Blues songstress Marcia Ball to play Ute Theater
Marcia Ball missed my call at our appointed interview time because her ringer was off and she was reading Eudora Welty’s “Golden Apples.”
“She’ll take you away, I’ll tell you,” the blues singer and pianist said.
Ball aims to do the same with her songs, which transport listeners to her native Gulf Coast. Her travels carry Ball around the country, and she always carries the sounds of home with her.
She’ll soon return to Colorado — home of a brother, nieces, great nieces and nephews — for a handful of dates this week. It’s always a welcome trip, Ball said. She and her bass player, who still plays with her, decided in 1983 they wanted to learn to ski. They booked shows in Dillon and Evergreen and spent their days on the slopes, nights on stage.
This week’s shows won’t allow the same luxury, but Ball is eager to return to the state and visit family. We spoke to Ball in advance of her Sunday show at Rifle’s Ute Theater.
Post Independent: Your music has a definitive sense of place. How does that translate as you play across the country?
Marcia Ball: It seems to work well for a couple of reasons. While it’s personal and I try and hope not to seem too provincial … I want to describe and I cannot help but describe where I’m from and how we live in my songs, yet I’m reaching for something that might be more universal as well. It’s a fine line. It’s tricky to try and express all of that.
Yet people like stories. I like to tell stories and people want to hear stories about these places.
And then there’s just a big audience for that reality, just like I’m reading Eudora Welty and she just places you in the Mississippi Delta. You go there happily. I like when we play our music to take people with me to that place that’s somewhere between Houston and New Orleans, and you can feel the heat and humidity and smell the swamp.
PI: Where do you find inspiration for songs?
MB: Just everywhere. When I’m in the writing mood, I’m an eavesdropper. Things I read, being out — I have a song called “St. Gabriel,” which is a song about a woman in prison. It was a domestic violence situation, and I was actually introduced to the woman the song is about in a prison in Kansas by a newspaper reporter friend of mine whose writing about her helped get her out of prison.
When I wrote the song, I relocated it to the women’s prison down in Louisiana, which is called St. Gabriel, and that place is so much more evocative. There was so much more of a ring to St. Gabriel than Leavenworth. (Laugh)
I guess it depends on who you are and what people expect of you. I think people have an expectation of me that I’m going to take them down home.
PI: Will you have opportunity to enjoy Colorado while you’re here?
MB: We’re really going from gig to gig, so mostly we’ll be gawking at the mountains. I’ll get to spend one night with my brother and family up there. … We’ve got a pretty good amount of ground to cover, starting in Vail and then Denver and then out to Rifle.
There’s been a time a few years ago when I was out there, we were doing the most wonderful run of dates. We did Steamboat and Breckenridge and Vail and probably Grand Junction, the winery out there, and I think we went to Telluride. I thought, there’s just nothing wrong with this. I’m driving around in the mountains with guys I like, with people I like, and I’m actually being driven most of the time. The only difference between this and a great vacation is I play music and they give me money.
Edited at 10:06 a.m. July 7 to correct the day of the show.
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