Monthly Archives: March 2010

Tori Sparks on Her Music

Tori Sparks
Tori Sparks

The way I discovered Tori Sparks‘ music was a fortunate fluke. One late night/early morning on the Cayamo cruise, after most of the music had ended for the evening–I went looking for where any jam sessions might have been happening. And that’s when I discovered Sparks performing an impromptu show in the ship’s library. I so enjoyed her witty storytelling and performance skills, I decided to get an email interview with her. We got to discuss last year’s release, as detailed here: “Tori’s third album, The Scorpion in the Story, was co-produced with indie rock veteran David Henry (R.E.M., Ben Folds, Josh Rouse, Widespread Panic, Cowboy Junkies) , and features players such as Steve Bowman (Counting Crows), Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell), Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Mindy Smith, Allison Krauss), Fats Kaplin (Mark Knopfler, Kevin Welch), and Barry Walsh (Gretchen Peters) … The Scorpion in the Story is a tale in thirteen chapters, a tour diary in the form of a concept album . Each song was written about one of the many colorful individuals Tori met while touring across the U.S. last year. The album includes a French version of the song ‘Merry Go-Round,’ (‘Le Manege’), and was released on Glass Mountain Records in June 2009.” As evidenced by some of our discourse, in addition to her musical talents, she’s also quite effective in terms of marketing. My thanks to Sparks for her time.

Tim O’Shea: How did the duet with Shawn Mullins on Letter to a Wretch #2 come  about–what is it about Mullins’ voice (and how it interacts/plays off/compliments yours) that motivated you to want to duet with him?

Tori Sparks: I contacted Shawn and asked him if he’d be willing to sing on the song, and was very happy when he said yes. He’s a very gracious guy, and extremely supportive of independent music too – he worked on his own for about ten years before ever signing a record deal, so he knows what it’s like to have to be out there working for it. I’ve always loved the range and the timbre of his voice, and of course his songs as well. Both always ring true to my ears. He sings and writes from the heart.

Continue reading Tori Sparks on Her Music

Archive of American Television: Robert Culp

In the wake of legendary actor Robert Culp’s death last week, I’ve been trying to decide how best to represent his career, be it through excerpts from Culp’s own website; or  the AOL article detailing three episodes of the 1960s series, I Spy, that were written by Culp (the last one described, Home to Judgment [available  here on Hulu], was Culp’s favorite episode of the series, as detailed at his website). Both options would have been great representations of Culp’s work.

But then I ran across the Archive of American Television‘s late 2007 interview with Culp and I could think of nothing better than the man talking about himself for three hours.

Thanks for years of entertainment, Mr. Culp. I hope I’m this classy and witty when I’m in my 70s.

Jason Bitner on Cassette from My Ex; LaPorte, Indiana Documentary

Cassette From My Ex

Mixtapes were a part of my high school and college years–as they were for many folks of my generation. So when I found out about Jason Bitner’s book, Cassette from My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves.  As detailed at the book’s website (which features many of the essays as well as the mixtapes as well), the book is described as follows:

Cassette From My Ex marries confessional culture projects like Mortified, PostSecret, and Six-Word Memoirs with the nostalgia and heartache of Rob Sheffield’s Love Is A Mixtape and gathers these tales of being young, in love, and making mixtapes for your crush.

CFME compiles stories from some amazing writers and musicians: author Rick Moody, The Magnetic Fields’ Claudia Gonson, This American LIfe’s Starlee Kine, The New Yorker’s Ben Greenman, Blender Magazine’s Joe Levy, Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd, Mortified’s David Nadelberg–  even a new story from the godfather of the genre, Rob Sheffied.

We put a ton of love into the design, too, with 224 full-color pages designed by noted cassetteophile Lissi Erwin, with cover illustrations by the excellent Hope Gangloff.”

Bitner is “the co-creator of FOUND Magazine, and editor of DIRTY FOUND and the FOUND Polaroid Book.” Also, in a follow-up to his 2006 book about LaPorte, Indiana–Bitner is producing a documentary of the same name (directed by Joe Beshenkovsky), set to hopefully have some screenings this summer. We get to discuss that project as well. My thanks to Bitner for his time and I wish him the best of luck with his upcoming production, a baby daughter.

Tim O’Shea: What are some of the biggest logistical challenges when collecting a book like this?

Jason Bitner: You’re the first person to ask me that question, strangely enough. It seems like a pretty simple project, but there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to bring it all together.

The short answer is communication, lots of communication with all sorts of writers, editors, designers, and press folks. A quick look through my inbox shows it took around 5000 emails from the beginning of the project til today to get everything together and out to the world.

And specifically with Cassette From My Ex, we had to get people to track down these old mixtapes. There were many parents searching through attics and basements on the hunt for these dusty tapes.

Continue reading Jason Bitner on Cassette from My Ex; LaPorte, Indiana Documentary

Weekly Interview to Run Tomorrow

A few logistical challenges on my part prevent me from posting my interview with Jason Bitner regarding his recent book,  Cassettes from My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves as well as his upcoming documentary on LaPorte, Indiana. The interview will instead go live on Thursday evening. I apologize for the delay, but I hope once you read the interview, you’ll agree it was worth the wait.

Love/Hate: PRI’s Sound Opinions

I rarely agree with the musical critical forces behind PRI’s Sound Opinions: Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot–and in fact sometimes they downright anger me.

But if you look at the scope of last week’s musical snippets that were played during the episode, you can’t help but like the show:

Elvis Costello, “Radio Sweetheart,” My Aim Is True, 1977
OK Go, “This Too Shall Pass,” Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, 2010
OK Go, “A Million Ways,” Oh No, 2005
OK Go, “Here It Goes Again,” Oh No, 2005
Wendy Carlos, “Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29.” Switched-On-Bach, 1968
MGMT, “Kids,” Oracular Spectacular, 2008
Brian Eno, “Over Fire Island,” Another Green World, 1975
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Lucky Man,” Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1970
The Normal, “Warm Leatherette,” T.V.O.D./Warm Leatherette, 1978
Ultravox, “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, 1977
Duran Duran, “Rio,” Rio, 1982
Gary Numan, “Cars,” The Pleasure Principle, 1979
Tubeway Army, “Are Friends Electric,” Replicas, 1979
Yazoo, “Nobodys Diary,” You and Me Both, 1983
Human League, “Don’t You Want Me,” Dare!, 1981
Human League, “Seconds,” Dare!, 1981
Passion Pit, “Sleepyhead,” Manners, 2009
Broken Bells, “The High Road,” Broken Bells, 2010
Broken Bells, “The Ghost Inside,” Broken Bells, 2010
Depeche Mode, “Everything Counts,” Construction Time Again, 1983
New Edition, “Mr. Telephone Man,” New Edition, 1984
Lil Wayne, “Over Here Hustlin’ (Instrumental),” Like Father, Like Son, 2006
Dark Night of the Soul, “Just War” (featuring Gruff Rhys),” Dark Night of the Soul, 2010

Sarah Sample on Her Music

Sarah Sample
Sarah Sample

Singer/songwriter Sarah Sample has a subtle, yet impressive presence. The first time I saw Sample was not on a stage, it was on an elevator in the Norwegian Dawn (cruise ship) during the second day of Cayamo 2010. She boarded a crowded elevator in the midst of a conversation with another group. Just as quickly as she was engaged in discussion with them, she just as easily brought my wife and myself into the conversations. Not surprisingly she’s just as engaging on stage and with her music in general. After her performance with Darrell Scott on the cruise, I spoke with her briefly and she agreed to do this email interview. We got a chance to discuss her music and her affinity for in-house concerts. Before getting to the questions, consider some of the influences that Sample lists at her Facebook fan page: “Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, Josh Ritter, Paul Simon, The Weepies, Emmylou Harris, Ray LaMontagne, Shawn Colvin…” My thanks to Sample for the interview.

Tim O’Shea: Can you breakdown the process of how you ended up as a performer on the Cayamo 2010 cruise–by winning the Concerts in Your Home (CIYH)/Cayamo contest?

Sarah Sample: I went on the Cayamo Cruise as a listener last year. My experience being on the boat as a listener was filled with beautiful memories of incredible musical moments; and at the same time it was hard to be a singer/songwriter and not be able to perform. This year I saw that CIYH was doing a contest where you could submit a video performance of a house concert, and the winner got to be an artist on Cayamo 2010. I play a lot of house concerts, so I selected a video of a song called ‘Mercy Me‘ and sent it in. When I got the call that I had won, I started jumping up and down in the kitchen. Really big dream come true.

Continue reading Sarah Sample on Her Music

Gone Too Soon: Alex Chilton

News broke this evening (via The Commercial Appeal in Memphis), that musician Alex Chilton (who influenced many of the bands of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and now) died suddenly today. Here’s the New York TimesDave Itzkoff immediate thoughts upon the news of Chilton’s passing. Chicago Sun-Times‘ Jim DeRogatis also notes that Chilton was to take part in a panel and tribute to him on Saturday at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin.

Below is Chilton from two years ago, performing his first hit, The Letter.