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Judy Collins - I think there isn’t any artist who is not working on inner struggles in their songs. It’s always been my intention to find out what is going on in my mind Aanbevolen

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Judy Collins - I think there Isn’t any artist who is not working on inner struggles in their songs. It’s always been my intention to find out what is going on in my mind

Judith Marjorie Collins (Seattle, May 1, 1939) is an American singer-songwriter. She started out as a folk artist in the 1960s but switched in the 1970s to the more popular MOR genre ("middle of the road", mainstream melodic pop music with possible orchestral accompaniment). She sang mostly covers and also had some successes in Belgium and the Netherlands, including Joni Mitchell's "Both sides now" (1967) and Stephen Sondheim's "Send In the Clowns" (1975, from her album Judith). In 1970, she also had success with the traditional "Amazing Grace". The song "Suite: Judy blue eyes" by Stephen Stills is dedicated to her. Over the years, she has worked for human rights, UNICEF and the fight against landmines. She has not been sitting still, releasing her new album 'Spellbound'. On the occasion of this release, we had a nice chat with Judy, and also asked her how she keeps doing this? And of course, whether she still has ambitions or things she wants to achieve after all these years.

In a career that spans some 60 years, you witnessed the continued rise of modern folk music while remaining as remarkably prolific as ever. Congratulations that you still bring out new albums, where do you keep finding inspiration?
To kick start my career,  I been writing since 1969. All the songs on ‘Spellbound’ are stories about my live, they come together on this one album. And also before the pandemic I was still doing 120 shows in a year, so I not had time to make a new album. I had no vacation, and really needed that. When the pandemic came, I had a lot time to writing songs on the piano and practice, in this way the pandemic give me time to create ‘Spellbound’.

At the question in an interview. Why it took so long to write this new album, in a interview you answer “Probably because I didn’t have a pandemic to keep me at home.’’ That’s what you said already. But now we talking about this, how did you survive the pandemic years? You got stronger out of it or not?

I practice every day, walk in the park, I have phones calls with friends and kept my social live up. We also have enough places for food and things in NY, we did not need to worry about that. I still had conversations, online with friends and family. Honestly, I needed to rest… so in that way, this pandemic came right on time for me, but also the planet needed to rest.

I ask this, because in interviews I found out some artist encountered their limits and stopped, others came out stronger and even found inspiration. For you, it was more like a meditation and a moment to relax? Right?

That’s correct, like I said I been doing a lot of phone calls, read a lot poetry, I even started writing a book. I also started a podcast, my manager asked me ‘why don’t you do a podcast with a few people’. I’ve had podcasts with artist like Jeff Daniels, Clive Davis, Julia Cameron, Betty Buckley a few others and more that will be coming out soon. It’s great to get to know to know these people a lot more and it was fun doing it. So yes, it made me do things that I could not do when I was on tour all the time.

That you on your age still be active at social media, it’s wonderful.  How important is the social media and that podcast to you carrier?  And also, what is for you the biggest change true all these years, next to this digitalism?
The media, and specially the internet is an extensional way for doing what we love doing. We love talking to each other. Sharing art and things with the world. Everything on the internet satisfies the needs we already have. And makes them even a little easier. I spend a lot on the phone with my friends, like I said. I’m a big into communicate with them.  I also do a lot of my work by my phone, so I switch to ZOOM and having this interview, was not a big deal either. Social media and the internet have opened so much more doors, or at least in a much easier way. You know I was a computer hacker back in 1984. My first PC was an apple tune. I wanted to start a biography back then.  I found a way to print the pages, by reading magazines about this. My husband was a designer, and he told the people at Apple that his wife was able doing this all on her own, so they put me on the cover of the Apple magazine to tell the story about how I hack my own computer and turn it into a main function of the new world. So, I started using computers before they become popular, and my phone is always on. So yes, I’m just used to using the internet. I’m very comfortable with this way of communicating.

It’s a good thing that you been abled doing this and feel comfortable with it. But, why still making a new album now that people can listen at Spotify and things? What’s your opinion about this and how important is social media to you?
In that way I’m rather old school. I don’t like Spotify. Because they don’t pay the artists well. In my opinion they steal from the artists. But they made a deal with my record label. I’m not found about this deal, but the record labels have a mysterious connection with Spotify. But the robbing and stealing from artist is not a new form, it’s been here for many decays. It’s not new you know. I found out talking to a friend - another performer, that we’ve never been pay for the songs we have sung and have been on the radio. That’s something that happens since many years, so there is nothing new about this. We are the only country in the free world that is not having a performance orality. But there are so many things that are going wrong, we can’t do anything about. Like the situation in UK, some countries are in war and everything. We can sing about it but can’t do anything about it. So that’s why Spotify get away with that to.

I agree with this statement. But let’s talk about your new album coming up to. I have listened to you new album ‘Spellbound’’ a warmhearted album, you voice is still so pure and warm, I feel like getting away from to this world to a better one. How you keep doing this with you voice, you still sound as good as in your young years.  (you the same age as my dad, he still doing well, but some things getting less easier if you know what I mean)?
I just do everything I can to keep my voice clean. I exercise. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I’m sober for 44 years now! I’m one of the lucky ones to be my age, I know a lot of people and artist of my age who have getting ill and loosing there voice. I’ve also kept being involved with my trusted programmers. On the other hand, I have trained my voice to. My teacher who I worked with for 32 years, since 1956 until he died, he said to me ‘don’t worry learn to get further with that voice. There is a place in your voice that keeps you away from getting in trouble, if you don’t learn how to transition it can go wrong’. That’s what I was trained to do. I am doing all I can to take care of that voice, and that helps.

I also read you still try to walk many miles? That explains you exceptionally good condition
I have a watch that counts the steps you take, that’s something I’m using when I go walk in the streets. The fu funny thing is, when I sit down and play the piano the watch also counts my movement as steps but I’m just playing the keys at the piano. I don’t think that happens with the Apple watch, but I practice the piano and do 10,000 steps at day (haha)

You indeed got sober in 1978, congratulations.  You also lost your only son and got true worst days in your live. Good times to. But I feel there are a lot emotions in this new album, not real pain, but emotions that make me get in tears of happiness or something. Is this album a way to deal with the past? Or how can I see that?
Like I said, the songs tell the story of my life in a way. I just write about things that happen to me. I have something like ‘why not’ I think there isn’t any artist who is not working on inner struggles in their songs. As singer, artist, or writer it’s always been my intention to find out what is going on in my mind. It’s a process going true my whole life. There are some songs about NY, it’s really about the village. There is a song ‘Hell on wheels’ which tell a story about what actually happened to me. I was driving on a mountain road, have a couple drinks and I skidded against a fence between the road and the farm, and not far away from where I landed, I saw two baby children singing in the dirt. I almost killed them. That’s something I will never forget; I wrote songs about a couple people I knew in the ‘60’s. Called ‘Gilded Rooms’ it’s a song about people that I knew and still know. There is also ‘Prairie Dream’ that’s a song about the native Indians; I always felt very guilty about what happened to them in US. My father was born in the times when that happened. He was an Irish, rebellious artistic soul. There are many examples in this ‘Spellbound’ album. So yes, this album is sure a therapeutically practice to help deal with things that happened in the past, sure.

What I like the most you could make it yourself easy and relax, but this album is fresh and new. So it's not a routine job, but you are treading new paths, that's what I find so remarkable. was it your deliberate intention to choose that path?
Next to that this is a very personal album since I’m a writer and like doing new things. I always have to be challenged in some way. That’s also important, and that’s why I like treading those new paths.

Something that trigger me on you as artist. You’ve been a UNICEF Ambassador and won numerous awards include a Grammy and an honorary doctorate. And let’s not forget, you launched the careers of both Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. How it was to work with them?
Leonard came to me in 1966. He had just written his first songs and brought them to me. And he patchily stays for the rest of his live.  He was a generous, amazing genius. Joni Mitchell’s music came to me in a mysterious way. My friend Al Cooper, called me in the middle of the night in 1967. He said there was a wonderful singer-songwriter that wanted to talk to me. It was Joni Mitchell. She sang ‘Both Sides Now’ for me. It was like Karma happened that night because that moment changed both our lives. She was writing songs, and I was the singer. But I did that for some people who are not so well known to. I was the first person to record Bob Dylan soon after his writing. There was also Tom Paxton and Janis Ian. I also recorded ‘Amazing Grace’, a song that I’m very proud of, it’s been a part of me for a long time… 

You just been mentioned Bob Dylan, I have read in an interview you thought he’ll never make a living, can you tell me more about that story?
It’s kind of funny story. In the beginning when I meet him, I indeed thought he was going nowhere (haha). But I know now, he is amazing, inspirer, wonderful person without any question. He takes everything to another level. But in those days, he really had no idea what he was doing (haha).

You also seen a lot changing in folk related music I guess; you still follow new bands or artists? What is your opinion about new music this days?
I love following new music! The current folk/Americana scene is brimming with some of the hottest talent like Brandi Carlile.  I am such a super fan!   I also love to have emerging artists join me on the road.  This year a young singer-songwriter out of Ireland, Bláind will join me on many of my shows.   And my 2015 recording with Ari Hest, brought me my first Grammy Nomination in over 40 years.  It's important to keep current and hear new music for your development at any age. 

After all these years, are there still ambitions or goals you want to archive?
I’m getting into writing new things, I want to finish my book. They are my most important ambitions, keep writing songs.. and that book, and I hope people will like it.

That is the most important. I guess there are talented singers who see you as their inspiration. What is the golden advice you would like to give them?
The most important thing is do not give up on what your dreams are. Never let people push you in another direction. Unless you trust them, and unless they really agree with the path you follow. So, just keep following YOUR dreams, whatever it takes and don’t ever give up on that, that’s my advice.

Wonderful statement to end this interview. Thanks, and hope to see you on stage in Belgium soon

 

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