Cyndi Lauper says she's having "a major folk moment" on her new album, The Body Acoustic, which hits stores Tuesday.
The collection of rearranged and stripped-down songs finds the 52-year-old New York singer-songwriter teaming up a wide variety of guests, including Canadian Sarah McLachlan, to re-interpret both hits and two new songs.
"I've been playing things quasi-acoustic for a long time, 'cause I love the dulcimer," the delightfully funny and friendly Lauper says while in Toronto recently on a promotional trip.
"And there were many titles like, 'Cyndi Plays Dulcimer,'" she jokes in that unmistakable thick New Yawk accent of hers.
"But I was excited to be able to play, and it made it more of an Americana record. That instrument was made and invented by immigrants in this side of the world. It came out of the coal mines. The Scottish and the Irish were travelling to Appalachia to work and when they passed the Pennsylvania Dutch, they heard the sounds of the zither and realized that the instrument that they really missed they could do in a string. So they used a string instrument. They made that beautiful dulcimer sound."
But because it's the fun-loving Lauper -- this is a woman who got married to actor David Thornton in a ceremony presided over by Little Richard, after all -- you have everyone from reggae-pop star Shaggy to Japanese duo Puffy Ami Yumi joining her on All Through The Night and Girls Just Want To Have Fun, respectively.
"These are people that I knew and I loved," says Lauper. "It was an opportunity to take this American, crazy, ska sound, and mix it with Japanese and bring that to the forefront."
Particularly entertaining is the Puffy Ami Yumi collaboration featuring their heavily accented Japanese voices.
"I didn't even know about them," says Lauper. "I just kept saying, 'Don't just get me a pop star. Get me somebody who's freakin' great in their own right, really cool, kind of hip.' And then I was, like, 'Why are you hiding their accent? That's the most charming part!' 'Cause like 'Girls' wanna have fun too. And I thought that was great. I think it's cute because I have such a horrible accent that it's so nice to hear somebody else's accent."
As for the Canadian content, Lauper met McLachlan at a songwriting conference in Las Vegas where they both then had the same music publisher. Initially, Lauper wanted her to sing on Water's Edge but McLachlan was more interested in Time After Time. In the end, she did both.
"She sings, like, effortlessly, like an angel. So just hearing her voice I was, like, 'Oh, my God. That's incredible.'"
Lauper returns to Toronto to play a date at Massey Hall on Dec. 6 with opening acts Jill Sobule and Sandra Bernhard. She's hoping they might individually or together join her on stage at some point, given The Body Acoustic's concept.
"I have been begging for a women-travelling-together-(thing) for years!" says Lauper "I want to do a festival of women. I can't get nobody to back me! Not like Lilith (Fair), different. Maybe I should call (Sarah) and tell her what I want to do -- but she's busy."
Whatever occurs, expect Lauper to venture out into the crowd, much as she did two years ago at Massey where she stood up on a seat in the middle of the crowd.
"I like to break the wall between the stage and the audience," she says. "And, also, once the doors close, I always feel like, 'You're mine now.' You gotta shake it up."