Linda Ronstadt

An Exclusive Interview

Country Song Roundup, October 1970

    Linda Ronstadt

    CSR: You're originally from Arizona, isn't that right?

    Linda: Yes, Tucson.

    CSR: Do you think your early life there has any bearing on the kind of music that you do?

    Linda: Oh sure, all we got there was XWEF and KOMA and the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. So I heard a lot of country music when I was growing up.

    CSR: So many people that started off with pop groups are getting into country music now. Why do you think that is?

    Linda: Well, mainly because people think it's easy to play. I think that's the main reason. Other than that it's very appealing because it's very simple and very honest music. Whatever the most extreme trend was last year, it's going to be as extreme as it can be in the opposite direction. We heard psychedelic music which is very complex and real far out and not particularly related to a 3-chord structure, it was very nice and now they want to do something different. It's just like short skirts get shorter and then they get longer.

    CSR: One of the reasons I've heard people give is that a lot of people are getting into the country thing because there is a desire among people to get back to a more uncomplicated way of living.

    Linda: Oh, I agree. I agree one hundred percent. Everybody's going to the country. Everybody's trying to get some air. It's just part of an overall trend. I think music is a reflection of what's going on in people's heads. Obviously we screwed it up here, pretty badly for human beings. They're trying to seek shelter in any way they can. I think the music is just an imitation of that. Linda Ronstadt

    CSR: You have a new album coming out called "Silk Purse"? Would you like to tell me something about the album?

    Linda: It has songs on it with words and melody. I don't know it's kinda hard to talk about it. I did it in about every city in the United States it seems like. We re- corded some of it in Nashville, some in San Francisco, some of it here and some of it in New York. The guy that produced it is the guy that produced "Area Code 615." So that's how I ended up working with some of those Nashville musicians. Although I do a lot of recording with them in San Francisco, I was singing with them at the Fillmore.

    CSR: Do you find any difference in recording in Now York or Nashville?

    Linda: Absolutely. Every city has a typical kind of music that comes out of it. I think California is best exemplified by the Beach Boys. California sound is very clean, it's very fresh. Musicians here that are into country they're sort of an outgrowth of bluegrass, like the Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Buffalo Springfield are all the people that are hanging around the folk club scene singing bluegrass. That's the kind of music they play. In Nashville it's a lot more blues oriented. Many of the musicians prefer to play rhythm and blues. In New York it's real hard to get an essence. It's all sorta been distilled by the time it gets to New York. You can get the original forms in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. It's more of an impression of what things are in the big cities like Now York and L.A.

    CSR: Do you find a great difference in performing by yourself as opposed to when you did with the Stone Poneys?

    Linda: Well, I'm doing completely different music for one thing. Also I'm using an electric band. When I was with the Stone Poneys and we were on the road we were an acoustic band for the first two years and then we were electric band toward the bitter end. It's more fun now and I like the music better now. It's a lot more hassle because I have to be constantly changing musicians so it's really hard to keep the band together behind a girl singer. The musicians that are really good are either playing in studios or they're playing in their own band. The other ones are sort of shifting around until they can get it together and try and get their own band. Playing with a girl singer is just sort of a stop off.

    CSR: Do you find a kind of prejudice against girl singers?

    Linda: No more than they deserve. I should say no more than we deserve. Chicks are really weird. Chicks in any business is really weird. We are dealing entirely with men. I find a lot of resentment from musicians at times. It they're behind me its a threat to their masculinity. A lot of people in the television industry don't know how to relate to a chick at all. I'm real sympathetic about it. If I was a cat playing behind a chick I'd hate it myself. When I'm in the television industry there's a lot of pressure over there. They're all twisted over there. I'm not blaming anyone, it's just very weird. They just like ya or they hate ya.

    Linda Ronstadt

    CSR: What part of your career do you find you enjoy most?

    Linda: I hate music. It depends on the gig. I think I spend some of my most miserable hours on stage performing, but I've also spent my best ones. Anything that's going to be an extreme experience in one direction will be the most vulnerable to go in the other direction as badly. I've had some great recording sessions I dug. I've had some that were just grim. I just couldn't wait to get home and put a bullet in my brain. I think the best of the best is performing. Television is like a laboratory condition. It's just like test tube babies. It's sort of like we're pretending to communicate. It's very difficult. It's like moving everything from its natural environment. It is simulated. The audience is simulated by camera, their ears are simulated by a microphone. It's kind of hard to convince yourself that there's going to be real people looking at you.

    CSR: Have you any favorite records of your own? Do you have one song that you recorded that you dig more than anything else?

    Linda: I hate them all. I don't particularly care for the sound of my voice. I'm delighted when anybody likes it and I always try my best. I generally feel a song when I'm singing it but I just don't like to hear it back. With anything I sing there's always something that fell apart, either a track I didn't like or I didn't like some phrasing or some tone I got in my voice and it always brings me down so I try as hard as I can to avoid ever hearing myself sing. Except for when I'm singing on stage, I can't help it. Then I don't mind.

    CSR: Do you prefer working will small audiences?

    Linda: No, I prefer working with audiences that like me. I don't really care how small they are as long as I like it. If they hate it then it's awful.

    CSR: Do you wanna be a big superstar?

    Linda: I think it would be real nice. I just moved into a new house and I have a lot of rent to pay and I think it would be nice if I could just manage to pay the rent. Until such time when society's completely falling apart and money's no longer of any use to anyone. I really enjoy singing to audiences that like me. If enough people like me I suppose I'll become more famous than I am. I don't suppose any of that really matters. I hate to say oh it doesn't matter, because it does. You want to know the people like you when you do something. The important thing is just knowing I did something, that I got it on and somebody else was hearing it and got it on also. The rest of it is all just kind of a pain in the neck. It's a general involvement, intrusion in your privacy because it's almost impossible to do it spontaneously. Oh everyone's looking at you. You're always afraid that everyone doesn't like it, whatever they see or else they're disappointed or whatever. It's a weird trip. It's driven an awful lot of people crazy.

    CSR: If you hadn't become a singer what do you think you would have been?

    Linda: I don't know really. When I was two years old I decided I'd like to sing. I started school and decided I hated it and totally ignored it. I didn't finish high school and I didn't finish college so I was never able to do anything else. I suppose if I couldn't sing, I'd have to scrub floors. That's ok because I'm pretty good at that.

    CSR: Did you come from a musical family?

    Linda: My father's a real good singer, and my brother's a real good pianist, he writes songs. I play the guitar but none of them do it professionally because they got married. They're all dummies and maybe they were smarties I don't know. They probably came out on the good end of the stick they all have regular lives, a home and a family. Somebody nice around to take care of them. They never have to go on the road. . .

    CSR: Does the irregularity of your life - the being on the road and so on - bug you?

    Linda: Well, sure, yeah. I don't suppose I could really live any other way because I'm kind of an irregular person. It gets to be a grind but it's nice to know there's something you can count on once in awhile, which there never is in the music business except your friends. There's a lot of nice people in this business. You can count on them. After all that's what is really important. I get home sick sort of but it's always nice to know when I get bored I can always be here too. I can go some place else and be bored.

    CSR: Have you ever wanted to do the movie bit?

    Linda: Sure. I'll really do anything that I think I can do well. I've gotten a few movie offers. I turned some of them down and some of them turned me down. I'm sure we'll get together some day. I think it would be great experience. Actresses have a much better time maintaining a sense of identity than singers do. It's sort of difficult trying to figure out who you are. It's really a dangerous business. I got eighteen years of fairly normal development. I never wanted to be an actress. I always wanted to sing. Then I had five years of learning what the entertainment business was like. I think I've managed to mature enough into what I am and get an idea of who I am. So I wouldn't be as much of a risk as some chick that came jumping into it with all stars in her eyes at age 17. 1 guess it's really hard on these chicks. They just become oatmeal brains after a while.

    CSR: How do you determine for yourself if you can do something well?

    Linda: Usually I think I like it first. Lots of times I'm all wet about it. Lots of times I like it and no one else will like it. But I have to like it first or I wouldn't do it.

    CSR: Do you get a lot of hype?

    Linda: Well, I have a real good manager. He never says anything really. Sometimes he'll say that was awful and then I'll know that I didn't do so good. When he doesn't say anything I know that was ok and if he says that was good I know I did great. If I get three standing ovations he'll say oh that was ok. He's a really groovy cat. He never misleads me in anyway. That's where you can go crazy. That's how you can go nuts. People say this and that and the other thing and then you're disappointed and you don't know who to trust. Then you think everyone's lying to you cause they usually are. So just luckily I have this nice manager. He's not nice but he's very honest. I think that's the nicest thing you can do for people. He's not insulting. He can tell me something was awful and I won't take it personally.

    CSR: Do you have any particular place you like to play?

    Linda: It depends. It's not much fun to go to any place like Enid, Oklahoma or South Bend, Indiana 'cause you go on the milk run and you get there late at night usually or you get Linda Ronstadtthere that afternoon with just enough time to set up and play the gig, go home and fall into bed. By the time you're done with the gig, you have to get there with no dinner, there's never anywhere to eat because everyone closes at ten o'clock. There's certainly no one to talk to. The TV channels all go off at ten if there's anything good to watch. There's nothing to do and it's a real bore. You meet groovy people but just for hanging around I'd take New York, or San Francisco. I love San Francisco, it's a beautiful town. I think that has the best audience than any other town I've ever been in. They're all interested in the music and they're real considerate. They're real demonstrative if they like it. They'll listen to it. I like it a lot. New York is almost impossible to play. You really have to say look man, I'm gonna sing and you're gonna like it. You have to be honest with them. They'll bust you everytime if they catch you trying to fool them. You can't fool anybody from New York very well, what ever you do.

    In L.A. you can kind of slop around and get by with this and that and the audience is sort of the same way. I like the Troubador a lot. It's a good place to play. It's a home away from home.

    CSR: Who are your influences?

    Linda: Kitty Wells, I gotta say Elvis Presley and Hank Williams although they're not girl singers.

    CSR: Who do you listen to?

    Linda: Bob Dylan and the Beatles mostly. Some Bulgarian folk music occasionally. Love Bob Dylan and the Beatles. I love all kind of music really. I haven't had a record player in 3 years or a TV set or a radio, I just got a record player about three weeks ago. I've been very poor and moving around here and there. See I kinda reduce everything that will fit in a suitcase. I decided to get civilized and get creature comforts so I moved into a real house that works, with plumbing and everything. It's real nice, I love it. I got a record player. Bob Dylan and the Beatles are the only ones I don't get tired of. Other people's albums, there's some good ones here and there. I really love the Band.

    Thanks to Beau Bradlee for providing this article.

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