2010 and 2011 were very busy years for singer-songwriter Patty Griffin: she released a solo effort (the Grammy-winning Downtown Church), guested on the self-titled release by Robert Plant's Band of Joy and also performed live. This fall, however, Griffin is planning on getting "back to basics" with two months of solo live dates.
"I'm going to be doing solo stuff," Griffin tells Rolling Stone. "The idea is to do 'small' and 'off my beaten path,' or go back to an old, beaten path – do some smaller things that I haven't done in 15 or 20 years. Just to sort of get my feet wet, because I haven't done my own material for a couple of years – I've been doing a lot of other things."
The tour is set to begin on October 18th, and Griffin is looking forward to absolute freedom with the show's setlists. "One of the great things that I loved about doing solo – which I ended up doing because I was too shy to ever try out for bands back in the day – I could sit there with a list of songs and 'paint away' for the show. And that's what I hope to do this time around."
Griffin's seventh studio album, American Kid, will also arrive at some point following the tour. "There's a record finished, and I’m just figuring out when to put it out. It's in the can – I've just got to work out the details of getting it out there. I decided to 'folk out' this time around, and intentionally so. I was on tour for a couple of years with Robert Plant, and he had the North Mississippi All Stars opening – the two brothers [Luther and Cody Dickinson]. I would hang out in the dressing room with them and they would show me stuff on the guitar, so I got to hear them play acoustic."
"They just have this great, soulful way of playing everything. I thought if you took them away from the amps and put them with some untraditional kind of things, it would be great to sit and make a folk record with these two guys, because they have such a great Memphis kind of feel. It was produced by Craig Ross – we did one of my records, Impossible Dream, together. It's got a specific, cool sound to it but it's very small and a little darker than I've done for a few years."
While the public appears to have recently recognized Griffin's talents (her last two albums cracked the Billboard Top 40), fellow musicians have been aware of her songwriting gifts for some time; Linda Ronstadt, the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler and Kelly Clarkson have all played Griffin's tunes. In return, Griffin is a fan of many of her peers' covers. "I think Solomon Burke doing 'Up to the Mountain' was maybe my favorite of all. It was pretty cool to meet him, and I got to go in there while he was doing it. He hadn't heard the song. I think he was supposed to learn it, but he didn't – he's Solomon Burke, he can do what he wants to do!" she exclaims with a laugh. "He was so charming and I got to hear him nail it. When he nailed it, he really nailed it. That was pretty special."
Griffin is unsure of the Band of Joy's future plans right now. "That's all up in the air at the moment – you've got to talk to Robert's camp about that," she demurs. However, she was willing to clear up a recent rumor: whether or not she and Plant wed recently. "I can tell you that we didn't!" she says, chuckling. "He's a great embellisher. But no, we did not get married."
Patty Griffin Solo Tour Dates:
10/18 New Orleans, LA – Tipitina's
10/19 Baton Rouge, LA – Manship
10/21 Duluth, GA – Red Clay
10/22 Athens, GA – Melting Point
10/25 Norman, OK – Sooner Theater