AFTER more than four decades in the music industry – with 21 albums to her name, Joan Armatrading might be forgiven for wanting to take things a little easier. But that’s not what this iconic singer-songwriter does.

As she launches yet another new album, she is back on the road for a tour which is seeing her play 33 venues, including Oxford’s New Theatre, tonight. It is, she smiles, the only life she knows.

“It’s my 46th year, but it’s not time to put my feet up yet,” she chuckles. “When I’m dead I’ll put my feet up!”

That dedication to music and unflinching work ethic is standard for a woman who has succeeded, and endured, against all odds.

“As long as I’m here I’ll carry on working,” she says. “I’ve still got enthusiasm – and that’s all I need. I still want to do it. Whatever job you’re doing, if you are enjoying it and get pleasure out of it, there’s no need to quit.”

Now aged 67, she is calming down a bit though. The tour is a step down from her epic 2015 jaunt which saw her playing 235 dates. That was, she admits, a bit too gruelling. “It was hard work,” she sighs. “After that one I said I’d never do massive world tours again. I really love touring and didn’t want to get to the stage where I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

She goes on: “I never thought I would NOT go on though – just not at that level.”

As before, the shows are a solo venture – just Joan, with no band, taking her audience on a musical journey right back to her breakthrough hit Love And Affection, which made her famous around the world 42 years ago.

“I always play that song. Why wouldn’t I?” says the Ivor Novello Award-winning artist in a warm Birmingham accent. “My fans want to hear it and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am today so, of course, it’ll always be in my set. I’m very grateful to them. But I’m on stage for a good while so I’ll be playing some of the other hits as well, along with material from the recent albums.”

Joan is not one for resting on her laurels or trading on former glories though. She remains a prolific songwriter, her latest album, Not Too Far Away – featuring new single Loving What You Hate is classic Armatrading – confessional and personal. And it has again proved a huge success.

“I love old songs, but wouldn’t just want to play those,” she says. “When people heard Love and Affection for the first time, they didn’t know it – yet it became a favourite. I want to give people the chance to find new favourites.

“Every song was once a new song, and if people come to hear me, they know they are going to get new songs. Some people only know the latest songs, others know me for my 80s songs and others for my blues stuff.

“You can’t have a long career unless people join in with you along the way. It’s important to me to keep doing different things and I’m happy people want to come along with me. Of course there will always be some people who want you to remain the same – to just do what I did in the 70s and 80s – but I’m not interested in that.”

Born in St Kitts, in the Caribbean, but raised in the West Midlands, Joan was given her first guitar by her mother, after spotting it hanging in a pawn shop window.

Her musician dad had one of his own, of course, but the young Joan was forbidden from playing with it. The household piano, meanwhile, had been bought by her mum not to play music on, but as decoration.

“I started writing songs when mum bought the piano,” says Joan. “She thought it was a great piece of furniture and knew which wall she wanted to put it against.

“She only got it because she thought it looked good; no one was going to play it.

“I was young then, only 14, but I had been writing limericks and jokes when I was even younger.”

And she has never stopped. As well as her success as a solo artist she has worked with everyone from Fairport Convention to the Police and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

“I’ve been incredibly fortunate,” she says. “But there’s no game plan.

“I only do this because people still want it. I don’t look forward to a show because it’s at a fancy place or in a nice city, it’s because of the audiences. They shout out stuff and make comments; it’s great!”

By playing without a band she says the songs are given a chance to breathe, creating a whole new dimension for the listener.

“I’d never done a solo world tour until recently, so I didn’t know how the audiences would react,” she says.

“I didn’t know how it would go down, but the reaction has been fantastic. People enjoy the show. I think they wondered what it might be like hearing the songs totally stripped back for the first time, but that’s how I write.

She laughs: “I write solo, I don’t write with an orchestra! You could though, you could write with an orchestra, but you’d still have to start with one thing: you have to write it first.

“Every songwriter will say the same thing, but it is about the song – people want to really connect with it.

“I’ve had people tell me they’ve named their child, got married, or played a song at the funeral of a relative.

“People get emotionally attached to my songs, as they do with other songwriters.

And which songs mean the most to her? “They all mean a lot to me,” she answers.

“It’s like asking a parent ‘which is your favourite child and why?’ and it’s just as hard to pick a song.” She laughs again

“Love And Affection has a special meaning, though.

“It’s not necessarily my most, or least, favourite, but it helped me become known all over the world.

“That’s a special song. If not for that song, I might not have had the career that I’ve had. But that whole album [1976’s Joan Armatrading] got me noticed.

“The reaction to other songs, like Down To Zero, Willow and Drop The Pilot has also been incredible, but Love And Affection has to have a special place.”

She pauses, and adds: “All I have ever wanted to do is write songs. I couldn’t care less if people don’t know my face. I like doing what I want – and I’m going to carry on for as long as I can.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the fans at the show. Oxford is a really nice city and there’s always something special about playing it. I feel I am playing to intelligent people!”

* Joan Armatrading plays the New Theatre Oxford, George Street, tonight. There will be no support.

Go to