Musings on folk, Americana, country, bluegrass and newgrass

Five Questions with Nanci Griffith in 2007

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In February 2007, Nanci Griffith played at The Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, North Carolina. I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with her to preview the concert for The Fayetteville Observer. Nearly a decade, later Griffith fans are eager to hear any news about the singer-songwriter, who has gone eerily silent. Her most recent album, “Intersection,” released in 2012 is available for streaming to Amazon Prime customers.

Five Questions with Nanci Griffith (Published 2007 in The Fayetteville Observer)

Nanci Griffith is a Grammy-award winning
singer-songwriter who defies musical categories. Since
she lives in downtown Nashville and often records
there, many assume that she is a country singer and
indeed many of her songs have become country hits.
Remember “Love at the Five and Dime,” “Outbound Plane”
or “Gulf Coast Highway”? All Griffith tunes made into
hits by Kathy Mattea, Suzy Bogguss and Willie Nelson
and Emmy Lou Harris, respectively. And while Griffith
has remained on the edge of country since moving to
Music City more than 20 years ago, her music can’t be
pigeonholed. She is also rockabilly and folk, or
“folkabilly,” as some have called her. Griffith is
just as comfortable performing at an outdoor bluegrass
festival as she is with a full orchestra. Griffith has
collaborated and sung with The Chieftains and The
Crickets. And taking her career down yet another
musical road, earlier this month Griffith launched a
cabaret tour with her Blue Moon Orchestra to promote
her current album, “Ruby’s Torch,” a collection of
torch songs. She returns to the historic Carolina
Theatre in downtown Greensboro this weekend after more
than 20 yars.Weekender had a chance to chat with
Griffith by phone while she was on a tour stop in Fort
Worth, Texas, her home state.

1.    You played the Carolina Theatre in the 1980s and
invited the audience to meet you for breakfast the
next morning. What happened? Having written the song
“Love at the Five and Dime,” I used to visit every
Woolworths in the towns I was playing in. The night I
played the Carolina, I told the audience to meet me
for breakfast at the famous Woolworth counter down the
street. It was an extraordinary morning and there was
a line around the block.  The counter (site of the
historic 60s sit-in) is now at the Smithsonian.

2.    You have had two battles with cancer (breast and
thyroid) since 1996. How is your health? This is my
lucky year. I’m 53 and I was born in 53. I am so
healthy. I just feel blessed because every day in my
life is a bonus. I quit smoking almost a year ago and
it’s a huge deal for me. Every one knows I have tried
to quit so many times. I was in mourning, but this
time it was a piece of cake. Ellen DeGeneres had
recommended a program, ‘The Easy Way to Quit Smoking,’
and it was definitely easy. It didn’t feel like
quitting anything. I just became a nonsmoker. It’s
made a huge difference in my life. I have so much more
energy. It’s been such a positive.

3.    You have mentioned that “Not My Way Home” from your
Blue Roses is your favorite of your own songs and you
have recorded “Late Night Grande Hotel” on three
albums, including your newest one, “Ruby’s Torch.”
What is it about these songs that make them special to
you?  “It’s (”Late Night Grande Hotel”) so honest.
It’s just become kind of a signature song for me. It’s
the only the song I have ever written on the piano so
it makes it somewhat different from all my other
writing. “Not My Way Home” is still one of my
favorites. We’ve been doing it every night on the tour
and it’s so nice to be playing it again. We haven’t
been on the road that much in the past year. Basically
I live vicariously through other people, so there are
very few of my songs that are autobiographical. “Late
Night Grande Hotel” and “Not My Way Home” probably say
more about me than any other songs.”

4.    You have been covered by a number of prestigious
artists. Who would you like to have cover your
material that hasn’t and who are you listening to
these days? There are so many voices, just great
voices, but I think of all of them I would love to
hear Elizabeth Cook do one of my songs. She is this
generation’s Loretta Lynn. She is so unique and
incredibly talented. If there is anything wrong with
America, it’s “American Idol.” Vocal aerobics are not
my thing. I don’t use my iPod anymore. I got so tired
of seeing everyone walking around in their own world
and I don’t want to look like that so I am back to
CDs. There are so many things that I am into right
now. I have been listening to The Kennedys new record
‘Songs of the Open Road’ and Rusty Truck’s ‘Broken
Promises.’ I love that record.”

5.    After this tour, what’s on your immediate horizon?
My favorite band of all time The Crickets are
celebrating 50 years and we are going to get together
and write an album and record it.

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