Joan Osborne is definitely one of the great voices of her generation. She recently developed “The Songs of Bob Dylan” for her residency at Cafe Carlyle in New York. It is an amazing display of her talent as a musician and really shows her love of Bob Dylan’s music. She is performing one night at the Broadway Center in Tacoma. Last I heard is was almost sold out but you may stop by the box office and see if you can get a last minute seat. The Broadway Center has lots of fun events coming up. Check out their calendar here. Check out our interview with Joan Osborne below:
Earle Dutton: Could you tell me a little about the show you are bringing to the Broadway Center in Tacoma?
Joan Osborne: Well, we are bringing “The Songs of Bob Dylan” to Tacoma. It is the show we developed in New York at the Café Carlyle. It is this intimate and iconic New York City room. When they called me to perform there, I really wanted to do something different than my normal show. I also didn’t want to do a cabaret show which is what they traditionally have there. I didn’t want to go in there and try to sing Cole Porter songs or anything. I had to find a way to put my own particular spin on this idea of singing the American Songbook. It took me back to this idea I had a while back where Ella Fitzgerald made this series of albums she would pick a songwriter and do an entire album of their music. She made nine records like that. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to do a series like that myself. I could pick songwriters that are more contemporary to me. The Carlyle would be the perfect place to try that out. At that point, Bob Dylan had not won his Nobel Prize for literature. I knew many of his songs and knew he had hundreds of them. I like his writing and knew I would never run out of songs to choose from if I picked him. So, we went about putting together a show around his music.
ED: Isn’t the Café Carlyle a pretty prestigious residency?
JO: Well, yes, they have had some pretty prestigious people there. I was very flattered to get the call.
ED: What is your favorite Bob Dylan song to perform right now?
JO: Oh man, you would have to ask me that question (laughter). That is kind of an impossible question to answer. I guess I could say one of my favorites right now is “Highway 61 Revisited” because we have kind of rearranged it. We wanted to do something a little different from his version. We dug into what the lyrics were about. He starts the songs with this interesting biblical imagery and I thought it would be cool to take a cue from that. I wanted to use some music from that part of the world, a sort of Middle Eastern style of music, and see if it worked with the song. It actually worked like a charm. It gives the song this kind of urgency and galloping intensity that I really thought was cool. To me, that is one of the ones that is the most successful in terms of presenting a different way to hear the song. It is really fun to sing it as well. It is really fun to sing as well.
ED: Is it hard to create a show about a currently living talent?
JO: I think if it was someone who had a similar voice that might be difficult. The fact is that Bob Dylan’s voice and my voice are completely different. So, anything I do to one of his songs is already going to sound a lot different from his original. In that sense, I don’t think it is difficult at all. You are also talking about Bob Dylan, so who hasn’t covered his material. There have been so many people that have taken his songs and put their own spin on them. Many people have even had massive hits with his songs. I think in this particular case it was not something I worried about.
ED: Are you working with Trigger Hippy on a new album as well?
JO: Yes, this is our second record. The group is kind of a side project slash super group that I started with Steve Gorman the drummer from the Black Crowes, Nick Govrick who is a bass player and amazing songwriter down in Nashville. There have been some amazing people who have come in and out of the group like Jackie Greene and also Tom Bukovac who is an amazing session guitarist. We just have so much fun doing this kind of straight up meat and potatoes rock’n roll thing. We are about ninety percent of the way through making the second record so that is pretty exciting. I am really excited about the songs. I think they are really cool.
ED: How do you juggle all of these projects?
JO: (Laughter) That is a good question. I really haven’t figured out how I am going to do all of this. I am also a mom so it is a lot. I guess it is like plenty of other people who are working moms and trying to do too much. You just do what you can and try to be super organized.
ED: Is there anyone you would just love to collaborate with?
JO: Hmm gosh, there are certainly tons of people that I would love to work with. On the one hand I would love to do some more producing. I was fortunate enough to work with The Holmes Brothers a couple of times producing some of their albums. I would love to get a chance to do that again. As far as singing with people, I have been so fortunate to have sung with so many great people. I have been able to sing with Bob Dylan a couple of times. I even recorded a song with him. I feel like having a wish list at this time would be greedy (laughter).