Jefferson Starship will Touch Down in Warren with New Album
WARREN, Ohio – When Grace Slick heard the new Jefferson Starship album, she was moved by how seamlessly it honored the band’s legacy but with songs that are topical and vibrant.
The iconic former Starship singer thought it felt just right.
The 2020 album, “Mother of the Sun,” was the first new music released by the act in 14 years. It captures the energy and sound the band pioneered decades ago.
Cathy Richardson, who took over the lead singer role in 2008, recalled the first time the band played the songs for Slick: ‘She cried and said, ‘This is so Jefferson. It could be old or new.’”
Jefferson Starship will kick off its 2022 tour of North America and Europe on March 3 at The Robins Theatre in Warren, Ohio. Tickets range from $70 to $40 and are available at robinstheatre.com and at the box office, 160 E. Market St.
“Mother of the Sun” came out during the height of the pandemic, so it’s only now getting the new-album push.
During the songwriting process, Richardson asked Slick if she wanted to lend her creativity to it. She did, and helped shape the opening cut, “It’s About Time,” by contributing lyrics to the strident anthem about women’s empowerment.
“We were watching the  Women’s March and saying that it’s about time women take over,” Richardson said in a phone interview from her Chicago home. “Later, [Slick] sent me several pages of lyrics.”
Guitarist Jude Gold came up with the song’s riff, and Richardson wrote the chorus.
“It came together in an organic process,” she said.
Slick isn’t the only direct connection to the landmark band’s original lineup.
These days, Starship is led by original member David Freiberg, and includes drummer Donny Baldwin, whose Starship roots go back to 1982.
The lineup also includes keyboardist Chris Smith, who joined in 1998. Richardson joined in 2008 after being discovered by founding member Paul Kantner who saw her on tour with Big Brother and the Holding Company. Gold joined in 2012.
Pete Sears, who was in Starship from 1974 to 1987, played bass on the new release.
The spirit of the late Kantner (he died in 2012), who founded the band originally known as Jefferson Airplane in the 1970s, still guides Starship.
The new album has the same edgy – occasionally psychedelic – power pop sound, with strong vocals and social messaging, that were on display when the band was cranking out hits in the 1970s and 1980s.
Richardson said she has wanted to write music for the band ever since she joined it 14 years ago. “We had never written together as a band before,” she said.
It started with jam sessions at Freiberg’s house in California. The first song to emerge was “What Are We Waiting For.”
Richardson knew the band had something special with the tune. “I zeroed in on that [theme] and co-wrote the lyric,” she said. “It’s the idea of ‘What we are waiting for? We know what’s wrong and how to change it, but things still stay the same.’”
The song is influenced by the late Kantner’s personality. “He was impatient and he used to say that,” she said. “When we play it live, we do a long psychedelic guitar solo and end with a feedback jam.”
The song is one of several from the new album that usually make the concert set list – the others being “Setting Sun” and “It’s About Time.”
Naturally, the band fills its show with as many favorites from its deep catalog as possible, Richardson said.
With her clear and powerful voice, the singer draws comparisons to Slick. Those are big shoes to fill and Richardson knows that taking over for a rock legend isn’t easy.
She’s done it twice.
Before singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company – the late Janis Joplin’s backing band – she played the lead role in the Off-Broadway Joplin jukebox musical, “Love, Janis.”
Slick and Joplin, she noted, have a lot in common.
“Those two are the queens,” Richardson said. “They are totally different, fire and ice, but they broke the glass ceiling and still hold that mantle to this day.
“I am a different person. I worship them but I will never be them. And I am who I am because of them.”
Pictured: Jefferson Starship is David Freiberg, Donny Baldwin, Chris Smith, Cathy Richardson and Jude Gold.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.