Rita Coolidge, an American recording artist chats with Kevin Cooper about her house move to Florida, her autobiography Delta Lady: A Memoir, her new album Safe In The Arms Of Time and her four forthcoming dates at Boisdale, Canary Wharf in London.

Rita Coolidge is an American recording artist. During the 70s and 80s, she charted hits on Billboard magazine’s pop, country, adult contemporary and jazz charts and won two Grammy Awards with fellow musician and then-husband Kris Kristofferson.

She is a graduate of Florida State University. After singing around Memphis (including a stint singing jingles), she was discovered by Russell Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, who took her to Los Angeles where, besides her work with them, she became a popular background singer on many other artist’s albums. She was featured in Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour and album.

She married Kris Kristofferson in 1973 and they recorded several albums together. In 1974 they were awarded a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group for From The Bottle To The Bottom and again in 1976 for Lover Please. They divorced in 1980.

Her autobiography, Delta Lady: A Memoir, was published in April 2016.

Having moved from California to Florida, Kevin Cooper interrupted her unpacking to have a chat and this is what she had to say.

Ms Coolidge good morning, how are you today?

I’m fine Kevin thanks, how are you?

I have to say that I am very well thank you and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No not at all it’s my pleasure and thank you for being interested in what I am currently getting up to (laughter).

And I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well what can I say, it is a very busy time for me. I have just moved house from California to Florida, and at the moment we are still living out of boxes (laughter). As you know I will be back in the UK shortly to play a few shows over there, plus the album is ready to be released so what can I say, there just isn’t enough time (laughter).

Everyone tells me that it is better to be busy than it is to be sat around the house doing nothing, is that really true?

Well that is what they tell me too but it would still be nice to have the day off (laughter).

You have briefly mentioned your new studio album, Safe In The Arms Of Time, so I had better tell you that I have been playing it now for about a month and I absolutely love it.

Well thank you, that is so nice of you to say.

I was making notes whilst I was listening to it and all that I wrote in big letters was ‘Rita Coolidge is back’.

(Laughter) well what can I say, that truly is fabulous.

Are you happy with the finished product?

I think that I am happier with this record than I have been with anything else that I have ever done. For my whole live, whenever I have made a record, I pretty much never listen to it once that it is finished. I know that I have to go on the road with it and that it is new material but with this record, whenever I get in the car I am still listening to it. Whenever I am driving in to town I am listening to it because the musicians on there are simply outstanding; I never get tired of hearing them. I think that all of the songs are good, and the producer on this album, Ross Hogarth is, I think, the very best producer that I have ever worked with.

Do you think that it is your best work to date?

I do, I really do. I was recently back on the East Coast and some of my really hard-core fans who have all of my work and come along to all of my gigs, have validated that. They told me that in their opinion this new album is by far my best work ever. So I feel that way and apparently the fan club does too so I’m saying “yes” (laughter).

Where did the title come from?

That came from one of the songs, Naked All Night. It is a line in that song, ‘I thought that it would last forever, safe in the arms of time’. It’s one of the songs on the album that I co-wrote with Grammy-winning blues star Keb’ Mo’ and singer-songwriter Jill Colucci in Nashville. And I have to tell you that was one of my lines (laughter). When we were writing that song and that line came out, both of them shouted, “Yes, that’s fabulous” (laughter).

From writing to recording, how long were you working on the album?

Well I have to be honest with you and say that the album has actually been probably more than two years in the making. I chose the first song for the album which was written by Graham Nash and that was Doing Fine Without You. At that time I didn’t even have a record label but I knew the kind of record that I wanted to make. After that I was able to meet producer Ross Hogarth, and I just fell in love with him as we both shared the same vision for this record. During that period of time I suffered a loss within my family, so it was a hard time but we kept getting back to the record. At that time I was living in Southern California and I would make trips up to Los Angeles where Ross and I would just sit and go through songs. We actually went through thousands of songs, and I have to say that it was a real labour of love and some of it was not really that much fun (laughter).

At this moment in time I have two songs which I keep going back to. One of them is Doing Fine Without You and the other is Satisfied. I think that they are both fantastic.

Well what can I say, I like them both as well. Speaking about Doing Fine Without You, that was the first song that Graham Nash had sent to me right after he had written it. We have stayed in touch over the years but Graham has never sent me any music, but apparently he knew that this song was something that would resonate with me. So he sent the song over and said “what do you think about this song” and I told him that I absolutely loved it. I told him that if we could put it on hold for a little while then it would most definitely be on my next record. I love that song. Satisfied was written by the guitarists on the record, Dave Grissom and Chris Stapleton. That song to me is such a great opener for the record because it really does describe exactly how I want the record to make people feel. I hope that it makes people find peace and be happy.

I personally feel that Satisfied is one of those songs that takes you by the hand and leads you through the rest of the record. Would you agree with that?

Yes I would, and that really was our intention in choosing songs, they had to fit into the narrative of the record. And I have to say that it all worked out just perfectly.

The release date for the album here in the UK is May 4th is that the date for its release in the USA to?

Yes it is and it is so that I can say to everyone “may the fourth be with you” just in case anyone forgets just when the record is to be released (laughter).

Once you have finished recording and you are waiting for the release date to come around, can you forget about the album or are you climbing the walls?

Well I have to say neither. I don’t want to forget about it but with this album I do wish that I had maybe another week before I have to go to Los Angeles and do the record release party followed by all of the promotion which will be taking place in Los Angeles, New York and England. It would be great to have a few more days but I don’t have them. That’s the reason why I am climbing the walls (laughter).

You have mentioned it a couple of times so I have to ask you, why the move from California to Florida?

You know what, California is a desert, and there simply is no water there. I had lived in my property over there for the past twenty-two years and I had a thousand avocado trees and I was basically a farmer. However, whilst I enjoyed that lifestyle the water bills were just ridiculous; I would barely break even. And so I finally just wanted to be someplace that is lovely and warm where there is water. Also I reunited with my college sweetheart and we have moved to Florida together. He had been out in Wyoming for the best part of the last forty years whilst I had been living in California. I lived in Tallahassee and Florida is where I went to college and so we came back.

I graduated from the Florida State University so Florida really did seem like a really great place for us both to come back to. Joe actually grew up here too. We have just the most beautiful place; we are beside a lake and there is lots of water. There are birds everywhere, everything is just so alive. When I compare California to this place, it just kind of feels like it is dead because it is a desert (laughter). North Florida which is where we are is beautiful. There are just so many big, old wide oak trees covered with Spanish moss; it is just unlike any other place that I have ever lived. I love it.

I don’t know how to say this to you but I feel that you are short-changing us here in the UK because you are only playing four dates aren’t you?

(Laughter) that’s all that they gave me (laughter). I was just there a year ago, not with this material, but yes I agree with you, I should have been given some more dates.

So the question is, will you come back to the UK at some stage and tour the album?

Before these four dates came up, which coincide with the release of the album and gives me a chance to be there in the UK for a few days, we had actually planned to be back in the UK sometime in the Fall. So I believe that it is already in the works for me to come back over and play more than just the one club.

Do you enjoy your time spent here in the UK and do your fans over here treat you well?

Yes they do, they treat me very well indeed. I have to say that I love being in London, in fact I love being anywhere in the UK. I also love being in Scotland because I am a direct descendent of Mary Queen of Scots. My mother was a Stuart so I really do feel quite comfortable in England. I personally feel that everywhere in England is beautiful.

You have been in the music business now for over forty-nine years. When you first started back in 1969 could you ever envisage that you would be doing it for so long?

No, I didn’t know that anybody could do it for this long (laughter). I actually never imagined that I would still be doing this for this long, and as a matter of fact I thought that instead of racing off to perform all over the world at this point in my life, I would be able to sit on the porch and have a few days to enjoy all of the beauty around me. But I only now get that a few days at a time and then I am back out on the road once again (laughter).

Does touring still excite you or has it become a necessary evil?

I love playing music, there is no doubt about that. That makes it all worthwhile but the travelling has become so much more difficult after 9/11. Also having to pack to be gone for a whole month, doing television shows and concerts literally around the world is really hard for a woman at any age. Everybody agrees with me on that point. It is almost impossible to try to put a months’ worth of show clothes, living clothes and everything that I am going to need into two bags. But you can be sure that I will manage to do just that (laughter). Throughout my career I have seen changes in the world we live in; obviously the world is growing and the population is growing with it, there are just so many more people everywhere.

They are on the roads, they are in airports, there are just so many more people and that in itself gets to be simply too much. That is another reason why I wanted to move to Florida. We are in the country, we live in the woods, on a beautiful lake, and there is nobody around. In California you are bumping up against people everywhere, and one city just melts into the next one. So in my opinion there are just too many people.

So if we agree that you have been in the business for forty-nine years, will you be doing anything special next year for your fiftieth anniversary?

Probably not because I won’t know when it happened (laughter). I will most probably be staying home and celebrating in the beauty of my own home, in the quiet, sitting on my sun porch (laughter).

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

No not at all, I studied Art and English at University. My mother was a school teacher and I think that I kind of always felt that I would be a teacher. However, I sang from the time that I was two years old in church with my sisters and I have always felt that Peggy Lee had been a great influence on me. I was listening to her from when I was three years old. So I think that somewhere in there the seed was planted, most probably by Peggy, and I followed her for her entire life. I am still to this day such a fan of her work and her music. Peggy managed to sing all kinds of music in so many different styles and genres, and I think that has influenced me a lot as well. I never really landed in one place; I have always done Jazz, Pop, Country and Blues and I really love that idea. I love the fact that I cannot be categorised (laughter).

That is a problem that we have here in the UK, they have to pigeonhole everybody.

Well to be honest with you it is the same thing here too.

The problem I find with that is that you could get a brilliant young artist who falls through the cracks and gets lost in the system simply because they haven’t got a pigeon hole to put them in.

That’s right, I totally agree. We now have this category for those artists here in America and it is called Americana (laughter). It is so good because now if you don’t fit into any other category then they simply play you on Americana Radio (laughter).

Taking you back to 2016 you wrote Delta Lady: A Memoir was that something that you felt you had to do?

Well the drummer in my band has literally worn me down over the years. Whenever I do a concert I am always telling stories about the songs, or about things that have happened, and sometimes I would tell a story that he hasn’t heard before and he would say to me “you have got to write a book” (laughter). And so after about nine years people started coming to me saying “we would like you to write a book for us” and in the end it was coming at me from every direction so I figured why not. And then after the book was written and right before it was released, I read through the whole thing and there were just rivers of tears. I thought to myself ‘what have I done, everybody knows everything about me now’ (laughter). But by then it was too late.

Did you enjoy the experience of writing the book?

I did enjoy writing the book with Michael Walker. However, unfortunately after working on the book for several months and we were about half way through, my sister was killed and so we had to stop. It was hard for me when we came back to the book because my sister had always been such a big part of my life. That made it harder for me to finish the book and then of course at the end of the book I wrote about that episode of my life. That made it a little more difficult.

We all agree that hindsight is a wonderful thing so with that in mind, would you do it again?

Yes, I think I would. There were some stories that just needed to be told (laughter).

Well the fans over here absolutely love it.

I know, that is absolutely wonderful. I managed to finish the book when Kris (Kristofferson) and I divorced so the majority of my life is yet to be written.

And just when will that be; when are you going to start typing once again?

I don’t know, in fact I may not (laughter).

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Oh my goodness, I would have to say that right now, this latest record is most probably the highlight of my career. It has been all consuming for the past two years and simply because I am in the middle of all of this right now, I think that getting this record out, I am pretty excited about it. My one wish is that people listen to this record without having a thought at all about ‘my god, she’s in her 70s’ I say that because there is a certain ageism in this country against people who the powers that be regard as being of less valuable. I don’t think that exists in every society but it certainly does in this one. Youth is gold and I just think that the people who are older are not often recognised. I just want to be given the same chance that everybody else has.

It is exactly the same here in the UK and I totally agree with you, something needs to change.

Yes it does, it really does because in Native Society of course their elders are both respected and revered as being the teachers and the wise ones. They are held in great esteem, instead of the other way around.

Has there ever been a point in your career when you have woken up and thought I’m not doing this anymore?

Oh yes, last week (laughter). It was during a five hour drive from Long Island to Philadelphia and I have to say, yes those thoughts did cross my mind (laughter). I found myself thinking ‘I just want to go home’. I can remember watching Helen Mirram who I believe is British, being interviewed on the TV recently and I have to say that she was wonderful. Ellen DeGeneres was asking her about making movies at the age of seventy-two and still getting up every day and going to work and Helen said “I don’t want to, I just do it. What I really want to do is be at home in my comfy clothes watching television but the phone rings, and the jobs come, so I just get up and go” (laughter). So I kind of understand that.

Taking you back, you won two Grammy awards, firstly in 1974 for From The Bottle To The Bottom and then again in 1976 for Lover Please. That must have felt a little special?

To be honest with you, I just don’t remember how I felt at the time. I personally was never that excited about winning the Grammy awards especially as they were duo awards that had to represent the King and Queen of Country Music or whatever, and so those Grammys at that time were not any bigger to me than anything else. I think that Kris and I have made some good records; we did good work and my feeling was that ‘well okay, so they gave us a prize for it but it doesn’t really change anything. It doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t make it worse’ it was simply recognition and I still feel that way. I would love to have a Grammy nomination for the latest album but I certainly don’t expect one. They probably wouldn’t give me one because I am too old (laughter).

Is Country music currently in a good place?

Well I think it is, in fact I think that the Country music today is what Pop music was back in the 70s. If The Eagles were a band coming up right now they would be hard-core Country. Take The Everly Brothers; everything that was once Rock and Roll back in the 60s and 70s would now be considered Country. All of the street music, Rap and other forms of Beyoncé kind of music have all pushed that format to the fore. The music that I really like, Keb’ Mo’ for instance, is now all considered to be Americana (laughter) and that is most probably where they are going to put me (laughter).

I have to tell you that here in Nottinghamshire, once a year, we have a massive Americana weekend where anything from a hotdog to a stretch limousine is classed as being Americana (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) I would hate to miss that (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

The first record that I bought would have been an Elvis Presley record. I was a big Elvis fan, I loved Elvis.

Who did you first see performing live?

That’s easy, that was The Beatles.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That would have been Van Gogh from the latest album. Whenever I sing that song it always makes me cry.

On that note Ms. Coolidge let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it has been an absolute pleasure. You take care and I will see you in London.

It’s been a ball Kevin, I am so glad that we got to speak this morning. You have started my day off with a chuckle so thank you. Make sure that you come and say hi when I get to London and I will see you then. Bye for now and thank you.