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Leaving Los Angeles: Rickie Lee Jones Turns A Decade Into An Album

The new album The Other Side of Desire marks Jones’ first original material in years, spurred on by a life-changing move to New Orleans.

Gina R. Binkley/Courtesy of the artist


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Gina R. Binkley/Courtesy of the artist

The new album The Other Side of Desire marks Jones' first original material in years, spurred on by a life-changing move to New Orleans.

The new album The Other Side of Desire marks Jones’ first original material in years, spurred on by a life-changing move to New Orleans.

Gina R. Binkley/Courtesy of the artist

If you turned on a radio in 1979, there was very good chance you’d hear the music of Rickie Lee Jones. At only 24, she leapt onto the world stage with her big single “Chuck E.’s in Love.” Rolling Stone called her “the dutchess of coolsville.”

While Jones has continued to perform and record over the years, new original material has been scarce lately — until now. She says it took a move to New Orleans to break the streak and start work on what would become her latest album, The Other Side of Desire.

“The first inspiration was to leave L.A., because I just couldn’t take it anymore: It was a lonely life, and most of it spent in a car. So I made the decision to try again,” she says. “The moment I got here, I felt — what’s the word — I felt naked. I felt reduced down to the lowest possible denominator, which is where you have to be to start again.”

Speaking from her adopted hometown, Jones joined NPR’s Arun Rath to discuss the new album and why aging out of fame can be a blessing. Hear their conversation at the audio link, and read an edited version below.

Arun Rath: So you move to New Orleans, and before too long we have this great album of new music. That definitely seems more like cause and effect than coincidence, right?

Rickie Lee Jones: I wanted to honor this city. I was just happy here, and it was feeding me, and I liked what I was hearing, and I liked the people I was meeting. So I said, “Why not? Let it in.”

There’s something I wanted to ask you about your vocal technique. You’ve been doing these things with your voice for years where I’ve been thinking, man, that’s gotta hurt the vocal cords.

By “these things,” do you mean singing? [Laughs]

Well, yeah! The type of singing you do where you go from a whisper to a scream to doing things like some of the gospel vocalists do. How are you able to do that all the time and keep it up?