Joni Mitchell: 'no country'

by Leslie Ironstone
Ottawa Citizen
July 14, 1983

Although she remembers her childhood days spent on the Canadian Prairies with nostalgia, Joni Mitchell doesn't feign any allegiance to her home soil.

"I definitely still feel Canadian," said Mitchell, in Toronto for her first appearance here in eight years, "But I have no nationality, no race, no class. I'm a mutt."

That revelation should come as no surprise to followers of the 39-year-old singer-songwriter. It's been almost 20 years since the small-town Alberta girl left the coffee houses of Canada with guitar in hand and crossed the border to make a name for herself.

And time has been good to her. With 13 albums to her credit - nine of which have gone gold - a spot in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and an almost-perennial place the nomination list for Canadian Juno awards, Mitchell's star is still rising.

Her current round of concerts - the final leg of a seven-month tour - includes most of the music from her latest album, Wild Things Run Fast, and smattering of old favorites.

Mitchell said the show is a lot of retrospect with a facelift."

By some "mundane magic," Mitchell said, she has found a niche in each of her musical directions: from the early, folk days when she was a "confessional poet" the funky, jazz-flavor on Miles Of Aisles and the blatant jazz orientation of Mingus, written using melodies by jazz great Charlie Mingus.

Nothing is static, she said. The personal changes she has experienced are reflected in everything she does musically as well as in her painting - a talent that has found expression on many of the album covers.

During a news conference, she said her recent leaning toward more rock n' roll was due to spent in the Caribbean frequenting discos and dancing for the first time in nearly 20 years.

"I began to appreciate music as a person who goes (to discos) to dance to it." she said.

One of her influences has been the British band The Police. Their music was "simple yet imaginative and I started thinking in terms of a tighter rhythm section. They were definitely a catalyst."

Mitchell admitted she is concerned about record sales - "Everybody's concerned" - but said a move to more commercial music would be the result of finding something she enjoys, not just jumping on the latest bandwagon.

I've been waiting, waiting, hoping to like something enough that I'll absorb it and belong to it, honestly belong to it," she explained.

"I have to hear some things I like that make me say, "Ooh," just like when I heard (Bob) Dylan and said, "Wow! You can actually sing poetry. the American lyric is beginning to grow up."

Mitchell said she doesn't know when she will quit making music.

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