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Morning Becomes Eclectic Print-ready version

March 27, 1998

Transcribed by Lindsay Moon

Chris Douridas: I'm Chris Douridas. It's Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW. ... All this hour it's Joni Mitchell. Her 20th album,"Taming the Tiger," is due this July. She's announced several live performances upcoming, one at the Wiltern Theatre April 16th with Paula Cole, Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani, Trisha Yearwood, Sheryl Crow, Sandra Bernhard, Natalie Cole, Shawn Colvin, and Toni Braxton. It's a show called Stormy Weather '98, an evening of romance, glamour, fabulous women, and beautiful music performing pop, jazz, and blues standards with the El Nino Orchestra.

She's also on stage with Dylan and Van Morrison Thursday, May 21st, and Friday, May 22nd, at the Pauley Pavilion, and Saturday, May 23rd at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. We'll give you a chance at tickets to that show at the end of this hour.

Right now, one from the forthcoming release,"Taming the Tiger." It's new work from Joni Mitchell. This is KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic.

(Music up: "Harlem in Havana.")

CD: "Harlem in Havana." It's new work from Joni Mitchell. The album,"Taming the Tiger." I'm Chris Douridas. It's Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW with Joni Mitchell.

It's so good to have you back.

Joni Mitchell: Thanks. It's fun to be here.

CD: Now, I recognize Wayne Shorter on the horn there.

JM: Mm-hmm.

CD: And I know that Brian Blade's on the record too.

JM: Right.

CD: Is he on that track? On drums?

JM: Yeah.

CD: But I have no liner notes. I'm kind of at your mercy to --

JM: Okay.

CD: Who else is on there?

JM: Well, I'll tell you how it was built. I got a new instrument and -- an electric guitar with a lot of presets and a lot of colors to kind of fiddle around with. And I found this color, and all of the palette is accessible only by standard tuning. I've only written one song in standard tuning,"Urge for Going," and then I went into open- tuning-land and never looked back.

So in order to play around with these colors, I had to go back into standard tuning. Well, the fingering from open tunings has become eccentric, so even when I go into standard, I really don't know my way around the neck. So one night I was sitting in the studio and just kind of moving the dial from color to color to color. There are Clapton sounds in there and Jimi Hendrix sounds and all different --

CD: Any Joni Mitchell sounds?

JM: No. All the history of electric guitar is kind of in this palette, and some strange sounds like that, which is a color called crystal, kind of a glass mallet marimba hammered sound. So I started playing around with it and that music came up, and Brian and I jammed it down and that's the basis of this track. So it was just the two colors, and because it was woody and mallet-struck sounding he played drums with basically toms and mallets also and it was a very 'sheet of sound' like a carnival ride running over wooden rungs. That's what it reminded me of. And we called it -- or I named it before it had a text -- Zulu Tango because it's got a little tango motif in the chorus.

So it sat around in the can, it's just this jam called Zulu Tango, and all of a sudden I remembered this incident in my childhood.

In my childhood I lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan during my high school years. And in the seventh and eighth grade when all through high school there used to come to our town every summer the Mile Long Midway, which I believe came up from Florida. And at the end of the midway, there was a double ferris wheel, Club Lido was along the side so there were a lot of girlie shows. But at the very end of it right next to the Caterpillar and the double ferris wheel was a show called "Harlem in Havana". And the locals basically said to us, "don't even get caught standing there." That was the warning from mothers, "don't let me even see you standing there." And all it was was black burlesque. So --

CD: Why were they saying that, do you think?

JM: It was too exotic. You know, it made them nervous. Anyway, we did go and we did stand there, my friends and I, and --

CD: Of course!

JM: -- and it was the first time that I had heard live black music, and it was Afro-Cuban, basically, but it was playing big band, big horn section, and they were playing a lot of contemporary hits. "Night Train," in particular was the song that I remember them playing, but so very, very slow, way back on the beat, eat a sandwich between beats kind of time, you know, real humid weather music.

And when I was 14, a girlfriend of mine, who in the song I call Emmy May, ran off with someone in the band and this was the scandal of the neighborhood and came back with bleached blond hair, and I was forbidden to keep her company, which of course, you know, I did. And the following year we went to "Harlem in Havana" and this is what the song is based on because she got us in and we were minors. You had to be 16 to get in because it was kind of Redd Foxx humor, and mild strip tease, you know, nothing major. Actually, it was kind of tame once we got inside, you know.

CD: More burlesque or something?

JM: Yeah, it was burlesque basically.

CD: So from the front of that tune, the sounds we're hearing are all produced by the guitar?

JM: The very opening sound is just me playing guitar. Then Brian enters. Then from the palette of guitar sounds that are in it, I began to layer up. I played all the bass on this album, but in a few cases I had Klein play what I had -- Larry Klein my husband, my soon to be ex-husband, play what basically I had played. So as-writ. This is pretty much a composed album, this one.

CD: Well, the instrument that you're referring to, you call it an I -- I -- I'm -- I'm trying to remember the name of it. It's a --

JM: It's a guitar, but the sound, the preset, is called crystal.

CD: Right, but the actual --

JM: Oh, the VG-8 --

CD: Thank you. Which is the computer guitar.

JM: Yeah.

CD: Really, from what I understand, kind of broke down a block for you during the making of this album.

JM: No, not even during the making. There wouldn't -- this album probably wouldn't have occurred -- I'd gotten to the point where -- well, this is my 20th record -- where the process of making records is enjoyable to me, and I still have growth potential. But the business and the marketing had become unbearable. And the press and everything that followed it was just absolutely distasteful to me. And I'd painted myself into a corner where the tunings wreak havoc on the neck of acoustic instruments, and I spent tremendous amount of time in concert tuning, tuning, tuning, you know.

So I just felt that I didn't want to do it anymore, that I wanted out of the business. I'm a painter first anyway, you know, and I've always -- I got seduced into music in art school. And I really felt at this particular time in my life that the energy had gone back to the painting and away from the music. I was uninspired. And so I took my final concert in New Orleans. It was to be my swan song.

Well, the Sunday before the Saturday that I played in New Orleans, a local merchant, Freddy Walecki, called me up from Westwood Music and he said, "Joan, this Sunday we're having some Roland distributors here demonstrating this instrument." And he knew that I'd been looking for some kind of a gizmo that would hold my tunings. And there were kind of rough mechanical versions of it around, you know, like where the bridge was altered or something, but this -- you know. So I went over for the demonstration, and they wanted to show me all of the features, and I said, you know, "really, I'm not interested in any of this. All I've been told is that it will hold my tunings, that we can take over these stock sounds and use the brain space so to speak --

CD: To store your tunings --

JM: -- to store my tunings --

CD: Wow.

JM: -- that's what I want." So they kept trying to pitch it and show me what it would do. I said, "I don't care about any of this. Just show me that you can put one of my tunings into it, you know. Let's see how this works." So we put a couple of tunings in and there you were really in standard tuning, so with normal guitar players' problems. But it was being lied to digitally and being told that it was in these tunings. So the tension of the strings was normal, and therefore the ruining of instruments was not present, the warping of necks and, you know, all the stress and strain that I had put on the guitar physically by playing it in a way that it wasn't intended, you know, seemed to be corrected within this instrument.

So I was very excited and on the spot I asked them to distill a signature sound for me. So we came up with a modified Stratocaster sound. Initially, the guitar programmer was a linear player. I'm a chordal player and I play very peculiar chords, I'm told, you know, like hybrid chords and so -- and they move quickly from one to the other. He put a lot of flap on it, which is good if you're playing single lines, you know, so it was kind of blurry, but in that rudimentary state, I went to the New Orleans Jazz Festival and took it out on stage with it flapping, and they were horrified. The Roland executives said, "oh, no, you're going to have to woodshed with this thing for quite a while." I said, "oh, no, you know, I'm playing my swan song, my final concert on Saturday. This is it. You know, like I'm taking it out -- if I like it, I stay in the business. If I don't, you know, I'm gone." (Laughs.)

CD: Nothing like a little pressure!

JM: So anyway I went and did it and the audience, some of them were, like, aghast, and some of them saw that it had potential, and some of them even liked it. So, you know, it gave me a new toy to play around with, and that, coupled with Brian playing, you know, as a musical partner, you know, we were off on kind of these new adventures.

So that's how the album began with just Brian and I. Then Freddy midway through the -- same merchant -- midway through the program, introduced me to another Roland instrument. Just a piano with a lot of piano sounds, stock piano sounds. Every kind of grand piano, honky tonk piano, and a few more synthetic sounds, 64 presets I think it has all together. So with that new toy I began to layer and layer, and the next thing we knew it started turning into this kind of symphonic piece. And I became my own bass player for the bulk of it, having worked with the best bass players in the world. It was kind of a humbling situation, but a learning process also, so it was a great musical adventure.

CD: You call Brian Blade your musical partner on this project. Our audience will know him for his work with Daniel Lanois, Emmy Lou Harris, and Joshua Redman.

JM: Mm-hmm.

CD: And he's got his own solo album coming sometime soon, too, doesn't he?

JM: He's got his own band now, the Brian Blade Fellowship, which is a big band, three horns.

CD: I think Blue Note is coming out soon.

JM: Yeah, I've heard it -- it's beautiful.

CD: Fantastic. Well, the first song -- first song that was completed for this album was --

JM: "Man From Mars."

CD: -- "Man From Mars."

JM: That was for a film project. When I went to the meeting, they, you know -- I was invited by my husband who was musical director on the film to speak with the director --

CD: This was Allison Anders --

JM: Allison. And I told Allison, I said, look -- you know, I'm blocked right now. The only thing you'll be getting out of me is an "I-hate-show-business" song. She said, "That would be fine. I hate it too. I just ran the press gauntlet."

Well, shortly after that, my -- I love cats. I've got four cats now. But my beloved Nietzsche ran off for 18 days. Well, the eve that he departed, my grief was so similar to the heroine of the movie that I kind of tapped into it. I started writing the film -- tapping into my actual grief at the moment and her theatrical grief. So the song lies somewhere between her feelings and mine. Hers because her boyfriend drowns himself; mine because my beloved cat was at large. And anyway it took me 17 days to write the song. On the 18th day he came back.

CD: Really?

JM: Yeah. And the thing is he's a dancing cat. I have two dancing cats. He dances standing on his hind legs and he does this to express affection. And he dances around to this song. The first time that he deviated from his pattern which is dancing down the stairs -- this sounds so strange (laughs) he just stood on his hind legs -- built into the music -- it's the deepest mix on the record. There are things way, way, way in the distance because of all of those 17 nights that I went out into the neighborhood calling him and listening deeply. You could hear freeways far away and water dripping off of leaves because the sprinklers just went off in someone's yard, and the flap and the thump of night birds and, you know, critters rustling in the grass --

CD: So it's all there?

JM: -- and distant horns, and there is -- if you listen in the mix, as much as music can depict those things, I've tried and I think I've captured the event to my cat's satisfaction (laughs).

(Music up: "Man From Mars.")

CD: "Man From Mars." That's from the new album from Joni Mitchell, "Taming the Tiger," and that's simply you and Brian Blade?

JM: Mm-hmm.

CD: Brian Blade doing the drum work and everything else is you?

JM: Mm-hmm. And it's mostly guitar playing all of the horns -- yeah.

CD: Bass, you're on bass as well.

JM: Yeah, it's my fledgling -- that's my first time as a bass player (laughs.)

CD: That's your first time playing bass on a record?

JM: Well, it's keyboard bass, you know. Oh, yeah, you know, from the beginning -- it wasn't until my fifth album that I put a band on because the rhythm section always had a very difficult time with my music. They'd play and it would be so disappointing, I'd take it off, right? So I've always been picky about the rhythm section and because of it -- I've played with great bass players --

CD: Jaco --

JM: -- and drummers, you know, of my generation and the one before even, you know, like I've played with great people. But prior to Jaco, Max Bennett, who's a fine bass player -- I had ideas about the bass that I was telling bass players that I wanted them to do that were pretty progressive, I guess, in retrospect, and they were saying, "No, the bass doesn't do that, Joni. It's a team player, it's a supportive instrument." You know, having played this record myself, some of the things that I told myself to do as the producer talking to the bass player, I really have sympathy with bass players that I've worked with now, you know, and a greater respect for the simplicity of Max Bennett's playing on Court and Spark, for instance. Because I wanted him to go up and move around and do more of the things that Jaco was doing on the next projects, you know. As a matter of fact, it was a bass player that said, "Look, Joan, you know, there's this really weird bass player who plays with Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller, and you should send for him. He's really weird. You'd like him."

CD: Phyllis Diller?

JM: That's who Jaco was playing with when I --

CD: I had no idea he played with Phyllis Diller.

JM: Yeah, he was playing in hotels, you know, he was just a kid. Before he played with Weather Report or myself. So I sent for him sight-unseen on the word of this bass player that I was asking to do things that he refused to do. He said, "Well, this weirdo will do them for you."

So Jaco was kind of the bass player of my dreams in a certain way in that he was doing things that I felt the bass could and should do that no one would do. You know, like Jaco was trying to be -- and was being -- Jimi Hendrix on the bass --

CD: Exactly. Taking it out front.

JM: -- is what he was doing. And I just kept thinking -- "Well, the bass doesn't do that," bass players kept saying to me. "Why?" I'd say. Well, I know a lot of the why's now, having played. Some of the things I told myself to do and tried were pretty strange on this record.

CD: Like what?

JM: Oh, it's just notes. I can't really describe it. I'd have to play you what -- just ideas that I had that failed. So this bass playing is fairly meat and potatoes --

CD: But the why of it. I mean, you found out the why of it.

JM: Well, the thing was that -- they say women hear the high end first anyway -- maybe because babies cry and we're designed to hear high-end frequencies, but, you know, I worked my way down from what was considered strange upper harmony anyway. I had a strange harmonic sense. So I was asking the bass to do things on the bottom. They would say, "Well, that's not the root of the chord." I was asking them to do rhythmic and harmonic things that they thought were not hip. I was also -- hip at the time that I began working with bass players was a very dead sound and I wanted a resonant sound. And so you were asking people to go against the vogue, and people don't like to stick out. There aren't that many people that like to take chances. They're afraid to be unhip, you know, to take -- to be the leader of the next hip, you have to be willing to be unhip.

CD: Especially when you're taking from the jazz crowd like that.

JM: Yeah. So then I was a woman too and then they'd think, "Oh, isn't that cute, she's telling us our business," you know, but as I began to work with great jazz musicians -- like when Wayne came in on this project, he went, "Oh, they ain't never gonna know where one is!" Whereas there were other players that came in and were intimidated by the rhythms on this record. And I find that hard to believe, especially from jazz musicians. But my music isn't jazz. It's wide like jazz, it's polyrhythmic like jazz, but it isn't jazz. So, you know, I'm asking them to step into an idiom that isn't quite familiar.

CD: The title of the album, "Taming the Tiger," is also the title of one of the songs on the album. I haven't seen the cover of the album, but I suspect that it's a painting of yours.

JM: Yeah. There's a lot of paintings on the cover this time.

CD: Okay. Is the painting "Taming the Tiger"?

JM: Well, kind of loosely. It's just a picture of myself and my cat, El Cafe, who is one of my dancing cats.

CD: -- (laughs.) Along with Nietzsche --

JM: -- along with Nietzsche. They don't dance together. It's two different kinds of dance. El Cafe is a wrist-rider. She's kind of an equestrian.

CD: (Laughs). She rides your wrist?

JM: She rides my wrist, yeah. She neck-reins (laughs). But anyway she's reclining kind of like Cleo and she's got a kind of Jack Benny look on her face and like, you know, like Cleopatra on the Nile lying in my arms, and it's kind of a, you know, kind of a cozy portrait, you know.

CD: So we've met two of the cats. Who are the other two?

JM: Pansy, that's my Canadian girl, that's Nietzsche's little wife; and Mojo, that's the youngest cat.

CD: Pansy and Mojo.

JM: Pansy, Mojo, El Cafe, and Nietzsche.

CD: Okay. You had said there was sort of a link between "Man From Mars" and "Taming the Tiger."

JM: Well, "Man From Mars" was the first song born in the project. Like, you know, it took this personal loss for me to be able to get inside the character in order to write this song for the film, you know, like I said.

Now, song two, coming back to what I said originally, you know, I only have one song inside of me: I'm mad at show business. You know, so "Taming the Tiger" was kind of an analogy, but it was a big meditation. It was really hard to know what I meant by "Taming the Tiger." I mean I asked myself, you know, who is the tiger and what do you mean, because it was complex. For instance, "Sophia says it's hard -- " the second verse -- "Sophia says it's hard to catch and harder still to ride." That's something Sophia Loren said. "Sophia" also means wisdom, you know, the name means wisdom. Sophia Loren said of show business, "hard enough to catch the tiger, harder still to stay on its back," right? So using the analogy of the tiger, you know, for metaphor for show business as it is in -- the song was terribly in danger of being a mixed metaphor, you know. I had to keep focusing myself, what do you mean by the tiger?, what do you mean by the tiger?

CD: This is while you're writing it or afterwards looking back --

JM: While I'm writing it, while I'm meditating on the song. Parqueting the words to the music requires a lot of meditation, and this was a big idea, a big meditation, you know. Who is the tiger? What is the tiger? Is the tiger show business? You know. It definitely was this force that -- this negative force that I found coming against my music at the moment that I completed the project and turned it over to the company, you know. So that the process went from, you know, work and excitement -- you know, excited work, enthusiastic work with a support system into the hands of hostiles who, for one reason or another, were going to dismiss a lot of beauty as they had for many years, you know.

You're given about five years in this game and then it's, for whatever reason, chronological age, it's time to get your ass because we were nice the last time. All the games that one must endure in the process of staying in this business, riding the tiger, for a long time. You know, finally I got sick of it. I wanted off. Desperately, you know. And yet I was still good at it and perhaps even hadn't hit my stride. That was the thing that I was also weighing out, being responsible to my gift, you know. Knowing that there were people -- not enough to impress the bean counters, you know, and not enough to get the merchants -- the mercantile factor to announce with pride that there was a project coming out on me, you know, that I was getting rolled over, they I had lost my airplay for swinging too far into jazz -- no one could ever really give me a reason. But my imitators were all over the airwaves but I was still barred, you know. And yet my name was up everywhere. So I was finally fed up. I was being misconstrued as being worried about these young girls nipping at my heels. Not at all. But, you know, they were getting -- I was unable to get my product to market and nobody could explain why, you know. So what was the point?

(Music up: "Taming the Tiger.")

CD: It's called "Taming the Tiger." That's the name of the album as well. It's a new work from Joni Mitchell. I'm Chris Douridas, Morning Becomes Eclectic, on KCRW. Joni Mitchell is with us.

This album is not coming out for several months now.

JM: July, I think.

CD: July. Just so people know that they shouldn't be going to the record stores tomorrow but in fact wait a couple months. Everything that we heard on that track was you.

JM: That's mostly guitar-based, VG-8 based, but most of the orchestration is sweetened on this keyboard with, you know, so it's two instruments.

CD: You've got a couple of toys to play with.

JM: -- a lot of colors to play with, yeah.

CD: You've talked at length about how you've gotten reinvigorated for the making of this record and the fact that the record came about from being reinvigorated. I wonder if the recent recognition has played a part in that as well. It seems as though since we saw you last here, there had been a couple of Grammies for Turbulent Indigo, Best Pop Album --

JM: Still, the record didn't sell enough units to recoup the cost of making it. You know, for some reason, you know, no one can explain why, the machinery doesn't gear up. It's not like a movie that wins an Oscar and ads are taken and people go to see it. Somehow they're like -- so --

CD: So that win didn't really propel any kind of push --

JM: Business is a very conservative gambler, and I'm over 50. They don't gear up much, I think, for people over 30, let alone people over 50. The assumption is the market is very young, that my generation no longer buys much records. I don't even think they address my generation. My generation comes up -- my generation for the most part, I don't think, knows I'm still in the business, you know, unless they're kind of avid fans and passing it on to their children as some people are, you know.

CD: It's tough to reach those people because a lot of them have gone away from radio, for example. They don't listen to radio.

JM: Yeah. Radio sucks, you know. I think it was just trumped up to make the Grammies look good. I really do. It doesn't feel to me like a genuine victory. None of these things do, of course. And I thought, I'm kind of arrogant -- of course (in a French accent) I have French blood, you know, so it's in the genes. But I thought that if I was to get a little recognition within the industry, you know, that it would help my arrogance some. But it didn't at all, it just made it worse because all of the wins, there was just something like that about them. They just didn't -- you know, I mean this business is all based on appearances. If it looks like I won I should shut up, shouldn't I?

CD: (Laughs.)

JM: (Laughs). But most people would be quite happy looking like they won something. But, I don't know, I don't feel like I've really won anything except for people who genuinely love my music. You know, and I can tell. I get my strokes from people who just like, "Oh, it's a celebrity, let's go talk to her," and those people who it really meant something to. That's my honor. You know.

CD: There's been a lot of, it seems, attention paid you lately which has been nice to see. Even Janet Jackson, of course, borrowing from "Big Yellow Taxi" for her --

JM: I really like that record. I really like the play of the three voices and the beat, you know. I really -- I was very proud and pleased to be a part of that project.

(Music up: Excerpt from Janet Jackson's "Don't Know What You've got Til It's Gone.")

JM: Makes you want to cut down a cherry tree (laughs).

CD: There was a quote I read once recently. It says -- this is from you: "When I sit down to write a song, I have to introvert and introvert because I like to scrape a little bit of how I'm feeling against the back side of what's happening around me."

When you came in here, you talked about how this record was in large part love songs.

JM: Mm-hmm. Running through it is a love story, uh-huh.

CD: Yeah. It's not as though at every turn the songs are autobiographical. In fact, I would think that at some point you get irritated by people trying to see too much of you in the songs.

JM: Well, they have that safety valve. If they want to see me in there they can, but I think it's better for them if they can to see themselves in them. You know, it is a mirror that I'm holding up whether it comes from my experiences or someone else's, you know. And I think that the most value is gained not by -- is by seeing yourself in the situation just like in any movie or any work of art. You know, the more you can bring of your own experience to it, the richer it will be for you experientially as a work of art, you know.

So the pop concern. You know, I'm a fine artist in a certain way working in a pop arena. The pop concern with, you know, the more superficial aspects of it like who your hairdresser and your dresser and your trainer and your boyfriend and, you know, all of that crap which, you know, I'm fatigued with. And it's ruined a generation, I think, you know, these concerns. Yeah. I just wish that people would look more at the art and less at the artist.

CD: Yeah, because I was thinking that it would be easy for somebody to be looking for songs in this project that might be influenced by your finding your daughter, for example.

JM: I haven't had time to digest that. You know, I mean Kilauren and Marlin, my grandson, you know, came in the midst of making this project. You know, I'd work a few weeks and then we'd take off a few weeks, and we'd do things. And then I'd work a bit more and then we would rendezvous again and I'd take off some more time. And that time was all, you know, so joyous and so experiential. Writing takes withdrawal and introspection, and I just haven't had time. You know, between the commitments that I had prior to their arrival and the time actively spent with them, you know, when they're with me, I haven't had any contemplative time.

CD: "Crazy Cries of Love." This one's a collaboration.

JM: Mm-hmm. In my hometown lives another singer-songwriter, Don Freed, and it's his text for the most part --

CD: Really?

JM: -- I tweaked the choruses a little bit, heard some syncopation.

CD: Have you ever done that before, that kind of --

JM: Yeah, Crosby -- I took -- this was more -- Don had written this pretty much except for the choruses which I changed, but the verses were his and there was an extra verse which I eliminated because it was more gender-oriented, you know, so that I could sing it. It had something about admiring her neck from more of a male perspective. You know, I don't go around looking at the nape of men's necks so much (laughs). But I just loved the flirtatiousness of it and because we come from the same town, I imagined this song taking place on one of the train bridges -- like Saskatoon, where we come from, is called the city of bridges.

CD: Well, Don is also the inspiration behind "Happiness is the Best --" -- "Face Lift" as it's now called.

JM: Yeah, Don's my boyfriend.

(Music up: "Crazy Cries of Love.")

CD: "Crazy Cries of Love." That's from Joni Mitchell's new release, "Taming the Tiger," due from Reprise this coming July. Joni Mitchell is with us. I'm Chris Douridas. It's Morning Becomes Eclectic.

There seems to be a sense of optimism for this album --

JM: For it or in it?

CD: In it. I came away from my first listen to the album feeling uplifted.

JM: Yeah. Yeah. It's heavy in a way. But heavy in a light way. I think that's what -- you know, my spirit is quite light these days, generally speaking. Like I -- life begins at 50 (laughs). You know, you have a lot of stuff worked out and things, you know. You worry in a different way, because there are still worrisome things, but you seem to know yourself pretty well. You know, you can't get thrown curves. I've really enjoyed my 50's and especially the company of this person who is the other singer-songwriter from my hometown so that even though it's a kind of an autumnal romance, there's a very teenage thing about it because we hung around the same places in our young and formative years, the Avenue H Pool Jukebox, the CM Lunch, which was kind of like a Happy Days Diner place with a jukebox. He and I hung around the jukeboxes because we were going to become the songwriters of our town and --

CD: Wow.

JM: -- it gives us a history back into the 50's and 60's. We were in the same places even though he's my junior by about six years so we wouldn't really -- he would notice me but I wouldn't notice him so much because of -- 16 to 10 --

CD: Yeah.

JM: -- that's sociologically that's what happens but -- yeah, I feel optimistic. The return of my family with all of the joys and difficulties that that entails, you know, is a magnificent gift at this time in my life. You know, I feel optimistic personally. I'm enjoying my life. I have good friends, excellent friends, tried and true over a period of time. And, you know, I have family. The muse is still with me.

CD: Yeah.

JM: You know, and the painting is going well, you know.

CD: Any exhibits coming up?

JM: I haven't had time, you know. It's hard enough with this one career. I really haven't had time to launch an exhibit. But a lot of offers internationally and --

CD: It surprised me when you described yourself as a painter first. I didn't --

JM: Oh, yeah. Always. Even in the music if you go back and follow it -- "...I am a lonely painter... " Always. I've always been a painter. So my identity is fully forged as a painter. This is my straight job (laughs).

CD: It's great to see that you're going to be on stage soon. You're going to be part of this Stormy Weather show that's coming up at the Wiltern, sort of like a --

CD: That'll be fun.

JM: -- big band.

CD: Big band evening and --

JM: Fancy dress and a couple of, you know, nice standards.

CD: That's April 16th at the Wiltern, and you'll be sharing the stage with Dylan and Van Morrison in late May.

JM: Mm-hmm.

CD: You close the album with a Sons of the Pioneers song.

JM: Mm-hmm.

CD: "My Best To You."

JM: "My Best To You." A goodwill song. Yeah. I think -- I heard it -- I went to the supermarket up in Canada and I bought the Sons of the Pioneers Greatest Hits and I came home and I was cooking and I was listening to it and this is a very isolated place next to the ocean way up north of Vancouver. And I'm cooking and listening to this thing. When the song came on I got a lump in my throat, and I really didn't want to have a lump in my throat at that moment and I went to shut it off and I couldn't. So I walked outside. I just tried to distance myself from it. But I got right to the, right to the distance where I couldn't hear it very well but I could still hear it. I couldn't get away from it. I couldn't shut it off and I couldn't get away from it and I realized that that song was really important to me at that moment whether I liked it or not.

Also, when I was blocked, people would come up to me in supermarkets and things, say, "I love your music, Joni," and I'd say -- you know, "when's your next record coming out?" I'd say, "I don't know. I'm blocked. What should I write about?" And people nine times out of ten said, "Give us hope," and my answer at that time because I was like, it was kind of bleak, but I said, "Hope? Why would I be giving you hope? They kill people in this culture that give hope, or hadn't you noticed?" (Laughs.) Which is true, isn't it? You know.

But, anyway, when I heard that song I thought, "Wellm now wait a minute, that song gives me hope." And, you know, two men have cried to that, one of them four times in a row. And the fifth time he got up and danced around the room to avoid it. So the song has that power. I find it very moving. It's sentimental without being cornball. I really -- I mean some people might think it's cornball, but I needed this cornball at this time in my life. I couldn't write it so I borrowed it.

CD: I can't thank you enough for bringing this stuff in so way in advance of the record.

JM: Oh, you're really welcome.

CD: It's really wonderful to hear it. And thanks for sharing it with us.

JM: All right.

CD: Joni Mitchell. It's KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. The album is "Taming the Tiger."

(Music up: "My Best To You.")

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Added to Library on February 13, 2002. (6463)


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