Out British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading and her partner, Maggie Butler, may have not-so-secretly had their union legalized as a civil partnership May 2, 2011 in Shetland, United Kingdom, but their "Love and Affection" appears to have taken a back seat as of late. Armatrading is in the middle of a year-long tour spanning the globe. How is the gender-neutral storytelling lesbian favorite doing these days?
"I'm doing very well; incredibly well, actually. The tour's been going sinceI did some things in April in South Africa, but the tour proper started in September and has been going since then," the multiple Grammy Award-nominee said, adding that it was great to be home for Christmas. "I literally got home on the 21st, just in time to have Christmas and then started again after the Christmas holidays. I was quite happy to have a little break, actually, because it's been non-stop."
The tour has Armatrading zigzagging throughout Europe, America and South Africa for the greater part of 2015.
"It's a long tour, which is kind of unusual for me, and that's why I've termed it as my last major world tour. A [normal] tour for me would be six months. World tours tend to be much longer than six months; a year, 18 months, 15 months, 13 months, they can be very long. And they tend to be continuousI don't generally have big breaks between the tours," Armatrading said. "I don't do a month and then have a month off. I generally just start and then stop at the end."
Embarking on a rigorous tour schedule is a bit taxing for "The Weakness in Me" music legend.
"I'm 64 now; I'm 64, I had my 64th birthday in Canberra, Australia, which was fantastic, because I walked onto the stage and the audience just sang 'Happy Birthday' to me as soon as I walked onto the stage. It was wonderful, it was so fantastic. And I actually got sung happy birthday to three times on my birthday the next day. It was wonderful, so nice," Armatrading recalled.
Not that Armatrading is done touring forever. Quite the contrary, she sees many month-long mini-tours in her future.
"I don't want to be doing such long, unbroken touring, because that's generally how it is, it's long and there's no real break. I only want to do like a month at a time, maybe," she said. "I don't want to do long tours."
Fitting a "normal" existence into a schedule like Armatrading's takes a bit of extra care and caution.
"There comes a pointas I said I'm 64 now, by the time the tour ends I'll be 65. I don't really want to be away from home for big lengths of time at that age, really. I don't want to stop, but I don't want to be out that long; that's it, really. And of course I would never stop writing. I'll be writing until the day I die," she said.
A regular routine for Armatrading consists primarily of music production, release and promotion.
"I'll make a record, I'll produce a new song, put it on the CD, it goes out, I'll spend maybe a yeardepending on what's happeningdoing that or less. And then once that new music is out, I'll tour with that new music. That's kind of been the cycle of the last 42 years," Armatrading said.
Juggling a partner, family and friends is a big part of the puzzle.
"You make it work, you just make it work and your friends and family have to understand that this is what's happening. That's how it works and everybody just kind of goes with it, really," she said.
When she isn't in the spotlight, Armatrading prefers to relax"like everyone else."
"I like watching the television, I love comedyI watch a lot of comedyI like to go for walks," she said, adding something we all already know: "I spend a lot of time writing."
What keeps Armatrading inspired on the long and winding road?
"I'm alive. That's really all you need to do, all you need to be is alive to be inspired. As long as you wake up in the morning and your eyes open and you put your legs out of the bed and you get dressed and you walk out into the street. That's really all you need. Everything else that you meet will inspire you, from the most trivial to the most dramatic," she said. "You might have something that happens in front of you that is so spectacular and so out of this world and so unexpected and say, 'My goodness, will I ever see this again?,' and you wouldn't get a song out of that if you paid a million pounds; you wouldn't. But you could see a leaf falling from a tree and there you go, you're inspired. You have no idea what will inspire you; there is no kind of, 'Let me check into this hotel at 2 and I'm going to be inspired when I check in.' It doesn't really work like that."
In April 2014, Armatrading visited South Africa to help celebrate that country's 20th anniversary of democracy.
"They had a series of concerts there. All the artists were South African artists and they invited me as the only non-South African artist to be a part of that series of concerts. Quite flattering, really, big compliment. And it was great. It was a very emotional series of concerts, it was fantastic. … I am about to go back to South Africa in July to do some more concerts," she said.
From South Africa to Chicago, Armatrading's heart is in every tour stop.
"I'm looking forward to just about everything, really. I have to admitAmerica is my favorite place to play. I love playing for the audiences in America. I will absolutely enjoy playing for the audiences in Chicago. It's just a great city, really," she said.
And lest one thinks the weather will halt Armatrading's zest, vim and vigor for the Windy City, they'd be mistaken.
"It's very interesting. … I've been to Chicago in all types of different weathers: incredible snow, amazing snow, incredible wind and incredible sunshine and incredible rain; I've been there in all the different weathers that God's given us, and it's always wonderful to be there," she said. "People can expect to hear lots of songs that they're very familiar with, some they hadn't heard for a long time, and maybe some that they hadn't heard me sing on stage before."
Armatrading fondly remembered playing Chicago during her 1973-'74 tourunplugged. It's something she hopes to do again during her visit in April 2015.
"The very first time I came to America, I played just guitar and piano. That's the only time. Every other country that I've visited, and even when I started in the UK, it was always with a band," she said. "Not many people have seen me play solo around the world, and not many people in the U.S. have seen me play solo since '73-'74. So that's quite different for people to see me on stage on my own. And I have to say, people seem to like it."
Unfortunately for fans, Armatrading's two Chicago tour dates in April are already sold out. [Editor's note: She is slated to return to City Winery on Oct. 7-8.] For fans who are able to attend and already have their tickets in hand, she offers this message: "Come along for the gig, have a great time. I certainly will."
Keep up with Joan Armatrading and via her website, joanarmatrading.com .