As a child prodigy and flower child of her era, multi-talented and energetic judy collins has blossomed into a true musical phenomenon.
When did your love of music start?
I grew up in a musical family. My father, Chuck Collins, was a radio personality in Seattle, LA, and then Denver.
I learned my love of a good song from my father. He loved to sing to me, and his repertoire ranged from the songs of Rogers and Hart to traditional Irish tunes.
At an early age, I took piano lessons and was thought to be heading down the road of the child prodigy. At age 13, I made my debut playing the works of Mozart and Rachmaninoff, but my discovery of traditional folk songs and the music of Woody Guthrie in my early teens changed my path forever.
A while back, Doctor Brico, my original piano teacher, came to see me at my sold-out show at Carnegie Hall. After the show she came backstage and said, “Oh Judy, you could’ve gone so far.” I guess it’s all about perspective.
Where do you originate from?
I was born in Seattle, then moved to LA, but I spent most of my early life in Colorado. We moved around as my father got relocated to different radio stations across the West Coast.
Now I’m a New Yorker. I moved to the city in the early ‘60s, when The Village was exploding with musical and artistic talent. I was caught up by the energy, passion, and madness of the streets.
I still love the city today, but I still find that I need to get back to the mountains of Colorado as often as possible.
You have won many awards. Which has been the most rewarding?
People have been so generous over the years in their acknowledgement of the work that I do. It’s hard to spotlight just one organisation or award. But, that being said, last year I was given Mojo Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to.
You are a very busy woman with many talents up your sleeve: painting, filmmaker, record label head, musical mentor, and a keynote speaker for mental health and suicide prevention. Where do you find the time?
I think you have to be involved in all aspects of your career. Starting my own record label seemed like a natural extension of what I was already doing promoting my music.
Wildflower Records has been around for over 10 years now and not only releases all of my music, but a handful of amazing singer-songwriters such as Kenny White, Sadie Jemmett, and Amy Speace. There’s always time for the things you love doing.
You have had many highs and lows in your life. Has your music helped you through it all?
Yes, all through my life music has helped me get through points of difficulty and pain. In times of illness and loss, music has been my saving grace.
In 1992, following the death of my son, my good friend Joan Rivers encouraged me to immediately get back to work. It was the live audiences and the power of performance that helped me day to day. It’s also helped me celebrate my son’s life.
You have concerts booked until the end of 2011. Are you going to retire after that, or do you still intend to keep performing for your many fans?
No, no plans of retirement, as you can see from my tour schedule. I’m busier than ever. I’m playing over 100 shows a year, travelling all over the world and loving every minute of it. I feel like you have to keep active in order to keep your mind and body in top shape.
Have you been to Australia before? If yes, was it for business or pleasure?
Yes, I’ve been to Australia twice before. Both times have been for tour: once was in the ‘60s and the other was a few years back.
On my first trip, they were just building the Sydney Opera House, and there was a very vital community that reminded me of a big version of The Village, with landscape.
This will be my third Australian Tour in my fifty year career! I’m so excited to be there – particularly with Chris Bailey, who’s an incredible storyteller and dynamic performer.
Who would’ve thought a flower child would be touring with a Punk Rocker? But I guess some of the themes behind Punk Rock are the same things that resonated with the Folk music of my time – so I guess it’s not that odd of a pairing after all!
You have released many CDs and hit singles. Which are your favourite and most sentimental for you?
I always find that my latest CD is my favourite of the moment. This one in particular, because I recorded songs that I’ve always wanted to record: Joan Baez’s Diamonds and Rust, Tom Paxton’s Last Thing on My Mind, and a Jimmy Webb song called Gauguin, which I’ve wanted to cover for years.
Gauguin was a very, very, very challenging song, perhaps the most challenging song I’ve ever learned. It was more like learning an opera for me. But I’m crazy about it, and it’s my new favorite song.
I also covered a Weight of the World by up-and-coming songwriter Amy Speace. The song is possibly one of the strongest anti-war anthems I’ve heard in my career.
What does the future hold for Judy Collins, and what should we look out for?
In 2011 my new autobiography, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes is coming out. I’ll also be releasing a new studio album on Wildflower Records.
Thank you Judy.
Judy will be performing at the Glasshouse on January 14, at 8pm. Tickets are $78. Visit www.glasshouse.org.au or contact the Glasshouse Box Office on 6581 8888.