Joni Mitchell on Surprise Newport Folk Fest Performance: “It Didn’t Sound So Bad”

Mitchell and Brandi Carlile spoke to CBS This Morning about how the surprise performance came together

Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile
Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile, photo via CBS News

    On the heels of Joni Mitchell’s surprise performance at Newport Folk Festival on Sunday, CBS This Morning aired a segment on Monday revealing how it all came together.

    Anchor Anthony Mason sat down with both Mitchell and Brandi Carlilie, who is credited for single-handedly convincing Mitchell to travel to Newport for her first public performance in over 20 years. As Carlile explained, she was inspired by Mitchell’s own “Joni’s Jams,” a semi-frequent jam session at Mitchell’s home where musicians old and new gathered to sing along to her songs. After hearing Mitchell herself sing “Summertime” at one of the “Joni’s Jams,” Carlile said she made it her mission to stage a future iteration at Newport. “I just pictured her up there, the water, the fort, and the boats…,” Carlile explained.

    In keeping with that theme, the stage was set up with Mitchell front and center, surrounded by a number of longtime friends and collaborators, including musicians like Carlile, Marcus Mumford,  Wynonna Judd, Lucius, Blake Mills, Taylor Goldsmith, and others.


    Mitchell, who suffered a near fatal brain aneurism in 2015, told CBS This Morning that she’s “never been nervous” about a performance, “but I wanted it to be good… I wasn’t sure it would be.” However, she acknowledged that “it didn’t sound so bad.”

    In addition to singing songs like “A Case of You,” “Summertime,” and “Both Sides Now,” Mitchell played guitar during “Just Like This Train.” As she told CBS This Morning, she had to re-learn guitar after her aneurism. “I [was] looking at videos that are on the Internet to see where to put my fingers,” she explained.

    Carlile, a close friend and devotee of Mitchell’s, explained what she hoped to accomplish with the performance: “Joni hasn’t always felt the appreciation that exists amongst humanity for her. I wanted her to feel that.”


    Meanwhile, Marcus Mumford credit Carlile as “the one person in the world who Joni feels comfortable with sitting next to and singing her songs again.”

    Watch the CBS This Morning segment here, or below.

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