What I Learned From Joni Mitchell That Has Nothing To Do With Music

Release date: 12th October, 2021

Hello! I miss you all more with each passing week, but I promise we have some things cooking up behind the scenes which will remedy that. To anyone still in lockdown, hang in there and try to take solace in the small joys, and the fact that it won’t be long now. To all you vaccinated legends in NSW now living with new freedoms, I hope you’re allowing yourself time to reflect and be proud of yourself for getting through an awful, frightening time. I can’t wait until music venues are back up and running so we can all party at a show together!

As you may have seen, my Joni Mitchell show 50 Years Blue has now been rescheduled for the FIFTH time (seriously Covid, you massive jerk). It will now be on 22nd January, and I swear on my life that I will get to play these songs for you if it’s the last fucking thing I do!!!! The venue is the same – Mary’s Underground in Sydney – and if you already have tickets, they will remain valid for the new date, or a refund given if you can’t make the new date. Click here for tickets!

I’ve been preparing for this show for over a year now and while I never get sick of her music, a musical appreciation isn’t the only thing I’ve learned from Joni. Here are some other gems of wisdom I’ve picked up from one of the most influential artists of all time…

1) Being an outsider is a strength, not a weakness.
I read a great book called Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words – Conversations with Malka Marom (highly recommend), and I remember being struck by something Joni said about being a child at school and often feeling like an outcast. She said that she learned from a very young age that she could take the feeling of not fitting in and turn it into something that served her. She framed her alienation in her own mind as being a source of her power rather than a hindrance to it. Her individuality brought her confidence rather than loneliness, and that’s something I’ve tried to put into practise in my own life too. This philosophy is actually what inspired the lyric from Inside Out, “I love the outside and there’s power here for me”.

2) The closer you get to your heart is the closer you get to everyone else’s.
I’m cheating a little here because this quote was related to music, and I believe this is so important to remember when songwriting, but I’ve also learned to take this advice in everyday life. What I think Joni meant by this is that when you’re truly raw and honest with yourself in the way you write, it resonates with others in the deepest way because they sense your sincerity. In a broader sense though, I think it’s about feeling it all, living close to the nerve and letting yourself be vulnerable, all of which I think are not only great tools for songwriting but also for living a fulfilling life and having fulfilling relationships. I try to remember this every day (and I’m currently reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, which should hopefully help with that whole vulnerability thing…).

3) There is nothing wrong with being an opinionated woman who knows what she wants.
Imagine being a strong ass young woman making records in a highly-sexist, male-dominated music industry in the 60s and 70s. Joni was so young, so talented and so intelligent, and yet she was underestimated at almost every turn. She knew exactly how she wanted her records to sound and how she wanted to run her career, and in all the books I’ve read about her, it seems like this didn’t always go down so well among some of the males surrounding her. It seems to me that Joni wasn’t afraid of being thought of as a difficult woman. She knew that being “difficult”, translated for her male counterparts stripped of the misogynistic undertones, meant “confident, ambitious and strong-willed”. I try to remember this myself whenever I face unpleasant confrontation or the implication that I’m being in some way rude by standing up for what I believe is right. A female CEO may be touted as a “bitch” for showing the same strong behaviour for which a male CEO is celebrated. We still have a long way to go, but artists like Joni were breaking this ceiling from very early on.

4) A woman is never just one static thing.
Joni took on so many personas throughout her career; musically and aesthetically, she changed a lot. She may have been a young woman with flowers in her hair and flowing dresses playing an acoustic guitar one year, but cut to a few years on and she was wearing pants suits and playing jazz. I love that Joni always remained true to herself, even when others doubted her new direction or wanted to pigeon-hole her into a specific area. I believe it was Joni who really paved the way for modern artists like Taylor Swift, reminding them that a woman is never just one thing, and providing them with a roadmap of how to consistently reinvent oneself. This excites me because as I move through the second half of my twenties, the idea of doing the exact same thing for the rest of my life terrifies me. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly want to write and play music for the rest of my life – but the way in which I do that will naturally change over time. We all change as humans as we grow – we wear different clothes and make new relationships – so the example set to me by Joni that I’m allowed to reflect this evolution in my art is truly a relief. Learning that it’s okay to be many things, to change with time, and to celebrate lots of different aspects of your personality simultaneously has been a great lesson I’ve learned from Joni.

So much of what I’ve learned about music, but also about life itself, has come from Joni Mitchell and her songs. I will happily gush about her to anyone who will listen, so I hope you’ll join me at the 50 Years Blue show in January for just that! (I’ll also be playing the entire Blue album, plus a second set of other Joni classics, but you can bet your life gushing will also occur throughout).

Please stay safe wherever you are in the world. I can’t wait to see you so keep your eyes peeled for new show announcements soon!!

“Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.” Love you,
IC x