Joan Osborne will sing the songs of Bob Dylan
Three-night run set for Egyptian Theatre
Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter Joan Osborne is ready for a three-night stand at The Egyptian Theatre starting Thursday, Aug. 24.
“I’m looking forward to coming to Park City,” Osborne said, calling from her kitchen in Brooklyn, New York. “It’s such a beautiful place, especially this time of the year.
“I’m going to bring my daughter, and I’m excited to do some fun stuff with her during the day.”
Osborne is also anticipating the concerts, which will feature a good chunk of songs from her upcoming album “The Songs of Bob Dylan” that is set for release on Sept. 1.
“Most of the songs in the set will be from the album at the promoter’s request,” Osborne said. “And we’ll probably throw in a few of my songs as well for people who would like to hear them.”
With the release of the new album — which features the classics “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Masters of War” as well as newer works “High Water,” “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” — Osborne joins a musical club that includes Joan Baez, Odetta, The Byrds, Robyn Hitchcock, the late Jerry Garcia — all of whom have released Bob Dylan-song albums.
“This was an idea I’ve had on the backburner for a long time,” Osborne said.
The idea was inspired by albums Ella Fitzgerald did in the 1950s.
“She put out a songbook series of eight or nine albums, and with each one she would pick out a different singer or songwriting team — like Cole Porter or Rogers and Hart, the great songwriters of the day — and devote a record to them,” Osborne said. “I thought that was such a great idea and would be an interesting challenge for me to update and choose the songwriters I would do.”
A call from New York City’s legendary cabaret venue, Cafe Carlyle, set the stage for the project.
“They asked if I would be interested in doing a residency there, and while I’m not a cabaret singer, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do this songbook idea and play music from a particular writer for the whole residency,” Osborne said. “When I suggested I do that and asked if Bob Dylan would be a good choice, they loved the idea.”
Osborne said she selected Dylan because of his extensive catalog.
“I knew I would never run out of possibilities of which songs to do,” she said.
Having access to thousands of songs also proved to be a challenge.
“It made it difficult to narrow the catalog list down for one record,” Osborne said. “So I created a three guidelines to help.”
The first rule was to do material from throughout his career.
“Of course, people are familiar with his classic recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, but he’s also done great work in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s,” Osborne said. “He’s someone who has continued to evolve and create amazing work throughout his career. So I wanted to highlight some of his later works.”
The second rule was to mix well-known songs with obscure ones.
“While we did ‘Rainy Day Women #12 &35,’ also known as ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned,’ we also did ‘Dark Eyes’ from off of the ‘Empire Burlesque’ record,” she said.
The third rubric Osborne followed was to select songs that would intersect with her voice in a way that would be unique and interesting.
“We thought about how we could arrange these songs so people could hear them in a fresh way,” she said.
Osborne worked with guitarist Jack Petruzzelli and keyboardist Keith Cotton on the songs.
“We [spent] a lot of time preparing for and doing the Carlyle show by pulling apart the material and putting it back again,” she said. “We would sit around and put the arrangements together as a group. And that’s how the material was done.”
While the three certainly didn’t exhaust all the possibilities, there were some songs that didn’t work.
“I wanted to respect the music and the stories, the lyrics, and not use and idea just to be different, but ultimately, I let the songs guide us,” Osborne said. “If there was an idea that worked, we would let that guide us.”
The first couple of nights before she opened at the Carlyle, Osborne felt the butterflies.
“I had no idea if anybody was going to like this, and I was pretty scared,” she said. “It’s because I’m messing with something people love and revere. And if you take a song and do something they don’t like, they’ll be insulted.”
Thankfully, the audience approved.
“We had positive feedback, and the people at the Carlyle were really happy with the show,” she said. “We also got some nice and positive press from New York Times and Huffington Post. That’s when we realized it was going to work, and people won’t throw rotten vegetables at us.”
Osborne feels the time was right for her to take on “The Songs of Bob Dylan.”
“Certainly there comes a level of confidence with approaching a project like this after performing for 30 years,” she said. “I feel like I understand what my place is in music, and I understand what my abilities are. So, there was an ease about doing something like this now, that I wouldn’t have had 15 or 20 years ago.”
The singer is grateful for the opportunity to be a songwriter.
“I know very well that it is a privilege to make music my living and have this long career,” she said. “It’s not always easy, but to reach out to a group of people who are strangers and present them something that is moving and meaningful to them is worthwhile.
“I’m also fortunate to have an audience who has stuck with me so I can make the albums I have.”
Osborne’s next album will most likely be one of original material, either solo album or with her side band Trigger Hippy.
“I’m writing a lot because there is a lot to write about during this moment that we’re all living in right now,” she said. “I feel like music has a real part to play in what’s happening in our country.”
Osborne said after the next album, there will always be another album in her songbook series.
“If people are interested in this concept, I have a lot of people I would like to do — Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Nick Cave,” she said. “I love Lucinda Williams’ writing, and I think there might be a way in for me to do her stuff. Then, again, with Bob Dylan, you can easily do 10 more records of his stuff. This is something that I wouldn’t get bored doing.”
Grammy Award-nominated singer Joan Osborne will perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24, through Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $23 to $35, and Friday and Saturday tickets are $29 to $45. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
Rockwell Room is a versatile venue that can be used as a concert venue, reception center and more.