Not Being Janis Joplin

Not Being Janis Joplin

Cathy Richardson returns to New York, this time with her own music

Cathy Richardson is back in New York for a gig, this time without Janis Joplin.

Chicago rocker Richardson made New York her home for nearly two years while performing the lead in the long-running Off Broadway hit, “Love, Janis,” and prior to that, singing in the Chicago production and she grew to love New York as a second home.

“I miss it so much!” she said in a recent interview. “Whenever I think of being there, my heart starts palpitating.”

Richardson developed a New York fan base during her previous stay, during solo shows at downtown venues, and singing the national anthem at New York Liberty basketball games.

Next week, Richardson is playing her first gig in the city in nearly a year, sandwiching a performance at The Knitting Factory on June 14 a night after the Outmusic Awards (where she’s nominated for Outstanding Producer for her new CD “The Road to Bliss”) and an acoustic gig in Rochester.

Richardson is bringing her band from Chicago for performances at the Outmusic Awards and her own show.

“We’re playing on Monday so that none of my theater friends have an excuse not to show up!” she laughed.

Her backing musicians, bassist Klem, drummer Mark Walker, and Joel Hoekstra on guitar will join Richardson onstage. Hoekstra was a member of her Chicago band who came with her to New York in “Love, Janis,” and ended up moving here permanently.

“I’ve added a couple new elements to the band,” Richardson continued. “Anne Harris, a wonderful fiddle player, my backup chicks, the Cathettes. I think its cool to have more chicks in the band. That feminine energy is such a powerful thing. I’m really into the goddess energy and that’s really what the world needs right now.”

The band will play a set list heavy on songs from the Grammy-nominated “Road to Bliss,” as well as some new work, and at least one oddball cover.

“Some kind of thing people aren’t expecting,” Richardson said. “Sometimes we do a Janis tune but it could be something completely different to catch ‘em by surprise. Anne Harris is a great fiddle player, so we’ve been doing these epic fiddle tunes like ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ ‘Baba O’Reilly.’”

While the band hasn’t been touring nationally in support of the new CD, Richardson did get to go to the Grammies, where the album was nominated for Best Package, which she conceived and designed herself.

“I brought my parents to L.A. They were thrilled,” Richardson said. “I brought the band out there and did a couple of shows. I felt like I had crossed some sort of a threshold. You know, before I was on the outside looking in, then I was on the inside looking in.”

Richardson said she’s happy that the CD has received critical attention and awards, and wishes she could do more to get it into the marketplace. Touring is an expensive proposition for an independent band, so she hasn’t been trekking the country with her band, but clustering gigs in larger urban areas. In Chicago, Richardson has always gotten radio airplay.

“Creatively, I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out,” she said. “It’s been amazingly well received and I just wish that more people were getting it. My distribution is really small right now. I’m doing it myself. I’m still looking for that one big thing that’ll bring it to a larger audience.”

A big thing like the two planned film biographies of Joplin, one starring Renee Zellweger, the other Pink, that have been announced?

“I wanna do the damn movie!” Richardson said with a laugh. “But Janis had her way with me I think she could be through with me. And frankly, I’ll believe both of these movies when I see ‘em. They’ve been talking about them for a long time. At least Pink can sing. I’m not sure about Renee. If she pulls it off, more power to her and God bless her—it’ll prove she’s the best actress on the planet. If Pink pulls it off, she could have a movie career. But ultimately, Janis was just so singularly unique you can’t really do Janis. She was just too unique.”

Richardson came to that opinion from living with the role of Joplin for some time. The show opened, to good reviews, especially for Richardson, in April of 2001. It almost closed shortly after September 11, but managed to pull an audience down to the Village Gate Theatre, and hung on for a run of almost two years.

“I’ve been writing a lot about it,” Richardson said of a time that went from personal triumph to national tragedy in a moment. “I think it would make an incredible book. It’s got everything, including September 11 happening right in the middle of it all, how all of that changed my perspective on what was important, and what I was thinking at the time, what I thought the experience was going to be.”

To purchase “The Road to Bliss,” or for more information about Cathy Richardson, visit

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