Photo by Catherine Copenhaver
Interview by Scott Preston
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
7:30pm doors, 8:30pm show, $21 adv, $23 dos
Johnette’s solo show is a blend of her endeavor to gather from her body of art, songs, for an acoustic record, and in the process, revisiting 30 years of them from CDs, films, unreleased songs and new songs. Weave that together with the navigation through her most personal thoughts regarding this music, her art and her life, chronicled in her book: Rough Mix.
Johnette describes the solo show:
”I’ve known for years I would want to record an acoustic record, but that there would be a place in time to do it and I think it’s a good time. So I’m looking through 30 years of songs, obviously CB songs originally written acoustically, covers, songs I’ve worked on for films, unreleased songs, and new songs. I will read from my book, Rough Mix (I am now working on Volume #2) and will try to work that in. But given that 45 minutes isn’t a very long set, look for a mainly music set. It will be a very minimal production — and lots of singing.”
Cincy Groove: When did you realize that music was going to be a big part of your life?
Johnette Napolitano: Before I was aware of anything that was going on around me, around age 5 someone owed my dad money. So instead of paying him money they gave him a piano. Soon after getting the piano I started playing. My dad was just as amazed as anyone that I took to it as much as I did. It really was one wonderful cosmic accident.
Cincy Groove: Were your parents supportive of your musical endeavors?
Johnette Napolitano: My dad was for sure and so was my mom. I was their first kid, so I got the benefit of them thinking “Wow we don’t know what we are doing”. (laughing)
Cincy Groove: How has your attitude towards your songwriting changed since you started?
Johnette Napolitano: I don’t like to feel, but I waver. I will get up and tell myself “You are supposed to be a songwriter and you haven’t written anything today.” Thats not how I want to live, so I am really happy that I have found the space to allow myself to concentrate solely on inspiration. I don’t believe in removing yourself from day to day reality. I had a really rough week and one thing that helps to heal the wounds is music. I was completely useless and went into the studio and sang four or five tracks and felt a little better. I get a lot of mail from people telling me the same thing how music is healing. Its something I will believe for the rest of my life.
Cincy Groove: I know the dynamics are different, but which do you enjoy more, playing in a full band or solo?
Johnette Napolitano: Right at this point in time I am thrilled to be playing by myself again, just like I was when I was 12 years old. Its the right time in my life to get back to that. Things get blown out of proportion sometimes and every once in a while I feel I need to reel it back in and remember why I am a musician. When I do that I am very happy and thats the space I am in right now. I was just in Nashville and was very inspired while I was there. I was working with Tom Peterson, Jim Bianco and was just so thrilled to be thinking about and playing music and not how to promote it. Nashville is just a really great place to be with music just oozing out of of the pores in the walls. I could see myself being there for a while.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel about the internet and new technology and how it relates to the music industry?
Johnette Napolitano: The internet really is a double edged sword, I am definitely for it in the way a lot of artists are. It’s definitely opened up a lot of doors to young people to discover music by artists who were around before the internet. Its a medium that needs to be worked.
Everyone used to like to blame the music industry for the death of live music. No, blame the audience, because let me tell you its not cool to show up to play and have someone stick a phone in your face for the whole show. I didn’t spend all this time and money to get here to share my music with people to have someone do that. Having said that, at least my audience, who are a little older and wiser, have learned that its not the right thing to do. What is really cool is that I have my audience showing up with their kids and telling them its not the right thing to do during a show. It’s really tough to tour and bring a good live show to the audience. Artistically, financially. logistically, its harder than it has ever been to tour. So if you are going to show up and put a phone in my face you really aren’t here to see me so you can feel comfortable going somewhere else. The thing is that we have to be able to teach the younger people coming to shows what to do and what not to do without disrespecting anyone. Technology is a part of their lives, they were raised on it.
The change to the music business hasn’t happened over night, its taken quite a while to get used to it. I asked myself what does the audience want? where do I fit in with all these media changes? It’s been a tough road and its definitely kicked my ass, but I am not going to sit here as an artist and say the industry sucks. Its awesome, its a matter of finding your place in it and who you are in it.