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Patty Griffin, Self-Made 'Servant Of Love,' On The Strange Gift Of Age

Patty Griffin's new album, <em>Servant of Love</em>, comes out Sept. 25.
Patty Griffin's new album, <em>Servant of Love</em>, comes out Sept. 25.

Ten albums in, Patty Griffin isn't slowing down. Her new album tackles love and humanity with a sound straight out of the juke joint and a passion that surges from each song. It also marks a milestone in the artist's personal life: She began writing it just as she was staring down her 50th birthday.

"There's so many moments at this stage of my life when I feel like the disillusionment is no longer crushing — it's kind of expected, you know?" she says with a laugh. "Those sorts of things start occurring to you, and it's a little sad, but it's also a relief to strive for other things that are not quite so impossible."

Griffin says she's taken a lot of inspiration on that point from the late James Baldwin, whose speeches and interviews she's been watching on YouTube lately. She recalls one clip in particular, recorded near the end of the writer and activist's life, in which a journalist asks if he still feels despair about the state of the world.

"He expressed how surprised he was, at a certain point, that his vision for what we could do with the inequalities in this country was not going to be achieved in his lifetime. But he also said, 'You can never tell the children there's no hope.' And I think that's become my mantra recently," Griffin says. "I think we can do better than we're doing. And I feel optimistic that, at least, I can try. I can try in the little space around my body, and see what happens."

Griffin's new album is called Servant of Love. Hear more of her conversation with NPR's Linda Wertheimer at the audio link.

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