Tag Archives: music interview

Greg Renoff on Van Halen Rising

Van Halen Rising
Van Halen Rising

Once a band achieves fame, it becomes fairly easy to read a variety of articles about the members, or the music. If a band’s early days gets addressed, often those details are relegated to two to three paragraphs of a profile. So a while back comics creator Cully Hamner intrigued me, when he made folks aware that Greg Renoff‘s upcoming book, Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal, was to be released in October 2015. Renoff’s book title makes clear part of what he sets out to reveal, but the aspect that really hooked me into learning more was the author’s decision to focus on Van Halen’s pre-1978 days (aka before they were famous and successful). To get a glimpse of Renoff’s writing style (as well as a taste of his post-1978 Van Halen knowledge) be sure to read his recent Medium piece, which also features legendary photographer Helmut Newton. If that is not enough fun for you after reading this interview, please be sure to peruse Renoff’s Van Halen Rising website.

Tim O’Shea: This book was researched partially by 230 interviews you conducted. How long did it take to conduct all of them?

Greg Renoff: I did my first interviews in 2008. When I first started, I was spurred on by curiosity about Van Halen’s early days more than the idea I’d write a book. I talked to a LA nightclub owner who’d booked Van Halen in 1976 and then to a Pasadena drummer who’d seen the Van Halen brothers perform live long before David Lee Roth joined the band. Then about a year later, I had a break from teaching and decided to dig into the topic some more by doing more interviews. After I started hearing more tales of the band members’ wild days before they were famous, I saw that there was a great story here that needed to be told in book form.

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Eleanor Whitmore on The Mastersons’ Good Luck Charm & August 7 Concert at Eddie’s Attic

The Masterson: Good Luck Charm
The Masterson: Good Luck Charm

I first saw The Mastersons play on the Cayamo cruise in 2011. When I found out that the Austin, Texas-based musical duo of Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore were appearing August 7 at Eddie’s Attic (at 7:30 PM), I reached out to Whitmore for a quick email interview to help spread the word. We discuss the new album, Good Luck Charm, which was released by the husband-wife team in June (and is available on iTunes, Vinyl or your local record store), as well as the advantages of playing a legendary cozy venue like Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia.

Tim O’Shea: How much do you enjoy getting to play more intimate venues like Eddie’s Attic (as opposed to the larger venues you play when opening for or playing with Steve Earle)?

Eleanor Whitmore: It’s easier to connect with your audience when they’re close around you. It’s a lot of fun to play places like Eddie’s Attic because you can interact with the crowd more, but there is a certain challenge to winning over a bigger audience in a large venue and we like doing that too.

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Mary Jo Pehl on Awesome Music For Awful Movies Kickstarter

The day of the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon seems like the perfect time to tell folks about Mary Jo Pehl‘s (aka Pearl and so much more from MST3K, as well as Cinematic Titanic) Kickstarter for Awesome Music For Awful Movies. This is a project she has planned to record (as described by her) “an album of original songs that pay homage to bad movies of Mystery Science Theater 3000 . . . The songs will be written by veteran Twin Cities musicians Michael Warren, Claudia Hankin, and Tony Balluff, and performed by yours truly in a variety of genres such as power pop, ballad, pop-country”. There are seven days left in the Kickstarter, which seemed like the ideal time to chat with her about her plans. I consider myself fortunate enough when I get to catch up with Pehl.

Tim O’Shea: When and how did you decide you wanted to team with Michael Warren, Claudia Hankin, and Tony Balluff to pursue this project?

Mary Jo Pehl: Over the past several years, many people came up to me after Cinematic Titanic shows and told me how much they loved “When Loving Lovers Love” from “Overdrawn At The Memory Bank.” I’d been trying to come up with a new project that might push me past my comfort zone, and let me work with people who were smart and funny and whose work I admired.

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Brian Hudson on his new release, Comfort Quest

Brian Hudson: Comfort Quest
Brian Hudson: Comfort Quest

It has been more two years since I last spoke to Brian Hudson about his music. This past February, Hudson released his latest album, Comfort Quest. In addition to discussing the challenges of recording this new album, Hudson opened up about moving to New Orleans and the impact the change in surroundings has had on the singer/songwriter’s music.

Tim O’Shea: What was the biggest challenge to recording this new collection of songs?

Brian Hudson: There were so many challenges. The album was in Austin unfinished when I moved to New Orleans. So finishing it meant driving back to Texas for long stretches to work on the project and making the money through gigs to pay for the project simultaneously.

The fiddle and piano tracks I recorded myself with my own rig in Los Angeles were plagued with glitchy poppy sounds and I spent days trying to find a technological solution. Ultimately I found a miracle plug-in called Izotope which is able to bandage badly damaged audio.

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Kevin Avery on The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson and Conversations with Clint

Article first published as Kevin Avery on The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson on Technorati.

The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson

From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Paul Nelson was known for writing passionate, insightful criticism of folk and rock music that showed a partiality for singer-songwriters. He, and his record collection, was of great importance to Bob Dylan early in his career. As an editor at Rolling Stone, he influenced many great critics, such as Charles M. Young and Mikal Gilmore. But suddenly, in the early 1980s, when editorial decisions at Rolling Stone ran contrary to his thinking, Nelson walked away from music criticism. In fact, he dropped out of criticism entirely, choosing to spend his remaining years in relative obscurity, working at a video rental store. He died in 2006, but not before writer Kevin Avery contacted him about a potential biography. After Nelson’s death, Avery was tapped to compile this new Fantagraphics book, Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life And Writings Of Paul Nelson, in which Avery documented Nelson’s career as well as collecting his writing. In addition to discussing this book, Avery also discussed his other Nelson-related book that he edited, Conversations with Clint: Paul Nelson’s Lost Interviews with Clint Eastwood, 1979-1983 (Continuum Books). To mark the release of both books, Avery recently allowed me to interview him via email.

Not to toss a large question your way, but how did Paul Nelson help to shape present day rock criticism?

I’m probably the wrong person to ask. As a result of immersing myself in the music and criticism of the Seventies and Eighties, I really don’t follow rock criticism much anymore, but what I do read bears very little resemblance to the kind of writing that Paul did. Paul’s writing was more contemplative and expansive—in contrast to some of what I read today, which is dictated by time and space constraints (some of the very things that brought Paul’s tenure at Rolling Stone to an end in 1982).

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Sara Hickman on The Best of Times

Article first published as Musician Sara Hickman on The Best of Times on Technorati.

The Best of Times

During 2010, in the wake of the Texas Legislature’s budgetary cuts for arts funding, Sara Hickman, the Texas State Musician of the Year, decided to use her position to raise funds and awareness for the importance of arts education (and the funding of it) for children. More exactly, she spearheaded a collaborative effort–with a variety of Texas artists including Shawn Colvin, Willie Nelson, Rhett Miller, Robert Earl Keen as well as many more–to record a collection of Hickman’s own songs. The project, The Best of Times, was recently released as a two-CD, 38-cut collection by Waterloo Records. All proceeds from the sale of the CD set go directly to the Theatre Action Project, a non-profit that supports unique arts programs for more than 16,000 young people. To fully grasp the drive behind her charitable efforts, I recently email interviewed Hickman.

How did you go about getting all of the many fellow talented people who contributed their musical talents to Best of Times?

I knew I had, at least, a year to start lining up musicians to record for The Best of Times because Willie Nelson, who also recorded for the album, was the State Musician before my position took place. So, I immediately made a “wish list” and began calling/emailing/asking in person. I kept a giant chart on the wall with the names of artists/bands I had contacted, the titles of songs I had sent, if they had responded, if they were in the studio, if they had finished recording, if I had the recording.

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Chelsea Crowell on New Album, Crystal City

Chelsea Crowell's Crystal City

Winter 2012 marks the U.S. release of singer/songwriter Chelsea Crowell’s second album, Crystal City. To mark the upcoming release, Crowell was kind enough to do another interview with me. And her frequent collaborator/producer Loney Hutchins jumped in with his perspective. Crowell is giving folks plenty of places to give a listen (or watch a video) to her new music. My thanks to Crowell and Hutchins for their time on this email interview.

Tim O’Shea: I love the video for I’m Gonna Freeze, where did you find the archival footage to use for the video? Or was that present day video made to look vintage?

Chelsea Crowell: I don’t know, ask my favorite person to work with Colm O’Herlihy. I entrust him with whatever and he never fails. Plus part of it is that it’s a surprise for me too. He is one of about one I would let take over full control of something like that.

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Mike Doughty on Yes and Also Yes

Article first published as Interview: Musician Mike Doughty on Yes and Also Yes on Blogcritics.

Mike Doughty (be sure to click the pic for a closer look at the Clayton Moore portrait behind him)

My appreciation of Mike Doughty‘s music started much later than most fans, as I first became aware of his work with his 2005 album, Haughty Melodic. When I found he had a new album, Yes and Also Yes, set for release on August 30, I immediately set up an email interview to find out what was in store for fans of his work. If you’ve never seen Doughty live, take a spin around YouTube for a bit and you quickly will realize that you should see him live as soon as possible. To best frame the album in proper context, I quote Doughty himself: “I recorded it in a studio in Koreatown, Manhattan, from July ’10 to April ’11. Produced by Pat Dillett. Notable musicians included my trusty factotum Andrew ‘Scrap’ Livingston on bass, and the pianist Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, who basically plays with everybody who’s groovy (Justin Bond, Antony and the Johnsons, Glen Hansard, The National, David Byrne, Yoko Ono). I’m releasing it on my own label, Snack Bar, through Megaforce. I split with Dave Matthews’ label ATO so I could run my own shop and have more control, business-wise.”

I had a chance to listen to the album in preparation for this interview, and I was pleased to find there’s not a bad cut among any of the 14 songs. One song that I hope will garner a lot of attention is “Holiday”, a Christmas duet with singer/songwriter great Rosanne Cash. About Cash, Doughty said: ” I did a show with her, and she said, onstage, ‘I feel nervous playing my new songs, because Mike Doughty is here, and he’s such a great songwriter.’ That blew my mind.” Honestly, to borrow a phrase from Doughty, their duet blows my mind. I am the kind of person that hates hearing Christmas music anytime other than December. But this song has such an amazing hook (as most of Doughty’s songs do), I ended up playing it seven times in a row the first time I heard it. The whole album pulled me in just as much and it was a pleasure to interview Doughty. We also get to discuss another recent Doughty musical project, Dubious Luxury, released earlier this month. My thanks to Doughty for his time and thoughts, as well as Rob Moore for facilitating the interview.

You’re an artist who clearly loves to play live. In developing Yes and Also Yes, how much did you play some of these songs before an audience prior to entering the studio? And did any of the cuts change drastically from how it was initially conceived compared to the final version?

I’ve been playing a lot of comedy shows, around Brooklyn and Manhattan, as a musical guest, and I played “Na Na Nothing”, and “Day By Day By” at nearly every one of them, plus, maybe, “27 Jennifers”. If I play something a lot, before or after recording it, the phrasing will change ever so slightly, so there’ll be a cumulative evolution that I barely notice, unless I listen to a five-year-old version, and then it’s kind of startling. So, I don’t really know.

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Chad Fagg & Melissa Barelmann on Just Blue

Another musician that I met on Cayamo 2011 back in February was guitarist Chad Fagg, one half (vocalist Melissa Barelmann being the other half) of Just Blue, a Melbourne, Florida-based Folk/Rock/Country musical duo. We briefly spoke during a Chuck Cannon show one night and from there we agreed to do this email interview about the music of Just Blue. I missed out when they performed in one of the Open Mike competitions on the boat, but fortunately (as you can see below)–friends filmed it for the duo. My thanks to Chad and Melissa for the interview.

Tim O’Shea: In talking about the formation of Just Blue, it was noted “moments of serendipity have followed Just Blue since Melissa Barelmann (vocals) and Chad Fagg (guitars, backing vocals) met in early 2006, brought together by a love of simple, personal songs” Can you talk about some of the moments of serendipity that have occurred in the band’s history?

Chad Fagg: How we met seemed to be destiny. My wife and I were part of an online gaming community and we were attending an event at a local bar. The bar had kareoke going on and by the second song I remarked that they had already gone back to the real cds. My wife, knowing that I have wanted to work with a female vocalist, turned to me and said ‘No that is Melissa, she is part of our group. Maybe she wants to be your female vocalist.’ So I approached her and asked if she wanted to try to put something together. A few days past and I wasn’t able to reach her. Figuring that she had decided that every idea sounds great in a bar that maybe she had decided to decline. Fortunatley she hadn’t.

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Scott & Amanda Anderson on Their Music

Amanda & Scott Anderson

This interview with the musical father and daughter team of Scott & Amanda Anderson is the first of many to originate from Cayamo 2011. Scott was part of Keith Sewell’s band–and after the band’s first night playing on the ship I was fortunate enough to meet both musicians. Unfortunately, while I got to see Scott perform multiple times, I was never around for any of Amanda’s appearances in jam sessions and when she played elsewhere on the boat. As detailed at the website: “After years of playing together, Amanda and her dad Scott Anderson began performing together in 2008. Amanda handles most of the lead vocals and supplies sweet fiddle lines. Swampgrass master Scott Anderson adds harmony and lead vocals as well as guitar and banjo. Their repertoire includes Americana and bluegrass songs from Nickel Creek, Andrea Zonn, Alison Krauss, The Dixie Chicks, and many others. Their dazzling fiddle and banjo duets are favorites at every show. Amanda and Scott also perform together in The Scott Anderson Band and occasionally with The Bluegrass Parlor Band.” Scott recently released his solo album (which features Amanda on many of the cuts), Tales from the Swamp. We also discuss their 2009 album, Another Day. My thanks to Scott and Amanda for taking so much time to answer my questions.

Tim O’Shea: First question, for both of you, what was Cayamo 2011 like for you, as performers and audience members? And Scott, how did you come to be part of Keith Sewell‘s band for Cayamo?

Scott Anderson: We had a blast on Cayamo! The whole thing is really well done, from the artists selected, the way the shows are scheduled and set up, the way they treat the artists, and of course the boat and the trip itself. And the great thing for me was that even when I wasn’t playing a show, there was something fun to do with some many great acts putting on shows all the time. It was also a thrill for me to get to meet and talk with Colin Hay. I’ve been a big fan of his from his days with Men at Work all the way up to all of his great solo stuff that he’s doing now. It’s always good when you meet someone like that and he turns out to be a good guy.

Amanda Anderson: The whole trip was wonderful. I had a great time just hopping from show to show, there was always something new to listen to. I also had a chance to talk to and hear some of the musicians that I’ve been a fan of for years, which was such a treat. And you sure can’t beat those beaches!

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