If John Denver is as abrupt as he is during interviews, we could be in for a short evening Monday at the Opera House.
The chart-topping singer/environmentalist has a persona of being easy-going, sensitive, humble and charming. During a phone interview Monday from his Aspen, Colo., home, he must have forgotten his morning cup of coffee since he was curt and grouchy. Seems he came down from his Rocky Mountain high.
Q: Your publicist tells me you’re currently working on a new album. Is it going to be available soon?
A: It’s an album for Europe.
Q: Why just Europe?
A: I don’t have a record deal over here.
After some more digging, Denver lightened up.
His new album encompasses updated versions of nuggets such as “Annie’s Song,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders” and “Back Home Again” as well as a handful of new songs. It’s not being released in the United States because he’s still negotiating contracts with several labels.
“I have two different record companies that want me to do one specific record,” Denver says. “Another company wants me to do two specific records for them. Another company wants me to do a couple of albums and they have all kinds of ideas. Then there are a couple of record companies that have started to talk about a serious record deal.”
So don’t think for a moment Denver’s recording career has hit the skids. In fact, the 52-year-old singer’s most recent album, 1995’s “The Wildlife Concert,” sold 250,000 copies, achieving golden sales. (Typically, a record is gold when it sells 500,000 copies. A double album only has to sell half of that.)
Yet Sony, the label that issued the live double album, isn’t interested in signing Denver to a long-term contract.
“It’s pretty funny to me that that album was a double album, and it sold a quarter of a million copies. That’s a gold album. You know, it’s a double CD,” Denver says, reinforcing the fact that “Rainforest” was a lofty endeavor. “That’s a big project and pretty successful, but not where they want to sign a record deal with me. Isn’t that interesting?”
Sony is now asking Denver to do a children’s album. Does this mean another project with the Muppets?
“You know, actually we’ve talked about that a little bit. One of the most enjoyable things that I ever did was working with the Muppets,” Denver says. “The thought of doing another television special with them along with an album is a great idea. So we’ll see.”
Later in the interview, just when it seemed like Colorado’s favorite adopted son was coming around, he returned to his earlier form. I asked him about his Spokane date. But he cut me off before I reached the second part of the question.
Q: What will your concert in Spokane entail?
A: John Denver songs.
Q: Naturally. But is it going to be more along the lines of the “Wildlife Concert” or is going to be …
A: No. It includes a lot of those songs. … It’s a little bit more authentic in what I’ve been doing lately in the studio here. (It includes) some new songs, a lot of the songs that people always want to hear and some of the more obscure things.
There you have it.
By the time Monday rolls around, Denver will probably don his charms and transform into the gentle, passionate singer everyone’s revered him for. He’ll probably engage the audience in a philosophical discourse about the ailing environment. And he’ll probably be quite candid.
Let’s hope he just reserves his cranky spirit for interviewers.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: John Denver will perform at the Opera House on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $34.50, $29.50 and $27.50, available at G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets or call (800) 325-SEAT.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter