When legendary singer-songwriter Joe Henry decided to book his first ever solo acoustic headlining tour, he selected just four cities. Seattle was lucky enough to rate, and on Saturday night he’ll play songs at the Triple Door from his dozen albums.
Henry chose Seattle not just because audiences here appreciate him — he was a radio favorite on the Mountain — but also because of a restaurant.
“I had to pick somewhere to play,” Henry said by phone last week. “So I chose cities where I have significant relationships with chefs.”
In Seattle, the restaurant is Brad’s Swingside Café, in Fremont.
“I’ve eaten there dozens of times,” Henry says, “and I’ve never once looked at a menu. Brad is just incredibly gifted.”
The same has often been said of Henry, who Paste magazine once said wrote songs “that don’t fit into an easily defined box,” an apt description of Henry’s entire career, which has encompassed many aspects of music. Though over three decades Henry has never scored a mainstream hit, his albums all contain a rare level of songwriting artistry. He’s also become known as a film composer, songwriter and producer.
Henry produced most of Bonnie Raitt’s recent “Slipstream,” Billy Bragg’s “Tooth and Nail,” the latest hit from Over the Rhine and also tracks by Taj Mahal, Solomon Burke and dozens more. He’s currently taking a break from producing to do these shows.
“I wanted to do these for no other reason than I’m a singer, and I feel compelled to play, to put myself out on the wire,” Henry said.
This isn’t Henry’s only Seattle appearance this season; he was just here last month on a book tour for his excellent new Richard Pryor biography “Furious Cool.” It’s an unusual book, more a grouping of stories on why Pryor was important and what made him who he was than a normal biography. But that’s exactly what you’d expect from Henry, who wrote it with his brother David. Ultimately, it is revealing and rewarding.
That same sense of creativity will no doubt inform Henry’s solo show. He said he picked songs driven by a “need for discovery.” To illustrate, he quoted the line from “The Waking” by Seattle’s Theodore Roethke: “I learn by going where I have to go.”
On Saturday, that need to be “out on the wire,” as he describes it, will take Henry onstage at the Triple Door. But you can bet that sometime during his stay in Seattle, he’ll be dining at Brad’s. He’ll be the guy who doesn’t need to look at the menu.
8 p.m. Saturday at the Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $25 (206-838-4333 or www.thetripledoor.net).