Folk music A-lister Judy Collins has had a busy year, receiving her first Grammy nomination in four decades for Silver Skies Blue and praise for her latest memoir, Cravings: How I Conquered Food. On Aug. 11 and 12, she’ll take the Birchmere stage with Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Stephen Stills, who penned the band’s hit song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” about their relationship. This tour is their first together.
You were a piano prodigy as a child. What made you turn away from that and pick up the guitar to explore folk music?
I turned away from it for classical music, but I have played ever since I was a 4-year-old, and I write all my songs on the piano. I was being groomed for my next appearance with the symphony in Denver when I was 15 and a half. And I was practicing away, but I heard two important songs on the radio, which were “Gypsy Rover” and “Barbara Allen,” and they changed my life.
What inspired you to reinterpret the Beatles’ “In My Life”?
Well when I choose a song to sing, it has to sound like a Judy Collins song. Whatever I do is very mysterious, but I wouldn’t know how to put it into words. But if it comes out a Judy Collins song, that’s the way I want it. It’s a great song; I fell in love with that song, and I had to sing it.
Is your forthcoming album with Stills all new, or are you reaching back into your hits?
We’ll let you be surprised—we certainly were. [Laughs]
What’s been the guiding force in your music?
I stay with what I love. It’s that simple. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t make it on the record. It’s all about artistry and choice. I don’t care what other people think.
You’ve overcome almost insurmountable struggles in your life. What’s your message to people who are struggling and feel hopeless?
Well there’s always hope. It doesn’t matter how dark it is—there’s another day coming. There’s always a new beginning. And [you have] to keep struggling, to keep resisting the things in you that want you to shut down and shut up. You have to find a way to keep going.