“I listen to a lot of classical music. I listen to Josh Groban and Pavarotti. I’m a fan of lots of artists. On my computer now I have Sting’s most recent album and the new album of Suzanne Vega, who’s a friend. I keep up with who’s writing what, who’s singing what and what people are doing.”
Besides the Lennon / McCartney album, Collins has another project she’s putting the finishing touches on that’s a little closer to home.
“I’m in the midst of putting together a tribute album of other singers singing my songs. And the list of performers – I’m just kind of blown away by it.
“It started because Chrissie Hynde said to me, ‘You know, one of my top 10 favorite songs is ‘My Father.’ And I thought, ‘Why don’t I get her to record that?'”
Singers contributing to the project, which is due in the spring, include Joan Baez, Rufus Wainwright, Dolly Parton, Hynde, Dar Williams, Jimmy Webb, Shawn Colvin, Leonard Cohen, Arlo Guthrie, Amy Speace, The Webb Sisters, Pure Essence and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
“I’ve always had a fresh audience. You know I’ve been doing this 48 years. The seasons come and go; the fashions come and go, but I stay. I can’t have a revival – Arlo [Guthrie] said he was having a reunion of one, like a lot of these bands that are getting back together to go out on the road.
“It’s a growing phenomenon, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that my own presence has helped the singer / songwriter revolution revitalize itself. I think I’ve helped them.
“I know that’s true because a lot of these young singers tell me. I have a label now with a lot of other artists on it, so I work with a lot of these young artists – people like Dar Williams. They say, ‘You were the one we all listened to. You’re the one who kind of got us on this track.’ So that’s very nice. It’s very confirming.”
Collins’ label, Wildflower, began as a vanity imprint, but she soon discovered a whole crop of people who liked the way the label operated and wanted to work with her, including Jimmy Norman, Kenny White, the Pork Belly Futures, Heather Greene and ’70s Australian rockers The Saints.
Music isn’t the only thing that keeps the singer busy these days. Following the death of her son 15 years ago, Collins began speaking publicly about suicide recovery and has written three books on the subject.
“It happened of course because of tragedy. Sometimes those are the things that perhaps motivate you in ways that nothing else could quite do. I certainly did not envision myself doing keynote speeches for mental health groups and suicide recovery groups.
“Since my son’s death 15 years ago, that’s been my way to give back, to help people with a situation that is just totally mysterious and puzzling to most of us – and extremely painful. I talk about things which are depressing and gloomy, and yet leave people with hope. And that’s the whole point. I don’t think I would have gotten through it if I hadn’t done that.”