"If you take a shaft of sunlight," Joan Osborne tells me by phone from the back seat of an airport-bound taxi in New York City, "and put it through a prism, it breaks up into all these different colors and different aspects of what that shaft of light is made of. To me, love is made of all those different kinds of things as well. We talk about love as being this one very simple thing, but in fact it's very complicated—there are a lot of different shapes and meanings, and there are a lot of different things that people bring to it and experience in it. That's what the songs are about."Osborne is late for her flight to Texas, where she'll start a West Coast tour performing songs with only her pianist, Keith Cotton, instead of a full band. The new format has caused her to rearrange perennials like "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," her barnburner from the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, as well as to find a new appreciation for meal tickets like the Grammy-nominated FM-radio staple "One of Us." Yes, she says, she'll sing some Grateful Dead songs, harking back to her time fronting the band, and, yes, she'll sing "things that I might have done way back in the day when I was singing in clubs and haven't done in years."
But it's the new material from her upcoming song-cycle album, Love and Hate, inspired in part by Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, that she's relishing. "I wouldn't say it's autobiographical in the strictest sense, but it is very inspired by the relationship that I'm in right now, and meditations on love and the difficulties and the wonderful things about it," she says. "I've been a little bit reluctant to do that, but at this point I don't need to protect myself in that way anymore. I'm in my 40s, I'm not a kid anymore, and I think I have less to prove."
Catch Joan Osborne up close and intimate on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Mystic Theatre. 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 8pm. $30. 707.765.2121.