5 Questions: Singer-Songwriter Joe Henry

Joe Henry | Photo credit: Jacob Blickenstaff

Joe Henry is a celebrated songwriter, performer, and producer. He’s released 15 studio albums of his own and produced albums by Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Loudon Wainwright III, Joan Baez, Solomon Burke (the Grammy-award-winning Don’t Give Up on Me), Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (the Grammy-award-winning A Stranger Here), to name a few.

His most recent studio release, The Gospel According to Water was released November 15, 2019, and is being celebrated widely. Recorded in two days, this work represents the creative and emotional processing of a life-altering cancer diagnosis. Henry is currently in remission.

You can keep up with Joe Henry at his website.


1. What’s been keeping you up at night?
Existential panic notwithstanding, what typically disturbs my sleep is a song I am writing; a poem. Creative energy is real energy; but unlike some other kinds of energy, this type is not diminished, it seems, by its expenditure. The more I cycle through the options to a phrase or image, for instance, the more electrified my body becomes. It can make a man unfit for human companionship; but I am fortunate in that my beloved is willing to roll the other way.



2. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or heard lately?
That would be the newly recorded / unreleased solo album by my dear sister, Allison Russell ––one half of the wife/husband duo known as Birds of Chicago. It is a stunning feat of songwriting and performance; and brave.



3. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
I honestly wish I could fully tell you, but have been asked to keep it confidential at this moment. Suffice to say that I have just produced a 2-day album by one the fundamental architects of rock and roll music, who is nearing the end of life. It was humbling and powerfully moving; and I recognized my job to not be about clever arrangements or modern strategies, but simply to bear witness.


Photo credit: Jacob Blickenstaff

4. If you could add anyone, alive or dead to your team, who would it be?
Pablo Neruda as co-lyricist.

5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called?
Zelig.