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On the Record

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ Changeup

A definitive “no way” was Joan Jett’s response when asked if she’d always planned to record an acoustic album. “You had to remember, when I was a young girl wanting to play a guitar, people told me, ‘Girls can’t play electric guitar. Girls can play rock and roll,’” Joan says. “I wanted that electric guitar and I did not want to even see an acoustic guitar. I had no use for it throughout my career.”

Joan tells me she was “repelled” by the acoustic guitar, based on the biases surrounding women in music: “I said, ‘You have plenty of girls playing acoustic guitar. You don’t need me. You need more playing electric guitar.’”

Enter Changeup (released March 25), Joan’s first-ever all-acoustic album that came about, as she explains, by doing extra tracks for fans. “A couple of years ago, we did a documentary called Bad Reputation that was in theaters for a little bit,” she says. “We were asked, at the L.A. premiere, to perform a few songs from the film. We couldn’t really set up electric, it was just an impossible task, and so we decided, the whole band will be there and we’ll just try to do some of these acoustic.”

She continues: “We did Bad Reputation and a few other songs and it felt good. It went over well, and so I didn’t fear it as much. I wasn’t looking to do something necessarily. Now, last year and this year, are both the 40thanniversary of the Bad Reputation album and I Love Rock ‘n Roll album. We wanted to figure out a way at it, ‘What can we do to give the fans some extra bits or something? Maybe we’ll record a few of these songs acoustic.’” After being on the road in August 2021, Joan and the band started recording Changeup in November.

The 25-song-playlist includes fiercely intimate, reinvented acoustic favorites, including “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Light of Day.”

Joan went on the record with us about making Changeup.


Credit: Shervin Lainez

SPIN: So, the album and its concept came about over the last few years?
Joan Jett: It wasn’t an album plan. We went with the flow and it just morphed into this. We have so much material now. We don’t even need to put in a bunch of the hits, because people don’t know these songs.

Does this change the way you view women playing acoustic guitar? Is it a whole new way of thinking?
No. [Laughs] I think it adds to it. It expands my boundaries. I think it would be fun to do a very short tour, like a month, in small venues where we just did our acoustic stuff. Now, I don’t know if we’ll ever have time for that or not, but if I had…to choose one or the other, I’d have to go with my electric guitar

Everybody I’ve mentioned it to seems to like the idea, so if we can make it work, we probably will.

When did you start recording?
We were initially in the studio in November, and then in January and February. It was a really fast process also from the finished recording to it being out.

Was there any kind of discovery in making Changeup ?
This is going to sound weird, but it was better than I thought it was when I think of my own self. We also did not just do regular stereo mixes, but there was a whole new Dolby Atmos immersive system that people are using. We mixed this Changeup record with those attributes as well. If you have the capacity to listen on a Dolby Atmos system, you’re going to hear things coming out of 16 speakers and mixed differently than you would stereo.

Is there’s anybody really special that really helped you make this album?
My niece Carianne Brinkman. She’s the one that said it’s a good idea…. I trusted her judgment because she would tell me if it sucked.

What are you most proud of in the album?
Well, I could go to a song, but I’m proud of them all. They’re all my babies and they all mean something special to me. What I’m proud of, I think is just the way it came out. It came out just where I wanted to be. It sounds like you’re sitting in a room and getting your emotions out.

So, there isn’t one song, in particular, that’s a favorite?
No, not really. Some might be a favorite for a minute, but then it switches. I don’t really have a favorite. How do you decide between your children? Or your animals.