Interview: Cathy Richardson (Jefferson Starship)
Published on August 3rd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Chicago songstress Cathy Richardson will today begin a three-month tour taking in shows in nine different countries (scroll down for dates), so Rocksucker fired her over some questions about her three musical ventures – namely Cathy Richardson Band, the Macrodots and of course the legendary Jefferson Starship, for whom she is now lead singer – and her erstwhile role as Janis Joplin in the musical Love, Janis…
Good luck on your forthcoming tour! Will you be airing any new material, or will it be more geared towards touring the Macrodots’ debut album The Other Side?
Thank you! My international dates will be with Jefferson Starship and while I do a couple of my originals in that set it will be mostly Jefferson Airplane/Starship material. My solo and Cathy Richardson Band dates in the US will be a mixture of my entire catalog, including Macrodots. CRB has a little more latitude in terms of stretching out and jamming and moving through genres. After taking a year off from that band, I missed it and wanted to get back to more musical improvisation onstage. That keeps it new every night.
How much of the instrumentation/vocal harmonies did you handle yourself on The Other Side? Have you given much thought to a follow-up yet?
I did basically all the vocal harmonies and arrangements and the instrumental production was much more Zack Smith. We have started writing a new record and have about 4 or 5 tunes right now.
Was “Kiss My Ass” directed at anyone in particular, or do you see it as being adaptable depending on who’s being unreasonable at the given time?
Haha, well, I have a particular angst towards religious zealots. Oftentimes, I think the louder the mouth, the bigger the hypocrite.
What’s the line-up of your band at the moment? Are they involved in other projects too?
Cathy Richardson Band currently consists of Jude Gold on guitar, Fran Kondorf on bass, Anne Harris on fiddle and Steve Gillis or Rich Stitzel on drums. Rich, Fran, Jude and Anne have all played in CRB past or present. Steve joined Jude, Anne and myself in the Macrodots last year and he’s just a great drummer who can play anything, so depending on his availability, I love to play with him where and whenever. He runs a busy recording studio in Chicago and plays with a lot of different bands.
Has being the lead singer of Jefferson Starship sunk in yet? Is there any new material on that front?
Yes, it has definitely sunk in, although sometimes I listen to their old records and say, “Whoa, I can’t believe I’m in this band I loved so much as a kid!” There is so much material between Jefferson Airplane and Starship, more than writing new material with them I’m trying to get Paul [Kantner] to revive some of the stuff I loved so much growing up, and some stuff they haven’t played live in years…or ever.
We are doing one of Paul’s songs called “Connection” on the upcoming tour that hasn’t been performed since the ’80s. We also have a new concept show called Blade Runner Against the Empire where we mix music from the Angelis soundtrack of Blade Runner with Paul Kantner’s classic album Blows Against the Empire. There’s a lot of psychedelic sounds and jamming intermingling with other SciFi or space-rock classics like David Bowie’s “Major Tom”, Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”. We’ll be playing that as an opening set for several of the upcoming tourdates.
Does touring lose its lustre after a while, or is it a case of the more you do it the more you figure out how to handle/enjoy it?
Yeah, after awhile it does get to be a little like, “Where are we? What time is it? Which side of the hotel room is my bed on? What’s my room number again? When do we eat??” Sometimes it’s hard to get your energy up for the show with all the traveling but I do try to give it everything I have every night, knowing these fans are here for one show and I want it to be great for them. On the other hand, it’s really cool to get to play as many places as I do: it’s all I ever wanted, really, to play music all over the world.
I think Love, Janis is pretty much done: the Joplin estate has created a new show and I’m not part of it. I think they wanted to bring in new blood to differentiate it and not be compared to Love, Janis. Big Brother and the Holding Company occasionally asks me to do shows with them and I do when I can but my touring schedule with Jefferson Starship is also so busy I don’t often find the availability.
When I first started doing Love, Janis I couldn’t even begin to make my voice sound like her and they told me they didn’t want an impersonator but a real singer who captured the energy and essence of who she was onstage. Even still, I wanted to sound and act like her as much as I could, which is very difficult when that is not your natural sound. I felt like in playing a real person who is an icon of music, and there is plenty of footage and recordings out there, I would be compared critically and I really wanted to give the audience the most authentic experience of her as possible. I got much better at it the more I did it.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
I recently heard Jesca Hoop‘s new record and I was completely blown away by her songs, her voice, and the production of her record.
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your days with the entire works of just five different musical artists, whose would you choose?
That is a very hard question! I would have to pick someone with a very diverse and lengthy catalogue to keep me interested for the rest of my days. The Beatles come to mind for that reason. There is always something new to discover there, even after many listens. Aretha Franklin would be an artist that I could sing along to and keep my chops up and never get sick of hearing.
Jill Sobule, although her catalog is not that large, I just love her songs and the production of her records, she would keep me smiling and take me to other places with her storytelling. You didn’t put me on a desert island in this scenario but if I was, Bob Marley would be a must.
Lastly, I would have to bring my own catalogue, even though at times I can’t stand hearing some of my earlier performances, like looking at a geeky high school picture of myself. My songs and records are all important pieces of my life. One of music’s most magical properties is its ability to transport you through time.
Cathy Richardson, thank you.
Cathy Richardson will play the following shows over the next few months, with more dates to be announced…(you can get tickets to shows in your area via Cathy’s Facebook page)…
August 3 Empire (in the Alchemy Room) :: Springfield, VA :: Cathy Richardson [SOLO]
Ticket Link : http://www.ampedandalive.com/eventdetails.aspx?eventId=534
August 10 Ballydoyle Irish Pub :: Downers Grove, IL :: Cathy Richardson Band w/special Guest Kelly Zullo
Ticket link: http://ticketderby.com/event/cathy-richardson-band-with-kelly-zullo-id-8108
August 11 Ship and Shore Festival :: Benton Harbor, MI :: Cathy Richardson Band
September 22 Montrose Room :: Rosemont, IL :: Cathy Richardson Band
Jefferson Starship tour dates:
17 – Colorado Springs, CO/ Stargazer Music Hall
19 – Woodland Hills, CA/ Warner Park
31 – Washington, DC/ Abbey Road On the River
1 – Washington, DC/ Abbey Road On the River “BEATLEJAM”
4 – Tel Aviv, ISRAEL/ Reading 3 @ Tel Aviv Seaport
5 – Tel Aviv, ISRAEL/ Reading 3 @ Tel Aviv Seaport
6 – Jerusalem, ISRAEL/ Zappa
8 – Catanzaro, ITALY/ Parco Delle Biodiverità Mediterranee
12 – Rome, ITALY/ Exess
14 – Arlington Heights, IL/ Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
15 – Toledo, OH/ Valentine Thr.
6 – Petaluma, CA/ Carousel Fund w/ THE FAMILY STONE
9 – Kinross, UK/ Green Hotel
10 – Edinburgh, SCOTLAND/ Queens Hall
11 – Glasgow, SCOTLAND/ The Ferry
12 – Blackburn, UK/ King George’s Hall
13 – Grimsby, UK/ Yardbirds Football Club
16 – Southampton, UK/ The Brook
17 – Wolverhampton, UK/ Robin 2
18 – Chatham, UK/ Central Thr.
19 – London, UK/ The Borderline
19 – London, UK/ The Borderline
22 – Paris, FRANCE/ Le Bataclan
23 – Reims, FRANCE/ La Cartonnerie
25 – Verviers, BELGIUM/ Spirit 66
26 – Helmond, HOLLAND/ lakei
27 – Copenhagen, DENMARK/ Husset