Rosanne Cash is a songwriter/musician/writer and (as far as I am concerned) an overall genius. She loves Twitter and loves to interact with her followers. So it was in this case, where she took musical requests via Twitter for a few songs to record in her living room with husband/producer John Leventhal, in a series called “Live From Zone C” for AOL’s The Boot. Below watch one of the videos, Black Cadillac.
Man, the audio production on the video is just exquisite.
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.
Longtime readers of the blog know how much I love music–and Americana music, in particular, has really grown on me in recent years. So when I found out about Beth Harrington‘s musical/historical documentary in progress, The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music, I immediately sought Harrington out for an interview. As noted at Harrington’s website: “The Winding Stream is the tale of the dynasty at the very heart of country music. Starting with the seminal Original Carter Family, A.P., Sara and Maybelle; this film-in-progress traces the ebb and flow of their influence, the transformation of that act into the Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle, the marital alliance between June Carter and music legend Johnny Cash, and the efforts of the present-day family to keep this legacy alive.” Below is a Kickstarter video about the project. While the initial fundraising goal was recently met, as we discuss in the email interview, there’s additional work that needs to be funded. My thanks to Harrington for her time, as well as her willingness to discuss her own musical career.
Beth Harrington: The Kickstarter funds will allow us to film our last several days of interviews and performances if we’re careful. Beyond that we need to raise several hundred thousand more to do all the other things I mentioned. But that sounds daunting and has been counterproductive until now, so we’re trying to deal with the film in chunks. 1) Finish shooting. 2) Refine the edit. 3) Complete the graphics, animation and titles. 4) Deal with the rights issues. 5) Finish sound design and other post production. We’re waiting to hear on a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. We’re also looking for one or more corporate underwriters (sponsors) who would want to be associated with the film. And then there are a couple of possible distribution deals we could access when we get close to being finished. But meanwhile we’re mostly relying on crowdfunding – individual donations – to get us to the next steps.
“Notable Music loves you very, very much.” It’s not everyday that you run across a company with a motto like that. But do a search for Notable Music Co. and that’s a phrase that the company communicates fairly consistently. A music publishing company founded by composer/songwriter Cy Coleman in the early 1960s, Notable Music has been expanding in recent years. Even though Coleman died in 2004, with his widow Shelby Coleman serving as president with Damon Booth as VP/GM and Tom DeSavia as VP/Creative, Notable Music is “as committed to representing new and developing talent as it is in promoting the legacy of what we believe is one of the great independent music publishing catalogs of our time.” DeSavia was kind enough to recently answer a few questions. My thanks to him for his time. Given the shifting landscape of the music industry, after talking to DeSavia, I’m intrigued at the opportunities and successes that Notable Music have achieved and the upcoming projects it has planned (anytime someone mentions a new Sam Phillips project, I’m a happy man). Before jumping into the interview, however, please consider this paragraph from Notable Music: “A few of the artists who have recorded & performed the Notable Music & Portable Music repertoire include: Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Isaac Hayes, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Shirley Horn, Sammy Davis Jr., The Jackson 5, Michael Buble, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Queen, Fiona Apple, Wilson Pickett, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Wilson, Dusty Springfield, Sam Phillips, Patty Griffin, Madeleine Peyroux, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.”
Tim O’Shea: Last year when you and Notable Music VP/GM Damon Booth were interviewed at RM64, Booth said: “One of my goals for Notable when I started was for it to be a full-fledged music company. We’re publishers primarily, but if our songwriters need to make a record, then let’s get a record made and find a home for it.” The music industry seems to be changing drastically on a regular basis. How hard is it to expand your opportunities in such a climate?
Tom DeSavia: It’s actually one of the fun parts of the job. I’m always saying it’s 1956 all over again… meaning it’s like the dawn of rock and roll… ‘pop’ music sales, for lack of a better term, is not the massive business it was, so a lot of the financial muscle behind it has lost/is losing interest in music as an ‘industry’… so it’s moving back to a ‘small business’ mentality, and the canvas is blank… the business is being reinvented on what it’s going to be for the next 40 years. You have to do everything – and half the fun of it is making it up as you go along, because most of the old rules no longer apply.
Hopefully folks remember when I interviewed Chelsea Crowell about her music. Back in that interview in June, I intentionally did not mention who she was related to, out of respect of the fact the mere mention of the names could easily derail the focus on the musical discussion we had. But now, thanks to a tweet by her mother (and the fact I double-checked with her mother to make sure it was OK I wrote about it here), it’s of interest to discuss here relations, at least partially.
Currently Crowell is in the studio, recording her next release, and as you hopefully know, music does not get made for free, people.
If you look to your right, this is just one of the items that Crowell has inherited from her family and has decided to sell to help defray the costs of her next release. When you visit the itemsthat Crowell has for sale at 1stdibs.com, you will see that they are things she has inherited from her late step-grandmother, June Carter-Cash as well as from her mother, Rosanne Cash.
Again, I don’t mention the family connections to minimize Crowell’s efforts, but in fact to hopefully help fund her musical pursuits.
Speaking of Crowell’s music, in her August newsletter to fans she discussed how the recording process has gone so far:
“Last we left I was high on the hog of a promising endeavor. Damn that hog, though I remain a vegetarian, that tall swine decided that hard work is best done sitting ground level. L.J. Hutchins of Cleft music and I have been working very literally sitting on the floor since June. Two mics, one for the gut string Gibson I refuse to part with and one for my vocals sitting cross leg-ed on his studio floor, hammering out sometimes hammered s**t and sometimes concluding a day with ‘did we get that one? I think we got that one…’ Every song so far has been live takes of the straightforward way in which they were written. Alas, embarking on a sophomore solo record means you just might be embarking on a career instead of a hobby. But let’s be honest, we have not been feverishly wiping our brows at the end of every seven day week. In short, this record is taking longer than expected because of a few incidents of the unexpected (love it when you can make it work using the same word twice in a sentence) . Rest easy to all three of you that care, all the material is there, either not fully mixed or just still a demo waiting to be flushed out.”
Here’s hoping these items for sale help her to get her music to the masses in a timeframe and a format that works best for her and her growing audience. (And if I’m lucky, I’ll get to interview her again when it comes out).
My musical realm of knowledge continually grows thanks to social networking. Singer/songwriter Jennifer Haase is the latest example, having been introduced to her music via her Twitter account. This September will mark the release of Haase’s latest album, No More Invitations. It was interesting to talk to an artist like Haase, given that she recently walked away from Corporate America to commit fully to her musical career. We discuss that transition, as well as the fundraising effort for her upcoming release and her overall approach to her music.
Tim O’Shea: How long has your upcoming album been in the works?
Jennifer Haase: It was spring 2006 when my record producer Mike Leslieand I shook hands with a plan to start this record together. If we’d known then what we know now, ha! It’s been 4 amazing, enlightening, tumultuous music-making years with him and my recording engineer Robert L. Smith. I told Mike recently that I feel like this project has weaved itself into the fabric of our lives.
O’Shea: Which has been harder, raising the funds to make the album or recording the album itself?
Haase: Making the album has been much harder on me than the fundraiser. The Boys (Mike & Robert) can confirm that I’m sometimes prone to impatience and bouts of self-doubt. With perhaps a teensy hair-thin sliver of perfectionism when it comes to my singing voice. Barely detectable beneath my joyous song-recording rapture, of course. A-hem.
The heart of why I enjoy doing these interviews is when I get a glimpse into someone’s creative process. So you can imagine how interested I was when I found out that Michael Streissguth had written a book, Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List and the Spirit of Southern Music, about Rosanne Cash‘s making of her 2009 release, The List. As noted at the book’s site, Streissguth is “the author of Johnny Cash: The Biography, and five other books. His work has appeared in Mojo, the Journal of Country Music, and many other publications. He is a professor in the Department of Communication and Film Studies of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, where he lives with his wife and family.” My thanks to Streissguth for this email interview–and I’m looking forward to reading his next book, given how much I enjoyed this one.
Tim O’Shea: How hard is it to know when to pull back when covering an artist’s life? For example, I felt uncomfortable reading the book when an incident occurred at Rosanne Cash’s son’s school (ultimately revealed to be the death of a
classmate). Did you hesitate to include that in the book?
Michael Streissguth: It’s not hard to pull back when an event seems superfluous. I did hesitate to include the part about her son, but ultimately I felt it would help readers understand that Rosanne is a caring mother who has to deal with the same kind of challenges that parents everywhere face.