Joan Osborne follows her own instincts

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Joan Osborne (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY JEFF FASANO)
Joan Osborne (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY JEFF FASANO)

Joan Osborne has been pursuing music for over 20 years and she has just hit her creative climax with her newest album Love and Hate. Osborne’s story began when she moved to New York City in the late 80’s when she founded her own record label called Womanly Hips. Osborne pursed her love for singing and songwriting and gained substantial success in 1995 when she released her first major label album, Relish, featuring the hit single “One Of Us”. Although this album gained substantial attention, Osbourne made her intentions clear as stated in her website bio, “She was more interested in musical integrity and creative longevity than transient pop success.”

Osborne has always been ahead of her time. She bravely stepped out into New York alone and opened her own record label. She has also been open about both her sexual and creative freedom. With one compilation album, one holiday album, two live albums, and seven studio albums under her belt, Osborne still felt that she had creativity that needed to be let out. Osborne worked on Love and Hate for several years before perfecting and releasing her eighth studio album in 2014. This album explores many different aspects of both love and hate. Within this album, Osborne once again displays her iconic, raw lyrics and bluesy voice.

Osborne will be performing a show consisting of stripped down versions of songs from Love and Hate, as well as songs from her other studio albums, at the Spire Center for Performing Arts, located at 25 ½ Court Street in Plymouth, Mass, this Thursday, Dec. 8th. Purchase tickets HERE.

“If fans are familiar with the full band versions of the songs from the album or from seeing us live, they can expect a more intimate experience,” Osborne said “For the duo and trio shows we strip the songs down to their bare essence and the fans have told us over and over that it is a very emotionally affecting show, that they hear things in the songs that they never have heard before.”

At the show, Osborne will be bringing playing with two other talented musicians: Jack Petruzzelli and Andrew Carillo.

“I will be bringing two excellent musicians who are also old friends,” Osborne said. “Jack has been a collaborator since the early nineties, and we came up together playing in the clubs and bars of Manhattan. He and I have also coproduced the last two albums that I’ve released. Jack plays with Patti Smith, with Rufus Wainwright, and is a founding member of the Fab Faux which is the world’s premier Beatles cover band. Andrew has been working with me since the early 2000’s and he and Jack together have a great sound. They are also really fun to hang out with, and because they have known me for so long, they have lots of embarrassing stories about me!”

Osborne said it’s much different performing as a duo or trio compared to having a full band.

“Performing with the full band is a lot of fun but there is something about doing a duo or trio that is both more challenging and more satisfying for a singer,” Osborne said. “You have nowhere to hide but you can also work with a lot of subtleties that get lost in a band configuration, and the shows tend to be more emotionally intense because of that.”

Since Love and Hate’s release, the album has received many positive reviews. What makes it so much more different from Osborne’s previously released music is her focus on songwriting.

“We first started writing material for Love and Hate a full seven years before the album was released,” Osborne said. “It took us that long to find our way to what the album wanted to be. It started as an effort to create something that was stylistically in the world of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks or Pink Moon by Nick Drake but as we worked on it the themes of romantic love–in all its many variations–began rising to the surface and I realized that that was what the record wanted to be. So for that reason, we were all very busy with other projects, it took us a long time to get to the end result but I think that was a good thing. I like the fact that every song went through many versions before being fully realized. I think the writing is as strong or stronger than anything I have done.”

For Osborne, Love and Hate is one of the most personally-charged, creatively ambitious efforts of her two-decades-plus recording career.

“I think the subject matter, romantic love, is a very complicated one at this time in my life and in the life of my family and friends,” Osborne said. “Most popular songs tend to explore the territory of a new love or of kicking someone to the curb after you can’t take it anymore. There is a huge area in between those two points, an area that is very complex, and that is what I see people in my world living through; trying to negotiate and it’s both very difficult and very rewarding. I wanted to explore love in that way, to get into all the messy details of a deeper love.”

As a seasoned musician and songwriter, Osborne now feels that she is truly writing for herself and she is making up her own rules. Her dedicated fans have followed Osborne through her growth and she is grateful they are willing to evolve with her.

“I know that doing music for a living is very privileged life, even though it can be very difficult,” Osborne said. “I know that I would not be able to do this unless I had fans who came to the shows, who bought CDs and T-shirts, and who have stayed with me through all the different styles and incarnations I’ve traveled through. I honestly have no idea what I would be doing if I could not do music, so my fans have been my salvation.”

Osborne has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards; six in the 90’s and one in 2013.

“Of course it’s nice to be recognized in that way,” Osborne said. “It’s nice to feel that you are part of a larger community of music artists and going to the Grammy awards, seeing the other artists from all different genres, always makes me feel connected to this huge web of people making music around the world.”

With many years of experience as a musician, Osborne still manages to create compelling and refreshing music.

“I have jumped around from genre to genre, which can be seen as commercial suicide in a way,” Osborne said. “I can only say that I have followed my instincts more than any plan for commercial success and I don’t honestly know whether that has been a good thing but that’s been my choice.”

“I think my experience makes it easier for me to create music,” she added. “I think it allows me to cut through the noise and get to the heart of the matter more quickly. I don’t feel bored: music is like the ocean, you can dive in and swim your whole life and you will never get to the other side.”

Osborne also has a lot of memorable moments since the release of Relish in 1995.

“I have been really fortunate to be welcomed into a lot of different musical worlds,” she said. “I have sung with Lucciano Pavarotti in Italy, I have sung with Stevie Wonder at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ve toured with The Dead, dueted with Bob Dylan and I’ve sung with Patti Smith. Those have been highlights but honestly they have not been any more wonderful than just performing with my band in front of a crowd on a normal night. There’s something about the communal emotional experience of that which transcends everyday life and elevates us all.”

While Osborne hasn’t released any new music in two years, she is currently working on a set of Bob Dylan songs that she hopes to start recording this winter.

“Our next album will be a set of Bob Dylan songs,” Osborne explained. “It’s a project I have long wanted to do and the residency we did at the Café Carlyle back in March was the springboard for this album; we did two weeks of nothing but Bob Dylan songs and it was amazing. I felt like what an actor must feel like doing Shakespeare, the material is so rich. So we’ve been in pre-production for that and will be going into the studio shortly after our show in Plymouth.”

Tickets to Osborne’s show at The Spire are $45. The venue features superior acoustics, custom state of the art lighting and sound systems and original period architectural details, offering patrons an exceptional performing arts experience.

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