JUST JOAN ON STAGE
Joan Armatrading will be 65 when her latest long tour ends but the ‘70s sensation remains keen to explore. This time she’s performing solo – just her voice, a guitar and a piano, and those songs
arduous tours in the future.
“I will do shorter things but I will never retire. I’ve never done a world tour on my own, so that’s a first. And I haven’t played the piano on stage for years, probably not since 1976.
“Some of these songs I have sung on stage with a band but not played (on an instrument), so there is a lot to it. It is a little nerve-racking to think that if I forget a word I can’t look at the keyboard player hoping they will remember – I’m really on my own.’’
Much has changed in the music world since Armatrading broke through with her 1976 hit Love And Affection.
“A good song can still take you far – look at Adele or Amy Winehouse or Sam Smith. It is different now though. When I started, more people were given the opportunity to realise their potential,” she says.
“My first album was in 1972 (but) it wasn’t until my third album ( Joan Armatrading), with Love And Affection, that I became known all over the world
“A lot of artists these days aren’t given that opportunity. If the first single doesn’t sell, that’s it, they’re dropped by the record company.
“The technology is there for the artist to present their songs freely, to put a song up on YouTube or Soundcloud or whatever outlet they choose. That’s great to build a little fan base but to project to a mass of people, you can’t do that yourself. It’s a skill but it’s not our skill as artists.
“If you look at Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen or Ed Sheeran, it’s when the record companies pick them that they have massive success.’’
Armatrading is thankful for the support that has delivered a catalogue of much-loved songs, from Me Myself I and Show Some Emotion to Drop The Pilot, I’m Lucky and The Shouting Stage. Influences from folk, rock, jazz, soul and blues all shine through.
Her 2006 release Into The Blues was her first No.1 on the Billboard blues charts, a first for any female artist from the UK. It also won her a Grammy for best blues album. Last year’s Starlight had a strong jazz strain.
“I know exactly why I am here; I was born to write and I’m at my happiest when I’m writing. I don’t need anybody to tell me to do that. It was never the record company saying, ‘Joan, you’ve got to make a rock record.’ Their nurturing part was to give me the space to do what I was doing. Once I’d given them the music, they’d run with it. I must say that when I told the record company that I wanted Love And Affection to be a single, they did say to me, ‘Remember Joan, you asked for it,’ ” she says with a laugh. Her intuition song was right.
As she travels the world in the next year, Armatrading will do what she has always done – keep an eye out for details that can make a song.
“I wrote The Shouting Stage in Australia. I was in a restaurant and heard this couple having an argument. It became louder and louder and the guy just got up and stormed out. I thought, ‘What got them to the shouting stage?’
“We all see the same things but as a writer you observe it in a slightly different way, just as a painter would look at the colours.’’
And a writer like Armatrading sees the emotions.
Joan Armatrading will perform at Twin Towns on Saturday night.