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ROCK ON! This week's Sound Bites...4/10/14

By Danny Coleman

originally published: 04/10/2014
"My songs are like, I thought I'd be a filmmaker; I try to give vision to my songwriting. I try to make my song lyrics like little pictures, frames of a larger piece," explained seven-time Grammy Award nominee Joan Osborne as we discussed her music, her career, and upcoming performance on Friday April 11 in Ewing, NJ as part of the Candlelight Concert Series for Epilepsy Awareness.

A native of Anchorage, KY, which she calls 'a very small town', Osborne readily admits the area played a large part in the artist that she's become today. "My parents still live there; I go back and visit several times a year, from my first gig there in a little bar, I was in it, I realized that this was what I wanted to do."

Osborne made a real splash on the music charts circa 1995 when her second full-length album Relish spawned the hit single "(What if God Was) One of Us"; a tune written by Hooters alumni Eric Bazilian. "Eric's great!" she said with noticeable admiration in her voice. "He is a guy that I've known for so long, he's so talented. You know most of us have an editor in our heads that stops us from saying things; Eric doesn't have that guy. This really allows him to be so creative; things just flow from his subconscious, he's so much fun to hang with and he co-wrote 'Up All Night' off of my new CD."

Casual Osborne listeners often have a misconceived notion that she is a folk singer or strictly an Americana artist; when in reality, Joan's style is rooted in blues music. "Yeah," she said, "I mean I was singing blues when I started out; Etta James, Howlin Wolf, Tina Turner, gosh I wanted to emulate them. These artists and the music had such an expressive quality, a gospel connection, spirituality, like I was connected to something larger than myself."

Bring It On Home, released in 2013, garnered one of her seven aforementioned Grammy nominations in the Best Blues Album category and was an album that Osborne is quoted on her web site as saying, "I knew when the time was right and my voice was ready, that I wanted to make a recording like this one." Joan paid her dues in New York clubs singing from her soul and crediting this experience as where she really learned how to sing. "I'd been contemplating doing something like this for a while," she explained. "I was approached after we did a show with the Blind Boys of Alabama by one of their label heads. They approached me about doing a cover album; geez how often do you get handed a chance like that? I'd be foolish to turn it down. So we reached out to a few friends and did it very quickly; I was very happy with the way it turned out."

Grateful Dead fans are no strangers to Osborne's talents either as she has toured with the band and some of its individual members. "Yeah, it's kind of interesting how I got involved with these guys," she said with a chuckle, "I think because my booking agent was also the Dead's agent and after Jerry's (guitarist Garcia) death the band was looking for additional players to fill out the sound somewhat. There was me and Warren Haynes; I'm not a trained musician but I'm familiar with Roots, Americana and Blues music so this was a really cool experience. I've also toured with Phil Lesh and his band too."

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Three days prior to her scheduled appearance in Ewing, NJ, Osborne's latest disc Love and Hate is due to be released. This twelve-track effort being distributed by industry giant (eOne) Entertainment One has Osborne very excited about its potential. "Love and Hate is about love, not typical love songs but about love; both the dark and the good sides. I tried to put this in simple direct language like a Lou Reed or Hank Williams would've and I think I've done that. When I write, especially this kind of thing, I like to find a detail that resonates with people; some tiny detail that sticks with people; then with Entertainment One on board and their amazing distribution network, there is really no limit to where this can go."

The Candlelight Concert for Epilepsy Awareness series started by Pennington, NJ resident Eric Miller, began as a way to raise awareness about Epilepsy after a personal tragedy; Eric's wife Carolina's life was cut much too short by a seizure while still in her mid-twenties and Miller has made it his mission to draw attention to this condition which effects one in every twenty six people. Although there is no direct connection to it herself, Osborne looks forward to being part of the event. "Well, neither I nor anyone I know has been affected personally by it but I do know that there is a connection between epilepsy and the amount of intensely creative people who've been affected by it. Hearing of things such as this, its one of the things that keep me grounded. I realize just how fortunate I am to do what I do. These events allow me to take the focus off of myself and realize whats really important."

Grounded she is, especially when asked her thoughts on what the future holds. "You know, when I started, as I said my first gig was in a little bar and I realized its about the music and performing, if people or artists have an agenda or something other than an end goal of playing music; they're bound for disappointment. I love performing in the little places, all places really; larger venues are a bonus. Now Im ready to tour for Love and Hate, I have a big show coming up at City Winery in New York; a side project which Im involved with called Trigger Hippy will be doing some festivals in the fall, so I'll be busy. I am just happy to still be doing this at this stage of my life; I consider it a privilege really. There are so many who have not had long careers, I feel very fortunate."

On that elusive Grammy Award, "My most recent nomination was for Bring It on Home and I was honored but sooner or later I have to get me one of those buggers," she said with a laugh.

Joan Osborne can be caught on Friday April 11 at the Trinity United Methodist Church located at 1985 Pennington Rd. in Ewing, NJ with special opening acts Aaron & The Spell and Roses and Revolutions. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door and can be obtained by going to . To discover more about Joan Osborne please visit

Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7:000pm EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.

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