When you play Leeds on Tuesday and York on Wednesday, will you be performing solo, as you did at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds in 2011, Jolie? Or will you have musicians with you, as you did with drummer Rachel Blumberg at The Band Room in Low Mill on the North York Moors in 2008?

"I think 2011 might have been the only headlining solo tour I ever did. That year, I toured opening for Herman Dune alone, but that was mostly in France. I have a biggish band these days; a great drummer named Justin Veloso, Geoffrey Muller on electric bass, and the amazing Adam Brisbin on electric guitar. I put the band together in New York City. My non-touring band is even bigger, with Doug Weiselman and Jared Samuel.

"I'm lucky in that a lot of great players want to join us. This tour I'm out as a duo with a new bandmate, Stevie Weinstein-Foner, who is a fine singer, guitarist, and harmonium player.

What are the merits of playing solo? Freedom? Improvisation? Flexible set list?

"The only reason I ever have for going out solo is financial. I pay my band as well as I can."

What are the abiding themes of your most recent album, 2014’s Wine Dark Sea?

"Well, it's less important what I think the themes are: what's most important is how the record communicates itself to a listener. Like [German film director] Werner Herzog recently said, it isn't necessarily good for an artist to understand their own themes.

"But I know my last record delineates a strong parallel between [Nigerian writer] Amos Tutuola's Palm Wine Drunkard and Dante's Commedia, and through this, the record is about the meaning of going to hell. Hence the wine dark sea, the epic journey. This record is about the exigencies of love."

Your songwriting embraces folk, jazz, blues, soul and rock’n’roll. Could you take in further influences as your career progresses, especially as you have worked with rapper Sage Francis on his Human The Death Dance album?

"I've always worked closely with rappers, since even before Samantha Parton, Trish Klein and I started The Be Good Tanyas. I got to work with my dear friend Boots Riley on the last Coup record, Sorry To Bother You, which is ballin'. The first song on my first album refers to a rapper who was a close comrade of mine in those days: C.R. Avery. C.R. went on to beat box with Tom Waits for a few shows. I think genre is an interesting cultural problem. It pertains much more to marketing than music."

York Press:

Jolie Holland and her band

How did you feel about Tom Waits nominating you for the Shortlist Music Prize?

"I was a homeless teenager who never had any formal musical training, so to have the word of my hero...It's impossible to put into words."

Will you be introducing any new material on this summer's tour, and if so, is a seventh solo album on its way?

"I'm always playing new material and new covers. I'm in the middle of a couple soundtracks as well as a new record."

Can you say more?

"The movies are confidential at this point – and covers are probably more fun as surprises."

Is there any likelihood of your working again with your old band, The Be Good Tanyas, or is that all in the past?

"It would be wonderful to sing with Samantha [Parton] again, but there are no plans in the works."

Who are you listening to right now?

"We're in the tour van coming from Italy to Switzerland, listening to the brand new record of Sacri Cuori, a wonderful Italian band. They put together this great arts festival we just played called Strade Blu. Marc Ribot[the American guitarist] and David Hidalgo [from Los Lobos] sit in on their new disc, called Delore.

"On our last tour, Messiaen, Trinidad James and the new Pops Staples disc were in heavy rotation. Spenser Tweedy's drumming on the Pops record is just fantastic. Beautifully understated."

Lastly, Jolie, define a Jolie Holland song. The choice is yours.

"On And On, the first song on Wine Dark Sea, is inspired by the single-minded love songs of early rock'n'roll. It was surprisingly challenging to compose: it has two short verses, a short chorus repeated only twice, and a bridge-like third form. I directed Indigo Street, who takes the solo, to play as though the instrument had caught on fire, as though she did not know what a guitar was.

"I think she was able to perform this well: the solo has a stratospheric, explosive quality to it. The other supportive players generate duet-like parts: Doug Weiselman, on noise-bass, and Adam Brisbin playing through an amp whose speaker is fantastically, and accidentally shredded, which is how Link Wray originally created his distorted guitar tone."

Please Please You and the Brudenell Social Club presents Jolie Holland, Danni Nicholls and Sam Airey at Leeds Brudenell Social Club, Tuesday 7.30pm, and The Basement, City Screen, York, Wednesday, 8pm. Tickets: Leeds. £11 on 0113 275 2411 or at brudenellsocialclub.co.uk or £13 on the door; York, £12 on 0871 902 5726 or thebasementyork.co.uk or £14 on the door.

Did you know?

Jolie Holland never sang with The Be Good Tanyas outside North America in her 1999-2001 stretch with the Vancouver folk, country and bluegrass band she co-founded.