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Soundposts

A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

October 17, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Patty Griffin headed to the Moore, loves to be covered |Concert preview

Patty Griffin, who is coming to Seattle’s Moore Theatre on Friday, October 24, is touring in support of her seventh album, “American Kid.”

The singer/songwriter is best known for her stripped-down, folksy and highly emotional style in both songwriting and sound. Her songs have been widely covered, and she was a member of  Band of Joy with Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant. She and Plant ended a longtime relationship last year.

When asked “How’s your heart?” said “Good. Really good.” So we’ll leave it at that.

She called us from her home in Austin.

Did you hit the Austin City Limits Festival?

It’s too big for me now. I don’t do well at festivals. It’s kind of like going to work. But I like (one of the headliners) Pearl Jam. I heard some young hipsters in a coffee house playing their record the other day. They’re really good.

Do you like to tour?

I like playing, but I think the touring part is hard on the body. As you get older, you go, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe I like to do this.” But it’s usually worth it. The playing part goes by really fast and then you’re back on the bus. I always think back on working in an office cubicle. Touring is not an office cubicle.

Are you pretty devoted to your set list or do you change it up, depending on your mood or the city or the vibe you pick up once you get there?

I used to keep it set and lately, I have been switching it around little bit. Sometimes when you get a flow, it’s nice to work with that. Move some parts and keep the flow. It depends on the tour and who’s in the band and how tired you are. Sometimes it’s all about making sure the audience gets the best show possible. It’s such a moving target, I have no idea how it works.

I’m not rigid, but there are no songs that make it every night. We’ve been heavy on “American Kid” the last two tours. But also, one of the players in the band retired from the touring life because he wants to be a social worker and work with returning veterans. So we’ve got a new player. His name is Billy Harvey. He has come out with us and will do everything.

“American Kid” honors your late father. Tell me about him.

He was a Boston Irish guy, which doesn’t really describe him. He was not a jolly Irishman. He was a dark, poetic, stoic sort. Born in the 1920s and raised by Irish American parents who were servants on an estate. He lived through the Depression. He was in the D-Day landing. We’re really softened, protected from a lot of these things in America, and he saw a lot more than my generation. He had a lot of trauma in him, and the soul in him. He was a complex figure and a great person. We were close.

You have had some amazing people cover your songs. Is there a favorite, or a surprise? I once heard Brandi Carlile sing “Mary.” I had chills for days.

She’s a great singer. Sometimes (being covered) is really great. When (the late) Solomon Burke covered “Up to the Mountain,” I had written it not too long before. When I wrote it, I had (pop-gospel legend) Pop Staples’ voice in my head, and getting Solomon to sing it was a big deal for me. He is someone who should be singing the song. With Buddy Miller, he made a record called “Nashville,” with Nashville songs and Nashville folks. I got to sing a little bit with it. It was one of the most really moving versions of any song.

Then there’s a burlesque performer named Meow Meow and she does a version of “Be Careful.” She is fantastic. It’s like taking it to a whole ‘nother level. It made me cry that someone could take it to another place that would give you a chill and a thrill. How come I wasn’t that fun?

Talk about your writing process. Where do songs start? How do you write lyrics? Do you keep a notebook? Write on placemats?

I do write on placemats every now and then, and then I do keep a notebook and kind of plug away. I go through different phases on how to get things done. I work like a worker bee, and then I gave to sit back and wait to wake up in the middle of the night with the lyric.

But mostly, it’s getting quiet and being patient and being vulnerable enough to be honest with my emotions and situations. And that tends to set up some room for stuff to happen.

What have you been listening to?

I’ve been listening to Gustavo Santaolalla, the soundtrack artist. I listen to him pretty regularly. He’s famous for the “Brokeback Mountain” soundtrack, but my favorite stuff is the “Babel” soundtrack and also “The Motorcycle Diaries.

He’s got this emotional thing and he gets it right for me every time, and has a good sense of fun and silliness. I think he is one of the greatest gifts to music for the last 20 years.

Also Leonard Cohen. I hadn’t listened to him much. When I was younger, I couldn’t get past him much; his wasn’t a singer’s voice. But now I have a lot of respect.

What’s it like to be in Seattle?

I think of walking around and getting the air and getting the light. I always end of walking as far as my legs will take me. It’s just so different from where I live. When I am in Seattle, I can’t help but think what Native Americans were thinking when they were there. There is something magical about that part of the world. It’s got its own ghosts and it’s also got this history.

Patty Griffin

8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 at the Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle; $32.50 (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).

 

Comments | More in Americana | Topics: "American Kid", Austin City Limits, Concert Preview

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