Nanci Griffith to play in Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to Nanci Griffith’s sold-out Aug. 13 show at The Ark in Ann Arbor, don’t be shy.
“I really enjoy the people at my concerts. They’re always engaged. They talk back to me; I love that,” she said and laughed. “Sometimes they scream at me, and I love that.”
No doubt fans are shouting requests, hoping to hear favorites from Griffith’s storied career: “Spin on a Red Brick Floor,” “This Heart,” “Love Conquers All,” “Clock Without Hands,” “Beautiful.”
The singer said she’s working on a disc and may play a new song or two.
“‘Hell No, I’m Not Alright’ is one of them,” Griffith said and laughed again. “People ask you if you’re all right and they know you’re not, that’s what it’s about. And the audience has their participation, clapping in there, making it work. It’s fun.”
She has been singing — and writing — since she was 6 years old.
“I write about things that I read and try to interpret, and I think they’re important things, like ‘The Loving’ from ‘The Loving Kind.’ I think that’s important to American history,” the guitarist said.
Inspired by an obituary in the newspaper, Griffith wrote about Mildred and Richard Loving, a mixed-race couple who were put in jail when they married in 1958. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down state laws against interracial marriage.
“I write about things that are important to me,” Griffith said during a call from her Nashville home.
Listen to “Not Innocent Enough,” another track from “The Loving Kind,” the songwriter’s 19th disc released in 2009. The song tells the story of Philip Workman, who was convicted of murdering a policeman and executed despite questionable evidence.
“I’m an opponent of the death penalty, and I think America has grown enough that we need to be grown-ups about it and stop trying to take people’s lives,” she said. “But at the same time, I write about things that I think were wrong in my country, and that’s about all I can do.”
While the folk legend has a reputation for addressing political and social issues, she’s also known for her introspective music.
“Everything’s about me as a writer, so within any context of any song, there’s something of me,” she said.
“Sing,” another song from “The Loving Kind,” seems autobiographical: “Music is the life in me, it’s the melody I breathe/ It gives me strength in harder times and reason to believe…/ And in the end I wouldn’t change a thing, I’d sing.”
The breast and thyroid cancer survivor has penned country hits for other artists: “Love at the Five and Dime” for Kathy Mattea, “Outbound Plane” for Suzy Boggus, “Gulf Coast Highway” for Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.
And she won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for her 1993 disc, “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” Last year the Texas native received a Lifetime Achievement Award at BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards.
“I don’t think folk music will ever change. I think it’s writing about the social climate that you live in, and if you live within it, then it’s important,” Griffith said. “And whether it’s important 10 years from now or 20 years from now, I don’t know. But Pete Seeger still remains relevant within our lifetime, and he’s 92.”