At 62, Marcia Ball still loves going on the road and playing music. After over 40 years, she has lots of friends out there.
“We’re always playing somewhere, or here,” says Ball from her home in Austin, Tx. “It’s kind of a year-round life-long pursuit.”
Ball grew up surrounded by roots rich with music in a small town in southwestern Louisiana. When she was on her way to San Francisco in 1970 her car broke down in Austin. Before her car was fixed she had decided that Austin was meant for her.
She worked on her musical style and performed with a group called Freda and the Firedogs until the band broke up in 1974. After that, She launched a solo career and has always maintained a rootsy swagger with a stomping beat, the kind of music played on a piano in broad daylight outside of a bar on Bourbon Street.
After over four decades in the music business, Ball still has stories to tell about her life on the road. The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter is now in the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame and her last four albums received Grammy nominations.
Along with all of her accomplishments, Ball has played regularly in the Roaring Fork Valley through the years. She’s played Aspen and Snowmass and has even had some shows in Glenwood, but Friday, Nov. 16, she will be back for her second round at PAC3 in Carbondale.
Last year Ball released her 15th studio album, where she continued to represent her blues passion. Titled “Roadside Attractions,” the album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard blues charts.
“It really has a personal edge to it, there is only one song that is probably a totally made-up mood piece,” says Ball. “I’m always looking for the best groves I can find. I’m always looking for music that makes me want to dance.”
The music that has caught her attention has been the classic sound of rhythm and blues. She understands that she is never going to become a pop star as a blues musician and she was aware of that going in.
“In choosing to play the blues, or a form of the blues/R&B, I recognized that it’s a style you can play all of your life, that my career was not going to be one of having of big spike of a hit,” says Ball. “Having a hit is a great thing but I just figured if I could just keep playing, that would be one way that I could have a career.”
Ball has stayed true to her musical roots throughout her career. Because of this, she has never been the type of artist to drastically reinvent herself every few years. As time has gone on, she has developed a following and realized that reinventing herself was never necessary in the first place.
She’s been singing about growing up in a small town in Louisiana for a long time and while her perspective has changed, the real soul of her music has not. She says that these days she would like to portray a more universal truth as a way of broadening what people could take away from her music.
Ball has remained on track with the musical tradition of southern blues. While what she does falls heavily into the rhythm and blues category, her songs can convey a wide range of sentiments.
Marcia Ball’s career has been long and wonderful, but she would be the first to admit that where she is right now is not as important as all the things she did to get here. She sings, “I’m going to let a little secret slip / It’s not the destination, It’s the trip.”
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