It’s been a tough go for producer, performer, and songwriter Joe Henry for the last few years. In 2019 he announced publicly that he was given a dire cancer diagnosis. Then in the Spring of 2020 the world went dark for performers hoping to pay the bills with their work on stage.
But, if Joe Henry embodies anything, aside from his renowned intelligence, it’s resilience. In 2022, this streetwise, wry philosopher overcame the odds at the gambling table of life and arrived at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival prepared to play. And play he did, charming audiences with his candid stories, sandpapery voice and warm guitar licks.
For about 20 minutes, Joe Henry, who has worked with Mose Allison, Bettye LaVette, and Hugh Laurie among others, took a little time to talk with me in the Media tent at the folk fest. No, we didn’t discuss the hand of fate that dealt a blow to his health, but seemingly, the magic of life found through creation punctuated every moment of our conversation.
Nuanced and charming, Joe Henry tells the story of how as a kid he came under the spell of Public Radio while in Charotte, North Carolina. With many stops along the way, we skidded to the present and talked about how he finds Jazz, a genre he has come to appreciate as a lexicon for expression, despite his love of language. He also mentions why it has taken him so long to come out as a solo performer and where his inspiration for the beauty of life comes from in 2022.