As Joni Mitchell -- and the world -- celebrates the 50th anniversary of her beloved album Blue, fans may wonder what the singer-songwriter is up to today. A recent article in The Los Angeles Times, "Joni Mitchell opens up to Cameron Crowe about singing again, lost loves and 50 years of 'Blue' " offers some fascinating insight. It turns out that Mitchell is jamming in Bel-Air with some of today's hottest musicians... including Grammy winner Brandi Carlile, who counts the esteemed Mitchell as a close friend.
In honor of the Blue 50th Anniversary, veteran journalist Cameron Crowe -- who first interviewed Joni Mitchell for Rolling Stone in 1979 -- sat down with the singer to discuss the album's legacy as well as her more recent endeavors. In writing the LA Times feature, Crowe attended one of Mitchell's so-called Joni Jams: low-key affairs hosted at her Bel-Air home in which high-profile musicians unite to, simply, jam out together. Mitchell was inspired by a night she shared playing in her living room with folk singer Eric Andersen in 2018. From there, the rising star Brandi Carlile helped Mitchell organize a more regular crew for these weekly seshes. Now big names like Elton John, Chaka Kahn, Charlie Puth, the band Lucius, and Harry Styles regularly stop by.
Since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell struggled to walk and talk -- let alone sing. And though she's regained most physical ability by now, she does not hit the notes she used to. ("Oh, that's gone," Mitchell comments bluntly in the piece.) Still, Crowe notes, she occasionally does lend her singular voice -- even momentarily -- to these productive jam sessions. And when she does, it's a wonder.
Crowe described one such moment from the evening that he joined Mitchell and friends. Carlile was singing "Carey," one of Blue's classic breakout hits, when Mitchell piped up for the chorus: "Oh, you're a mean old daddy, but I like you fine." The surprise addition was met with utter joy by the small crowd.
How Brandi Met Joni
Though it might come as a shock, Brandi Carlile was not always a fan of Joni Mitchell. For The New York Times' "50 Reasons to Love Joni Mitchell's 'Blue,' " Carlile revealed that she once scorned the songstress' ultra-vulnerable lyrics: "I was like, 'Ugh, turn it off, that is the most sappy, feminine...' " It was Carlile's wife, Catherine Shepherd, who eventually turned the hardened country rocker into an all-out Mitchell superfan. The couple was driving through northern Michigan when Shepherd explained the profundity of the Blue track "Little Green." (The lines imagine a future life for Mitchell's baby, who was given up for adoption. Watch Carlile's own cover above.)
Suddenly, it all clicked for Carlile. "I [was] totally falling in love properly for the first time, I was having to re-evaluate what I thought "feminine" meant. And that being tough is being vulnerable and expressing yourself, even things that are really hard to say," she explained in The New York Times, connecting her understanding of Blue to her own relationship.
Since that moment, Carlile has surpassed simply admiring Mitchell. She's now friends with the Blue singer herself! In 2018, Carlile took part in a 75th-birthday tribute concert to Mitchell at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Carlile had been included in the event by Mitchell's old friend Kris Kristofferson and met Mitchell there for the first time. Some time later, Carlile phoned her home not expecting Mitchell to pick up. She did, and instantly invited Carlile over for a glass of wine. The rest, it seems, is collaborative musical history.
Brandi Carlile Sings "A Case of You"
Brandi Carlile appeared recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to discuss her new memoir Broken Horses... and to tease the possibility of playing Mitchell's entire Blue album, live, in concert again. (Yes, please!) Famously, Carlile performed the album in its entirety back in 2019 at the Disney Concert Hall. According to NPR, Carlile kicked off the night by announcing: "We didn't live in the time of Shakespeare, Rembrandt or Beethoven. But we live in the time of Joni Mitchell." A knockout quote. Sadly, there are no official recordings of Carlile's iconic tribute. But perhaps we can expect another showing soon.
For now, Carlile is tiding us over with her cover of "A Case of You," which she performed for Stephen Colbert, accompanied by her signature acoustic guitar. Enjoy that rendition above, and add it to your folk playlists!
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