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Joan Armatrading - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 23 / 10 / 2015

Joan Armatrading - Interview


In the wake of her appearance at Oxfordshire's Towersey Festival, Nick Dent-Robinson speaks to Joan Armatrading about her decision to make her present major tour - which she is doing on her own - the last of its kind.

It is over 50 years since Joan Armatrading, now 64, started to write songs on an old piano purchased by her mum primarily as decoration in the Caribbean family's modest Birmingham home. Joan's first guitar was bought for her by her mother who had spotted it in a pawn shop. Although her dad was a musician with a fine guitar of his own, Joan was forbidden from playing it. Joan recalls: "Yes, my dad was a musician and, understandably, he was strict about not letting me touch his guitar. So I was thrilled when my mum got me my own guitar from the pawn shop. And I was in my early teens when mum bought the piano because she thought it was a great-looking piece of furniture - which it was. "She knew exactly which wall she wanted to put it against but she never expected anyone to actually play it. To me that seemed a waste and I started to tinker with it. I'd already written a few little rhymes and limericks so it was a short step to writing some lines and setting them to music. That's how it all started for me." Her intention with the new tour, after nearly 45 years of performing her music, is to "try to capture a unique memory" for herself and her audiences with a "special lively interactive one-to-one experience" as she performs solo, singing plus playing guitar and piano. Joan continues: "I have been so fortunate. I have been lucky enough to work with great people - Bruce Springsteen's E Street band, The Police, Jools Holland, Fairport Convention - and my current tour has many dates that are already sold out. I look forward to all of my shows and love the audiences. They shout stuff out and make comments... it is great. And without a band, somehow my songs are given a chance to breathe, making them fresh and creating a whole new dimension for the listener." Joan says she has no idea why she has enjoyed such longevity as an artist, but she suspects it has something to do with people being able to relate to her songs. "People do get emotionally attached to songs. They are sometimes played at funerals or weddings and people claim all kinds of connections. For example, when I was working recently in the USA a man came up to say my music had introduced him to his girlfriend. That sort of thing happens a lot - as it does to other songwriters - and it is very satisfying. It is just great to have that connection - a privilege, really. Writing is very important to me. I don't foresee ever giving that up. I've released over 20 albums with 28 singles and I want to continue that work." Which of her songs mean the most to Joan? "That's an impossible question. My songs are like children and you shouldn't have a favourite. But maybe 'Love And Affection' does have a special meaning for me as it helped me become known worldwide and have the great career I've been lucky enough to enjoy. In fact that whole 1976 album, Joan Armatrading, was what really got me noticed. So I guess that song - and the album - must merit a special place." At Towersey Joan appeared with Stornoway, Bellowhead, Show of Hands, Treacherous Orchestra, Sally Barker and many more. Does she enjoy festivals? “Yes, I always do, especially ones that are well run. But I am pretty self-sufficient and calm and organised these days. So I take all kinds of performances in my stride. I do love the direct connection with my audiences, though.”

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Joan Armatrading - Interview

Joan Armatrading - Interview

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