Sunday, 19 January 2014

Joan Armatrading's BIG last tour

Joan Armatrading has announced her last tour, kicking off later this year. She isn't retiring from live shows, but this is the big last tour. Big? It's huge. 

Joan is booked for over 50 UK dates so far with European and North American dates to follow. It's just her on guitar and piano. She's taking on a lot. 

I saw Joan at the old Birmingham Odeon in 1975, after she released 'Back To The Night'. She opened for A&M labelmates Supertramp - so she sang her very personal songs to progrock kiddies in greatcoats. It's all a long time ago, but I'm sure the stage was awash with unwavering, unwatchable red light. Almost certainly she had a crappy sound mix. The lot of the support act. 

I enjoyed her set. Supertramp was another matter, so I left, crossing a post-gig Joan coming out onto the street with her mates. I hollered out 'Good set, Joan!' and got a lovely smile back.

We met later when Joan was ferried around radio stations to plug albums. I don't think she enjoyed this. But I asked for another interview because, dammit, Joan's a really important artist, and this is going to be her last tour. And, hooray, she agreed. 

On your website, you say ‘I will never retire but this will be my last major tour’ – why? Your creativity is undimmed; your voice is richer and more powerful than in the old days. Your audience loves you… 
As I say, I will never retire. That means I will always write songs and release those songs so that people who enjoy my music can hear them.
My tours are very long tours. This tour will be from 2014 to 2015 and at the end of 2015 I will be 65. Whilst I really enjoy touring I feel that I don't want to be on the road for a year or 18 months at a time after 2015. I will still perform in concert but just not large major tours for extended periods of time.
You also say: ‘For the first time these concerts will be me solo on stage playing the guitar and piano and singing' On this tour, by playing totally solo, you are removing the support, the defense if you like, that a band and a touring ensemble can give you. How does that feel?
You’ve always been productive - I'm putting recent songs on this blog page, not your early stuff. But it’s sad to look you up on Spotify and see almost nothing but greatest hits albums. Yet your mid-70s A&M work still stands up, as far as I and thousands, millions of others are concerned. How do you feel, nearly forty years on, about that early work?
I love my early work. Why wouldn't I? I wrote everything. I don't know why the record companies don't put up all the work - because I have been recording non-stop since 1972. The last CD came out in 2012. It's all on my website. Take a look if you want to see all the CDs!
Can I ask how much control you had back in the day, and how that compares to now? I have mixed feelings about what the web is doing. It allows artists to reach audiences directly, sure, and tools we can all afford have made things easier. And yet, I don’t know anyone working locally (in the West Midlands ) who is getting ahead financially, despite this explosion of creativity. So is it a fair trade: cheaper tools but far worse money?
I've been lucky. I've always had control over my music right from the start of my career. It's a changed and changing music business since I started, it's both good and bad.
Good, in the sense that musicians can get their music out to people more easily because of the net and technology. Musicians can now record their music needing less money, they can get to a certain amount of fans without help from record companies, they can organise certain gigs by themselves, and they can communicate directly with the fans, they can reach on a sort of personal level. 
However, I still believe that, with all of that, the musician is not a PR person, so they still need a great deal of help to get to the masses. We all have our expertness; record companies have that expertness that helps to expose music and musicians on a scale that the individual musician just cannot compete with. 
And much as we might say MySpace or the net allowed certain musicians to gain big fame, it really wasn't until the record companies stepped in that that massive fame and success caught hold. 
You have always given of yourself in song, with passionate and deeply personal songs. They hit a chord then, they still do. And yet, when we met in the 70s and 80s, when you were being promoted, I felt your reserve. Not everyone relishes promo circuit interviews, I get that. 
I've always believed in being myself. I'm not an extrovert. Over the years I don't appear as shy as I believe I still am - but that's to do with growing up. if I still appeared as shy now at 63 as I was at 23 then I think something would be terribly wrong. It would mean I had not gained anything out of all the wonderful experiences I've gone through over the years.

Joan Armatrading's website and tour dates

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