British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading revisits career after release of new album | Music | Entertainment
Joan Armatrading – Love and Affection 1976
“All I thought was when can I eat?” ” Don’t worry, I say, and she laughs – something she does more than you might think. The Caribbean-born, Birmingham-raised star is known the world over for her intelligent and sensitive songs like Love And Affection and Me, Myself And I. So it’s hard to believe that Joan once found it terrifying to walk on stage and that she would stare at the ground. rather than making eye contact with the audience.
“I was very shy,” she told me. “I’ve never been interested in fame. I just wanted people to hear my songs – to know the songs that I wrote.
Now 70 years old, Joan describes herself as “an introverted extrovert”, adding “I’m always shy, I know better how to hide it. I’m a calm person, I like to be alone, but I’m here to brag about my songs. I love to make records.
His new album Consequences, already a Top Ten hit, is full of gems ranging from the playful pop of Natural Rhythm to the delicate embrace of To Be Loved.
“Making this album was no different for me from doing the first one,” she says. “I just like writing songs, recording them and people hearing them.”
I ask which track is her favorite and Joan responds “Track one”, adding with a laugh “and two and three …” up to ten.
Joan, 70, describes herself as an “introverted extrovert”
“I think the whole album is uplifting,” she says. “The last one, Not Too Far Away, was very moving. I played it to a small group of friends and they all cried. It’s different, it makes you smile and jump.
A perfect cure for the pandemic blues, although Joan recorded it between January and May of last year, so it’s not technically a lockdown album. That’s all his job, though. “I write alone,” she said. “I play everything. And that chorus that you hear is just me.
Armatrading is full of surprises. When I ask her what she listened to at 13, Joan rolls out a list of BBC radio comedies: “Round The Horne, The Clitheroe Kid, Beyond Our Ken, Ttake it from here… I was completely into radio comedy. I didn’t listen to music; I’ve never been to concerts. I never even went to my annual school concert. I was 19 when I bought my first album. It was Led Zeppelin, and the next one was from The Faces.
Comedy always tickles his fancy.
Joan, who smiles easily, adores “Tim Vine, Ricky Gervais, Will Farrell in conversation with his landlady – it’s so funny. The homeland is hilarious. I love Chris Rock and another American comedian called Deon Cole… “
The star refuses to be defined by her color or her gender
Would you stand up? “People tell me that when I’m on stage, I’m a bit of an actor. Dawn French once accused me of taking her job.
Stage fright is a thing of the past.
These days Joan is fearless. “I rappelled and ziplined,” she says. “I ran the New York Marathon at 58 …”
No wonder his nickname at school is Armor Plating.
Joan, who now lives near London, was born in Basseterre, St Kitts, in what were once the British Leeward Islands. When she was seven, she flew to Birmingham on her own to reunite with her parents who had emigrated here. Her song Mama Papa is about growing up with four brothers and a sister: “Seven people in a room, no heating, a salary and bills to pay…”
Joan’s father was a carpenter and later a railway worker. “He also played the guitar,” she says. “He had been in a band in the West Indies, but here he rented the guitar and played it in secret. We weren’t allowed to see it, let alone play it.
“I’m absolutely sure that’s why I played guitar – because it was forbidden.
Joan started writing songs when she was only 14
When Joan was 14, her housewife bought a piano “as a piece of furniture, even before the delivery guys put it down, I had the lid closed and I was playing with a finger. You could dust a piano and sound great.
Her mother then traded in two old strollers for a £ 3 pawnshop guitar. “Even now, I play guitar all the time,” she says. “As a musician you never stop learning. “She pauses and adds with a smile:” I feel like I’m making progress … “
Self-taught musician, Joan left school “at the age of 15 or 16”, but obtained a degree in history from the Open University in 2001.
Last September, she received a scholarship from the Ivor Novello Academy in recognition of her four decades of musical creation.
“I think the trick to getting these rewards is to live long,” she laughs.
Singer-songwriter Joan rose to prominence with her self-titled third album, which spawned the scorching classic Love And Affection, a hit in 1976.
“It’s my favorite, ”she says. “It made me known all over the world, in Japan, in South Africa…”
Joan to air a live show at the end of this month from a ‘church full of characters’
That wonderful first line – “I’m not in love, but I’m open to persuasion…” – came to Joan as she stood outside a store on Kings Road, Chelsea.
Music critics hailed her as the British answer to Joni Mitchell. But this world-renowned relationship columnist keeps her own love life private. She entered into a civil partnership with artist Maggie Butler in 2011 but never discusses it.
She’s much happier to talk about her longtime love for comics.
She’s been collecting comics since she was little, and in 1983 Joan even appeared in Beano’s Tom, Dick & Sally comic – giving Sally tea in a recording studio. (“Terrific, slurp!”).
The memory of her mother throwing away her entire comic book collection (ranging from Mandy to Whizzer & Chips) when she was 21 still stings.
Joan started writing songs at the age of 14 and, apart from a first collaboration with Pam Nestor, she writes everything solo. “The only other contributor is the public,” she said.
Before she rose to fame, Joan appeared in Hair with Paul Nicholas and Richard O’Brien but was never nude. “There is no amount of money that would make me happy to undress in public,” she insists.
Radio One DJs John Peel, “Whispering bob“ Harris and Johnnie Walker were among the first supporters of Joan to make her the first globally successful British singer-songwriter.
The star has never allowed anyone to put her in a box, refusing to be defined by her color or gender, or even to stay in a gender. In 2007, she released Grammy-nominated Into The Blues, evoking memories of Muddy Waters and BB King. A soft rock album, then a jazz album, followed.
Don’t be surprised if heavy metal comes next – she’s still a fan.
Joan has no plans to tour, but will air a live show at the end of this month from “a church full of character.” When theaters open, she’ll play live again, but not too often. “I want to be enthusiastic on stage, so I decided to cut back on the performances.”
Singer Willow’s blues ballad is an audience favorite
Joan neither drinks nor eats meat. She has never smoked or taken drugs and has always deviated from makeup. Feminists loved her, but she was not a feminist – or a politician. “I write about people and how they get along, and their emotions.”
She certainly pulls the heartstrings. His touching, bluesy ballad Willow is one of the audience’s favorites. “So many people named their children after him. My mom used to say, “Play Willow so I can cry.”
But our Joan is not talking about misery. “I’m a very positive person,” she says. “What I took away the most from reading comics is how positive everything is. It’s good for young people to know that you can always get away with it.
- Consequences of Joan Armatrading is now available. Details of his concert broadcast live on the 31stst July can be found at joanarmatrading.com