Kool Kat of the Week: Johnette Napolitano Serves Up a Rough Mix at Eddie’s Attic

Posted on: Jan 10th, 2015 By:
jn&star-photo by amber rogers

Johnette Napolitano and her horse Star. Photo credit: Amber Rogers

By Rose Riot
Contributing Writer

Johnette Napolitano, fiery solo artist and former lead singer of  Concrete Blonde, will be performing  an acoustic/spoken word show at Eddie’s Attic on Sun. Jan. 11. Johnette has been a musician and artist for most of her 57 years of life and worked with some of the greats such as Leon Russell, Danny Carry and members of Talking Heads, Wall of Voodoo and Cheap Trick to name just a few. Her music can be heard as part of the soundtrack for many movies and TV shows, too. And she’s also a flamenco dancer, writer, tattoo artist, seamstress and sculptress.

Johnette’s latest project is ROUGH MIX, a short book collecting sketches and stories about some of the songs that she has written over the last three decades.  For her longtime fans who have always wondered where she got the inspiration to lyrics of some of their favorite cuts, ROUGH MIX will satisfy their curiosity.

When I spoke to Johnette over the phone, I expressed to her my thought that fans of her music are generally people who like to read, given the strong narrative and characters in many of her lyrics. Her songs could easily be strung together into a novel. When I asked if she would ever write a novel, she quickly responded, “No” and claimed not to have the attention span for a long work. That is easy enough to believe given her wide range of interests.  She told me that when she was 12, her father (whom she tributes in the beginning of ROUGH MIX) gave her a guitar, and back then she would sit on her bed and write. Then as she laughingly put it, she “got caught up in all the rock and roll bullshit.” Yet first and foremost, she still considers herself a writer rather than a musician.

Johnette attended UCLA on a scholarship for art classes. There, she was able to try many different mediums of art. I asked her if there was any other art form she wanted to try and hadn’t. She took some time to answer this question and said, “I like to sew. I’d like to do more of that. I just don’t have enough time to do that. I’ve got my horse and my goat. I spend a lot of time with them. I tour one week out of the month. I don’t have a whole lot of goals left. I don’t know if that’s good thing or a bad thing.”

“I put work before relationships always before in my life,” Johnette added. “Now I think I want to focus on those. I want a satisfied personal life. I had a blast with a friend of mine yesterday at the Joshua Tree Saloon drinking coffee and Patron. I want to do more of that.” 

Johnette Napolitano. Photo credit: Amber Rogers

Johnette Napolitano. Photo credit: Amber Rogers

A common theme in Johnette’s work is the desert. She calls Joshua Tree, California home. She lives there with her dogs, rescue goat and horse also known as her  “f”anima’ly.”  I asked her what she thought about the desert, given the peril that exists in such a place,  made it seem so safe and powerful. “You don’t have a lot of crap around you and you can hear God,” she said. “You can hear your self think.”

Johnette then went on to tell me a story about a time that she was sitting on her front porch and wrote the song “Rosalie.” “I literally caught the song out of the wind,” she said. “That wouldn’t happen in the city.” She also told about having to wrangle a rattlesnake with a mic stand that came into her home (under her chair at her desk) and how she sort of had a dialogue with it about sticking to his own turf and not hers. She apologized profusely to the snake, but given the danger of it being in her home near her dogs and her own feet, it had to go.

Johnette Napolitano. Photo credit: Amber Rogers

Johnette Napolitano. Photo credit: Amber Rogers

I got the feeling talking to Johnette that she has found a certain peace that many artists struggle to find. She has managed to straddle not only the world of being painfully passionate but also with laughing and loving. Certainly her music provokes deep feelings in her fans. At times, many feel as if she is singing directly to each of them, a kind of soul listening. I told her about the time when I saw her do a small intimate performance at a record store in Nashville and how not only were my eyes filled with tears but so were those of the shop owner. I wondered how this type of response made her feel. She told me that she doesn’t pay attention. That what her fans feel isn’t really her business. At first, this seemed cold and not the answer I expected. But she went on to explain her process of performing in a way that almost seemed trancelike and made perfect sense in order to achieve her goal.  “I don’t look. I never look down,” she said. “There is a light above my head and I focus on that. What they do, isn’t my business. I am there to do my art. I can’t worry about what other people are doing.”

In other words, music for Johnette is like breathing. You don’t choose to breathe. You just breathe so that you can keep living.

Eddie’s Attic is a very small, personal venue. I imagine her huge charisma will fill every square inch of space in the room. To see such a powerful woman sing and read from her heart in such an intimate setting will be an experience to be treasured.

All photos are used with permission.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, July 25-31, 2011

Posted on: Jul 25th, 2011 By:

Monday July 25

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday July 26

What’s in a name? Catchy coolness if you’re self-styled D.I.Y. rock ‘n’ roll band Swank Sinatra, playing tonight at Smith’s Olde Bar. Although their sound, fury and lyrics are inspired by Frank than “homeless people, pirates, ladies, shoes, ships, our hate of disco and breakfast.” Minor Stars and Kevin Dunbar Band open. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. JT Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tues. Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  July 27

The Temptations and The Four Tops make it a mini-Motown reunion at Classic Chastain tonight. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernDeacon Brandon Reeves bring the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavernrespectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdayspresented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  July 28

It’s a cinematic night of pure (& twisted) imagination for the whole family as The Atlanta Opera screens classic 1971 movie WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY starring Gene Wilder at The Atlanta Opera Center (1575 Northside Drive, NW, Bldg 300, Suite 350, Atlanta, GA 30318). Attendees may win two (golden?) tickets to the company’s production of THE GOLDEN TICKET, also based on the Roald Dahl novel, in March, 2012.

Henry Porter, named after a legendary Dylan quote, bring their Western swing on DMT to Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. Or is that post-rock mindset with 70’s AOR hooks? Or songs that Iggy Pop might could sing? Or the Eagles with credibility? Or CCR meets XTC? Heck if they even know for sure, but you can find out for free and eat some tasty Asian vittles at the same time.

Classic Tulsa Sound piano man Leon Russell opens for legendary folk rocker Bob Dylan at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. Go Retro-Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze King and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features The Burning Angels.

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