Joan Armatrading: A 'Charming Life,' Stripped Bare

Joan Armatrading i

Joan Armatrading launched her career with the 1976 hit "Love and Affection." Joel Anderson hide caption

itoggle caption Joel Anderson
Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading launched her career with the 1976 hit "Love and Affection."

Joel Anderson

Joan Armatrading's career has spanned more than 40 years, covering genres such as pop, rock, folk, jazz and reggae. Although her Grammy-nominated album from 2007 stayed within the confines of blues, her latest heads in a more soulful alt-rock direction. It's titled This Charming Life, and it features songs written, arranged, produced and performed by Armatrading.

Aside from drums and percussion, Armatrading plays every instrument on the album. But even if other musicians played on This Charming Life, she says it wouldn't affect her process.

"I write everything, I arrange everything, I do the demos, and then the musicians will hear the demo I have done," she tells Liane Hansen, host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

Armatrading's live performances with her band stay close to the arrangements she originally had in mind, but she says within that, she likes her band members to express their creativity.

"Love and Affection" is the 1976 song that launched the singer-songwriter's career. Armatrading has sung it all over the world on every tour she's ever done — but all in keeping with the flow of a good concert, she says.

"As much as you might love a particular song, when you put it next to two songs on either side of it, something happens that interrupts that really nice flow and gives you a good concert," she says. "So you have to leave that out. Sometimes you try to find other places to put it, and you have to leave it out."

Armatrading has been in the music industry for decades. But in spite of all the changes, she says she's excited about online videos, streaming music, iPods and other music delivery systems.

"Because it's so accessible now," she says, "people must discover music that they hadn't thought to even explore before."

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