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The two artists that Joni Mitchell currently listens to


Joni Mitchell has been retired for over a decade, taking a backseat from the industry since she released her final album, 2007’s Shine. The existence of music no longer occupies a sizeable role in her life, but two artists are exceptions to the rule.

Suffering a stroke in 2015 only further made Mitchell disassociate from music, and her primary focus of energy ever since has been spent on trying to regain her health. Recently, she has reflected upon her early career, releasing a series of retrospective compilations from that era, but no new music is on the horizon. 

During a rare interview with The Guardian to promote the project, Mitchell was quizzed about the trend of popular artists such as Harry Styles and Billie Eilish, citing her as an inspiration. As it turns out, these two superstars are both not on her radar, and new music simply isn’t of interest to her.

“I have music,” she said. “I don’t listen to too much contemporary music. Babyface I’m listening to – that’s about it. Babyface and Leela James,” Mitchell responded.

Babyface, real name Kenneth Edmonds, is a prolific R&B singer and producer who first rose to prominence towards the end of the 1980s. In total, Edmonds has 12 Grammy Awards to his name, and additionally, his label, LaFace Records, is also responsible for the emergence of Usher, TLC and Toni Braxton.

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Meanwhile, Leela James is a soul queen that sounds like she’s been sent from the ’60s. After Mitchell praised her, James tweeted, “So Joni Mitchell says she’s only listening to Kenny Edmonds and myself! How cool”.

Elsewhere in the interview, Mitchell likened her influence on younger artists to how a Van Gogh exhibition reignited her interest in painting. She added, “That’s what the Van Gogh exhibition was to me. When I went to a Van Gogh exhibition, they had all his paintings arranged chronologically, and you’d watch the growth as you walk along. That was so inspiring, and I started to paint again. If it serves that purpose, that would be great. Really, that would make me very happy.”

These comments demonstrate further that music is no longer Mitchell’s first port of call when she needs a shot of inspiration, and she’d now rather pick up a paintbrush than her guitar.

Mitchell explained, “I haven’t been writing recently. I haven’t been playing my guitar or the piano or anything. No, I’m just concentrating on getting my health back [from a 2015 aneurysm]. You know what? I came back from polio, so here I am again and struggling back.”

It is mightily sad how Mitchell’s love for music has dissipated over the years and how divorced she’s grown from it. However, it is reassuring to know that the work of Babyface and Leela James still manages to touch the heart of the singer.