theartsdesk Q&A: Singer Linda Thompson | New music reviews, news & interviews
theartsdesk Q&A: Singer Linda Thompson
Folk's most fragile but enduring voice on her new album, old friends, the Thompson family, and surviving a 1970s Sufi commune
Linda Thompson, one of Britain's great living singers, has just released her third solo album since her return to recording with 2001's Fashionably Late.
Talking in her London home before travelling to the US, she opens up about her latest record, It Won't Be Long Now, working with ex-husband Richard and her children Teddy, Kami and Muna, coping with the dysphonia that has afflicted her voice since 1973, and her enduring love for traditional music and the work of Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick and other old friends. Also today, exclusive to theartsdesk, she runs through her top 10 all-time favourite traditional songs.
TIM CUMMING: What made you want to record again?
LINDA THOMPSON: When I did my last record we had a lot of material, and the more traditional stuff I kept to make a more traditional record. So I had half of it half recorded already. And it just went from there.
The first song, “Love’s for Baby’s and Fools”, is the one song written solely by you – where did that come from?
I wrote it about Rufus [Wainwright] when Kate [McGarrigle] stayed here in London before she died, and I played her a little bit of it, and she said, 'You’ve got to finish it, you’ve just got to'; and I did, and she died, and it was just nice to do it. Richard liked the song so he did it too.
It reminds me of late period Dylan, in that it could be personal, it could be epic. It’s not confessional, and the voice of the song is so sharp and uncompromising.
It is uncompromising, it’s the point of view that you can hold when you’re very young and so decisive about everything, or when you’re very old and you think, it’s all crazy. I like uncompromising. So that’s a good thought for the day. I can’t think of anything else to say about it except that it’s about Rufus Wainwright and I hope he likes it. He hasn’t even heard it, he could be on the phone to me tomorrow going “what the…!”
Did you record it with Richard [who accompanies her on solo guitar]?
We did it together in New York, then he had a gig across the street, so it was like in and out. I’d sent him a demo – with the most awful vocal on it, and I thought, Oh God, he’s never going to do this. But with typical Richard understatement, he said, ‘I’ll have a crack at it.'
Was that the first recording session you’d done together since Shoot Out the Lights?
No, not really. He’s been on stuff with me. We certainly did some live work together. And we’ve sung together, but not often. Plus this is the best one we’ve done since all those millions of years ago.
Watch Linda and Richard Thompson perform "Lonely Hearts"
It’s now 30 years since you finished.
Yes, it is a long time ago, and we’re past all that. Thirty years. It’s a long time…. One of the good things about the internet is that sometimes people put something up and I’d never play it myself, but sometimes I’ll have a listen, and sometimes it’s very nice to listen to, much better than I thought at the time. They sound so good and so live and everybody knew what they were doing. So I love the internet. It’s a retired person’s paradise.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
American institution returns to the ‘70s again
A powerful, genre-defying debut album from the shape-shifting ensemble
Kid-friendly festival has an audience as eclectic as the line-up
Booker T Jones' set of Sixties hits wows the crowd - but is Damon Albarn's new solo material a touch too subtle to headline?
Fink's latest is a mixed bag of the inspired and aerated
Thompson goes solo for a deft career retrospective
Belated recognition for a unique singer-songwriter
More top-drawer nostalgia from the prolific Scotsman
Rising London electronic duo don't quite match their hype
Elly Jackson has matured musically in her absence: but is that for the best?
Vivid and wide-ranging tribute to New Orleans musical traditions
An album that aches with a spiritual yearning by this singular artist