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Dealing with loss helped Bonnie Raitt tackle songwriting

on March 23, 2016 No comments

The Associated Press

  NEW YORK (AP) — After back-to-back tours and albums, Bonnie Raitt said finally finding time to deal with the deaths of her father, mother and brother helped her break writer’s block and craft songs for her latest album and tour.

“I don’t write often and easily …This particular time after a period of about 10 years when my family — my parents and my older brother — were all ill and passed away in a short period of time… I was pretty fried, and I took 2010 as a complete break from thinking about what I wanted to do next,” she said. “(I did) some grief work with a support person and I just really felt all the things that had been pushed aside by all that loss and trauma. And I came out of it really grateful.”

Bonnie Raitt poses for a portrait in New York to promote her new album, "Dig In Deep." - March 7, 2016In this March 7, 2016 photo, Bonnie Raitt poses for a portrait in New York to promote her new album, Dig In Deep."In this March 7, 2016 photo, Bonnie Raitt poses for a portrait in New York to promote her new album, Dig In Deep."In this March 7, 2016 photo, Bonnie Raitt poses for a portrait in New York to promote her new album, Dig In Deep."In this March 7, 2016 photo, Bonnie Raitt poses for a portrait in New York to promote her new album, Dig In Deep."

In this March 7, 2016 photos, singer Bonnie Raitt poses for a portrait in New York to promote her new album, Dig In Deep  © Drew Gurian – Invision/AP

“Dig In Deep,” released last month, features a number of personal songs Raitt co-wrote as well as her signature guitar. She also said she got a boost from her last album, 2012’s “Slipstream,” which won the Grammy for best Americana album.

“I was rejuvenated by ‘Slipstream’ … and I co-wrote a song on that one with my guitarist …The words didn’t go, so it forced me to write some songs that went with what my experience was, and that kind of got the wheels greased,” she said. “I kind of wrote on assignment. …After all that loss, to finally have the time and freedom and not have to be worrying about family members, I had more opportunity to write.”

On the new album, 66-year-old Raitt co-wrote five of the 12 tracks, including upbeat album opener “Unintended Consequence of Love” and the political “The Comin’ Round Is Going Through.” The album also includes her versions of INXS’ “Need You Tonight” and Los Lobos’ “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes.”

She said the second verse of the piano ballad “The Ones We Couldn’t Be,” which she co-wrote, is “really about family members.”

“I know they were sorry they couldn’t be what I needed and I was sorry I couldn’t live up to the expectations,” she said. “And at the time when the relationship’s not working or you’re under stress, you tend to put blame not necessarily where it’s really accurate — it’s all about them, if only they acted different — so the reckoning that happens years later is your realize you both just did the best you could.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, whose hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” ”Something to Talk About” and “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” said she’s thrilled to be touring with the new songs. The “Bonnie Live in 2016” tour kicked off last week and will visit New York City, Oakland, Austin and Nashville, Tennessee. She will also play international dates in the summer.

Raitt also said there was some anxiety when she began writing for her new album.

“It made me nervous knowing I was going to be writing more of the songs and I was saying, ‘Oh my God, I know so many people out there, they’re gonna say, ‘This one unfortunately is not as good,'” she said. “I don’t like to be compared (to myself), I just wish everybody would say, ‘She’s doing the best she can’ — especially because it was more risk with my own tunes. But so far everyone’s relating to them so I’m really smiling a lot these days.”

Raitt also wants more people outside of her fan base to gravitate to the new music: “I hope people can relate to it, no matter what age they are.”

Though it’s hard to tell, Raitt said she started to play guitar and write songs as a “hobby.” She recalls getting her first guitar for Christmas and playing some much her fingers bled.

“I just played till I had calluses and my fingers bleed and I just learned every Joan Baez song I could learn, and I became the camp fire counselor that sang the songs at my camp,” she said. “And I just thought music can change the world, and I still feel that way.”

Source: © Copyright Associated Press But wait, there's more!

Bonnie Raitt says songwriting is meditation but ‘touring pays the bills’

on March 21, 2016 No comments
By Greg Kot

Bonnie Raitt has great taste in songs, and a voice that brings those songs — and the artists who wrote them — to a new level of appreciation. Over a four-decade career, she’s offered definitive versions of tunes by the likes of John Prine (“Angel from Montgomery”), Richard Thompson (“Dimming of the Day”) and John Hiatt (“Thing Called Love”), among others. But it’s her own songwriting that provides the backbone for her latest, self-produced album, “Dig in Deep” (Redwing).

The creative surge — the five originals are the most she’s had on an album since the ’90s — came after a period of mourning and near-despair. The death of her parents, brother and best friend put her career on hold for several years before she returned after a seven-year recording absence with “Slipstream” in 2012.

“I had a rough time there for a few years with loss and pain — a dark night of the soul,” she says. “I was drained. When I started thinking about doing another album, I had all this self-doubt. I didn’t think the songs would be any good. But I pushed through, and when ‘Slipstream’ was so well-received, it rejuvenated me.”

Raitt characterizes her mood going into “Dig in Deep” as a feeling of “rebirth,” comparing this period of life to her career breakthrough around the Grammy-winning “Nick of Time” album in 1989-90.

Her new songs include the hard-punching “The Comin’ Round is Going Through,” a thinly veiled shot at certain unnamed politicians. Raitt’s voice sounds at the edge of violence, and the guitars of Raitt and George Marinelli joust with Stones-like ferocity.

For the listeners, “it’s an equal opportunity to get mad at anyone on both sides of the spectrum,” Raitt says. “I think everyone is pissed off at the money and politics of what someone referred to as this ‘auction,’ instead of ‘election.’ “

Though she’s invested in numerous political and social causes when she isn’t tending to her musical career, Raitt says that writing a resonant protest song is a huge challenge for any artist. For her, it was more about expressing a personal emotion rather than trying to indict a particular politician. In 1998 “I wrote a song called ‘Spit of Love,’ which is how you immolate with hate, and it set the stage for this new song,” she says. “There’s that satisfaction of turning up the feedback, the guitar howling like demons. It’s cathartic to play a song that gets to those darkest emotions that can eat you up inside.”

The album-closing ballad “The Ones We Couldn’t Be” strikes a more contemplative vein. She puts down her slide guitar and settles behind a piano to ruminate about a lifetime of relationships that never quite fulfilled their promise.

“That song just poured out of me,” Raitt says. “I sat and cried over that idea: How heartbreaking it is when you try so hard and you couldn’t be the one that either one needed. There’s this realization that when you look back, it’s so easy to blame the other person in the moment. But now you see your part and how you could have done something differently. It comes with age, and it’s both painful and transformative. I wrote it on piano, eyes closed, candles lit, a dark room. A ballad like that, it’s like a meditation.”

For Raitt, the songs are their own reward. But as the commercial value of recorded music recedes, she says that more than ever “touring pays the bills.”

“It’s a good thing I still like it,” she says. “But I’ve learned it’s better for a long-term relationship if you don’t see people all the time. It’s really fun on the road for two, three weeks, and then you’ve got to get home. I like the camaraderie of the boys on the bus, the gang, the crew, and seeing new friends every day in a different city. It’s a break from shopping, cooking, and doing laundry at home. It’d be nice to have more than 24 hours in each Scandinavian country, though. The down side of our touring schedule is we get only three hours in Denmark.”

Raitt acknowledges that she’s savoring her musical life again after a few years in which everything around her seemed to be crumbling. “You do have a renewed appreciation for these things after you come out the other side of a really dark period,” she says. “It’s nice to be able to enjoy the daylight in these cities we visit. The first 17 years I was on the road (1970-87) it was all about partying. We’d drive all day and sleep until soundcheck (in the late afternoon). When I got sober in ’87 at age 37, it became easier to drive at night, and we ran or rode bikes in the day. I saw 50 cities in America in daytime, which I hadn’t really seen for 17 years even though we had shows there. I had a great time partying, but being successful and sober is its own reward.

Greg Kot co-hosts “Sound Opinions” at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 11 p.m. Saturday on WBEZ-FM 91.5.


When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22

Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.

Tickets: $49.50, $65, $85; www.jamusa.com

Source: © Copyright Chicago Tribune

But wait, there's more!

Listen to Bonnie Raitt on The Strombo Show – March 6, 2016

on March 7, 2016 No comments

The Strombo Show runs the gamut this Sunday night, keeping the spirit of radio alive by delivering the best records in the best order. It’s a show for music lovers by music lovers, ranging over three hours of commercial-free music to honour both old and new.

George Stroumboulopoulos will be joined by the Grammy Award-winning, blues-rock guitarist Bonnie Raitt for an intimate conversation. Bonnie Raitt talks about the US Election, Saturday Night Live and that unreleased Prince album.

“Well, that highway moon is calling like some lover from some other land.
Before the dust can settle, I’ll kick it up and tear it down again.”
— Bonnie Raitt, “Gypsy in Me”

tip: most convenient way to listen while browsing along is to use the popup button of the player.

Raitt is known for her lifelong commitment to the preservation of musical tradition and social activism. She dropped out of Radcliffe in the early ’70s to tour clubs with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Sippie Wallace and Mississippi Fred McDowell, learning the trade of late nights. Along the way, she earned herself a reputation as one of the greatest living blues guitarists. Raitt has been a voice for many grassroots and anti-nuclear movements while achieving commercial success with classic albums that include Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw. Her latest studio album, Dig in Deep, reflects on a period of family loss and the joy that she found on the return to the road.

She joins George to dig through her five-decade-spanning career, from performing for Skip James before his death to the truth behind the album that she recorded with Prince.


Bonnie Raitt, “Need You Tonight”
Bonnie Raitt, “The Comin’ Round Is Goin’ Through”
Bob Dylan, “Masters Of War”
Sippie Wallace, “Have You Ever Been Down”
Bonnie Raitt, “The Ones We Couldn’t Be”
Bonnie Raitt, “You’ve Changed My Mind”

For further musical exploration with George Stroumboulopoulos, tune in to The Strombo Show every Sunday night on CBC Radio 2 or CBC Music from 8 to 11 p.m. for three hours of uninterrupted music for music lovers.

Source: © Copyright CBC Music Radio 2 But wait, there's more!