edge to it, too. I think there’s something really folky about a lot of the stuff that I wrote. It’s really simple and lyrical, but then you combine it with modern technology and –