Joan Baez

January 29, 2019

 What made you decide to do a farewell tour? I asked my first and best vocal coach when I would know if I’m to quit and he said, oh you’ll know, your voice will tell you. I was 30 when he said that, and I feel as if I know now what he was talking about. I’d also like to pay a little respect to my body so it seemed like the time to quit bouncing around on buses. It’s not a bad time... for a woman of my age in this job. Ha, it’s been a long time out here.


Has it affected your choice of songs? Oh yeah, completely. There are some things I long to do, but I’d rather do the ones that I do well, and there are enough of them that we have a beautiful show. Cleverly I have this wonderful 29-year-old singer with me, Grace Stumberg. People say you can’t do Forever Young, why don’t you just let her do the high notes? So I do, and it works out beautifully.


What kind of material have you been performing on tour? Obviously it’s got to have everything, but there are certain songs you know will go down well. I mean, anything by Dylan will get a huge response. It’s also nice to have a new album that has been well received because it gives me the leeway to sing new songs that people at least partially recognise. That gives the whole evening a chance to be more fresh.


Were you compelled to address politics on the new album? No, but my choices are wrapped in that anyway. There wasn’t an official theme, what rings bells for me is usually more than just words and music. These things fall into a different kind of depth, and you can call it ‘political’ or you call it ‘aware’, you can call it whatever you want.


There’s a song about Obama singing in church after the Charleston shooting... I was listening to the radio and that song came on. It’s called The President Sang Amazing Grace by Zoe Mulford. I was driving and I just had to pull over. I mean, I fell apart because it was such a beautiful song. I knew immediately I wanted to sing it. When I was putting it together, it took me literally two weeks before I could get through the song without crying.


Is there room for hope in melancholy music? I don’t have much faith in hope. Haha, you know, when it doesn’t have legs. I think you can only hope for something if you’re doing something about it. So maybe that’s where these songs belong. If nothing else, it gives people something real, you know? My bleakness comes out of the fact that I think, because of global warming, all of our discussions are going to mean nothing very soon, and that puts it all in perspective. We are going to last just so long, so what can we do during this time to try and make the world a slightly better place?


Photo: Dana Tynan​
Brighton Dome, Fri 22 Feb, 7.30pm

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