TORONTO (CP) - When veteran singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell had to produce another album to fulfil a recording contract she didn't force out new material because she thought the old songs still had something to say.
And she wasn't about to compromise her ideals or be pushed around by music executives looking to make a few bucks, she said while visiting Toronto this week. "I don't want songs to be disposable. Instead of being swayed to demographic and marketing procedures, it has to mean something. We've got to change that (in the industry)."
Recorded earlier this year in London, Travelogue features 22 songs performed alongside a 70-piece orchestra, a choir and a backing band that included keyboardist Herbie Hancock.
"Songs took on a new life with this project," the 59-year-old singer said in an interview as she made a rare appearance Monday night to receive a songwriting award for bringing international recognition to Canada through her music.
The album was released in the United States on Tuesday, and will be in Canadian stores next week. It contains both well-known hits and hidden treasures such as: The Dawntreader, Woodstock, The Circle Game, For The Roses, Just Like This Train, Amelia, Hejira, Otis And Marlena, God Must Be A Boogie Man and Love, as well as more recent recordings like Slouching Toward Bethlehem, The Sire Of Sorrows (Job's Sad Song), Sex Kills and Borderline.
She says musicians nowadays write for marketers, not themselves or fans.
"Music is too calculated now," she said, her famous blond locks neatly trimmed to shoulder length. "It's good for aerobics, but it isn't moving."
She also retracted comments that she was quitting the music business, having said it was a "cesspool" she'd rather not be a part of.
The acoustic troubadour known for her confessional lyrics had said Travelogue was going to be her last music project.
"I'm quitting after this because the business has made itself so repugnant to me," Mitchell told the December edition of W magazine. "What would I do? Show my tits? Grab my crotch? Get hair extensions and a choreographer? It's not my world."
Mitchell, largely considered one of the most respected artists of her generation, told Rolling Stone magazine that the music business is a "cesspool. I would never take another deal in the record business, which means I may not record again, or I have to figure out a way to sell over the Internet or do something else."
She explained her remarks Monday. "I threatened to quit because I was P.O.ed. and with good reason but I don't think I can quit," she said, looking radiant in a black Issy Miyake dress she picked out over the weekend while shopping in town with her Toronto-based daughter Kilauren Gibb.
Ecstatic at the attention she was drawing at the cocktail party (disposable cameras were flashing around her during the interview), Mitchell was adamant that she's not bitter or sour about her career.
"All the bosses in that industry have been so nice since I knocked it, everything's been smoothed over. So let's get on with it. Everybody knows what I'm talking about," she said smirking, referring to the scantily clad artists who use any means necessary to sell their wares.
She's not shy about telling people that she loathes MTV. She said her four-year-old granddaughter imitates dance moves and gestures from videos filled with "boring chord movement and bad acting."
"We need to find a new value other than shock value. I meet young artists all the time and I tell them they have to do what they feel, don't sell out I say. Synthesize what you really like and don't cop out."
She says because today's political footing places conflict closer to home than ever before, good music is desperately needed.
"We need great escapism. This is much more difficult (than when she wrote in the '60s and '70s). It's on our home turf now," she said.
"The artist's job is to sit on the sidelines. We're supposed to be outcasts. An artist is not a politician. We have to be non-partisan, skeptical."
But the veteran singer-songwriter says she's not prepared to write for the sake of writing and doesn't have to because Travelogue fulfilled her recording contract.
"In order to write again there's going to have to be a real shift in me. Where that will come from, I don't know," said Mitchell, adding that she's still painting so "the creative juices are there."
But even if Mitchell, born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort MacLeod, Alta., decides she has no more songs inside her, she won't be able to escape the public too easily and has even admitted she's considering hitting the road in support of Travelogue.
Two documentaries chronicling her life are slated for release next year.
The first, Circle Game, is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Travelogue, which includes the story of the master tapes nearly being destroyed in a studio fire. It's been submitted for next year's Sundance Film Festival.
The second is a PBS documentary tentatively scheduled for release next May. It contains rare footage of Mitchell's earliest performances in 1966, audio recordings of never released material, her acting debut and home movies taken by her daughter Gibb, Mitchell's only child who she gave up for adoption and reunited with several years ago.
Carrying a camcorder, Gibb, who strongly resembles Mitchell, video-taped Monday night's ceremony as she does at "all these things."
"I don't mind. I do it for her," she said, wearing a matching Miyake dress. "I film award shows, walks, us playing Crazy 8s."
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