Q&A: B-52s’ Kate Pierson on her new solo album and playing in Atlanta

Catch her at Variety Playhouse on July 17 and Georgia Theatre in Athens on July 18
Kate Pierson
Photograph courtesy of Image Collect

Over the decades, singer Kate Pierson has lent her voice to hit singles by R.E.M. and Iggy Pop and, of course, the Athens-birthed B-52s’ seven-album catalog. This summer, at age 67, Pierson hits the road with her own band to introduce fans to her first-ever solo album, Guitars and Microphones. We spoke to Pierson in advance of her July 17 performance at Variety Playhouse (she also plays the Georgia Theatre in Athens on July 18).

You’re collaborating on this album with “Chandelier” pop queen Sia, who is best known for writing hits for Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Rihanna. How did that happen?
I met her at a birthday party in New York, and I had no idea who she was! But my partner, Monica [Coleman], and I became friends with her, and we all ended up going on vacation together to Tulum, Mexico, where she was inspired to write “Bring Your Arms,” which is on the new album. Creatively, that opened the door to the other songs. She’s an amazing lyricist.

The B-52s are known for crazy dance tracks about space aliens and green poodles, and now you’re singing some very personal, autobiographical songs. What’s that shift been like?
I’m really proud, particularly of the title track, “Guitars and Microphones.” It was a chance to reflect on growing up in New Jersey and being in this protest band called the Sun Doughnuts. [We were] three girls with guitars, and we were writing songs about the environment and civil rights. We performed at this retirement place that I think was called the Over 80s Club, and all these very elderly people were grooving out to our songs.

Why are you making your Georgia debut in Atlanta instead of Athens?
Cindy Wilson recommended it. Living in Atlanta, she knew [the Variety Playhouse] was a great venue, and I’m excited. Then to be back on the Georgia Theatre stage doing these songs feels like a renewal for me. Except I’m older now and hopefully more experienced!

You’re going to be on tour this summer when the Supreme Court could rule to legalize gay marriage. [Editor’s note: On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage constitutional.] After nearly 40 years of championing LGBT rights, how does that feel?
It’s amazing that things have come so far so fast. Americans, especially younger people, are much more tolerant. Monica and I are planning to get married in Hawaii. But I’ve been to enough friends’ weddings to see [what a] traumatic experience it can be for the bride. We’re going to keep it very simple!

On the Calendar: The B-52s singer is sure to receive a thunderous welcome on her home turf at Athens’s Georgia Theatre on July 18.

This article originally appeared in our July 2015 issue.