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Interview at Second Fret, Philadelphia   Print

November 17, 1966

Note: This is an excerpt of the November 17, 1966 interview broadcast as a portion of the WMMR retrospective on January 29, 1974. (Transcribed by Lindsay Moon)

BARRY BIRD: How did the two of you get together?

CHUCK MITCHELL: We met in Toronto, and Joni was working the same club as I was working. I'll let her finish the story.

JONI MITCHELL: (Laughs.) There's nothing really to finish.

CM: It's a great story.

JM: Well, Chuck was working at that time in a duo with a fellow named Loring James, and they walked into the club and I was singing. I had sung there the previous week. And Loring James was a classical guitar teacher at the time and was very impressed by the fact that I play with a perfect, almost classical guitar position. And he said, "Oh, look at that hand," and Charlie said, "Oh, look at those legs." (Laughs.) And that's the story. That's why the big pause. I didn't know whether I should tell it.

CM: I was very interested in her style and her technique and her class. And so I was the one who ended up marrying her. We spent eight hours in a place called High Park in Toronto out in the -- it's a beautiful, beautiful park -- looking at the ducks and sitting by the water and so on. And that was the beginning of the whole thing.

And that's a motorcycle, I think, for our listeners. It wasn't a hippopotamus.

What else? Oh, Joni came down to Detroit to -- I told her I could get her some work. And I did get her some work, and at the same time I got her the work, I proposed to her and she accepted and shocked me something awful. And that's all really, except we've been married a year and a half, and we are reasonably happy. There goes the motorcycle.

BB: Of the two of you, Joni seems to be the songwriter of the family. Tom Rush is recording one of your songs. I understand Ian & Sylvia are supposed to record another.

JM: Ian & Sylvia have recorded "The Circle Game," which Tom will also have on his new album, at least according to the last time I spoke to him. And Buffy St. Marie is recording one called "Song to a Seagull." And George Hamilton IV also is talking about recording "Urge for Going" on the Country Hit Parade.

BB: How did you get started writing?

JM: Well, in the beginning I had a soprano voice so everyone compared me to Baez. And I'd written a couple of songs. I think everybody writes a couple of songs. But I just decided that the only way I was going to be able to differentiate myself from any other of the singers was to have original material. Everytime I'd find a song, I'd find out afterwards that Judy Collins or somebody -- Joan Baez had recorded it. So then with my new material I thought I was fairly safe. And then I discovered some lower register tones that I didn't know that I could use before. And that's how everything has developed to what I am doing now.

BB: What do you use as source material for your music?

JM: The source of material for my music?

BB: Yeah. How do you decide what you're going to write about?

JM: Oh. I really don't decide. I just suddenly get an idea and write it.

BB: Do you get the words and the music at the same time and just sit down?

JM: I've only had two songs that way, where they sort of came together. In the beginning I wrote lyrics first and the music afterwards. Now most of the things I do come melody first and then I add the words.

The song that I'm working on right now is called "Love is Like a Big Brass Band," and that's coming with the words first, which is something that hasn't happened for a long time.



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