Rickie Lee Jones: hard to describe but superb to listen to
VOCALIST, musician, songwriter, and producer Rickie Lee Jones is an American music institution.
Over the course of a career that spans five decades, Jones has recorded in various musical styles including rock, R&B, blues, pop, soul, and jazz.
Jones is a prolific musician with 16 album released, the last one, The Other Side of Desire, was launched in 2015.
The songs in The Other Side of Desire, were they written at the same time?
Yes, the songs were written for the collection at the time of the recording, or for the recording, within nine months of the mix. September, I started writing. We were done with the record by March, I think.
I read online that your grandparents were artists, did they influence your music career in any way? Is there any stories about them you may want to share with us please?
I never met my grandparents, who were Vaudevillians. But I grew up with photo albums of the theaters, and the costumes, and the pride my dad had in his father.
And mother, she was a dancer on the chorus line.
What are you currently workin on?
I am working with guys from New Orleans. One is a percussionist extraordinaire, a kind of hmmm, well you have to hear him to see him, to believe what I'm....not telling you.
Tthe other is a young guitarist who can play anything quite well. He is very young. He plays with the percussionists punk improve band. Wild. So they bring what I need to play the songs
I play, their roots are deep, but they are very youthful in their journey.
I just can't contend with musicians who are dry, careful. Afraid. And you know, the reason I don't say 'old' is because you meet young and old people who have no journey left in them. So it's not an age thing.
All information available online about you points to the fact that you have recorded "in various musical styles including rock, R&B, blues, pop, soul, and jazz." Do you feel that was part of a creative journey or is there any other reasons you may be able to acknowledge for it?
Well, I think... I am hard to describe, really.
That is why other people's names are mentioned, for the writers who are less capable.
And instead of saying 'this is a musician who has innovated a lot of what we take for granted, who has little recognition and a great deal of impact, and still, it's difficult to describe what she does as much as what her effect has been."
I'd say something like Jazz and rock, these are her early acknowledgements by the Grammy committee, Best Rock Performance, Best Pop. Because I was the first to bridge some things that weren't bridged before!
Think of Randy Newman and Mick Jagger.
I wrote these beautiful compositions, but I'm dressed like a stripper and danced around, smoking, being wild. No singer-songwriter ever did that before. And the impact on girls, and musicians, it was profound.
We live in a time of publicity, and anyone can claim anything, like that ridiculous movie about the Runaways.
And without the publicity, people not know. They believe what they are told. Well, why not? So tell them!
Because it's an insult to me, or to the Ramones, if you only know one song, and do not know the impact of the artist on their time. And yes, girls simply are not included in the history of rock, unless, for the most part, they dress like boys.
So... I like to sing, and I can sing anything. So I did! And I do!
In your website's bio you describe your family as "lower-middle-class-hillbilly-hipster," can you explain a bit more about that please and how did that influence your music?
Well it seems pretty self-explanatory, each word means what it says. They were, hey, they probably would have fit right in in Australia. Wanderers. Rebels. Hard-working ethic. Funny and strong.
But I am not in a position to make the connection between that and me, and my work.
Your voice sounds so pristine in this album - how do you keep it healthy?
My voice is pretty good, not too much aging yet. I just sing the way I sing.
I try not to sing a lot unless I have to. A lot, I mean, I do sing but not a lot. And I never try to sing loud.
What is the story behind J'ai Connais Pas? It's a poignant song but written so cleverly...
Ahh, thank you. I was thinking about a couple of scenarios, sitting in a bar here in New Orleans. Making up a story about some characters, but also trying to write myself into the story.
You have recorded in so many genres, and given that this is Bluesfest, what can we expect -music wise- from your show at the festival?
I do a pretty broad cross-section of my catalogue, depending on any given night, leaning this way or that. The audience, the night, the place, they feed the energy and that is how I know what I will play.
My musicians have to know my work enough and be confident enough to play whatever I call, and enjoy doing that. Some people, it stresses them. But some musicians like it.
We usually always do Last Chance Texaco, And lately been doing Chuck E's in Love again, plus Weasel and the White Boys. You will hear these tunes. Probably. Other than that, probably an old ballad. We like to rock a bit, electric guitars and all. So we'll see.
New Orleans has laid her lovin' hands on us, and we like to have a good time when we play. I have not played in festivals much, so we are interested in what it's like.
Hopefully we like it, and they like us, too.
- At Bluesfest, April 13 to 17, 2017. For details visit bluesfest.com.au.