116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Marcia Ball is the epitome of a working musician.
Before the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the singer-songwriter-pianist, had gone more than a generation since her last month off.
“The last time before COVID changed our lives that I had more than four weeks off was 1984, prior to that it was 1975,” Ball said. “I've always been about working, as in performing in front of an audience.”
During the shutdown, Ball, 72, created new music but avoided performing online.
“Some of my friends streamed shows daily or weekly, but I didn't want to do that,” Ball said. “But I did work on music. I would play at home so I didn't completely lose my chops, and I was up for charity work so I could do some good during lockdown.”
Ball built a boat with her grandson.
“That was fun,” she said by phone from her Austin, Texas, home. “It's a 10-foot boat with a sail. It's in my backyard. I've created my own oasis back there.”
But it's time once again for Ball, who will perform Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at the Englert Theatre, to hit the road.
“I can't wait to get back out there,” she said. “I've been rehearsing with the band, whipping everyone into shape.”
Ball, who combines Louisiana swamp rock with Texas blues, grew up in Bayou country. The Louisiana State University alum was en route to San Francisco in 1970, but she stopped in Austin along the way and never left the Texas capital.
“My husband and I simply took some time to visit some friends and give ourselves a break, and I just fell in love with the city of Austin,” she said. “This city and the musical community is unlike any other place I've been.”
What's perhaps most surprising is that Austin, which has been growing at a staggering rate and is suffering with traffic jams and a high cost of living, still inspires Ball and many quirky recording artists.
“Austin is changing, but I still love it here,” she said. “I drove from here to Cedar Rapids so many times starting in the late ’70s. My route was straight up I-35 where I would play Dallas, then Wichita, Oklahoma City, Des Moines, Iowa City/Cedar Rapids and then Minneapolis.
“I have so many great memories playing Iowa City and I'm looking forward to coming back. I'm fully vaccinated and ready to roll.”
Expect Ball to dig into her deep 14-album canon and deliver an amalgam of rollicking swamp blues, honky tonky and zydeco.
“We're working on what we'll be playing,” she said. “It'll be fun connecting with an audience again. It'll be a particularly good time in Iowa City. The crowds there are always enthusiastic.”
Ball is looking forward to recording a new album.
“I’m still with Alligator (Records) and I want to work on another project. I don’t just want to tour. I could take it easy if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I could just stop recording and touring now and retire if I wanted to.”
Unlike many musicians, Ball is secure.
“I'm financially fine,” she said. “I have Social Security. Being old has kept us from being desperate. I'm also part of a nonprofit founded here in Austin in 2012, which is called HOME (Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers) that pays the rent and utilities for older musicians in the Austin area.
“It's great not to worry about your living situation. I could sit back and just make something else with my grandson, but I have so much music in me. It's so good to be back,” she said. “I'm more than ready to hit the road.”