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Joan Armatrading brings new songs to Atlanta

The soulful British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading has been performing for 50 years and writing songs for almost as long, and she doesn’t look like she’s going to run out of material.

When she comes to the City Winery Atlanta for a three-night stand June 5-7, she’ll be debuting songs from the album “Not Too Far Away,” released last month, along with signature tunes from “Walk Under Ladders” and “Me Myself I” and other albums from more than two dozen she’s released over the years.

“The audience that comes to see my shows, they know that they will get new songs,” she said, between bites of a Caesar salad. “That’s it. They know that’s going to happen.”

Armatrading, 67, spoke from New York, on the third day of her latest tour.

Joan Armatrading blends folk, jazz and blues, guitar skills and a smoky contralto voice. Photo: Joel Anderson 

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Unlike the 18-month marathon that brought her to Atlanta’s Symphony Hall in 2015, this tour is a two-month jaunt between City Wineries in New York, Chicago, Boston, Nashville, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

She’ll appear solo, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. This will be the second tour she’s tackled on her own, which is more of a challenge, she admits, but in some ways more rewarding.

“There’s a lot more pressure,” she said. “If I’ve got the band, I can stop playing if I want, leave it to the guys to do the backing, take a breather. Here there’s no let up. You’re on your own. … It is a pressure and you’re exposed, but at the same time, I think the audience gets a connect. Even in a big hall, it’s a little more intimate.”

A native of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, Armatrading moved to Birmingham, England, as a child. She dropped out of high school to work at a factory to help support her family, but began writing and recording songs as a teen.

She’s been nominated for Grammy Awards three times and twice for the BRIT award, and was chosen a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the queen. She has performed her own song, “The Messenger,” written for Nelson Mandela, in front of the man himself, and he danced with delight while she played.

Outside of her musical accomplishments, she lists running her first marathon at age 57 and completing a bachelor’s degree in history from the Open University among her proudest moments.

“I’m not a runner but I’m into exercising, lots of walking, lots of bicycle riding, so it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I ended up doing my knee in. There’s a proper story there, but I won’t tell it,” she added, mysteriously.

Armatrading doesn’t know what the future will bring, but she is enjoying this limited tour, with only herself and her tour manager in the caravan.

She’s going to keep trying something new, even if that means she stumbles every now and then. “Last night, I made a lot of mistakes in the show. I’m going to own up,” she said. “I’m aware some of the things I would consider glaring mistakes the audience wouldn’t even notice, because I know what’s supposed to happen. But it was still fun, still nice to be there.”

And she will keep singing new songs. “People want old songs until they realize there was a point, at one time, when they heard that song for the first time,” she said. “And then it was a new song. I think people forget that.”

CONCERT PREVIEW

Joan Armatrading

8 p.m. June 5-7 (doors open at 6 p.m.). $85-$125 plus fees. City Winery, Ponce City Market, 650 North Ave., Atlanta. 404-946-3791, citywinery.com/atlanta/.

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