No End in Sight

Grammy-nominated guitarist, pianist, singer, and songwriter Joan Armatrading, best known for classics such as “Love And Affection,” “Down To Zero,” and “Drop The Pilot,” is among the greatest British artists of all time, mixing elements of folk, blues, jazz, soul, rock and reggae into acclaimed and varied recordings. With her music featured in television shows and film soundtracks, as well as her performances with music stalwarts such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, Armatrading retains a devoted core following around the planet. She shares with us favorite musical memories, songs, and new material. Currently, Armatrading is on tour in Europe, and in 2014 there is a rumour she will be touring in America.

Jeff Boyce: Do you have any unexpected musical moments in your 40-year career that have had a profound impact on your life?
Joan Armatrading: The most profound musical moment in my 40-year career is waking up one morning and writing my first song. I had not planned it. I don't remember thinking about writing a song, but one day I just started to write songs. This is what has caused all of the musical opportunities that I have had. It is also the cause of me meeting so many amazing people and the thing that gave me the chance to travel the world.

What would you say have been your top ten memories in music?
That would be quite hard to do. I've been lucky enough to have worked with some of the best producers and musicians. I've recorded in studios all over the world. I've played in the major halls in all the cities I've performed in. It seems unfair to list 10 out of so many great memories. It's a bit like saying name your favourite child.

How important do you think it is for a musician to break into the American market?
I think as an artist everyone wants to be world successful. America is a major country; many people think the major country in the world, so of course it is still the one country that not just musicians, but people in all areas of work want to be successful in.

What are your feelings on being called a "cult" artist?
I suppose by that it means I don't have the fame of the very prominent artists but I'm happy with how I write, play and sing. People, many people, enjoy my music and come to my concerts so I suppose being a cult artist means I can sell out Carnegie Hall or Radio City Hall but not Giants Stadium. I don't think that's too shabby.

If you could do a Joan Armatrading retrospective CD, what particular songs would you select that best describe your music?
I'm an eclectic writer so the best thing would be to give someone all of my CDs so they can decide on how they want to describe or interpret the songs I write.

If stuck on a desert island, which ten CDs/L.P.s would you most want with you and why?
For no reason except they are amongst the songs I like and I like a lot so picking 10 gives the impression these are what I like the best. If I was to answer this question tomorrow I would give a different 10. For today and this article it’s:
The Killers - Mr. Brightside
Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Gary Barlow - Back For Good
Bach - Bach Cello Suite No.1 in G
Purcell - Dido And Aeneas
Muddy Waters - Rollin Stone
Aretha Franklin - I Say a Little Prayer
Rihanna - Rude Boy
Calvin Harris - Ready for the Weekend
Tiny Tempha - Pass Out

What would you like for people to capture on your recent release Starlight (2012)?
What ever they want. Once the music is out there I can’t tell anyone how he or she should feel. It’s up to the listener to capture what they want from it. I’ve already captured what I want but I can’t presume that people will capture the same thing and I don’t feel I should tell them what they should capture otherwise I need to write an essay of why I wrote each song so they know how to listen. Not a great idea.

Into The Blues (2007) made history as the first blues album by a female British artist to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart. How did (does) this accomplishment make you feel?
Great. Fantastic.

Are there any artists you wish or would have liked to collaborate with?
I’m happy to have worked with the people I have been lucky enough to work with and I’m happy to wait and see what the future holds in terms of others I might work with.

What would be your top ten music concerts you've most enjoyed?
I tend to like all the concerts I go to because I love the experience of the live performance. That means I love performing myself but I also love to see other artists perform. I don’t want to list them because like the top ten that I’ve listed above, in half an hour the list would be different, never mind by the next day.

Do you have future projects that your fans should forward to?
Once my tour has finished I will be writing new material so I’m certainly looking forward to what I will write. I have no idea what that will be so I’m excited to find out.

What advice would you like to impart to aspiring musicians?
Go for it.

by Jeff Boyce