Arts

music

Amanda Palmer, out in the open

Amanda Palmer made an in-store appearance at Newbury Comics in Boston last month.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Amanda Palmer made an in-store appearance at Newbury Comics in Boston last month.

Of all the songs on her sprawling latest album, Amanda Palmer did not imagine the one about Judy Blume making the cut.

An ode to her favorite author during her teen years, “Judy Blume” was destined, in Palmer’s mind, to be a “novelty one-off.” But the song, which references Palmer’s own sexual awakening, her youthful anxieties, and an artist’s sense of duty to her audience, has struck a chord.

“It’s been speaking to people really beautifully,” Palmer says, sitting in a stockroom awaiting an in-store appearance at Newbury Comics in Boston last month, the day after the release of her third solo album, “There Will Be No Intermission.” “It seems like a simple, silly song, but when you step back it’s about something really important and a little disturbing, which is the lack of voices that teenage girls have in their landscape actually telling them the truth.”

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Now 42 with a 3-year-old son, the once and future Dresden Doll still “can’t believe sometimes that I’m an adult,” as she sings. But she’s found a way to model a certain brand of candor and creative ferocity for listeners still searching for their own identity, or validation. From her prominent crowdfunding campaigns to her best-selling 2014 book, “The Art of Asking,” and her expansive social media reach (over 1 million Twitter followers), Palmer has become a music-industry thought leader in the do-it-yourself age.

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Palmer, who lives mostly in Woodstock, N.Y., and London these days with her husband, the writer Neil Gaiman, still keeps her room in the communal South End apartment called the Cloud Club. She plays a homecoming gig Friday at the Orpheum Theatre.

If the Dresden Dolls were theatrical (and were they ever), as a solo act Palmer has been trending in the other direction on what she sees as the artistic scale.

“There’s a grand spectrum, with unadulterated memoir on one end and super-fantastical sci-fi on the other,” she explains. “I think every single spot on that spectrum is necessary. And I think artists should be at liberty to jump around.

“I’ve actually jumped closer and closer to the literal folk truth, closer than I ever have, especially on this record.”

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With songs ranging from eerie minute-long interludes to a couple of sparsely arranged 10-minute epics, the album is as bare and vulnerable as the full-frontal image of its maker on the cover. Sometimes accompanying herself on piano and other keyboards, sometimes just ukulele, she broaches weighty subjects including the passing of friends (“Death Thing”), the inevitability of new-parent mistakes (“A Mother’s Confession”), and the blowback from a poem she wrote after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 (“Bigger on the Inside”).

“I don’t think I would have made a record like this if I didn’t trust the people who were going to listen to it,” she says. “I think it took me 20 years to develop a relationship that sympathetic. Which in an ironic way sort of means the critical success of this album means less to me than it ever has, because I know the ideas, the lyrics, the sentiments are not falling on deaf ears.”

One song, “Voicemail for Jill,” which recounts Palmer’s support for a friend struggling with her decision to have an abortion, has proven to be a magnet for listeners who have their own stories to tell. It’s a protest song, Palmer says, “a protest against a culture that mandates and demands the silence of women. Simply by not being silent, it’s a massive protest.

“It’s almost annoying and irritating to me that I need to write music like this,” she continues. “I would not really choose to. But I also feel like things out there are becoming so frightening that if I didn’t [write such songs] while knowing I could, I would feel shame.”

She’s done feeling shame. Fear, however, is another story.

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“I think I’ve gotten very good at being scared,” she says. “Just doing the dance with it, befriending fear. I’ve definitely made some huge strides in that department in the last seven years. I sat with my friend while he died. I went through abortions, had a miscarriage on my own and held the baby. You don’t go through experiences like that and remain unchanged.

“I think those experiences, alongside my practice of meditation, yoga, and exercising the muscles of ‘what is’ — whether it’s criticism, joy, or death — have finally yielded an ability to be more or less unafraid of everything. While knowing I’m still simultaneously afraid.”

The word she’s alluding to is resilience. “I’m sort of like one of those punching bags on springs,” she says. “I really feel like I pop back to center so much more quickly than I did even six years ago, and certainly when I was 26, when the first Dresden Dolls record came out. And I’m light years beyond the scared 17-year-old girl who wouldn’t even play her music for her friends.”

Criticism still stings, she says, but she’s learned to handle it. (“There’s real beauty in baring your neck,” she says in a follow-up phone call, “and when the sword cuts, you bleed rainbows.” She laughs.)

It’s been a few years since Palmer and Gaiman moved into their new home in the woods of Woodstock.

“It has that very comfortable, safe, manageable small-town vibe that we both need right now,” she says. “Everything else is so hectic.”

Raised in Lexington, where “there was a piano in the house but never any parties with people singing around it,” she spent chunks of her formative years exploring her taste for art and an artful life in Harvard Square. Back then, she had a weekend routine: take the 62 or the 76 bus to Alewife, then the Red Line to Harvard Square. She’d hit the record stores, buy some incense, maybe get something pierced, “hang in the Pit.”

“As a kid in the suburbs, there were very narrow windows to the counterculture. But they were there. Harvard Square didn’t feel like the counterculture itself, though — there were stores where you could buy artifacts and letters from the counterculture that existed out there, elsewhere.

“It was easy to understand how Madonna and Michael Jackson got onto the shelf and on MTV, but it was really hard to understand how ‘Santa Sangre’ and ‘Wings of Desire’ ” — the cult films by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Wim Wenders, respectively — “got onto the shelf. But they did, which gave me hope that there was somehow a series of open doors if you wanted to make music that was not commercially acceptable.”

Later, she scooped ice cream at Toscanini’s and worked as a street performer in the square, posing as the “Eight-Foot Bride.” With fond memories of her time in Cambridge’s crossroads, she maintains many of her friendships from those days. She still visits Mike Volpe at Audio Lab for stereo equipment, for instance.

“She hasn’t changed one bit,” says Volpe. “I’ve seen her sign every single autograph after a show. I’ve met a lot of musicians in my day, and a lot of them don’t want to give you the time of day.”

Whenever Palmer is back in town, she’ll walk through Harvard Square “just to feel the bricks under my feet.”

For Boston more generally, she has decidedly mixed feelings.

“I still feel like Boston and I need some kind of closure that I may never find,” she says. “But I always come back here searching for it.”

Amanda Palmer

At the Orpheum Theatre, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$39.50, www.crossroadspresents.com

James Sullivan can be reached at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.