Joan Osborne is best known for her 1995 smash “One Of Us,” which earned her Grammy nominations for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.
Since then, she has had several critically-acclaimed albums in the blues and singer-songwriter genres and has performed with artists like Phil Lesh, Cheap Trick and the Funk Brothers, the legendary group of musicians who provided the backing tracks for most of the great Motown hits of the 1960s.
She even did a duet with Isaac Hayes on the Schoolhouse Rock classic, “I’m Just A Bill” and toured with Lilith Fair in 1997.
Osborne didn’t start out as a singer. She actually attended New York University to study film, but switched careers after jamming on Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” at an open-mic night in the Big Apple. Since then, she has proven adept at soul, jazz, blues and folk.
Sound Observations With Joan Osborne
By David Moye
When a recent “Glee” episode featured the cast singing Joan Osborne’s hit, “One Of Us,” there was a lot of interest and excitement from the singer’s fans.
“People have been talking to me about it and there’s interest online about it, and I’m happy the song is still relevant,” she said recently
But don’t ask Osborne what she thought about the episode. She still hasn’t seen it.
“Before my daughter was born, we got rid of all the TVs,” she laughed. “When I grew up, I was definitely a child of TV and I decided I didn’t want her to watch as much TV. I do have one that’s hooked up to videos – which she watches occasionally – but I’m going to have go on to Hulu to see it.”
Luckily, San Diego music fans don’t have to go on to Hulu to see Joan. She’s performing at Anthology on October 22 with just a pianist.
It’s a bit of a departure for Osborne, who usually performs with a full band.
“It is unusual for me,” she said. “It started when a Philadelphia radio station asked me to do it for a fundraiser. It was so much fun that we decided to try it out for a stripped-down tour. It’s great because I’m doing songs that I don’t usually do.”
Getting used to just one instrument took a little work.
“When there is only one instrument, the first impulse is to sing all over the place, but what I’ve discovered is that when you’re playing with a full band, as great as it can be, some subtleties can be looked over,” she said. “With just the piano, it’s a more subtle palette and I think the audience can hear where the other instruments might go.
As an example, she points to her version of “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” that she performed the Funk Brothers for the documentary “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown.”
“We did that with a huge band, two basses, a full horn section,” Osborne said. “But you do it with a piano and it doesn’t lose the power because the lyrics and melody are so strong.”
Osborne will be touching on songs from all her CDs, some that are on her set list and others that aren’t.
“The great thing about this set-up is that if it’s a song we know, we can try it on a dime. For instance, my version of Sly Stone’s ‘Everybody Is A Star’ sounds really different in this environment,” she said. “Also, I will be trying out songs from a song cycle I am writing called ‘Love And Hate’ that will be premiering at Lincoln Center in February. It’s based on the idea that while some people see love as a shaft of light, it’s really more like a prism, with different colors.”
But while the set list will change, she promises there is one song she will definitely do every show, her big hit, “One Of Us.”
“Since this tour is taking us to intimate clubs, there are shades of meaning that come out in the song,” she said. “It’s more conversational now, like you’re sitting with a friend and mulling over the philosophical ideas.”