In a rare interview on Elton John’s Rocket Hour series on Apple Music 1, Joni Mitchell opens up her Los Angeles home to chat with the revered British singer. In her discussion with Elton John, Joni Mitchell explains the story behind her surprise performance at the Newport Folk Festival in July, her first full-length, live performance since 2002.
Mitchell didn’t go into too much detail about her upcoming album but did mention it will feature her Newport Folk Festival performance, telling Elton: “Yeah, we’re trying to put that out.”
Mitchell’s performance was as intimate as her music typically suggests, as she explains to Elton that she did not rehearse for her surprise performance. Mitchell simply got on stage and began playing the guitar, as she has always done. She explains to Elton: “Yeah, that I had to figure out what I did. And I couldn’t sing the key; I’ve become an alto, I’m not a soprano anymore, so I couldn’t sing the song. And I thought people might feel lighted that if I just played the guitar part but I like the guitar part to that song. So anyway, it was very well received, much to my delight.”
Mitchell is finally beginning to receive recognition for her multi-generational talent, since this new generation of listeners is better equipped to deal with their emotions. As she puts it: “At the time, no, it took a lot of flack if anything. People thought that it was too intimate. It was almost like Dylan going electric. I think it upset the male singer-songwriters. They’d go, “Oh, no. Do we have to bear our souls like this now?” I think it made people nervous. It took to this generation; they seem to be able to face those emotions more easily than my generation.”
As Joni speaks with Elton, the pair delve into the resurgence of her seminal album, Blue, where Elton thinks back: “I remember going to a concert at Disney Hall, where Brandi Carlile sang the whole album [‘Blue’], without a teleprompter, and I said she was crazy. God, I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that. How did that feel to you as someone singing that whole album, which is, from start to finish, it is one of the classic records of all time. And I was sitting next to you, and the joy from your face was amazing.”
Blue’s release sits at the back of Joni Mitchell’s mind. As she thinks back to how it reached No. 1, Joni tells Elton: “Oh, God. Marcy came in and said to me, ‘Joni, you’re No.1.’ I said, ‘What do you mean I’m No. 1?’ And she told, that’s how I learned that ‘Blue,’ 50 years after its release, had gone to No.1. That’s just crazy. It was fun, though.”
Meanwhile, Elton is equally busy, prepping for a multi-night run in Los Angeles, that will be streamed on Disney+ on November 20.