Interview: Joan Baez; Playing @ Chastain Amphitheater June 14 and June 15!

joan baezWritten by Molly Segers

Joan Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and a prominent activist. Baez’s recordings include material dealing with political and social issues. Her career began performing in coffeehouses and her fame rose as a performer at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. She achieved immediate success when she began recording in 1960. Her first three albums all achieved gold status and remained on the hit album charts for two years. Joan Baez has performed publicly for over 55 years releasing over 30 albums. Baez continues to show renewed vitality and passion in her concerts and records, and is more comfortable than ever inside her own skin.

Folk icon and activist Joan Baez is gracing the Chastain Park Amphitheater stage June 14th and 15th as part of a very “Atlanta” tour with locals the Indigo Girls and The Shadowboxers, which she was kind enough to chat with me about as well as what else she’s up to.

For this tour she is backed by her long time accompanists, son Gabriel Harris on percussion and multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell.

“He’s a great musician… He plays a bunch of instruments so it’s like having a whole band up there.”

Fans can look forward to a sampling of songs from her more than 50 year career, including songs from her most recent album, 2008’s Day After Tomorrow, which she recorded with Steve Earle. She also promised a little surprise for fans.

She warmly promises, “Oh, you know Amy and Emily and I will always do something.”

Pointing out the strong Atlanta connection of this tour, she replies that her strongest Atlanta association is with her friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. and her work with the Civil Rights Movement. When I mention the King Center and National Historic Site, she muses, “Maybe I can make time for a visit.”

Lately she’s been focusing on her paintings. Just last month her painting of an eight-year old Hmong boy was hung in the rotunda of the Hanoi Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole, where she was staying in 1972 as part of her anti-war activism before an air raid which kept her confined to a bunker for 11 days. Though she’s not currently working on new music of her own, she’s all too happy to talk about the music that has been gracing her speakers lately, such as Willie Nelson, Josh Ritter, and Damien Rice, and, a bit unexpectedly, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”.

Genial and everything one could hope she would be like, she eagerly chirps, “But what about you? What do you think I should be listening to?”

When I mention my own favorites Shovels and Rope she exclaims, “Ooh! Let me get a pen!”

Catch Joan Baez, the Indigo Girls and The Shadowboxers live at Chastain Park Amphitheater on Friday, June 14 and Saturday June 15!



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