Five years ago, New Yorker Joan Osborne was hailed as a major new talent on the strength of her Grammy-nominated debut, Relish, and its smash single, ”One of Us.” Then, battles with her record company over musical direction turned her into a martyr, and she found herself dropped several months ago. Now she’s back with Righteous Love, on a new label, Interscope. EW caught up with the singer just before the Sept. 1 kickoff of her fall tour.
Are you worried people have forgotten about you?
That’s the question: Is this still gonna work, are people still interested in me? It’ll be interesting to see if there is an audience for music that’s not a teen-pop-oriented thing or a packaged, adolescent, boy-anger thing.
Was it traumatic to suddenly find yourself without a label?
Certainly, it was scary at moments. I had to pay for this record with my own money, and if I hadn’t gotten another label deal, I would have had to sell my house. So there were definitely moments when I was afraid.
Did you ever feel like giving up?
Oh yeah. There were periods when I felt the music business was a place I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t tough enough. It was very depressing. But I have a record I feel good about, and I understand what a privilege it is to do this for a living.
What helped you get through the worst times?
My family, my brothers and sisters. And also, people would come up to me on the street, like, ”Hey, what’s going on? We’re big fans of yours.” That would happen sometimes three times a day. That helped me from getting too discouraged.
How does it feel to be labelmates with Limp Bizkit and Eminem?
[Laughs] I haven’t met them, so I can’t really say. Labelmates — that really doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. It’s kind of a fun thing to talk about at parties, but it’s not like I’m ever gonna go hang out with Eminem and his crew, you know?
Weren’t you supposed to do a Sex and the City episode?
Yeah, it was all set to happen but the show went wildly over budget. Two days before I was supposed to fly out to L.A., HBO told the show’s producers they’d have to cut a lot of scenes, and mine was one they cut. I can’t get too upset about it.
You’re starting a Web magazine, right?
Yes, www.heroinemag.com. It’s all about women who are doing inspiring things. One of the first pieces is going to be a discussion between the Indigo Girls and Susan Sarandon about political activism. And there’s a piece about Mary J. Blige, who I think is just a classic soul singer.
So, what’s going on with your love life?
Um, I’m sorry, I can’t go there.