Bonnie Raitt returns for Bluesfest.
Bonnie Raitt returns for Bluesfest. Contributed

Through the slipstream with Bonnie Raitt

MUCH has happened in the years since Bonnie Raitt was in Australia.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, nine-time Grammy award winner, one of Rolling Stone magazine's 100 greatest singers of all time is 15 minutes north of San Francisco when we talk.

And while her latest album Slipstream, her 19th studio release marks seven years since we heard something new, Raitt says it was hardly time off.

"We came out with a record in 2006 and then we toured solidly for two years," Raitt says.

In 2009 she did a national tour co-headlining with Taj Mahal.

It wasn't until 2010 she took a real and deliberate hiatus from music.

"That's the first time in my 40 years of touring that I've done that," she says.

"I took that year away from thinking about any new album or benefits and guest appearances.

"I just wanted to take that time to process a lot of the family loss I'd suffered.

"My folks had both passed away within seven 7 months of each other earlier in the middle of the decade and my older brother developed a second brain tumour and I wanted to spend some time with him.

"He eventually passed away so I wanted to stay home and process that."

Raitt describes the time as both necessary and very restorative.

When she came back she knew she was ready.

"Every year brings a level of, I don't know if it's maturity but it's certainly a depth to what you're playing and the things you're singing about," she says.

Recording Slipstream, Raitt says she was rejuvenated.

"Having put out 19 records I really wanted to say something in a different way," she says.

"There's a certain kind of musical grooves that I was looking forward to doing that are adding to my show.

"I pick tunes and lyrics that are saying something new and fresh.

"With this many records under my belt it's hard to say anything new or fresh about love or anything else.

Raitt describes herself more a musicologist and a curator than an originator.

"I don't write that much but in this instance I had a bunch of songwriters I had used in the past who were able to give me my usual mix," she says.

That mix includes reggae, rock'n'roll, R'n'B, jazz influences, folk influences and blues.

The mix of genres that led to the album title, a slipstream between categorisation.

And that's exactly what you'll hear when she heads out for Bluesfest.

"We wouldn't leave without playing the songs people love to hear," she says.

"We're just thrilled that they invited us back.

"Of all the festivals in the world, Byron Bay stands up there as having the most inventive acts up there on stage.

The only frustrating thing is not being able to see them all and for me I'm always up there on stage opposite someone I wish I could drop my show and go watch."


Bonnie Raitt:

Playing Bluesfest March 28-April 1 at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm.

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