ACL Music Festival Interviews

ACL Music Festival Interviews

Bettye LaVette

Saturday, 4:30pm, Capital Metro stage

"I'm an entertainer, not just another old broad being 'revived,'" says Bettye LaVette, who considers her highly anticipated new record for Anti-/Epitaph not so much a comeback as a continuation.

Across the Sixties and Seventies, the Detroit-bred soul singer recorded for classic imprints like Motown, Atlantic, and Epic, and while she never became a household name, LaVette may well be among the great interpreters. She considers what she does "melodic storytelling" and says that although many of her early singles were sung first by Kenny Rogers, the Beatles, or Janis Joplin, she's never seen shame in trying to sing them better.

"Years ago someone wrote a song and everybody recorded it: funny people, jazz people, folk people," she says. "Singers sang. Everybody and their grandmother recorded 'Blowin' in the Wind,' didn't they?"

LaVette's new album, the Joe Henry-produced I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, hinges on songs written by women – from Lucinda Williams and Sinead O'Conner to Fiona Apple and Dolly Parton. What surprises LaVette isn't the critics rushing to call it the year's great comeback album, but that new fans who see her show for the first time are surprised that she's twice as powerful live. In fact, she says she has zero concern about being overshadowed by anyone on this ACL Festival bill – particularly by one of the few names she's heard of, Coldplay.

"They may sell a zillion records, but there's nothing kids like that can do up there to scare me," LaVette says. "I'm there to entertain the audience, not to be better than Coldplay. And my show is all me. The ball never leaves my hand. I don't have hit records. I have to grab people on my own. And trust me, if there's people out there, they're gonna get entertained."

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