Joni Mitchell discusses new box set, health & more in rare interview with Cameron Crowe
The legendary Joni Mitchell is gearing up to release a series of archival box sets, starting with Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963 To 1967) this Friday (10/30), which includes tons of rare and previously unreleased material, including her 1963 "House of the Rising Sun" cover (her earliest known recording) and her first-ever original song from her 1965 demo.
In a new rare interview with Cameron Crowe for The Guardian, Joni talked a little bit about the upcoming box set. Here's an excerpt:
CC: I think this collection is a powerful gift, especially to young artists. It’s a portrait of you at a certain time in your life when you were having success. You could have plateaued at this stage for an entire career. Many did. But I listen to this and think the hidden message is don’t stop growing, don’t stop heading for those deeper waters, challenge yourself, look where it might take you.
JM: That’s what the Van Gogh exhibition was to me. When I went to a Van Gogh exhibition, they had all his paintings arranged chronologically, and you’d watch the growth as you walk along. That was so inspiring, and I started to paint again. If it serves that purpose, that would be great. Really, that would make me very happy. The later work is much richer and deeper and smarter, and the arrangements are interesting too. Musically I grow, and I grow as a lyricist, so there’s a lot of growth taking place. The early stuff – I shouldn’t be such a snob against it. A lot of these songs, I just lost them. They fell away. They only exist in these recordings. For so long I rebelled against the term: “I was never a folk singer.” I would get pissed off if they put that label on me. I didn’t think it was a good description of what I was. And then I listened, and – it was beautiful. It made me forgive my beginnings. And I had this realisation…
CC: What was it?
JM: Oh God [laughs]! I was a folk singer!
She also spoke a bit about Neil Young's involvement in the box set (it was his idea to present it in chronological order), and she gave an update on her health:
JM: I haven’t been writing recently. I haven’t been playing my guitar or the piano or anything. No, I’m just concentrating on getting my health back [from a 2015 aneurysm]. You know what? I came back from polio, so here I am again, and struggling back.
CC: Is that how you would characterise the last five years?
JM: Just inching my way along. I’m showing slow improvement but moving forward.
CC: With bells on.
JM: Yeah, because once again I couldn’t walk. I had to learn how again. I couldn’t talk. Polio didn’t grab me like that, but the aneurysm took away a lot more, really. Took away my speech and my ability to walk. And, you know, I got my speech back quickly, but the walking I’m still struggling with. But I mean, I’m a fighter. I’ve got Irish blood! [long laugh] So you know, I knew, “Here I go again, another battle.” [The kitten is now happily crawling up her neck.] Look at this face! He looks like my baby. The high cheekbones and everything.
Joni also mentions she doesn't listen to much contemporary music, but that she's been listening to Babyface and Leela James recently. Read more at The Guardian.
Listen to five songs from the upcoming box: