Reach for the stars – Jefferson Starship plays Dosey Doe this week
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Over the years, it has been known by different names and represented by different voices, but – no matter what incarnation – the band nowadays known as Jefferson Starship has established itself as a musical mainstay rapidly approaching its 50th anniversary of chart-smashing tunes. And the band, fronted by GRAMMY-nominated Cathy Richardson, is hitting Dosey Doe - The Big Barn this Wednesday evening.
Woodlands Online recently sat down with Richardson – virtually, that is, as she called in from the suburbs of Chicago as she prepped to hit Texas.
“We’ve played Dosey Doe several times. It’s a bit smaller than some other places we’ve played, but that makes it more intimate, and they always take great care of us with great food,” she said. “It’s a great little spot.”
Richardson joined Jefferson Starship in 2008, being the female replacement for Grace Slick. Within a year, she and the rest of the band played the Roswell UFO Parade & Festival, releasing the live Tales from the Mothership album shortly thereafter, After taking a year off in 2015, she returned to the band and has been singing with it ever since.
The band’s first iteration, Jefferson Airplane, formed in 1965. Over the years, personnel and style changes saw it become Jefferson Starship in 1974, nine years later. In ‘84 it morphed into Starship as a continuation of the band, but changes in music direction and additional personnel shuffles caused legal issues over the name. Upon original Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner’s death in 2016, the band’s longtime frontwoman Grace Slick granted the name of Jefferson Starship to the current version of the band.
Despite the changes in personnel and styles and contracts, the band has been consistent with its charted successes and recognizable tunes from seven different decades. “The music has been a constant over the years; it’s about the songs and the legacy,” said Richardson. “Great music never dies.”
We asked Richardson if she ever felt undue pressure to replace Slick and her iconic voice after the latter’s retirement from the band. “Grace Slick is a legend and is in the hall of fame. That comes with the territory,” said Richardson. “Taking over for her was a good transition; I was just coming off singing for Janis Joplin’s band and also played Janis off Broadway, and we even toured with Jefferson Starship. They could see I was a strong singer and strong frontwoman. They asked me and I was absolutely blown away because Jefferson Starship was one of my top favorite bands growing up. I’d go to the concerts and buy the albums; I still even have my concert t-shirts. I felt like it was a perfect fit for me.”
Winning over her bandmates was one thing; winning over audiences was another. “I think some of the fans were skeptical, thinking, ‘She’s sung Janis and she sounds nothing like Grace.’ Ironically, I had to do a lot of vocal acrobatics to sound like Janis; Grace’s voice is a lot closer to my own. I don’t want to imitate her by any stretch; but as a vocalist it’s a dream job because I get to wail on her songs and the songs sung historically by the male singers of the band as well. And I get to contribute new songs, too, so it couldn’t be any more perfect.”
When asked about fronting a band that has countless dozens of songs – many of them certifiable hits – and how difficult it is to integrate new music, Richardson revealed it was a delicate balancing act but well worth the effort, citing in particular the hard work that went in to their latest album release, 2020's Mother of the Sun.
“I’ve heard all kinds of different comments about our latest releases; that’s the cool thing about this band and its legacy all the way back to Jefferson Airplane, you have all these strong creative forces that were creating this music. The band literally had all these different voices. When you go back through the catalog you see that the genres change and the styles change, and you see the different writers, singers, and personalities at play. The thing that ties the new record to the legacy is that ‘Jefferson Anything’ – the different iterations of the band – has its strength as being a vocal band. Maybe the instrumental players might have something to say about that, but I truly believe this. Paul Kempner loved the sound of two male voices and one female voice singing together with blended harmonies into its own sound. We keep a hand on the legacy even moving forward.”
When asked about the possibility of future album releases coming up, Richardson explained, “We have some new music sort of recorded, not really ready to go, but still waiting to be finished due to COVID. We’re just now getting to be able to perform live and in person our songs from the last album, so it’ll probably be another year or more until we release new stuff. It’s also difficult to determine which new songs go into the set list in concert because we have so many years of previous hits that people clamor to hear that the fans want to hear as part of a nostalgia trip.'
Richardson loves the longevity of the band and has it’s become a literal cross-generational influence on their world. “You have grandparents, parents, and kids all coming to a concert; we lean towards the older folks, but we recently did a concert where the entire front row was filled with teenagers singing along to every word. We can thank pop culture for that; Stranger Things just put White Rabbit on their soundtrack, and my 11-year-old daughter freaked out when she heard it. The Matrix also did a version of the same song; the music keeps getting reused and put in front of new audiences and regenerates the fan base. I think that’s what the band did every time they changed their name and their sound; they were making themselves relevant to the times until they reached a point where the music became timeless. If you stick around long enough, people can’t ignore you.”
Richard and the rest of the band – including JS co-founder David Freiberg, drummer Donny Baldwin, keyboardist Chris Smith, and lead guitarist Jude Gold – are hoping to catch you at Wednesday's concert. To purchase tickets to the dinner/show at Dosey Doe, click here. To learn more about Jefferson Starship and its upcoming tours and releases, click here.