Joni Mitchell Opens Up in First Public Interview Since 2015

Monday, May 17, 2021
JONI 2021

Clive Davis' annual Grammy party might have been a virtual event this year, but the longtime music mogul still found a way to make waves across the industry over the weekend. Over the course of a marathon six-hour invitation only online event, Davis shared a recently prerecorded interview with living legend, Joni Mitchell.

The chat was Mitchell's first public interview since the artist suffered an aneurysm in 2015. Mitchell was in great spirits as she talked about her early years in music, finding her voice artistically, and even her industry-famous dinner parties, which have become the envy of those who've heard stories about the star-studded guest-lists at her home in Santa Barbara.

"Well, you know, when I first started writing less from fantasy, when I started scraping my own soul more and getting more humanity in it, it scared the singer-songwriters around me," Mitchell said. "The men seemed be nervous about it, almost like Dylan plugging in and going electric. Like, 'Does this mean we have to do this now?'" she laughed. "But over time, I think it did make an influence. I think it encouraged people to write more from their own experience. I mean, literature is very personal. People write from experience and that's what makes it rich. But people used to say to me, 'Nobody's ever going to cover your songs. They're too personal.' And yet that's not true. They're getting a lot of covers. So that's really encouraging to me, because I thought, 'I don't see why these men are so upset about it... It's just humanness that I'm trying to describe.'"

The artist discussed discovering the depths of her influence in today's music world, something she missed due to the glut of vicious reviews at various points in her career: "It was only recently that people have come forward and told me," she said. "I was unaware, because all I was aware of was bad reviews, which I thought were unjust and stupid. Especially Dog Eat Dog (in 1985) got terrible reviews. Except in the Black magazines. I thought, why is it that people are so hard on this stuff? Well, I guess it's because it's different. It didn't fit into a genre of folk music or jazz," but was "somewhere in between... I always (thought) that folk music wasn't a good title for me, except it was a girl with a guitar, and therefore a folk singer, right? The only people that could play my music were jazz musicians, because it was so strange. And they could write it out and look at the strangeness and get in on it."

As for defining her own legacy, Mitchell was nothing if not pragmatic: "It is what it is. It's just the residue of my work, you know. It seems to be another generation has grasped (it).. I mean, I drove to West L.A. and young boys, pre-teeners, were waving at me from the curb. I thought, Oh my God, that's amazing. ... The man who put on my art show here in L.A. is Russian. He said, 'Why is that all the young people over there know your music and the people our age don't?' ... I mean, it's just the way my career has gone. You know, it's like this generation is ready for what I had to say, I guess, and is not so nervous about it."

See a clip from the chat below (via Variety):