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The Charlie Rose Show   Print


PBS
November 15, 2007

CHARLIE ROSE: We continue with Joni Mitchell. Her new album is "Shine."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONI MITCHELL, MUSICIAN: Let's just say that where I'm at now, like my influences are beginning just now to come to fruition. It takes a long time for - you know, for an artist to ripen, and, you know, pop music doesn't let you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE ROSE: Television this fall, and Joni Mitchell, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Joni Mitchell is here. Her career as a singer/songwriter spans more than 40 years. She has produced over 20 albums and released such classic singles as "Both Sides Now," "Big Yellow Taxi" and "River." Here is a look at Joni performing some of her songs.

(MUSIC)

CHARLIE ROSE: Joni Mitchell has won six Grammy Awards, including the 2002 Grammy for lifetime achievement.

"Shine" is her first album of new material in nearly 10 years. She's also the co-creator and artistic director of the Fiddle and the Drum, a Canadian ballet which incorporates her music and art work.

I am pleased to have her here at this table for the first time. At long last. Welcome.

JONI MITCHELL: Thanks, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Ten years since your last album. What have you been doing since then?

JONI MITCHELL: I was in the business long enough for three signings. You know, they go about - they go in 10-year spans. After -- you are only supposed to get a decade. A signing is usually a decade. Right? And after that, the business conspires to kill you off. People are fickle and everything conspires. The artists from the '60s, '70s, whatever, so.

CHARLIE ROSE: But you have lasted?

JONI MITCHELL: Yeah, but let's just say that the latter legs were increasingly -- I felt that I was in this continual state of growth, because I didn't have a producer, you know, and every time I would put out an album, I would say, well, I'll be even better next time.

So I get to the 22nd, whatever it was, "Travelogue," which was the close of my third contract, and the vice president came to me and said, Joni, we're just car salesmen now. We've got cute cars. We've got fast cars. This is a work of genius. We don't know what to do with it, and they dumped me.

Now, in the old days, when you were dumped, you could take your product and you could go to another company and you could renegotiate, but now, since the big fish ate the little fish, and there is a lot of these labels under one banner, they moved me over to a boutique label.

And I thought - OK, I can't say to myself I'll get better after that. What do I have to do, get worse? You know what I mean? It's like, if they don't know what to do with it at this point.

So I just didn't bother signing. I fulfilled that last album, which was "Travelogue." And it wasn't new material at that point. It was rerecording with the symphony orchestra, British Symphony Orchestra. And I just basically retired.

I became a painter. You know, I painted personal things. I didn't have any ambition particularly to show it or anything. I painted for myself.

And 10 years went by. And I went back. I have two residences, one in Canada, which is a small stone cottage by the sea and I'm the gardener and the cook and the housekeeper there. And it's beautiful. It's by the ocean. And that's where my heartbeat is. And then I have a home in Los Angeles, where I am very serious - I have gardeners and housekeepers and so on.

CHARLIE ROSE: Talk about this album. And just talk about the songs and where we are in terms of how you saw it.

The first one is "One Week Last Summer."

JONI MITCHELL: That was the first one born of the collection. After 10 years of not touching my instruments or listening to music, just taking a break from music, period. Not listening to the radio, listening to talk shows mostly.

One day I was sitting on my deck with my neighbor, and he is quoted in the second song. He said -- we were saying "this is heaven." I mean, this is just heavenly. We were drinking our coffee and saying how lucky we were to live there. And he said, you know, "if I get to heaven and it's not like this, I'm coming right back down here." So that night, the first piece.

CHARLIE ROSE: The second - the first is "One Week Last Summer;" the second is called "This Place."

JONI MITCHELL: Right. And so, the first song was born that evening as an instrumental. It's kind of -- to me it was an outpouring of gratitude. Emotionally, that's the state that I was in -- thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. You know? And that was the first piece born.

The other one came later in the collection. The piano pieces came first. Once I started playing the piano, I ended up with four songs, and "Bad Dreams" was the first to get words.

CHARLIE ROSE: And so how did you get to ballet?

JONI MITCHELL: Oh, OK. So Jean Grand-Maitre -- at this point, I had started the art show. It was going to show in November, and I had done a test run of the four piano songs which had no words. And Jean approached me. And they were going to put on a ballet called "Dancing Joni." They had the posters done. And they had a girl who looked quite like me when I was in my 20s. And it was - it began with the young version of "Both Sides Now" and it ended with the later one from "Travelogue." And in between, it was very autobiographical. What do you think, he said?" And I said, well, I think it's a little fluffy for the times, because I was all immersed in war. Let's take a look at war, like "Duck Soup," right?

CHARLIE ROSE: Right.

JONI MITCHELL: Because of these wars, and it's all the same thing, they just keep going on and on. So on my pool table, Jean came down to visit me to talk about this ballet, and I had a model of the gallery, and I was hanging it in miniature, you know, like - and he said, oh, we must put that in the ballet. And I said, you can't put those images with the songs you've chosen, but if you like, I will give you a word ballet. However, it will be my most unpopular material. Your sponsors will probably pull out. I'm assuming that they are Texas oilmen, because Calgary is invaded with Texas oilmen. You know, and they are not going to like this, you know, and maybe people will walk on it. Are you in?

CHARLIE ROSE: And he said?

JONI MITCHELL: And I said, you know, are you willing to take that risk? And he went, yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: Of course.

JONI MITCHELL: Of course. So he was so wonderfully fearless. So we ventured into it. Bad prepress, and it was beautiful.

CHARLIE ROSE: This is the first clip. This is "The Great Stimulant (ph)." Let's see it.

(MUSIC)

CHARLIE ROSE: When you look at artists who've influenced you, who is on your list?

JONI MITCHELL: Well, some of the influences took a long time to appear, because I had to live a lot first. You know, but I did an album for Starbucks artists choice, and I reviewed that pretty much.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, "Shine" is for Starbucks, too, isn't it?

JONI MITCHELL: Yes, that's why -- they gave me back my love of music. They allowed me to do this album and take my time at it. Because I took some time. You know, so I could say this album - let's just say where I'm at now, like my influences are beginning just now to come to fruition. It takes a long time for an artist to ripen. And pop music doesn't let you.

CHARLIE ROSE: In fact, you have said it, it's not until you get to your 50s or 60s.

JONI MITCHELL: As a painter.

CHARLIE ROSE: As a painter.

JONI MITCHELL: But as a musician also. And you know, that's why I've never had a producer. So I've made my own mistakes as I have gone along. And I'm finally sort of coming - Duke Ellington was an influence, but it took a long time for that to come out in my music. I think it does.

CHARLIE ROSE: To understand and make the connection.

JONI MITCHELL: No, I understood, it's just I couldn't -- it just didn't bubble up yet. It was in, it went in. It just didn't come out yet. You have to be patient.

CHARLIE ROSE: Have you missed anything?

JONI MITCHELL: Missed -- in life?

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, that you thought might happen, you might do?

JONI MITCHELL: Anything I missed I wasn't supposed to have.

CHARLIE ROSE: Is that right? You have a kind of sense of.

JONI MITCHELL: Destiny.

CHARLIE ROSE: The way it is, is the way it ought to be.

JONI MITCHELL: Yeah. I had a lot of battles to stay alive. I had a lot of, you know, disease as a child.

CHARLIE ROSE: Polio, was it?

JONI MITCHELL: Yeah. And scarlet fever. And.

CHARLIE ROSE: You think that influenced you? That. JONI MITCHELL: Oh, yeah. I'm built like an athlete. I would have been an athlete. I grew up in a community where social status was athletic. My father was a champion type, you know, like he was a provincial tennis champion, you know, on a small scale, an old age golf champ. So he was a good stickball, eye coordination kind of guy. You know, and I had those skills, but the polio turned me from speed swimmer into water ballet. You know what I mean? So I thought OK, well, you know, I don't -- I lost my speed, you know, and a certain amount of strength.

CHARLIE ROSE: How is it to have Herbie Hancock write an album that's dedicated to you?

JONI MITCHELL: Oh, Herbie and I are old friends. You know, we just.

CHARLIE ROSE: Remember "The Joni Letters?" He's going strong too.

JONI MITCHELL: Yeah. And Wayne, too. They've kept -- they are very child-like. They are not like old people, you know. They're dearies (ph). I love those men.

CHARLIE ROSE: They are still child-like.

JONI MITCHELL: Oh, yeah. They are very creative. They're still growing.

CHARLIE ROSE: And most artists - most artists have that quality, don't they?

JONI MITCHELL: And scientists.

CHARLIE ROSE: And scientists, exactly right. Anybody you wanted to know much that - alive that you hadn't met?

JONI MITCHELL: I would have liked to have met Picasso.

CHARLIE ROSE: Really? What was it about him? The fact that - that he's so.

JONI MITCHELL: His constant creativity, his restlessness.

CHARLIE ROSE: And his change.

JONI MITCHELL: You know, like Miles, I met. I knew Miles a little bit. You know, but Picasso and Miles and myself, we were all long distance runner types. And also, we craved innovation, but we also craved change. You know, the appetite that makes Picasso interesting to me to have known. Nietzsche, I would have liked to have known Nietzsche. He didn't have many friends, I think..

CHARLIE ROSE: What would you have asked him?

JONI MITCHELL: Well, it's not so much that. I just think we're kindred.

CHARLIE ROSE: You do?

JONI MITCHELL: I think we could have gotten along, and he didn't have a lot of friends.

CHARLIE ROSE: Starbucks has given - has revitalized you as an artist and given you an opportunity that you might not have had.

JONI MITCHELL: There were other bidders, but they were good to me. They not only did they give me this opportunity or have this great idea, this artist's choice project, which was an enabler for me, you know, but also they put of their own volition a record of mine and were very careful, (inaudible) kind of like the way the album was. No, they have just shown interest in me.

CHARLIE ROSE: Let me just mention this as we go. "Shine" released on Tuesday, September 25th, through the Starbucks own label. Thank you for coming. It's great to have you here on this program at long last.

JONI MITCHELL: Thanks, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: Joni Mitchell. Thank you for joining us. See you next time.

 

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