Monday, November 7, 2016

Elmhurst resident Cathy Richardson to perform Nov. 11 with Jefferson Starship and with her own band Nov. 25


It seems like Elmhurst resident Cathy Richardson is always on stage, whether it is fronting the legendary band Jefferson Starship or performing on her own.

November is no exception. She will perform with Jefferson Starship on Nov. 11 at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, 777 Casino Center Drive, Hammond, Indiana. Blue Oyster Cult is also on the bill.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are available at Richardson will also perform with her Cathy Richardson Band at 8 p.m. Nov. 25 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Tickets range from $22 to $35, available at

Richardson also hosts storytelling nights with a musical twist on a monthly basis at EvenFlow in Geneva and FitzGerald's in Berwyn. More information is available on her website,

I had the chance to talk to Richardson about her current musical projects.

Q - I know that former Jefferson Airplane/Starship Grace Slick invited you to sing in her place at when Jefferson Airplane received their Grammy Lifetime Achievement award at the inaugural Grammy Salute to Legends Concert in April. Was that a big surprise? 

Richardson: Yeah. I had a little bit of a heads up. China (daughter of Slick and Paul Katner) called me and said, ''My mom wants you to do this. Would you be willing to do it?''

So she kind of gave me a heads up. But then I forgot about it. And then the next day or so, China and Grace called and said, ''You're doing it, it's done.'' And I just was completely stunned.

It was very strange just to rap with Grace on the phone. She's very normal and easy to talk to. Once you get over the celebrity ''goddess of rock'' thing, she's very cool. 

Q - Is she kind of an inspiration for you? 

Richardson: Oh, absolutely. I feel like she has iconic status, for especially women in rock. I feel like Grace and Janis Joplin were the queens, you know.

And both of them were huge inspirations for me. So yeah, it's really, really cool. 

Q - How did the event go? 

Richardson: It went great. It was very exciting and fun.

I just tried to relax and have fun with it. I was extremely prepared, because I've sang "Somebody to Love" with Jefferson Starship hundreds of times. I'm just very confident singing that song in particular.

It was really cool to play with Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. I had met them before, but we hadn't played together.

It was so cool, because I played with Paul for many years, and Marty Balin sometimes too, but never those guys, and they were such an integral part of the sound of Jefferson Airplane, those two in particular.

They are distinct players. So playing with them and playing that song, it was just like singing with the record. It was just so fun and so cool. 

Q - Unfortunately, Paul Kantner passed away, and his death must have shocked you. 

Richardson: I hate to say that I wasn't shocked. Paul had been sick for a long time. It's very sad and it was a great loss to the world.

But his music is going to live on through us and other people who keep playing it. We all loved Paul a lot. 

Q - Why did you want to join the band in the first place?

Richardson: I was absolutely floored to be asked. I was singing with Big Brother and The Holding Company, Janis Joplin's former band. We were on tour with Jefferson Starship and some other bands, so that's where I met them.

I think Chris Smith, the keyboard player, was the first one to say to me if I would ever consider singing with them. I said, ''Oh, my God. Are you kidding me? Yes.'' A few months later, it actually did happen. Paul came to my apartment in San Francisco and we got out some acoustic guitars and we banged around on the guitars and harmonized a little bit.

And then he was like, "OK, you're in." It was a huge honor and opportunity. I was always very, very adamant about being an original artist and writing my own songs and doing my own albums, which I still do very actively.

But after I got cast in "Love, Janis" and I took that journey into another artist, it made me grow as an artist in ways that I could never have before. Interpreting songs as a singer is its own form of artistic expression.

Q - So your trying to make the songs your own, you're not trying to replicate Grace Slick's voice or anything like that?

Richardson: No, but I definitely am trying to pay homage to her and her whole vibe. 

Q - What did you learn from working with Paul Kantner? 

Richardson: Paul was incredibly supportive and he had a very free spirit about music. He allowed me to do whatever I wanted.

He gave me an incredible opportunity as a singer just to shine. He gave me that spotlight. 

Q - Besides touring, is Jefferson Starship working on any new material? 

Richardson: We're talking about it. We're kicking it around. We get together when we are on the road.

I think they're definitely is potential for collaboration and songwriting in this band. We're just trying to find our feet right now after Paul's death. 

Q - You talked about "Love, Janis," which kind of brought you into the spotlight for people who didn't know of you. Did you ever imagine it would be as successful as it was? 

Richardson: I did. I thought it was going to be more successful than it was.
I was really excited about it, and everything was going great until 9-11 happened, and that really cast a pall over everything, not just the play, but everything in the world at that time.

It was just a very dark time, especially being in New York at the time. Before that happened, it was awesome. 

Q - Do you think you were made to play the role of Janis Joplin?

Richardson: I didn't think I was, but in the end, I think I was.

By the time the show ended up in San Francisco, I had gotten really good at it. It pushed me further and further as a performer and a singer. 

Q - If you could, would you want to do the show again? 

Richardson: Yeah, sure. I really liked my brief time in theater. It was really fun. 

Q - Is theater an avenue you want to pursue? 

Richardson: I don't know. I guess maybe I should think about it. Jefferson Starship tours so much, it's hard to think about doing something like that.

Who knows what the future will bring. If some real cool project came along I couldn't pass up, I'm sure we could work something out. 

Q - I know you sing on your own as well and will be performing Nov. 25 at SPACE in Evanston. During that show, will you be doing old material, new material A little bit of both? 

Richardson: A little bit of both. For the past few shows, I've been doing these surprise encores.

One time, we played side one of "Rumours." Recently, our encore was a set of Prince songs.

I also have a new album with my band Macrodots, and we will be playing a lot of that stuff live, which is really fun. I also am in a project called Nelson Street Revival, which people can check out at It's a killer band with four women and four men and super, super fun.

And I do this project called Voice Box. It's a storytelling night, with a musical twist. All the themes to the stories are songs.

After the stories are told, I jump up on stage and play a song inspired by what I heard from their story. So I don't know what I am going to play and neither does the audience. That's what makes it such a fun night.

And the stories are usually fun or sad or heartwarming. We've got two locations - EvenFlow in Geneva and FitzGerald's in Berwyn.

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