Joan Osborne (Photo: Lynn Goldsmith)

A powerful voice in modern music is coming to the Greenwich Odeum on Saturday, April 22. That’s when singer-songwriter and song interpreter Joan Osborne visits the Ocean State. Osborne has played alongside some legends – Mavis Staples, Phil Lesh, The Dead – and has shined leading her band since releasing her first album Relish in 1995. This time, she’s playing with her trio.

“We just came back from Texas and Colorado,” said Osborne in a recent phone call. “We’re doing a Northeast mini-tour. This leg of the tour, we’re excited to be playing some brand new songs, just recorded. They haven’t even been mixed yet – it’s a whole new record of original songs. The people who come to these shows will be among the first to hear some of this brand new material.  (Note: the record is expected to be out in the Fall.)

“It’s myself, I’ll be playing guitar and some percussion with Jack Petruzzelli, an amazing guitarist who’s worked with Rufus Wainwright and Patti Smith, and as part of The Beatles tribute, the Fab Faux,” continued Osborne. “He brings all of that into play when working on this material. We’ve got a new guy named Will Bryant, from Austin, TX, who came up to the Hudson Valley because of the amazing music scene happening there. He brings a fresh perspective to the songs; I love working with him.  It’s exciting to have somebody new in the fold and to hear how the songs are filtered through that new, younger generation perspective.”

Like many, Osborne spent much of the pandemic cleaning house. In her case, it led to a nice discovery.

“I was stuck at home like so many people, and I ended up cleaning my house in a way that I hadn’t done in many years. In the back of one closet, I found these huge boxes full of recordings – CD’s, cassettes, DAT tapes – recordings of live performances that I had done over the years stretching back to the 1980s,” she said.

“Normally I would not have been super excited to go through all that stuff, I’m very critical of my own performances, and I tend to only hear what I think is wrong. But I had the time to do it; I thought if I’m stuck at home and I can’t go out and perform, maybe I can find something in here that I can release which can be the next best thing for fans – something fresh that they haven’t heard before,” she explained.

The result was Osborn’s 2022 release Radio Waves.

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“It turned out that I liked an awful lot of it and some of it was very high audio quality because it had come from radio station performances that we had done over the years. There are literally hundreds of songs that I would like to release eventually, but we didn’t want to do just a giant dump of data, so we winnowed it down to one album, and that became Radio Waves.

The album, which documents different periods of the singer’s career, contains a mix of songs including Osborne classics like “One of Us” and “Saint Theresa” as well as some covers with rockin’ takes on the Stones’ “Shake Your Hips” and “Only You Known and I Know,” originally by Dave Mason.

“I started with a few favorites,” said Osborne. “There are some songs on there that I had never released. There’s a cover of a Toshi Reagon song called “Real Love,” and an old standard, “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” which I used to sing my daughter to sleep at night. I wanted to start with a few things that no one had ever heard before, and from there, fill it out and shape it as you would any other record. It has a variety of things and a nice balance of energy.”

Osborne last played the Odeum in 2017, when she performed a Bob Dylan tribute show after recording Songs of Bob Dylan. How does she go about selecting which songs to cover, I wondered.

“With an artist like Dylan, on one hand, it’s amazing because he has so much material and so many brilliant songs to choose from, but on the other hand, there are so many brilliant songs to choose from; how do you narrow it down? When I’m covering something I haven’t written, I’m trying to find a song that really speaks to me personally. I try to find something where that intersection between the song and my voice allows the song to sort of blossom in a way I haven’t heard in other versions. I might choose a song that other people have also covered, but I probably won’t do it in the same way that they covered it. When you’re covering anything, you don’t just want to repeat what’s been done; you want to bring something new to the table and create something unique,” she said.

I spoke to Osborne, a Louisville, KY native, the day after the tragic bank shooting there earlier this week. She shared some thoughts on the incident and the challenges we continue to face.

“When I saw the news about the shooting in Louisville, I immediately called my family down there. Your first impulse is to make sure that your people are safe, and thankfully they were. But none of us are really safe. I’m a parent, and I think about sending my kid to school every day; I think about what happened at that Nashville school where those children and teachers were killed, it’s something that stays with you.”

“It’s a ridiculous, absurd way to live, and I feel like it’s pretty obvious that the people who profit from selling guns, they’ve used their power to silence whatever dissent they can and to promote whoever is on their team to believe, yes, we should all be bristling with automatic weapons. It’s a tragedy, it’s horrifying. I can’t believe that any founding father, not that they could have foreseen this, because they lived in a different time, but I can’t believe any of them would go along with this situation. It’s total corruption, it’s what I believe.”

Click here for more information and tickets to the show.

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