Joanna Eden had to overcome a fair amount of resentment on her own part before she decided to celebrate the music of Joni Mitchell.
Joanna’s Joni and Me show, which she brings to The Hawth Theatre, Crawley, on Friday, March 11, has got quite some story behind it.
“Joni hasn’t always been my hero,” Joanna confesses.
“I put this show off for a long time. When I first went down to London and started singing, Time Out started listing me as a Joni Mitchell-ish singer, and I didn’t even know who she was. I thought ‘Who is this singer crashing in on my fame!’ I got the hump about it for a long time, and I put off listening to her out of sheer ego.
“I only really started listening to her about ten years ago. I had been deliberately ignoring her for about ten years before that! And then someone gave me the Blue album. I started listening to it and listening to it and listening to it. And I still don’t think I have given it back!
“But I don’t think I have really got a feeling of having missed out. I could have learnt a lot about the way she sings and the cleverness of her song-writing a lot earlier, but I think things happen in your life for a reason at a certain time and at the right time.
“What I love about her now is her ability to speak her own truth no matter how that reflects on her and how it might reflect on other people, the way that she deals with her own issues and to use her gift for entertainment to do that, to figure things out for herself and that other people might be able to use for themselves the way she figures things out. It’s not just about entertaining. The way she writes could be autobiographical or it could be a message.
“If ever I don’t know exactly what she is singing about, I have just got to go for my own truth.”
Joanna is the first to admit she is not a facts-and-figures person. She doesn’t have instant recall as to which song belongs on which album. She will often have to look to her pianist for confirmation in that respect.
“What I want is the essential flow of it. Being a teacher myself, though I have never met her, it just feels that a great artist is always like your teacher. In my second set, I do one of those rare songs when she is happily in love and everything is fine, but I don’t do an emotional narrative. I have not taken the songs and tried to weave them into a story. I can do a really sublime song one moment, and then it’s the sublime to the ridiculous for the next. You have just got to try to find the truth of them.”
Through illness Mitchell herself is no longer performing, but Joanna is delighted that Mitchell is so generously supporting other artists: “I can’t believe that you can find my name on Joni Mitchell’s website! It’s tremendously generous. I have always found her quite a scary figure. She is very happy to be very honest. She will always tell it like it is, and I have always found the thought of her a bit intimidating in that way, and so I thought she was one of the most unlikely people to be generous in that way with her website. But it is great that she is so supportive of other artists.”
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