At age 82, when most people have long been retired, singer-songwriter Judy Collins has started a podcast, is finishing up a new album and is on a tour that includes three upcoming shows in Maine.

Twice at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield this week and again at the end of the month at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit, Collins will play songs from her six-decade-long career, accompanied by pianist Russell Walden.

The six-time Grammy nominee, best known for her 1967 recording of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” which won the award for best folk performance, spoke to me from her home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side about what she’s working on and how she’s managed the pandemic.

In no uncertain terms, she’s thriving.

Just two years ago, Collins reached No. 1 on a Billboard chart for the first time in her storied career with an album called “Winter Stories,” a collaboration with Norwegian musician Jonas Fjeld and bluegrass group Chatham County Line. Billboard called her to congratulate her.

“They were so excited. They said it’s your lifetime No. 1. I said, ‘Yeah but what about all the other numbers that I’ve had on the Billboard charts?'” Laughing, Collins said that “Both Sides Now” was in the top 10 for months and maybe years. “So we’re coming along here.”

Judy Collins. Photo by Shervin Lainez

Collins launched her podcast “Since You’ve Asked” this summer and has interviewed author Julia Cameron, musician Ben Harper, Broadway star Betty Buckley, actor Jeff Daniels and journalist Christiane Amanpour, among others. She loves it.

“This podcast has added a lovely new dimension of having these extracurricular, very personal conversations with people that I know and also with people that I don’t know,” she said.

Cover art of Judy Collins’ podcast “Since You’ve Asked.” Image courtesy of the artist

Collins said her next album, called “Girl From Colorado,” is due out in February. It’s her first album of all original songs, most of which were written within the last couple of years. The first recording session was in 2019, but when the pandemic hit, progress was put on hold. “It’s been a long process, but they’re all just about done,” she said.

As for weathering the pandemic, Collins said she appreciates the rest it allowed her to get. She enjoyed countless walks by the river in Central Park, practiced the piano every day and worked on songs. “There were moments when the city was completely empty, and there was something very charming and interesting about that.”

Collins was clear in her thoughts about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. “We have a solution to this and people who don’t use it are endangering themselves, their children, their friends, society at large,” she said. She recently played some shows in California at an outdoor venue in San Diego and said fans were “just thrilled to be in an audience and appreciating a concert.”

Along with being a recording artist and podcast host, Collins has written several books and said she’s got about 15 more semi-completed manuscripts.

“I’m always working on something, I don’t even know what it is at this point,” she said. “I just haven’t been able to figure out where to go, but it’s OK, I will.”


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