Lyle Lovett has this song "The Girl in the Corner." If it weren't about Julia Roberts it could easily be about Joan Osborne on this bright Brooklyn morning. That's where she was sitting—in the corner of a neighborhood café reading the New York Times. Wearing a Mary J. Blige t-shirt and matching red sneaks, she could easily pass for any other hip 30-something New Yorker. But this is Joan Osborne, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, the fiercely committed women's rights activist, the star who—due mostly to her religiously-controversial 1996 hit “One of Us”—has been hailed publicly as “Saint Joan” by some and an “instrument of Satan” by the radical right. With a casual air and an easy smile, there's nothing about Joan that conjures up images of ultra-celebrity or the devil. Rather, she's celebrating the release of her new record, How Sweet It Is, without too much fanfare—by talking with Velvetpark, working out, rehearsing for five hours with her band, and going on a date. So, after we toast to her new album, we chat it up for a while and cover a lot of ground.
Upon introductions, I find that we're practically neighbors when she ventures upstate to her place in the Catskills. It's a place that she says saved her, a refuge and hideout she visits when the city and the business get a little overwhelming, which happened after the ride she took with her debut album, Relish. “I think I had this vision of what it would be like to be a recording artist and to really be able to not have a day job and be able to completely devote all my energies to doing music. And my vision of it was more like I'd be able to take piano lessons and study all these different kinds of music that I really want to study—to spend all this time really focusing on the creative side of it. And you end up spending a lot of time promoting yourself and sort of servicing your own fame. I really felt like that after a while with the release of Relish.” And with a chuckle she adds, “I'm almost ambivalent about the notion of having a hit song, at this point, because I feel like it would be great because then more people will get the record—and it's a record that I'm really proud of—but I