Immensely talented singer/songwriter/guitarist Joan Armatrading’s 2007 Into the Blues made its debut at Number 1 on the US Billboard Blues chart and that distinction also makes Joan the first UK female artist to accomplish this. Joan is, of course, no stranger to success and has been making records in many different genres for over three decades. With a select world tour just getting underway, Joan was gracious enough to fit in this interview opportunity and answer a few questions for me about her music.
Bellaonline: Your most recent album is entitled Into the Blues.I'm just wondering if this was a conscious decision, to make a blues-flavored record or did it just evolve?
Joan: I like to write all types of music so on all my CDs there's a little jazz, rock, blues, pop and reggae amongst others. So the blues is not new to me. It's just that I wanted at some point to write a CD that was only blues related and the time of writing Into The Blues just felt right.
There was no special reason for me writing these songs except for it feeling right.
Bellaonline: Melissa Etheridge has covered one of your songs The Weakness in Me. Would you ever consider covering any of her songs? Would you be interested in collaborating with anyone, doing film scores, anything like that?
Joan: I think Melissa has done one of the best covers of The Weakness in Me of any that I have heard. Songs of mine have been used in films and many years ago I did write some music for a film. As a writer, I am always interested in writing in the different genres. Because I think of myself primarily as a writer I tend not to cover other songs. I greatly admire other writers, so it's not because I don't like the songs of others – it’s just that I like to write and I think of myself as a writer as opposed to a singer. Really, I should put myself down as a songwriter/singer instead of singer/songwriter!
Bellaonline: What artists are you listening to right now?
Joan: I don't listen to a great deal of music. I don't have music on my i-pod, which I only just recently got. I like to listen to talking so I tend to
listen to Radio 4 most of the time if I listen to the radio; however, having
said that I do really, really like The Killers. I love Brandon Flower’s voice.
Bellaonline: Artistic people often tend to be very passionate about food, I've noticed! What would you consider to be your favourite foods?
Joan: I like simple food. I might eat too much of it but I do like uncomplicated foods, I don't like dishes that have a lot of sauces.
Bellaonline: Love and Affection is the song that you are perhaps most often associated with and it is an amazing song. I used to wait for it to come on Radio Luxembourg as a love-sick adolescent and then weep copiously into my pillow. Not that you needed to know that! But I am sure many people were deeply moved by that song. Did the lyrics come to you first or the melody?
How does that generally work with your writing?
Joan: I really like Love and Affection as well because it's the song that got me known all over the world. I don't have any set pattern for writing. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes the lyrics. I write on the piano and the guitar. Songs on the guitar tend to be the rhythmic ones and the
ones written on the piano are more melodic.
Bellaonline:Is performing live something you still enjoy or is it kind of a necessary evil?
Joan: I think I'm lucky because I like doing the things I do in the natural order. In order to sing, you must first have a song. I love to write songs, so that is the foremost thing that fascinates me. Then I like to record so that I can hear the posh sounds laid down. Then I like to tour to get the immediate feedback from the audience. Touring is still very, very enjoyable for me. It's too hard work to do and not enjoy at this stage.
Bellaonline:You have accomplished so much already – both with your music and on a humanitarian level, with your PACES charity and your involvement with Amnesty International, composing the song for Nelson Mandela –is there anything else that you would like to turn your hand to in the next little while?
Joan:Yes, but I tend to keep my ambitions a secret until I achieve them.
Bellaonline:Who would your own favorite song writer be?
Joan: I love Bach, Purcell and Beethoven – these are true geniuses. Of the modern day composers, there are many that I think are fantastic songwriters. There are loads of songs that I just love to hear and the list is too long to put down!
Bellaonline:What was the overall experience of making a blues album?
Joan Armatrading’s website has current tour dates
Buy CD Into the Blues at Amazon.com