Editor’s note: Patty Griffin, the Texas-based singer-songwriter, will perform in Dallas on Thursday at the Majestic with blues legend Mavis Staples. We sat down with the artist to talk about her two albums released in 2014, and her gay fans.
By Chris Azzopardi
There are singers, there are songwriters … and then there’s Patty Griffin. Not only has the celebrated songstress been praised for her versatility, Griffin’s untouchable talent has earned her a Grammy and landed her material on releases from some of the industry’s biggest names. For artists seeking poetic musings (and really sad songs), Griffin is a go-to. And besides, the Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson, Bette Midler and Emmylou Harris have all given a second life to the writer’s rootsy tunes.
Griffin’s own catalogue, though, is immense, and just this last year she added two more gems to her repertoire: American Kid, a work of staggering genius that, not surprisingly, topped many best-of lists, and Silver Bell, her “lost” LP, shelved by her then-label, that was released 13 years after she recorded it. She’ll perform (probably from both albums) alongside Mavis Staples at the Majestic on Nov. 13.
From her hometown down the road in Austin, Griffin — who also draws inspiration from her spouse, Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant — chatted about feeling like a “weirdo,” which song of hers helped a kid come out to his parents and getting over her religious prejudices to record a gospel album. — Chris Azzopardi
Dallas Voice: American Kid is obviously very connected to your late father, who was dying as you were writing it. What is the most difficult song for you to get through live? Patty Griffin: I don’t think I have a great deal of difficulty getting through them. My emotional response varies from night to night, and there are times when that can make it hard to sing, but there hasn’t been one in particular that’s gotten me too emotional to sing. It’s all emotional.
It’s been really great to have songs in my own life that speak about him. I didn’t think about it at the time, about honoring him; I was just trying to get myself through him passing away. I didn’t think about how great it would be later to tell his story, at least from my point of view. I don’t know how thrilled he’d be about some of these things!
How is creating and performing music a catharsis for you? To me, it’s just my nature. It’s how I’m built. I feel like I have to do it, you know? I think anybody who’s a musician who gets to be 50 and is still a musician, that’s really how they’re built. They really have to do it. So it’s very second nature to me. It’s really, really not hard for me to express myself that way.