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‘It’s never taken for granted’: Legendary blues singer Marcia Ball loves being on stage

Irma Thomas and Lavelle White.

Legendary blues singer Marcia Ball will headline a night of music at Civic Plaza as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival. (Courtesy of Mary Bruton)

These are two points of musical inspiration for legendary blues singer Marcia Ball.

“Both these women have had long careers and I’ve followed them my entire career,” Ball explains during a recent phone interview. “They can just keep singing and I try my best to keep up with them.”

Ball, 70, began her career in 1970 with the intention of having a long run.

Nearing the 50-year mark in her career, Ball has accomplished her mission – and then some.

She is known for her piano style, which included elements of zydeco, swamp blues, Louisiana blues and boogie woogie.

“I’m blessed to be able to do what I love,” she says. “It’s never taken for granted. My love for being on stage has only grown through the years.”

Ball typically takes three years between records. She is currently touring in support of her 2018 album, “Shine Bright.”

Ball will be headlining the New Mexico Jazz Festival on ABQ Civic Plaza on Saturday, July 13. The event will also feature Leyla McCalla and hONEyhoUSe.

The event is free and open to the public.

According to Tom Guralnick, NMJF director, when planning the festival, he noticed there weren’t too many women artists.

“I decided to make the line-up for the Civic Plaza event all women,” Guralnick says. “I’m happy about that. I feel it’s really important to present a wide range of everything. Leyla was part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and hONEyhoUSe is local and has a great following. I’m always looking for a group that will work. This is a stellar line-up.”

Over the course of Ball’s career, the writing process hasn’t changed too much for the singer.

“It’s a lot of the same, really,” she says. “I’m always writing things down and thinking in terms of love. As these things come to mind, you have to be with your instrument. Sometimes, (the idea) just comes to you and at that point, you have to make sure to take note of it. These days, you can sing into your cellphone. Back in my day, you had to pull over, call your home phone and sing into your answering machine.”

For the Civic Plaza show, Ball will perform many songs from “Shine Bright,” though she will delve deep into her catalog.

“People still like to hear something from every record,” she says. “It’s interesting to me to get in front of an audience because it’s always different. I get out on stage and read the crowd. The challenge is to find the right balance. Definitely, I will have ‘Mama’s Cooking’ and ‘Mobile’ from the album ‘Gatorhythms’ in the set. Those are songs that people want to hear each time I take the stage.”

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