SINGER songwriter Joan Armatrading may be about to embark on her last ever major tour but she assures fans they have not heard the last of her.
Thanks to her rich, distinctive voice and passionate yet tender blend of pop, jazz, folk and blues, she has enjoyed a career which has spanned more than 40 years.
Now the three-time Grammy Award nominee is embarking on a large-scale international tour for the final time, calling in at Bolton’s Albert Halls on Tuesday, October 21.
She said: “I’m not retiring. I will write until the day I’m put in the ground.
“The way I tour is very long. By the time I finish it will be towards the end of 2015.
“I’m 63 now, by the time I finish, I will be 65.
“I enjoy very much what I do and I don’t want to get to the stage where I think, I don’t like this.
“Before it gets to that stage, this is my last major tour.
“They have all been great, all kinds of different gigs.
“There’s so many places that I’ve played, it’s been wonderful.
“I will never retire but this will be the last major tour that I will undertake.”
The group of intimate concerts in 2014 will be followed by further solo appearances, both in the UK and in cities around the world in 2015, featuring songs including Love and Affection, Willow, Drop The Pilot and Me Myself I.
Born in Basseterre, on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts as the third of six children, her parents moved with their two eldest boys to Birmingham while Joan was sent to live with her grandmother on Antigua at the age of three.
In early 1958, at the age of seven, she joined her parents in Brookfields, then a slum district of Birmingham.
Joan, who has played at prestigious venues all over the world, including New York’s Carnegie Hall and Central Park, as well as London’s Royal Albert Hall, said: “I remember the plane journey because I was on my own.
“I remember having the little badge thing around my neck and the air stewardess looking after me.
“I remember being really excited for seeing my parents.
“I was born in Saint Kitts and I’ve been there a couple of times and Antigua for holiday.
“I actually did a radio programme where I talked about West Indian music.
“But I’ve not been loads of times, I’m actually going to do a concert in the West Indies for the first time.
“I’m a very British person.
“Over the years, Birmingham has got better and has the loveliest people.
“You cannot fault the people.”
At the age of 14, she began writing songs by setting her own limericks to music on a piano her mother bought as a piece of furniture.
Shortly after, she was given a £3 guitar from a pawn shop and the young Joan began teaching herself the instrument.
It was 1972 when she came to the attention of a record label but Joan admits her initial plan was not necessarily to perform the songs herself.
She said: “What I did think, once I started writing, that it would be great to write songs for other people.
“When I took my songs to the record company, they all said you have to be the singer.
“In the end, that’s what I had to do. That’s the way they wanted it.
“I had to get used to it. I was so passionate that the songs should be heard.”
Looking forward to her solo world tour, she said: “For the first time these concerts will be me solo on stage playing the guitar, piano and singing.
“I want these concerts to be a special lively interactive one-to-one experience.
“I have absolutely enjoyed the last 42 years of performances but now, with my final major tour, I want to capture a unique memory for both myself and the audience.”
Joan Armatrading is at The Albert Halls on Tuesday, October 21, at 8pm. Call 01204 334400.