Joan Armatrading-The Goddess of Change
Long recognized as a pioneering force with a career spanning three decades, the Saint Kitts born Joan Armatrading has maintained an acclaimed and storied career. The three times Grammy nominated British artist has garnered countless accolades which include Top 10 albums and singles (“Love and Affection,” “Willow,” “Drop The Pilot,” are but a few), not to mention a #1 debut atop the Billboard Blues chart in 2007 (a first for a female artist from the UK). She has made VH1’s list of the 100 Most Influential Women in Rock, has been nominated for a Brit Award, gave a command performance for Nelson Mandela on his 70th birthday at Wembley Stadium, received an Honorary Degree from Birmingham University and the list goes on—truly a charmed life and career!
David: You will have your third live recording Live at the Royal Albert Hall released in February in the United States. Your last live CD/DVD Live All the Way From America from 2004 was produced, directed and edited by you. Will you have the same role in this release?
Joan: Yes, because they are all songs I’ve written. I do that with everything I do even though I haven’t been credited.
David: Why are you releasing another live CD/DVD on the heels of Live All the Way from America. It was almost fifteen years between your first live recording and the last.
Joan: No reason, I get asked a lot by people who come to the shows for many years to do another live album. I did Live All the Way From America and Into the Blues; especially after Into the Blues people were asking for a live recording from that. It was a great live sound and I was into it myself obviously.
David: How did you discover Anderson Guitars?
Joan: I went hunting for guitars and I took my tour manager at the time to a shop and came back with a stack of guitars and the one I chose was the Tom Anderson. It sounded great. It was clean. I took that one and I needed two more. At the time I played a Strat that I couldn’t take on the road anymore it was very buzzy.
David: Do you collect guitars? How many do you have?
Joan: I don’t tell people how many I have. I have quite a few.
David: Do you have a dream guitar?
Joan: Not Really. I look at guitars all the time because I’m looking to see if there is anything new. It doesn’t have to be a new guitar per se. I just found a Strat and it’s really really good. It sounds very different, quite chunky. It was nice to get something that plays really different and works. I’m always looking for guitars in all the countries I go to.
David: Do you have a nylon string guitar?
Joan: I have one I don’t play on it much
David: Who made it?
Joan: It’s a Gibson.
David: I understand why you don’t use it (Joan laughs).
Are you working on a CD of new material?
Joan: I’m writing now. I will give myself a year it will be 2012 when it comes out. I will be sixty-one.
David: Your tours are always extensive. Does touring get harder as you get older?
Joan: It’s tiring anyway even when you’re young. I’m a healthy strong person so I do all right. So yes it’s a tiring thing and I am busy all the time with interviews and meeting people. While the band is on a break I have a lot to do. I’ve been doing this for forty years I’m use to it.
David: Speaking of healthy and fit you ran in the New York Marathon. I heard you didn’t train.
Joan: I did do some training. I couldn’t do as much as I would have liked. I did do some. A few days before the race I hurt my knee but I finished the marathon and I got my medal and raised 175,000 Euro’s for charity.
David: Your last recording with A&M Records was Square the Circle in 1992. That Album was just dropped in the market. What happened?
Joan: That’s up to the record company to do what they wanted. There were changes within A&M. Life changes that’s how it goes, people move on. My records do well.
David: Then you went to RCA and did What’s Inside.
Joan: There again, there were changes as well. That’s what I mean, things change all the time. I just generally don’t have control over how a company moves in and moves the artists. You just have to work with what’s there. What are you gonna do? It affects a lot of different people. You can get wrapped up and held up in things. I’m not that kind of person. I’m a very positive person. I take what comes and do the best with what I have. It’s a simple philosophy for me. I’m not a complicated person when it comes to how to be happy. I think the record company has to have the freedom to do what it has to do to be a record company. You have to accept that to do the things you want to do. That’s how things work. You have to understand that.
David: Do you have a favorite CD?
Joan: Usually the one I’m writing. I wouldn’t be able to answer that one. It’s like when people ask what is my favorite song I wrote. I can’t answer that because I’ve written so many. If I had to say it would be Love and Affection because that’s the one I came in on, but it’s very hard to answer.
People will ask what is my favorite gig. We do this all the time and we might come off the stage and say that was great like when they would sing Best Dress On from the last tour. That worked very well. We would think that nobody else would sing that loud or that many times but then we go to the next place and the people are as into it.
David: Speaking of the song Best Dress On, where did that come from?
Joan: I don’t know. I should know but I don’t remember.
David: That song seems to be speaking directly to people who are dealing with the fear and uncertainty of cancer.
Joan: It’s definitely for healing, for people who are trying to make things work. As I said to you before I’m a very positive person and write about the good in the things we make. When I write I try not to write positive stuff all the time. It takes me longer to write something that isn’t positive.
David: Where is Ma-Me-O Beach?
Joan: It’s in Canada. It’s not a beach I went to. I saw the signs for it on the road from the tour bus. I didn’t write the song there it came about later.
David: Was Secret Secret a freeing album for you?
Joan: Secret Secret was the record I decided that I would say exactly what I do on the record. All of the members of my band said I should be taking credit for what I do so yes it was freeing for me because it was when I started working on my own. I didn’t have producers in the studio with me. Not that working with producers was a bad thing. I’ve worked with fantastic producers and learned a lot from them.
David: Was it freeing vocally for you? That was the album you started vocal phrasings like the line where you sing, “ Bap par dap……..ah”.
Joan: Right, that was from Persona Grata. Not really because again on my records I sing what I want to sing and I write all the harmonies. Whatever vocals I did are things I write like the low voices on Down toZero. Nobody is there to say why don’t you do this.
David: Have you been asked to produce anybody?
Joan: Yes, but because of time I haven’t been able too. It is really a lot of work to produce.
David: Do you ever see yourself only producing and not writing?
Joan: It would be nice to produce somebody but I kind of have to write and I want to write
David: Why did you write about the Goddess Oya?
Joan: That’s a real goddess. I was thinking of change and I wanted to write about it. I wanted to find out if there was a goddess that would guide you safely through change. I did a search and found that there was a goddess. I wasn’t surprised to find out there was a goddess of change.