Aretha Talks Tour

Pollstar is known to feature up-and-coming musical acts, but when we’re offered an interview with an artist that has one of the most anticipated comeback tours of the summer, we take that opportunity.

Last winter, Aretha Franklin had a serious operation, an outpouring of concern and eye-popping media reports. Now, after an all-star tribute at the Grammys and a loving birthday party in New York, Ms. Franklin says she’s in great health and ready for a busy summer.

That includes A Woman Falling Out of Love, her first album since 2003, which will be exclusive to Walmart through June 3, when it can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers.

It also includes Franklin’s traditional touring schedule: About three performances a month, performances that she travels to via bus. Ms. Franklin is not known for flying, although she does say that’s going to change.

It’s been nearly 25 years since Ms. Franklin has performed in Europe. But she swears that is going to change. And a representative told Pollstar the offers from European buyers are staggering – so there is incentive. Plus, there is talk of Broadway.

Coming off of a serious operation, how excited are you to be performing live again?

I am very excited. I can’t wait to get on. Can’t wait to get on. I’ve got some really great material, some new things that I’ve put into concert. We have, as usual, something for everybody.

Most audiences want to hear the hits.

And so they shall, and so they shall. They’re going to hear that first because that’s what they’re paying to hear.

But you have your first album in eight years and we assume you’d want to perform that material. How do you balance that?

I’m going to perform things from the album as well as new things that I just like. New things that I’ve just heard and decided I wanted to put into my program. So the hits come first. That’s the most important thing. Then, thereafter, have a good time with the rest of it.

Are you rehearsing?

Oh sure. I’ve been rehearsing at home. I do seven, eight songs at a time, three to four times a week.

You travel by bus, rather than plane. Considering all that has happened this past year, will that be burdensome or is it as comfortable as can be?

Oh, it’s as comfortable as ever. Definitely. But I’m going to work on my flying again this year. I’m going to go back at it.

Which leads to the following question. There has been talk of going to Europe.

I have a European schedule that is already planned and the moment that I return to flying is the moment we’re going back to Europe.

What does that mean? Does it mean when you decide to fly is when the Europe tour begins?

What it means is that I know I’m going to be flying again. It’s just a matter of when. But my agents have offered me proposals that I can take a look at and see if I’d be inspired in that way.

How long has it been since you’ve visited Europe?


It would seem that, even without performances, it would be a good time to revisit the continent.

Yes. I have an outstanding invitation to the Queen’s tea party so I really want to go back, just for that, if nothing else!

That being said, there is a recent quote attributed to you: “I’m going to sail the Nile before it’s all over. I would like to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx.”

Oh yeah, oh yeah. I love Egyptian artifacts and I would definitely want to sail the Nile and one day I’m going to. See the Pyramids, you know, the Sphinx, all of those things. The Valley of the Kings. All of that.

The quote also mentions Broadway. Could you elaborate on that?

Well, Mr. Nederlander has been looking for a piece that would be just right for me. So we’re waiting to see what he comes up with.

From the Grammys to your birthday celebration, there has been such an outpouring of love and concern. Is that continuing or have you seen things quiet down?

No. People are still beautiful. They’re still expressing to me that they prayed for me on different occasions and it’s really just wonderful to hear that, to know that people can be that beautiful. These are people who really don’t even know you, that you don’t know, who’ve said a prayer for me. You just can’t beat that! It’s really great, really touching.

So what is your schedule between now and heading out on tour in May?

After I do The View on Thursday and do Jimmy Fallon Friday night, I may do Rachael Ray before I leave the city. Then I’m going back to Detroit for about five days, and then the Chicago Theatre on the 19th, then the Seneca Hotel & Casino on the 28th. After that it’s the Toronto Jazz Festival. It’s a full schedule.

Not too much though! I’m pacing it! I’m pacing it!

You’ve normally done about two or three performances a month.

Yes, that’s what I’m doing. That gives me time to take care of my home and get things done there.

So it’s performances through the summer.

I’m going on vacation in July or August for about 10 days, 12 days. I’m going to go on vacation in New York, as a matter of fact, and I’m going to continue my piano classes with a young lady who is a student of Julliard. I’ll be learning the Julliard technique over the summer.

When is your album coming out?

May 3rd at Walmart. We’re doing some in-store signings Mother’s Day weekend, probably here in the city. I’m waiting for a schedule on that, though.