At 75, Joan Baez still doesn’t mince words.

“People say to me how do you maintain your optimism? Guess what? I never had much,” she tells the New York Observer. “The miracle is to go off and do something anyway. To whatever extent you can lead a decent life and also do something for other people is the thing. I never remember where this comes from, but someone said there is only the trying and the rest is not our business.”

The folk legend, who turned 75 on January 9, kicked off her 75th year two weeks later with an all-star concert—set to air in June on PBS-TV—and continues the celebration with a tour that extends through August. Baez began her birthday concert with just her acoustic guitar in hand, performing songs by Steve Earle and Phil Ochs, before inviting friends to join her for a mix of covers and originals. Baez and the Indigo Girls performed Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”; she and Judy Collins took on her signature “Diamonds and Rust”; and guitarist Richard Thompson joined her for his song “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road.”

Her 18-date North American tour, which kicks off February 27 in Toronto, is in partnership with Amnesty International. The human-rights organization awarded Baez its Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2015. This year, they’re committed to spreading the word about mass incarceration in the United States. “I’m working with Amnesty on the mass-incarceration issue, which is mainly of people of color. I’m trying to find my way into the issue without being pushy or trying to be black, or any of the things that can happen when you try to get involved,” Baez says. “You have to find your way in. It’s just consciousness raising and encouraging people to do something in their own communities.”

In between painting portraits of such friends as David Crosby and Richard Thompson, Baez has begun work on a new album. “It’s very much stop and go, because I get involved with something else, and because I’m painting so much now,” she says. “It’s there to do: I’ve started collecting the songs for it. It’s on the horizon, as I put it.”

Whitney Phaneuf

Check out all of Baez’s North America and European tour dates here.

02/27/16  – Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory, Toronto

02/28/16 – State Theater, Ithaca, New York

03/01/16 – Capitol Center for the Arts – Concord, New Hampshire

03/03/16 – Shubert Theatre – New Haven, Connecticut

03/05/16 – Flynn Center for the Performing Arts – Burlington, Vermont

03/06/16 – Bergen Performing Arts Center – Englewood, New Jersey

03/08/16 – Count Basie Theatre – Red Bank, New Jersey

03/09/16 – Weinberg Center for the Arts – Frederick, Maryland

03/11/16 – Paramount Theatre – Charlottesville, Virginia

03/12/16 – Lexington Opera House – Lexington, Kentucky

03/16/16 – Charleston Music Hall – Charleston, South Carolina

03/17/16 – Atlanta Symphony Hall – Atlanta, Georgia

03/19/16 – Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center – Birmingham, Alabama

03/20/16 – Page Auditorium at Duke University – Durham, North Carolina

03/22/16 – Peace Center for the Performing Arts – Greenville, South Carolina

03/23/16 – Grand Opera House – Wilmington, Delaware

03/25/16 – Hart Theatre at The Egg – Albany,  New York

03/26/16 – Asbury Hall – Buffalo, New York

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