• Ana Egge on Dream-Writing, the Truth, and Sinead O'Connor, ep. 269

    Folk music singer Ana Egge's 13th album Sharing in the Spirit came out of the musician one song at a time. She didn't even think about moving onto a new song before the writing and production of each song was complete. Working with her friend and collaborator Lorenzo Wolff, the songwriting process and music production plan was to just work on a handful of songs. Their creative collaboration manifested an entire record's worth of indie folk, acoustic music and new folk music. The record includes eight originals and two covers: one by the Biloxi songwriter Ted Hawkins and one by Irish musician Sinead O'Connor.

    Ana gives a huge songwriting credit to her dreams, which started getting more and more intense when she began her sobriety journey four years ago. Since then, she's recorded her dreams, especially those with music segments and full songs, on her voice memos app. We go through the new album track by track, addressing themes in the songs like not sleeping through the revolution, the importance of telling the truth, feelings on mortality and how are we gonna feel when Bob Dylan dies. Also: Ana was the VERY first guest on Basic Folk! I can't go back and listen to myself four years ago, but I encourage you to check it out and then dive into her great new album.

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    E269 - 1h 6m - Jul 11, 2024
  • Soundcheck Stories and Life Lessons: Chris Smither and Peter Mulvey, ep. 268

    Chris Smither has been Peter Mulvey's mentor since back in 1993, when the young Mulvey opened for the already seasoned Smither. The blues and folk legend liked what he heard and enjoyed the similarities in creativity and quirks and he took that young man on the road with him. Their musical partnership has crossed paths and outlasted the digital age, the pandemic, parenthood and the indictment of a former president. Along the way each has worked to influence their best habits and life lessons on the other and as far as mentor-mentee relationships go, this one is for the history books. Also there are nods to David 'Goody' Goodrich, Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and the woman behind it all: Carol Young (aka Smither's long-time manager, aka his wife).

    In this rare joint interview, we address the important questions: like why do they delight in calling each other by their last names? Smither shares that he was first called by his last name in Paris when he was in school. They debate who has the better hometown: Milwaukee or New Orleans. Actually it's not so much a debate as a reflection on New Orleans music, since that is clearly the better spot to grow up a musician. Mulvey reflects on their musical differences citing some of his main inspirations to be Kendrick Lamar and Ani DiFranco versus Smither's affinity for Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. We break down how each feels about fatherhood and try to get Smither to spill his secret to longevity. Spoiler alert: it's not from remaining still. Chris Smither's 20th album All About the Bones is out now. Peter Mulvey's latest is the acoustic retrospective More Notes From Elsewhere.

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    E267 - 1h 1m - Jul 4, 2024
  • Steve Poltz Wants to Listen to The Grateful Dead, Watch Laugh-In and Write a Song Together, ep. 267

    If you're looking for recommendations for desserts, might I suggest asking folk music and comedy savant Steve Poltz? This man loves gluten and carb-heavy deserts. He also loves collaborations, camaraderie, creativity and using humor in music. It all began for Poltz, or Poltzy as his friends call him, in his birthplace of Halifax Nova Scotia, making him an official Canadian. He spent his formative years in Palm Springs and Los Angeles where, due to his stutter, allergies and asthma, he learned to talk fast to get himself out of trouble. His sense of humor was cultivated in part by his funny parents as well as radio and television. He was particularly taken with The Smothers Brothers, Laugh-In and the novelty songs he heard on Dr. Demento's radio program, which solidified his own aspirations for being silly as hell in his own writing. Along the way, he picked up the guitar at six years old and it's been by his side ever since.

    After he moved to San Diego to attend college in the 80s, he formed the cow-punk band The Rugburns with Robert Driscoll. The band, who Steve has described as "really slow speed metal," developed a cult following across the US in the early 90s. It was at that time, Poltz met Jewel, who was a struggling musician in the San Diego scene. The two dated (they remain friends to this day) and ended up co-writing one of the biggest songs of the 90s with "You Were Meant for Me." After a brush with a major label (thanks to all the Jewel stuff), he remained an independent artist who developed a reputation for a singular live performance experience. In 2014, he actually had a stroke on-stage, which temporarily caused him to lose his vision, the ability to read and also gave him a new outlook on life. Also: post-stroke, he found a late-in-life obsession with The Grateful Dead. In 2016, he and his wife, Sharon, moved to Nashville, where he discovered that he actually does like the Nashville co-writing thing. He's written songs with people like Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings. His friend Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) produced his most recent record, Stardust and Satellites. Here's to Steve Poltz!

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    E267 - 1h 18m - Jun 27, 2024
  • Basic Folk Presents: Only Vans

    Editor’s note: Basic Folk is pleased to introduce our listeners to one of our favorite podcasts by sharing an episode in our feed! I am awestruck with the charm and charisma of Texas Country Musician Bri Bagwell - most impressively demonstrated on her podcast Only Vans, where she talks to her friends in her van (actually she recently upgraded to an RV, but it still counts) about the music industry along with her dog, Whiskey.

    Bri is a force to be reckoned with from her rousingly fun live performances to trailblazing recordings garnering her twelve #1 singles on Texas Country Radio and counting. The Bluegrass Situation Podcast Network recently welcome Only Vans to the fam and I wanted to share this super helpful episode where Bri talks to Mitch Ballard (BMI’s Executive Director of Creative in Texas). They discuss what BMI is and why it’s important, along with the constantly evolving nature of the music business and what BMI is doing to keep up and help artists.

    Listen > Subscribe > Support! and share with a musician you love! This one's got some great tips and info!



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    29m - Jun 25, 2024
  • Archiving the Heart: Greg Brown on Music, Family, and Throwing Out Old Notebooks, ep. 266

    Iowa folk music icon Greg Brown is living that retired life. After playing his farewell retirement concert in 2023, he's returned with a new book: Ring Around The Moon: A Songbook, which highlights a song selection personally picked by the songwriter himself, as well as family photos, personal anecdotes and self-penned drawings. The book features a foreword by Seth Avett (The Avett Brothers) who calls Brown's songs "plain ​spoken ​expression ​of ​the ​nearly ​inexpressible." In our conversation, we touch on topics like inner peace, happiness, personal growth and self-acceptance.

    He speaks of how art has impacted him in ways the artist will never understand. He talks about what it's like to be on both the receiving and sending end of this exchange. It especially impacted him when he learned the poet Allen Ginsberg listened to an album of his while he was dying. I asked him about his music archives, which he calls "a ​bunch ​of ​old ​notebooks ​on ​a ​shelf" and "a ​couple ​boxes ​of ​old ​photos," which assisted him in recalling family connections for the songbook. Going through the photos and old songs instilled a sense of music nostalgia, including collaboration with Iowa musicians at the Wednesday Night Jam at The Mill. Music nostalgia surfaces several times through the pages like his incredible story of founding the successful and beloved Red House Records. There's also discussion on a few choice Greg Brown songs like "If You Don't Get it at Home," addressing replacing love for materialism and drug use. We talk about "Brand New '64 Dodge," chronicling Brown's personal experience with JFK's assassination in 1963 and "Two Little Feet," written in Alaska where he was inspired by Native American myths he heard and felt in the area. Greg Brown's songbook was an awesome trip down memory lane for some of the best folk songs ever written from one very serious, yet very silly songwriter. It was an honor to dig in with one of the best to do it!

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    E266 - 44m - Jun 20, 2024
  • The Reckoning of Montreal Banjo-Witch Kaïa Kater, ep. 265

    After banjo player Kaïa Kater attended Americana Fest in 2016, the music industry started telling her she was a part of the genre, which encompasses all kinds of roots music, acoustic music, folk music, singer-songwriter and alternative country music. She was singing about heavy themes like historical trauma, her cultural heritage (her father is from the Caribbean country of Grenada) and her music history. She confesses in our interview that she never felt comfortable in Americana, that she was always just on the outside never fully feeling accepted by this mostly white world. Kater has declared that her new album, Strange Medicine, comes from a place that lays beyond the white gaze of Americana. This music is filled with emotional healing with music production that sonically ​reflects the vulnerability that she is expressing so deeply for the first time in her career. It's also the first time she's avoiding metaphors and really letting her most raw feelings about colonialism, sexism, racism, and misogyny rip. These songs see her using violent language and releasing emotions she’d previously kept frozen like anger and revenge.

    While creating Strange Medicine, she listened ​to ​a ​lot ​of ​instrumental ​music allowing her ears ​to be bigger ​than ​they ​had ​been ​on ​previous ​records. Which translated to her being ​more ​willing ​to ​take ​big ​swings ​and ​take ​risks. Kater ​attended school ​to ​learn film ​composition ​allowing her to be more ​comfortable ​with being ​a ​little ​bit ​more ​overstated ​in ​her ​songs, which certainly proves true on the new record. Another good piece of news is that the banjo is back! After using it very minimally on her last release, Kaia picked it up again after listening ​to ​a ​lot ​of ​Steve ​Reich, a composer who developed a groundbreaking minimalist style in the 1960s that's marked by repetition. His work ​helped ​Kater ​conceive ​of ​the ​banjo ​as ​an ​instrument ​that ​could ​hypnotically play ​patterns ​over ​and ​over. We go through this monumental album track by track and unwind songs with topics from Tituba's revenge (the first to be accused during the Salem witch trials) to getting the critic out of the room, to realizing the critic is you. She also recounts her history in her hometown of Montreal and what the Internet was like when she first logged on in the 2000's.

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    E265 - 1h 23m - Jun 13, 2024
  • Guster is a Place, ep. 264

    Frontman ​Ryan ​Miller joins us ​to ​talk ​about ​all ​things ​Guster. ​From ​their ​tried ​and ​true ​collaborative ​writing ​process ​to ​the ​theatrical ​delights ​of ​their ​recent "We ​Also ​Have ​Eras" ​tour, ​to ​what ​it ​really ​looks ​like ​to ​make ​environmental ​sustainability ​a ​priority ​on ​tour. Guster ​has just released ​their ​9th ​studio ​album, ​Ooh ​La ​La. ​As ​we ​talked ​about ​the ​new ​record, ​Ryan talked ​about ​how ​these ​new ​songs ​touch ​on ​questions ​that ​the ​band ​has ​been ​asking ​throughout ​their ​over ​30 ​year ​career. For ​example, ​"Maybe ​We're ​Al​right" ​calls ​back ​to ​the ​collectivist ​spirit ​that ​we ​loved ​in ​2003's ​Keep ​It ​Together. ​​"Gaugin, Cezanne (Everlasting Love)" ​talks ​about ​God ​in ​a ​way ​that ​brought ​up ​new ​questions ​for ​me ​about ​2010's ​album, ​Easy, ​Wonderful, ​and ​so ​on. ​This ​is ​what ​makes ​being ​a ​Guster ​fan ​so ​rewarding. ​The ​longer ​you ​listen ​to ​these ​guys ​and ​the ​deeper ​you ​dig, ​the ​more ​you ​feel ​empowered ​to ​ask ​questions ​about ​the ​world ​around ​you ​and ​approach ​the ​answers ​with ​playfulness. ​Guster ​is ​a ​band, ​but ​it ​is ​also ​a ​place ​where ​we ​all ​meet ​to ​dance ​away ​the ​big ​questions ​with ​whimsy ​to ​the ​beat ​of ​tasteful ​hand ​drums.

    It ​is ​no ​exaggeration ​to ​say ​that ​lizzie ​has ​waited ​over ​20 ​years ​to ​talk ​to ​Ryan. ​They became ​a ​fan ​of ​the ​New ​England ​indie ​outfit ​in ​2003 ​when they opened ​for ​John ​Mayer ​at ​the ​West ​Point ​Military ​Academy, ​of ​all ​places. ​The ​vibe ​in ​the ​room ​was ​a ​little ​stiff, ​but ​Guster ​was ​anything ​but. Their ​exuberant, ​generous, ​harmony ​filled, ​idiosyncratic ​performance ​blew her ​teenage ​mind. ​As lizzie ​dug ​deeper ​into ​their ​lore, ​they ​discovered ​that they were ​a ​part ​of ​a ​vast ​network ​of ​weirdos: The ​Guster ​fandom. ​

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    E264 - 59m - Jun 6, 2024
  • Finding Freedom in a Flip Phone: John Moreland's Quest for a Simple Life, ep. 263

    I hate surprises. However, Oklahoma's pride and joy John Moreland surprised us with his latest album Visitor and I guess I'm okay with it. Moreland's gone back to a sparse acoustic instrumentation, unlike the electronic sound (which I also loved) on his previous release, 2022's Birds in the Ceiling. Recently, he took a page from his wife Pearl Rachinsky and musician (and recent tour buddy) Chris ​Staples' book, and quit his smartphone, took a social media break and stopped all touring for six months. What ensued was an incredible psychic change discovered through living electronically off the grid. Another thing that came about during experiencing this simplicity in life: an album full of songs. He would take long drives at night, bringing along his guitar and making field recordings of his new writing. All this culminated into his beautiful new record.

    Moreland talks about the process of unraveling himself from the smartphone, reconnecting with the acoustic guitar and getting to know himself again during this period of quiet. He talks about how playing live is very vulnerable for him to the point where he started taking (and loving) beta-blockers to stave off anxiety and adrenaline. He is very candid with his current thoughts on body image, he has been known to experience body shaming online after performing live. We also get into something that's been on my mind all year: is climbing the professional songwriter ladder worth it? Pretty sure we figured out the answer. LoL.

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    E263 - 59m - May 30, 2024
  • Claps, Covers, and Come Ons: Inside Barnstar!'s Musical Mischief, ep. 262

    Barnstar!, Boston's premiere kinda bluegrass and definitely bombastic band, has released their new album Furious Kindness and we're #blessed to welcome Mark Erelli and Zachariah Hickman to the pod. Originally a fun side hustle and bluegrass vehicle for Zack, the group, which also includes Charlie Rose and Taylor and Jake Armerding, started very casually performing at the legendary local Cantab Lounge. Zack accurately likens the vibe of the place to a basement Star Wars Cantina full of bluegrass bands.

    In between their main gigs with performers like Josh Ritter and Lori McKenna and solo careers, Barnstar! has cultivated an explosive live performance filled with energy and emotional expression leaving concert attendees cheering and crying along. Included in their repertoire are some of the finest music covers including many that you'd never expect to see on a kind of bluegrass band album, like The Hold Steady, Patty Griffin, Elliott Smith and Elizabeth & The Catapult. We talk about what it's like to bring a cover song to the band to learn as well as co-writing with friends like Dinty Child and Chuck Prophet. We'd be remiss if we did not address the alien-like quality of Mark Erelli's singing voice and learn that it is because of his bestie Zack and Barnstar! that he can sing like this. Now he finds himself performing vocal warm-ups before hitting the stage with the guys. Not something he ever thought he'd do. All members of Barnstar! contribute and sing to the new album Furious Kindness, an album that just wants to shout in your face about how awesome you really are.

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    57m - May 23, 2024
  • Fran & Flora Are Reimagining Traditional Yiddish Folk Music, ep. 261

    Two long-time collaborators, cellist Francesa Ter-Berg and violinist Flora Curazon, Fran & Flora, have bonded over their obsession with ancient music, rooted in Eastern European and Jewish culture, for over a dozen years. Together and separately, the English musicians have been studying with teachers of ethnomusicology in places like Transylvania and Romania. There, they took in the music as well as the cultural influences. That's not to speak of their higher musical education, Francesca holds two masters in music (including ​in ​contemporary ​improvisation ​at ​the ​New ​England ​Conservatory ​of ​Music) while Flora trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London. They break down the benefits of each learning style and how it impacts their creative process. They also get into their love of klezmer music and the importance of portraying cultural heritage while remaining modern.

    We also talk about how as female musicians, they are expected to do absolutely everything and excel at it while people still talk about whether or not you smile on stage.
They share “There’s a very deep thing in there that has effected our choices as a band in order to keep it safe and healthy within ourselves.” Their latest album Precious Collection features a couple of original tunes, but it's mostly new and unique arrangements of traditional Klezmer and Yiddish songs. Don't sleep on the smokey translation that Flora shares of the song "Little Bird" and stick around to learn who is the better roommate. All in all, great conversation with wonderful people who create bonkers music that's rich in tradition and layers. 

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    E261 - 1h 7m - May 16, 2024
  • Relevant, Radical & ROTFL: Billy Bragg, Folk Music's Political Poet, ep. 260

    Billy Bragg joins lizzie and Cindy on-board Cayamo to talk about songwriting, social justice, punk rock and, of course, The Little Guy (Bragg's nickname for Woody Guthrie). In our interview we talked about using humor as a way to connect to his audience, so that he can bring up his political activism like fighting for transgender rights, the importance of unions and abortion rights. It's interesting to hear how he wants the Americana audience to remain as relevant as he does. Billy talked about his place as a British ​artist ​in ​the ​genealogy ​of ​folk ​music and how working on Mermaid Avenue with Wilco allowed him to be a part of the folk tradition.

    He also shared how he overcame anxiety as a teenage musician. Standing in front of a crowd playing with his friends in a band really boosted his confidence. Meanwhile, the old school "stiff upper lip" of British culture created an emotional barrier between Billy's and his parents' generation. The older generation grew up with the cultural heritage of separating oneself from any emotion. When Billy was a teen, his father was dying. The doctor recommended not telling the patient or talking about it at all. Several decades later, his mother insisted that everyone talk to and about her terminal cancer diagnosis. Bragg also gets into the merits of socialism, why nostalgia rubs him the wrong way and his favorite English treat. Spoiler: It's marmite. Gross.

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    E260 - 1h 4m - May 9, 2024
  • Leyla McCalla's Joyful Rebellion: Sun Without Heat and the Freedom of Play, ep. 259

    Singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla and her band (bassist Pete Olynciw, drummer Shawn Meyers and guitarist Nahum Zdybel) join us onboard the Cayamo cruise to go through their incredible, righteous and fun new record Sun Without Heat. It is a Leyla McCalla solo album but no solo artist is an island! Once we saw Leyla perform with her band, with whom she has collaborated for the past six years, we had to get the whole collaborative outfit in on the interview.

    The sounds on the album are inspired by Afrobeat, Haitian Music, folk music, indie music, Americana music, Brazilian tropicalismo, amongst others. Leyla calls it "a record that is playful and full of joy while holding the pain and tension of transformation." McCalla’s liberatory politics find their way into the record, evidenced by the title which comes from a Frederick Douglass speech given six years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Leyla explores her cultural heritage while reflecting the African diaspora using elements of Afrofuturism. She's leaning into a concept that challenges women in music (particularly women of color) of how to free herself from labor that should not be hers and fighting for her right to be joyful in her creative expression.

    When asked about how these new songs feel through the lens of somatic experience, Leyla says the new music feels different and that she's let go of the idea of perfectionism as a single mom of three kids. A lot of the record was informed by different authors she's read recently like adrienne maree brown (Pleasure Activism) and Susan Raffo (Liberated To the Bone). Leyla's really changing the game in the Americana genre when it comes to incorporating the academic into truly bitchin' music. Sidenote: we really loved hanging out with this crew at sea on Cayamo. They had great vibes, good laughs and also very good outfits. lizzie even recruited Pete to play bass in an impromptu trio while on-board. More good times with Leyla and band, please!!

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    E259 - 1h 21m - May 2, 2024
  • Humbird: From Dinner Table Singing to Dismantling White Supremacy, ep. 258

    Siri Undlin, better known as Humbird, is a talented singer-songwriter from the Twin Cities with deep roots in Minnesota music and the land that surrounds her. Growing up, she was a true cold weather kid who loved hockey during winter In Minnesota, but also loved music and feeding her vivid imagination. Her love of music was nurtured by her parents, religious music, church choir and also her Aunt Joan, who taught Siri guitar at age 12. Hockey actually led her to her first band Celtic Club, with a set of triplets. The band would play at Irish Pubs, talent shows and, of course, at the local hockey rink. The band introduced her to Celtic music and her first live performances.

    Undlin shares her rich experience studying folklore and fairy tales, which greatly influenced her musical journey. She discusses her intensive research in Ireland and Nordic countries, exploring how music intertwines with storytelling traditions. Throughout the episode, Undlin reflects on her upbringing, her time at an art school, and her evolving approach to songwriting, blending traditional folk music with indie music and experimental sounds. On her new album, Right On, Siri is acknowledging and addressing white supremacy in Middle America, as highlighted in her song "Child of Violence." She talks candidly about what writing and releasing the song taught her about white supremacy. Touring has provided Siri with unexpected challenges and valuable insights, shaping her perspective as a musician and performer. We talk about the importance of being open to chaos and disciplined in one's mindset while navigating the music industry and life on the road.

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    E258 - 1h 5m - Apr 25, 2024
  • Navigating the Waters of Folk Music: Community vs Capitalism, ep. 257

    We're live at sea! lizzie and Cindy recorded this episode onboard Cayamo, which is a singer/songwriter cruise that's been sailing yearly since 2008 and is one of the best music festivals we've attended. AND it's another edition of FOLK DEBATE CLUB. This time it's Community vs Capitalism! Our panel features Jenny Owen Youngs (musician and co-host of Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast, Buffering the Vampire Slayer), Amy Reitnouer Jacobs (Co-Founder / Executive Director of The Bluegrass Situation) and Natalie Dean (Director of Events at Sixthman, which presents Cayamo). We talk about both through the lens of folk music and the music industry at large. Community building amongst folk artists and fans in authentic and unique ways will help drive your passion. Organically finding community through event production, online presence or music promotion is at the core of folk culture. Community trust and cultural diversity are key in ensuring that folk music artists will thrive in our Capitalistic society. How do you build that trust among your audience in a way that allows them to build trust with each other?

    How do you stay true to your values while being able to pay for your life? How have musical community leaders cultivated their particular communities? Capitalism is our current reality, but it historically has not mixed well with Community. Clearly, one must be pursued vigorously more than the other! Or does it? Is there a way that these two can live side by side in folk music? If you are listening to this or reading this right now, I can make this assumption: You want to support music financially and with your heart. Music is something that sustains our lives, but it’s also a profession and something people consume. Don't worry, we figure it all out in this episode of FOLK DEBATE CLUB AT SEA!

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    E257 - 48m - Apr 18, 2024
  • Jontavious Willis Says Blues Music is for The Kids, ep. 256

    Originally from Greenville Georgia, musician Jontavious Willis is a Blues music phenom. When we talk about the Blues, the phrase or the word "torchbearer" comes up a lot when it comes to young, new Blues artists. I think of that word as a double edged sword. When you think of a torchbearer, you think about someone who's carrying on a flame that was lit long ago. It's somebody who's carrying on a tradition, but it also can come with restrictions. Such as oldheads telling you you're not doing it right or asking you: "have you really paid your dues? Are you really faithful to the tradition?" And just asking you questions about whether or not you belong. Jontavious handles that double edged sword with such alacrity. His writing is firmly contemporary at the same time that his playing is rooted in the tradition of Country Blues. He knows so much about the genre that he's basically in a walking encyclopedia of the Blues. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but instead of the the traditional Basic Folk lightning round, we played a pop up game at the end of the interview. I put different styles of the Blues (like Delta or Piedmont) in one cup and different ripped from the headlines, 2024 topics in another. Then we just matched them up. He was so quick on his feet.

    Jontavious is a great example of a new spin on a genre that a lot of people think they know already. He is so adamant that the blues is a contemporary genre and always has been. He made the point during our interview that a lot of the Blues legends that we've kind of encased in the amber of memory were young teens or twentysomethings when they wrote their iconic songs. It's really a genre for free people, for young people, for people looking ahead. It's not about the past. Another point of his he made while discussing his southern roots was we talk about country, often we're talking about a musical genre with a certain difficult history. But for him, and I imagine for a lot of other artists, country is a way of life. It's about being out in the wild. It's about having a connection to nature. It's about sitting with quiet. It's about having time on your hands to experiment with songwriting or being a singer. It's about a genuine experience of being connected to a particular place in time.

    This interview and live performance was recorded for the podcast live at Fort Worth African American Music Festival (FWAAMFest). When I (lizzie) was a kid, my dad's family used to have these big reunions. They're from North and South Carolina Baptist family, and it would be like a big barbecue at the state park or in a church hall. We would have t-shirts made, people of all ages milling around, catching up. Often there would be an elder getting up to say a long prayer or make an announcement. This sense of belonging and intergenerational connection, that is what the FWAAMFest felt like. Brandi Waller-Pace, the founder, is such a visionary, and they bring together artists of so many different genres, all of which fit under the roots music umbrella. There's this beautiful link between all of the music based on The African American Storytelling Tradition and The Artistic Tradition. In addition to being able to interview, Jontavious, this was my first time headlining a festival, so it couldn't have been more of a special day for me. 

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    49m - Apr 11, 2024
  • Aoife O'Donovan and Dawn Landes Surf All the Feminist Waves, ep. 255

    Coincidentally, long-time friends Aoife O'Donovan and Dawn Landes both have new albums with strong feminist themes, so I (Cindy) wanted to interview them together and talk about WOMEN. Aoife's album, All My Friends, is specifically centered around Carrie Chapman Catt, a prominent leader in the Suffragist Movement, and her work in the fight for the 19th Amendment. Inspired by speeches and letters, one song, War Measure, is even based on a letter of support from Woodrow Wilson to Chapman Catt. This album also marks the biggest project Aoife worked on with her husband Eric Jacobsen, who conducts the Orlando Philharmonic and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. It's also the first record she's released since becoming a mother. Of her Daughters song she says she sings "as a modern woman, not wanting to leave the fight to the daughters of our daughters."

    Dawn Landes, also a mother, has a more broad focus with her new album The Liberated Woman's Songbook. The album features songs from the 1971 songbook of the same title to inspire second wave feminists' women's liberation movement and modern feminism of the 1970's. The songs on Dawn's album span from 1830 (Hard is the Fortune of All Womankind) to 1970 (There Was a Young Woman Who Swallowed a Lie as well as Liberation, Now!) showcasing how women of the past expressed political activism in the struggle for gender equality.

    Both Aoife and Dawn released their albums during Women's History Month, which leads to a discussion of what that means to each of them. We also talk about what is on their protest signs at the march, the Taylor Swift movie, gender stereotypes and, of course, all the waves of feminism. When thinking about the 19th amendment, we acknowledge that this only allowed WHITE women to vote. That leads to talk of how suffragists and feminist protest songwriters, like Meredith Tax, contributed to and gleaned inspiration from the civil rights movement. Aoife and Dawn are legends! We start with what their internal dialogue was like at first when undertaking these ambitious and important projects and end with Aoife putting Barbie on blast. All and all, this one's a winner. 

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    E255 - 1h 12m - Apr 4, 2024
  • Appalachian Bluegrasser Missy Raines Explains The West Virginia Thing, ep. 254

    Acclaimed bluegrass musician Missy Raines is also a very cool and funny lady originally from West Virginia, not far from the Maryland border and the city of Cumberland. First of all, I had questions for her about why people from West Virginia are SO into their state. She gets into that and also the influence of the rich tapestry of bluegrass music she found there as well as the scene in nearby Washington DC. Raines has made a significant impact on the genre, earning 14 International Bluegrass Music Association awards, including 10 for "Bass Player of the Year." Her latest album, "Highlander," showcases Raines' mastery of the bass alongside an ensemble of top-tier musicians from Nashville (her home base for the last 34 years) and beyond, blending traditional bluegrass with innovative twists.

    Throughout our conversation, Raines reflects on her deep connection to Appalachian culture and the Appalachian Mountains, which have profoundly influenced her music. We explore her experiences performing live at music festivals and the evolution of bluegrass music. We recount the passion her family felt for music touching on the story of her mom and aunt crying their eyes out over John Duffy leaving their favorite bluegrass band, The Country Gentlemen. She also talks about taking care of her late brother Rick, who died in 1994 from AIDS at the age of 39. Through that experience, she was empowered to help others whose loved ones were also dying and suffering from HIV and AIDS. With her unique blend of banjo and fiddle music and her activism in a normally conservative genre, Raines continues to push the boundaries of the genre while staying true to its roots, making her a trailblazer in the world of Americana and folk music. Our conversation was in depth, fun and enlightening - I had high hopes for this one and I was not disappointed!

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    1h 7m - Mar 28, 2024
  • Bob Hillman's Rock and Roll Return: From Beach Volleyball to Marketing to Musician, ep. 253

    Bob Hillman had a real thing going on in the early 2000's. He had made waves in New York City rubbing shoulders with some of the finest songwriters of the era at places like the open mic, Fast Folk and The Living Room, the singer-songwriter was creatively fulfilled, but not gaining the momentum in order to experience strategic growth in folk music. After opening for a long list of dates for Suzanne Vega, Hillman decided it was time to step away and get back to business.... school that is. He got his MBA in Marketing and went on to hold a decent paying job for the next decade and a half, raising his family in the Bay Area.

    After a layoff, Bob thought it was time to dig in again and started writing, recording and performing. Since 2016, he's released a couple of albums and an EP (Extended Play) or two. The most recent is the mostly acoustic Downtown in the Rain. In our conversation, we talk about what it's like to reignite his creative entrepreneurial musical spirit, how he used that energy in his corporate jobs and also hoping to one day meet his singing partner on the EP, Maria Taylor. 

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    E253 - 55m - Mar 21, 2024
  • Joe Pug Will Not Ossify, ep. 252

    Joe Pug will not engage in the Left-Brained Vs Right-Brained debate. His artistry and pragmatic business sense have lived in actual parallel through his music career. His songwriting and creativity are fueled by passion and result in dramatic and exciting songs, as on his new album Sketch of a Promised Departure. He also has stayed ahead of the curve and created an ecosystem where self-reliance, growth and music business thrive especially with his latest venture, The Nation of Heat Vault that has every album, podcast, and newsletter up behind a paywall. In our interview, we dig into his creative process, artistic balance and family life while creating his latest project.

    The album was made on his own time at his new home studio (which he's been working on for a decade). His reflection of having complete control over the music production is one of relief and joy in that he was able to take as long as he wanted. We go through several songs on the album, remarking on songs like "Then the Rain," which shines in it's simplicity just like many of Lucinda Williams songs, one of his biggest inspirations. We also talk about his life journey into adulthood when he moved to Chicago, which is a chapter in his life he is writing about in detail on the new album. He talks about what he hopes for his own young kids' futures and how parenting has changed since he first became a dad seven or eight years ago. And of course, we talk about his fantastic podcast, The Working Songwriter and how being an interviewer has changed his attitude about being the interviewee.

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    58m - Mar 14, 2024
  • Hannah Connolly is Finding Her Happy Little Emo Heart Again, ep. 251

    Singer songwriter Hannah Connolly, originally from Eau Claire, WI (same as Justin Vernon and the Bon Iver crew!) has just released her second solo album, Shadowboxing. Written to reflect musical and life transitions, it was recorded in beautiful Idyllwild, CA, just outside of her new hometown of Los Angeles. While in the mountain town, Hannah reconnected with nature through hiking and found joy in connecting with her friends and collaborators in music. The process of making the record was crucial for her mental health in music that was celebratory and fun. Her debut album centered around the trauma and healing she and her family faced after her little brother Cullen was killed by a drunk driver in 2015. Born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Cullen was the life of the party and a bright light in every room he entered. Being able to process and mourn his loss through the making of her first record was not only extremely difficult, but also very necessary for Hannah. We talk about who Cullen was and how he continues to influence Hannah's life and music. These days, Hannah is looking for the fun and lightness again, which is exactly what her little brother would want her to do.

    Even though Hannah's visual storytelling and folky roots are strong, they are no match for her love of emo music, which has influenced her since she was a teenager. She even performed, recorded and toured in an emo band prior to going solo. Hannah gets into her emo past, her childhood stint in musical theater and, of course, cheese curds. She also gives us the all important update on wedding planning! She recently got engaged to Eric Cannata of the alternative rock band Young the Giant. I'm so happy for Hannah not only for her future marriage, but also for creating this joyful new album. 

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    E251 - 57m - Mar 7, 2024
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