EXCLUSIVE: Prince Harry took Natalie Imbruglia out bowling in a bid to win free
Prince Harry has ended his week-long tour of the US by thanking the people of America for their ‘extraordinary
A Conversation With Sergio Mendes
Mike Ragogna: Sergio, you have a double disc collection coming out soon titled Celebration: A Musical Journey.
Sergio Mendes: Yes.
MR: It’s going to basically cover your whole career.
SM: That’s correct, yes.
MR: Can you talk about its span a little?
SM: It goes back from my first record, back in ’66. Then, it goes onto the other records after that. So, it’s a lot of songs that I’ve recorded. It’s coming out to celebrate fifty years of my career.
MR: By the time this gets printed, you will have already played some anniversary shows at the Geffen Playhouse, but since you’ve already played a night, can you go into the experience?
SM: Yes, we just played last night for the opening, and the whole thing is sold
Once upon a time, a day existed when there was no internet, no Youtube and no Twitter. It was a strange time when information and entertainment was shared through a box with dials called a television. Imagine that! Are you old enough to remember rushing home to catch an MTV World Premier Video? I am. Yesterday, as the video for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was released on the internet I was transported to those days, if only for a few
Off to a good start with the hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, inserted into scenes from several of the Oscar nominees, on an Inception theme. The writing is funny and their performances sparkle – but mostly, the writing is funny. Best gag: Morgan Freeman narrating Alec Baldwin’s dream. Then Franco and Hathaway opened up with a decent opening banter poking fun at themselves as tools to attract a young
It was the era of the blockbuster. From the late 1970s through the 1980s, pop music became dominated by a new phenomenon: albums that released a seemingly endless string of smash hit singles, spawned massive worldwide tours and sold a ton of albums. Huge selling albums came before and after this era, of course. What made this period so special was the new phenomenon of an album putting three, four, five or even seven smash hits and the fact that the albums were massively appealing to so many different audiences and the fact that they dominated the charts and pop culture for literally years AND the fact that they were actually good.
Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the
True confession: I cry a lot — you know, at sad movies, at my kids’ school graduations, or watching Fox News. So I come here today not to attack our new House Speaker John Boehner, but rather to support him bearing tissues and tunes. Okay, maybe just the tunes — hey, those tissues cost money and we’re all cutting budgets, right? So John Boy, crank out these tunes on your best house speakers and pull yourself together, man. You’ve got a big country to save or screw up.
WHO’S CRYING NOW – Journey
CRY BABY – Cee Lo Geen
EVERY DAY I HAVE TO CRY – Arthur Alexander
CRY BABY CRY – The Beatles
BABY STOP CRYING – Bob Dylan
CRYIN’ TIME – Buck Owens
I’M CRYING – The Animals
FOOL TO CRY – The Rolling Stones
CRY – Michael Jackson
CRY – Johnnie Ray
CRY – Faith Hill
THE MAN WHO COULDN’T CRY – Loudon Wainwright III
NO GOOD TO CRY – The Wildweeds
CRYBABY – Utopia
BOYS DON’T CRY – The Cure
WHEN DOVES CRY – Prince
AN INVITATION TO CRY – The Magicians
CRYING LIKE A CHURCH ON MONDAY – New Radicals
THE SOUND OF CRYING – Prefab Sprout
NO REASON TO CRY – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
WHY DO I CRY – Margo Guryan
WALKING THE BACK STREETS AND CRYING – Little Milton
CAN’T KEEP FROM CRYING SOMETIMES – Al Kooper
SOMEBODY’S CRYING – Chris Isaak
IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I CRY – Donna Loren
BLUE EYES CRYING IN THE RAIN – Willie Nelson
I WAKE UP CRYING – Chuck Jackson
JAMIE’S CRYIN’ – Van Halen
What are YOUR songs for our House Crier?
This Blogger’s Books from
He Is . . . I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond
by David Wild
Follow David Wild on Twitter:
Friday Pop Quiz Conversations With Duffy Jesse McCartney and Christian Kane Plus Pick Your Poison Tree Streamer
A Conversation with Duffy
Mike Ragogna: Hello, Duffy. How are you?
Duffy: Good, thank you. And how are you? And where are you?
MR: I’m well, thank you. I’m in Fairfield, Iowa, at Solar-Powered KRUU-FM, which is the only one in the Midwest. I’m also going to be using this as a piece in The Huffington Post, so you get a double dip, Duffy!
D: Nice, I love it. You are covering a lot of ground here.
MR: (laughs) I have been so looking forward to interviewing you because I’m a huge fan of Rockferry. It was one of my favorite albums the year it came out.
D: Wow, thank you. That is so sweet of you to say.
MR: It was beautiful. Now, I was lucky enough to be friends with Ellie Greenwich before she passed away, so I love the whole Brill Building style of writing. When your album came out, it was, in some respects, “retro,” but with a breath of fresh air.
D: Thank you. I was definitely aware during the introduction phase of my life, if you like, that I stood for something else. I wasn’t fitting into the more cockney British movement. I was called “classic.” I don’t know really what that means, so thank you for saying that.
MR: It’s just a wonderful respect and nod to great, classic songwriting.
D: Have you looked at the new album?
MR: Yes, of course, let’s get into right now. So, “Well, Well, Well” is your latest hit from your new album, Endlessly?
D: For me, it’s a reintroduction to let people know the flavor of the album. There is a little bit of shock value, I think, to that song in the sense that it is a little bit different–it’s more rhythm section based. But I made a record that way so I have to think how do I let people know that I am back without fooling them that this is Rockferry “part two.” So, I had to be brave, I think.
MR: Now, you’re Welch-born.
D: Yes, I am, born and raised.
MR: But your records are not particularly bound by any national sound. To me, they sound like really good classic pop, even Brill Building-ish.
D: Oh God, you are so kind to me.
MR: (laughs) Let’s dig into this album some more. You co-worked on this project with Albert Hammond?
MR: And he’s the writer of the megahits “When I Need You,” “The Air That I Breathe,” “It Never Rains in Southern California,” all that.
D: Yes, yes.
MR: Let’s discuss the title track, “Endlessly.” I loved the old scratchy track you used as a bed to simulate old records.
D: “Endlessly,” I think, sets the tone for the entire record. There is a lot of emotion. So, for me, it’s a song that I think also introduces a different side of this record. It isn’t over-produced as well.
MR: Exactly, yes.
D: I don’t know if that makes sense to you or that’s what you hear. But that is kind of the sense of that song.
MR: No, I’m with you. Its approach–using acoustic guitar as opposed to a big rhythm section–is pretty personal and basic.
D: Yeah. Actually, I can tell you a secret….it’s the acoustic demo, I simply recorded that on an iPod. The take that we used on the record is what came from Albert’s living room recorded on the iPod. That’s me and him on vocal and guitar.
MR: One of them is your contribution to the War Child Heroes: Volume 1 compilation, “Live And Let Die.”
MR: Paul McCartney himself has said you did a great job on it.
D: Yes, Actually, there is a photograph of him and I bumping into each other at the Grammys, and he came over to me in front of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus and he was like, “Yo kid, you did a really great job on “Live and Let Die.’”
MR: You must be so thrilled to have experienced that. And to have a photograph to remind you!
D: Yeah. There was like this moment between me and Sir Paul McCartney.
MR: There is a song on the album, a ballad which just kills me, “Don’t Forsake Me.” I love the lyrics, “I am sick of drying everybody else’s tears with nobody to dry mine.” Doesn’t it always seem to be that way?
D: For me, that song, in many ways…I know I am still young, but it was kind of overdue. I needed to say that, to be honest about a few emotions, a few subjects that have continuously followed me throughout my life. It’s been funny. I feel like people assume that when you are a star, that you’re strong, but I do need people there for me, you know?
MR: Yeah. It’s “beautiful person” syndrome. Nobody hits on the beautiful person because they assume that that beautiful person has a beautiful boyfriend, girlfriend, entourage…
D: Ya think? I am going to use that.
MR: (laughs) Duffy, it is such a pleasure to talk to you. You are on a new label with Endlessly, right?
D: I am working under new management with new collaborations, so yes. It’s a very different chapter in my life.
MR: What is the most exciting thing that has happened over the last few years around your career or your personal life?
D: I am going to tell you something really random. I did a twirl on the red carpet about four days ago in the UK. They asked me to twirl and I was so worried that they would see a bit of my bum. I thought, “Oh my gosh, did they see up my skirt?” So, I am really glad that I didn’t incriminate myself on the red carpet four days ago! Actually, there were some quite nice photos and, in that, I felt was lucky. I think people don’t realize that you can make mistakes and everything happens so fast like, “Oh my god, I did a twirl, what if everyone saw up my skirt?” So, no worries there.
D: But if I am being really serious and honest with you, other than meeting Albert, the most important thing was meeting a young man that I am in love with. So, I feel as though my heart is a little bigger, warmer and stronger then it was when I was first introduced to you.
MR: Very sweet, Duffy. Of course everybody knows your singles “Mercy,” “Warwick Avenue,” “Stepping Stone,” and now, “Well, Well, Well.” There is another amazing song on Endlessly, “Keeping My Baby,” which, I imagine, is going to get some comparisons to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” although it really isn’t topically exactly the same. But tell me, what is really going on in the song?
D: To me, there are a few things from my past that maybe I haven’t been honest with my own friends and family about. This is what I think is very difficult as an artist, is when you make a record, you can’t become hyper-aware of what people think or what you disclose about your life or your past. I do know that this song is a particularly sensitive subject, so when people hear it, I hope that people appreciate that I was dancing through the bad times.
MR: Absolutely. It’s probably my favorite track on the record in addition to “Don’t Forsake Me.”
D: Wow. Cool. Isn’t it amazing? I get so many different responses from people, so I can form a picture in my mind of who you are by the songs in which you turn to. It tells me a lot about you.
MR: Oh, thank you! I shouldn’t be revealing anymore then.
D: Yes, because then I would be like a shrink psychoanalyzing you.
MR: Well, Duffy, you know if you’ve got the time…
D: Don’t worry. I’ll set up a network. I can get you an 800 number or something. (laughs)
MR: Do you have any advice for new artists?
D: I have to be honest. I am not really down with those sorts of things, you know? I think that kind of works with journalists and if I had some mates who were in a band, some buddies who are coming out I would tell you about. But I am excited to see Adele return, and with the way she made a new record and the sounds with which she surrounds herself with. Adele is a great girl, and she won some Grammys here in America. So, I am going to be watching out for my soul sister.
MR: Pretend I am just picking up a guitar today, what advice would you have for me?
D: Do you want me to be Simon Cowell?
MR: Yes, be brutal.
D: I would say to you surround yourself with the music that you love. If it’s Depeche Mode, absorb it and enjoy it and narrow down what it is you love about music. What music connects with you so you start to form your identity. You start to form your references and start to understand where you position yourself in this big vast wide world. And then I would tell you only to focus on quality. Don’t think about fame, don’t think about songwriting, don’t think about who you are and who you’re not. Just be absolutely focused on quality and making sure it’s the best. Keep pushing yourself until you honestly feel you can do nothing to improve it. And also honesty as well. There are an awful lot of people who aren’t honest with themselves, who try and convince themselves that they can fulfill a pipe dream that just isn’t realistic.
People try to achieve jobs that just aren’t for them. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Formula One racing, but I could never be a Formula One racecar driver, you know? I just simply am dangerous behind the wheel. Are you kidding yourself or is this really real. Is this your life path? Is this the only thing you feel you are here to do? Or are you escaping from reality yourself. It’s very difficult. These are the only things that I can say from personal experience.
MR: Very nice and very smart and wise. In some respects, you’re considered a new artist because this is only your second album.
D: Yes, this really is the official debut. Before it was an introduction. Now, I am letting you know who I really am.
MR: Very nice. Thank you, Duffy. And ever since I saw you on Saturday Night Live, I have been in love, so there you go.
D: Thank you. And actually that was the TV show that Albert Hammond saw me on. So, he also saw me on that show and fell in love with me and then we became songwriting partners. That was a very poignant show for me, it seems.
MR: Nice. How much is Lorne Michaels making from the whole thing?
D: Uh, we are still in discussions.
1. My Boy
2. Too Hurt To Dance
3. Keeping My Baby
4. Well, Well, Well
5. Don’t Forsake Me
7. Breath Away
10. Hard For The Heart
(transcribed by Erika Richards)
A Conversation with Jesse McCartney
Mike Ragogna: So let’s talk about your new album Have It All. Did you really get it all for this record?
Jesse McCartney: I did, I got it all and then some. I’m really excited for the fans to hear this one. It’s my fourth studio album, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s coming out December 28th and I think it’s just the next step, the next chapter.
MR: Have It All has all the Jesse McCartney trademarks on it, but it also seems like you stepped out a little bit, and there’s lots of growth from your last album. For instance, you co-wrote a lot of the songs on this album.
JM: Yes I did. Ya know, it’s a very fair statement to say that there is growth. I mean, that’s a natural progression that’s naturally going to happen when you start out as a sixteen-year-old in this industry debuting your first album, and I’m gonna be twenty-four early next year. I’ve come a long way, and I think the fans certainly will hear it, and the music critics will hear it. It’s the next step, it’s my fourth chapter–the life of a 23-year-old male, sort of maybe a little bit sensationalized in the sense that I’ve lived a pretty crazy life and there’s a lot to talk about.
MR: You have some guests on Have It All, can you go into who palled around with you on this album?
JM: People always say, “Who did you collaborate with?” and they always think that necessarily means a singer or a rapper, which I did a little bit of that as well. But I worked with some amazing producers who are also artists, people like Sean Garrett and Kevin Rudolph who had the biggest song of 2009 with “Let It Rock,” and he produced a couple of records. And people don’t really know how amazing Kevin is, he’s just an unbelievably talented producer as well as artist. He sort of helped crystallize my goal for this album. I did do one collaboration, I did a record with Tyga…he is one of the new faces of Young Money, he’s an incredible rapper– I believe he’s like twenty, he’s younger than me. He and I did a record with Sean Garrett and it’s called “I Don’t Normally Do This.” It’s definitely one of the songs on the album where I took a left turn where people are going to be like, “Is that Jesse?” It’s definitely the next step for me where it’s more in the rhythmic R&B land. With the help of Tyga and Sean we were able to do that.
MR: Do you identify with R&B?
JM: Absolutely, I grew up listening to soul music. People like Stevie, Aretha, Ray Charles, Michael and Prince. My parents’ record collection was all I had when I was a little kid. If it wasn’t that, it was something else in their collection. I remember when I was four years old, one of the first records I ever pulled out was Elvis Presley. I remember thinking, “I want to be that guy.” He was one of the only white guys that could be soulful, in my opinion. I was like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanna do,” so that was sort of how it all started. My parents were both very musically inclined, they were both songwriters and musicians, so we grew up in the house singing music together, and R&B had a huge strong arm in the foundation of my career. Yeah, that’s why I wanted to make an album to represent my youth.
MR: When you were a kid, you also were part of the pop group Dream Street.
JM: Dream Street was my first experience as a signed artist, I was twelve when I first joined this boy band. These guys were putting this together, and we first signed with Jason Solam who was, at the time, the president of Lava, which was a branch of Atlantic. I was so young that I hardly remember. We were with Atlantic Records for a couple of years and it was great, it was my first time getting a chance to experience what it was like to be on the road. We went on tour with Britney (Spears), it was my first dose of “stardom.” It was so early on, I was so green that I wasn’t really able to take it all in. It only lasted a few years and we broke up…I was only fourteen or fifteen. That was right around the time I branched off and did the solo thing.
MR: Then in 2004, you have the Beautiful Soul album.
JM: Yeah, it was a couple of years in the making. I got into the studio and had a few records that had been submitted to me that I hadn’t written because I wasn’t really writing at the point. Then, I just sort of recorded, I got in the studio with who is now my current manager, Sherry Kondor, and, at the time, my mom as well. They were very supportive, they pumped (in) a lot of their own money, and I pumped a lot of my own money into making this little EP that Jay Landers, who was originally at Disney, heard and said, “Who is this kid? I want him!” They flew me out to LA and the rest was history. I signed a deal within the next couple weeks of him hearing the record and that was it.
MR: Beautiful Soul was a #15 album, but the song “Beautiful Soul” was a top ten single.
JM: I think, on radio, it was #3 or #4. But yeah, it was certainly a monster record for my career. It launched me into a whole other stratosphere.
MR: And you had “Leavin’” which charted even higher, hitting #2. Then you had “How Do You Sleep” with Ludacris, another hit record that went to #15.
JM: Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a bunch of great records and I’ve been able to travel the world with them. It seems to happen at the right time. I’ve been really blessed.
MR: One of my favorite songs on this record is “Mrs. Mistake” that you wrote with Dr. Luke.
JM: Yeah, I appreciate that it’s one of my favorite songs as well.
MR: When you recorded your new album, who called the shots?
JM: Starting with the last album, when I took the reins creatively, and was able to guide my writers and producers in the right direction. At the end of the day, I have to be the one performing this music and living with it for the rest of my life. So, who better to make the final call than myself.
MR: It seems like your career has been tied into Disney and Hollywood Records, which is their affiliate.
JM: It is their affiliate in that Disney is the owner of Hollywood Buena Vista. That’s actually a common misconception, I’ve never been on any Disney show or any Disney-affiliated program other than maybe guest appearing on Hannah Montana when I was sixteen. I am signed to Hollywood, and they’ve been amazing to me and they are run by Disney. I think with my records, I can assure you that this next album I wouldn’t buy for your 7-year-old daughter. It’s not a Disney record.
MR: How do you approach recording your albums?
JM: There’s definitely the records that are little more light-hearted and a little more radio friendly, and then there are the songs that you definitely know are going to be the meat of the record, like “Mrs. Mistake.” There’s a song on the record called “Seasons” which is how I end the record. I mean, I wrote close to 50 songs in the last year for this album in particular. It’s really hard. You want to be able to trim the fat and bring it down to an eleven-song album and get to the point. You have to have a few of those songs be a little more light-hearted, fun, and easy on the ears. A song like “Shake,” for instance, is a little more like my last album and has a little bit of that lighthearted, rhythmic swagger to the track and the vocals, and doesn’t really dive in deep like the rest of the album. When people really buy the record and they really get into the heart of it, they’re gonna heart it. Thematically, it sort of represents what I’m going through, being in and out of relationships and understanding what a relationship is and not knowing what to do with it. That’s what made up this record.
MR: It seems like you guys had a good time with “Shake”‘s production.
JM: That was a fun record, it was really fun to record. We were going through the iPhone rings trying to find out the best ring, and it turned out it was the traditional iPhone ring. That was a great record and fun to record.
MR: When you tour in support of your new album, will you perform any of those 50 songs that didn’t make Have It All?
JM: Yeah absolutely, it makes for great extra material to perform live. Also, it’s material that I want to just give to the fans and not necessarily make them go out and buy it. In this day and age, I think that’s important. There are a lot of songs that I don’t want anyone to hear–I’m a human like anyone else, some are just not as good as the rest. I think, certainly, I’m going to whip out a couple of the records that weren’t necessarily on the record and perform them live.
MR: After all of your years of recording and touring, you’re basically a veteran at the ripe old age of 23. What’s your advice for new artists?
JM: It’s a good question. I think that there are a lot more ways into the industry. You look at somebody like Justin Bieber as a template, there are the amount of outlets that kids have with YouTube and Twitter and Facebook to be discovered. The only thing I can say is to make yourself viral, really put yourself out there. Just recently, I discovered somebody online, and I’m talking to my people about this girl, and I’m like, “Hey, this is someone that’s really talented.” We are talking about maybe signing her. As long as you are out there and you have face time with people, I think you have a great shot, especially in this day and age where you don’t have to walk into a building and audition for somebody. I think, also, a lot of hard work, putting time in, and really working your tail off.
MR: Okay, onto your acting career. I’ll just say it, I think you were great in the TV series Greek.
JM: That was a lot of fun. It was a special cast, you could tell there were a lot of people on that show that you know are going to go on to be big stars and huge comedians. It was really well written, it was kind of racy for ABC Family at the time. It was one of those shows that was pushing the envelope. I only did six or seven episodes, but I had a great time. I instantly became a part of the Greek family. It’s sad to see that the show is going off the air. They had a nice long run, it was fun to be a part of that cast.
MR: Yeah, I was going to ask whatever happened to Andy?
JM: Andy went away and we never brought him back.
MR: Sad, really. And it’s especially sad to hear the Greek was canceled. Anyway, a certain 13-year-old Gareth West wants to know about your role as the voice of Robin in Young Justice. By the way, what a great job they’ve done with the pilot. It looks like you’re a part of something that’s going to be huge.
JM: I totally agree with you. They’ve done an amazing job, the animators killed it, and I feel like I’m a part of something that’s really special. I can’t even tell you how much of a dream job that is. That’s one of the most exciting gigs I’ve had up to now. I grew up as a huge comic fan and a huge Batman & Robin fan. I watched all the TV shows, went to all the movies–I even had the lunch box, man, I was in! When they called me to come read for the voice, they were a little uncertain because I have a relatively (normal) speaking voice, and this guy is like this pre-pubescent cocky teen. I went in there and pitched up my voice as high as I could, I wore the tightest pants I could, and went in there and got behind the mic and they said they wanted me to be Robin. And I’m working with some of the most legendary voiceover recording artists in the game, and I’m the youngest guy in the room. It’s such a special gig…I just saw the first episode a couple nights ago when it premiered and it’s looking good.
MR: It’s an excellent show, man, good on ya! As you can tell, I’m also of the comic book nerd lineage, I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to these shows. I’m a DC Universe fanboy and so is the kid I mentioned, and we think your Robin is pitch perfect.
JM: Thanks man, yeah I worked on it. Just in the first season, there is a lot of growth with Robin. He starts off as the young cocky kid who doesn’t really know what he’s doing, and then, he is kind of forced to take on the roll of leader of this team. Then, you see he’s becoming more of like a little Batman. There’s room for a lot of growth with the character. It was so much fun. I can’t wait to see it later in the season. I’m like a little kid all over again, but now, I’m a Superhero.
MR: You are! And if you’re like me, you’re never going to loose that, which is a good thing.
JM: Yeah, I know man, I’m sitting on the couch thinking, nobody talk to me, nobody call me, I disconnect the phone I’m super into it.
MR: Jesse. What’s in the future?
JM: In the immediate future? I’m literally about to leave for my first show in Sacramento, and for most of December, I’m going to be touring doing jingle balls and jingle jams across the country. And then the album release is going to be the 28th of December, and then, I’m going to do a big tour in the Spring with we don’t know who yet. Trying to find somebody to tour with in the Spring. Just trying to keep the momentum with this album.
MR: Good for you man. Thanks for giving us some time man.
JM: I’m a happy guy, thanks to all the fans for supporting me all these years.
2. One Night
3. The Writer
4. Club Hop
5. I Think She Likes Me
6. Tonight Is Your Night
7. I Don’t Normally Do This – with Tyga
9. Have It All
10. Mrs. Mistake
11. Seasons (My Love Will Never Change)
(transcribed by Theo Shier)
A Conversation with Christian Kane
Mike Ragogna: Hi Christian, how are you?
Christian Kane: Hey, thanks so much for having me.
MR: I appreciate your visiting. So, you recently released a new album, The House Rules.
CK: Yeah. We are really looking forward to it. It’s been a long time. There are ten years of songs going on this one and a year and a half of being in the studio with the legendary Mr. Bob Ezrin who did Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Kiss’ Destroyer, Peter Gabriel…the list goes on and on. I am his first country album, so I’m really looking forward to it. A lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears went into this, and I owe it to everyone who has been a fan of ours for over ten years now. It’s more of a gratitude thing that this is coming out. I am very happy.
MR: Very nice. Your first single, the title track, “The House Rules,” is currently a hit on the country charts.
CK: We have had some good success. We charted last week and it’s been unbelievable man. For a new artist to come out and have the fans and radio stations get behind it, we have been so fortunate. This business is a tough business, especially for a new artist. We are on cloud nine right now.
MR: You co-wrote most of the music on this one.
CK: I wrote 90% of that album so it’s so much fun. There is a great nervousness if you can imagine what I am saying. It’s not an anxious nervousness, its a great feeling of nervousness to get out there and your heart and your words, and people can hear them and you can’t wait to see the response.
MR: What was the process like when you actually got down to recording the songs.
CK: We recorded some of these songs before. I was with another label at the time, and we actually rerecorded some of these songs. When Bob Ezrin and Jimmy Lee Sloas came in, they co-produced it, and it felt like home. It wasn’t like what do we do here. Bob through in a lot of his technique and his genius. It was fun man. That’s what music should be. Not saying that it wasn’t before. But this was an absolute blast. We were all family and we were sitting around and coming up with ideas and hugging each other and arguing with each other and there were some punches thrown but we all still felt like a family. It was so much fun to sit down with these guys and listen to the final product.
MR: How did Bob Ezrin jump on board?
CK: I walked in and played some songs with a good buddy of mine, Michael Powers, who was working with The Zac Brown Band at the time. I had gotten released by my other label and drove right back into Nashville and walked into Michael Powers’ office and said, “Dude, I am ready to go.” He played some songs for Bob Ezrin, and Bob said, “I need to take this project.” He is partners with this company with Keith Stegall who is responsible for Alan Jackson and others. He said, “Let me have this project.” We do like to pour a little bit of gasoline on our country, this is not your Dad’s country. This is your country. We like to have a little bit more fun on stage than normal. There is a stratocaster rather than a Telecaster on a lot of these songs. These are the songs I want to play. The Bigger Picture Group, who also has The Zac Brown Band, they allowed me to do that. They knew about the creativity that Zac Brown had, and they allowed me to come out and do that.
MR: The project also includes Jimmy Lee Sloas who worked with Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood…
CK: He’s played on Rascal Flatts. He has done all of it, man. Bob Ezrin is the rock ‘n’ roll guy who actually knows so much more about country than I thought he would. He is just now moving to Nashville. Jimmy has a little bit of his rock ‘n’ roll in his country, so that’s why it was such a good melting pot of all three of us together being creative. We came out with an album I am proud of. It doesn’t matter who you are if you don’t have the music, people just aren’t going to play it.
MR: Right. You co-wrote “American Made.”
CK: I did. My guitarist and I, Steve Carlson, were sitting around one day, and we were talking about all the girls we met in different cities and we said, “Oh, that has to be a song.” Every single one of those cities…one of those guys knew a girl from there, so it’s pretty much a true story.
MR: I’m confused. It’s Kane vs. Christian Kane, right?
CK: It’s Christian Kane. When we first started out, the band was called “Kane.” We go by both. The album (goes by) “Christian Kane” as it’s simpler that way, but we still close shows by, “We’re Kane, goodnight.” Steve Carlson, my guitarist and I started this thing over ten years ago.
MR: I think one of the album’s best topical songs is “Something’s Gotta Give.”
CK: That is a big song for me. I wrote that song specifically about my Dad, the old man, growing up and working hard on the Odessa oil fields trying to put food on the table. He did really well in that job but, not a lot of people know this, but 15% of the nation’s oil was in Odessa and it dried up in one day. That place became a ghost town. It was very unforgiving. West Texas is very unforgiving anyway, so when you run out of jobs, it’s even worse. I wrote that for the old man.
My dad heard it for the first time in Nashville. I said I wrote this song about my Dad and man, he was not happy. He didn’t like it. It’s always tough to hear a song about you. But to this day, it’s his most favorite song that I have ever written. That means a lot to me. It’s going on the album. I did that for him and no one was going to tell me that that song was not going on that album.
MR: Nice. Christian, you have a lot of new fans from being on the show Leverage. It also stars Timothy Hutton, who is one of my favorite actors, oh by the way.
CK: And he’s one of my best friends. He actually directed the video that is on CMT right now.
MR: Can you talk about the video?
CK: It’s “The House Rules.” Me and Tim talked about it in the trailer every day, we came up with an idea, and I came up with this idea of a steady cam shot that is never touched and Tim said, “What if we did it like this?” and the idea was ten times better because Tim brought it up. So, we did it. Jay Frank, one of the heads of CMT, loved it so we put it on.
MR: Many remember you, as I do, from watching the Angel series. I should have introduced you as Lindsay McDonald.
CK: Yeah, you could have. That was a great show for me man. David Boreanaz is, to this day, still one of my best friends. We were friends before we started. It’s not often that someone gets paid quite a bit of money to try and go kill your best friend everyday.
MR: You guys seemed to be having a blast–the humor, the timing. And Joss Whedon, with the incredible universes he created, especially with Firefly, what fun pop culture contributions.
CK: Joss is a genius. Joss Wheden who created Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and all that…he is a genius. The great thing about that show is that there are no rules and you can do whatever you want. Not many shows can do that because they operate in the realm of reality or not. It’s fun. People are turning into Vampires, there’s magic. There is never going to be another Vampire show like that. I know people have come up with some pretty good ones, but that was the original.
MR: There are the Twilight movies, True Blood, and so much that’s followed that don’t seem to have the soul that Angel had.
CK: Was that a play on words because he was the Vampire with the soul.
MR: Oh, jeez. (laughs) Hey, let’s talk about your great acting career some more. You were in EDTV.
CK: My first movie with Mathew McConaughey, that was so much fun. I got to work with Ron Howard. I was so nervous. That was my first film.
MR: You were Dale Robin in the movie Summer Catch.
CK: We were all so young. Freddie Prinze Jr., lovely Jessica Biel, my lovely friend Ms. Brittany Murphy…we later on did Just Married with Ashton Kutcher which was a big movie for me. I miss her everyday. I am so sad that she’s gone.
MR: You were also Nick Taylor, Dawson’s Creek.
CK: I loved working on it.
MR: And Brian in Friday Night Lights.
CK: I played my 5th grade coach at the time. I went to Odessa and I met those real boys. Peter Berg directed that, and he was nice enough to create that role for me. I am actually playing my 5th grade coach in Odessa, Texas.
MR: That’s incredible. Let’s talk about your music career in the group Kane. As Kane, you did double duty by appearing on the Angel soundtrack. What else did you musically appear on?
CK: I was in a movie with Angelina Jolie called Life Or Something Like It where I played her fianc and I have a song in there. And if you’re into Just Married, whenever I am hitting on Brittany Murphy and we are in Italy and Ashton goes to the American bar and is by the little blond girl, that’s actually my song called “Crazy In Love” playing in the background. It’s my voice and my song. I’m singing the song over the radio and I think that’s very awkward to hear. Here I am hitting on his wife, and he’s in a bar listening to my music.
MR: Nice. Can you give some advice to new artists coming on the scene right now?
CK: There is no right or wrong way to do it–well there is a wrong way. I can give you my two favorite quotes in life and maybe it might help somebody out. I get up everyday and work, regardless of if I have a job or not. I have a quote that I live by: “Ninety percent of life is showing up.” That is Woody Allen from Annie Hall. My ass gets up off the couch, man, and that’s just how it is, and you have to live that way. Another quote that I like to live by Bruce Lee’s, “You win the fight by fighting.” It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with throwing hands; you learn to do by doing. You can read books on stuff all day long, but until you get out there and just do it, if you want to start playing, and you want to make some music, then go out and play. Go find yourself a venue and play, even if it’s in your home. Just play everyday. You win the fight by fighting.
MR: I would be remiss if I let you go before getting a good Timothy Hutton story.
CK: All stories I know about him I am not allowed to say. (laughs) Let’s see.
MR: The reason why I am asking this is because I have been a Timothy Hutton fan since Ordinary People. He’s worked on so many great moody movies, and his video for The Cars “Drive” is classic.
CK: Yes, absolutely man. He has done very well. Me and Tim are really close and most of the stories I have are very confidential. But I can say, you know, his ex-wife is Deborah Winger, and they have a son who is 21 years old, Noah Hutton, who actually cut the video. Tim and I go out and play poker most every night we are on the road, we have a couple of beers, and his son comes out every once in a while. Noah is a really good pool player; it’s really strange though because the lighting of a pool table is very strange and when he would turn one way, he would be Timothy Hutton, then turn the opposite way, and he would be Deborah Winger. It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen because the kid kept changing from his mom to his dad. He is a really talented kid, he’s directing, editing, and living in New York right now. That’s one I can tell you without catching one to the jaw from Tim.
MR: (laughs) Thanks for letting me put you on the spot. Can you talk about the tour and what your plans are for the future?
CK: We go back to Leverage on February 28th. When the album came out, that was such a big day for me. People don’t really understand, it was such a huge lift for me as so many doors have been shut in my face with the music. It’s tough being an actor and then want to do country music. This is a big win for me, getting the music out there. We will be out on the road December, January and February, and then I go back March 1st to film four months of Leverage, its fourth season. Unbelievable. After that, we are in talks right now for us jumping on a major tour.
MR: Alright boss, I really enjoyed you coming and visiting with The Huffington Post and solar-powered KRUU-FM. I hope you visit with us again sometime.
CK: Dude you are very kind to have me and I really appreciate it.
MR: Anytime and all the best, Christian.
1. The House Rules
2. Something’s Gotta Give
3. Thinking Of You
4. Whiskey In Mind
5. Let’s Take A Drive
6. Callin’ All Country Women
7. American Made
8. Let Me Go
9. Seven Days
10. Making Circles
11. Fast Car
(transcribed by Erika Richards)
The Poison Tree is the new project by The King of France frontman Steve Salett. This self-titled debut is out in March of 2011 and will be released via embarque. The Poison Tree’s songs were developed with the help of a rotating cast of collaborators culled from the Elephant 6 styled Saltlands music collective Salett co-founded, including musicians Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) and Dawn Landes. Here are two streamers from the band, so you might say, pick your poison. Or not…it’s probably best not to.
Come On Come On by thepoisontree
My Only Friend by thepoisontree
This Blogger’s Books from
by Mike Ragogna
Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter:
This 35-track, triple disc DVD collection is such an important and significant pop-culture package that it might scare your unsuspecting holiday recipient into thinking you’re saying something more than merely Happy Whatever. Michael Jackson’s Vision will thrill (ahem) and haunt as it works its way through ground-breaking and flat-out brilliant clips like “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” mini-movies such as “Thriller” (thank you forever, Vincent Price), “Smooth Criminal,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and, of course, Martin Scorsese’s “Bad” (co-starring a very boy-faced Wesley Snipes).
However, though this body of work, as a whole, is undeniably incredible from various perspectives, it really wouldn’t be fair to say that every video was a classic. As MJ’s clips and short films progress, they become less dependable, and to varying degrees, they seem to lack connection–personal or otherwise–which is the opposite effect his charming, earlier videos have. On the other hand, “You Are Not Alone,” Joe Jackson’s supposed favorite, “Earth Song,” and “Gone Too Soon”–dedicated to the late Ryan White–still touch the soul. And, of course, “They Don’t Care About Us,” in any version, reveals the artist’s affinity with alienation, something much of his later audience both experienced personally or identified with in their King of Pop.
Appearances by icons like Marlon Brando, Chris Tucker, Lisa Marie Presley, Steven Spielberg, John Travolta, Macaulay Culkin, George Wendt, Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy, Iman, Magic Johnson, Naomi Campbell, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Tyra Banks, and all sorts of other fun guests make the celebrity quotient sometimes as important as the video’s message and images, though they never overshadow the star, a testament to the power of Michael Jackson’s undeniably powerful onscreen presence.
That said, you still have to click past a few endless self-indulgences such as the mess that is “Speed Demon” and a couple of other head-scratchers. But what you’re left with is hours of what might be some of pop music’s most groundbreaking or at least entertaining musical visions ever created. And that third “bonus” DVD–the rarities disc–showcases Jackson’s true boyish innocence in vids like the Paul McCartney duet “Say, Say, Say,” The Jackson’s “Enjoy Yourself,” and the previously unreleased, heartbreaking prayer that is “One More Chance.” Hell yeah, we still miss you, Michael.
1. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
2. Rock With You
3. She’s Out of My Life
4. Billie Jean
5. Beat It
8. The Way You Make Me Feel
9. Man In the Mirror
10. Dirty Diana
11. Smooth Criminal
12. Another Part of Me
13. Speed Demon
14. Come Together
15. Leave Me Alone
16. Liberian Girl
1. Black Or White
2. Remember The Time
3. In the Closet
5. Heal The World
6. Give In To Me
7. Who Is It
8. Will You Be There
9. Gone Too Soon
12. You Are Not Alone
13. Earth Song
14. They Don’t Care About Us
15. Stranger In Moscow
16. Blood On The Dance Floor
18. You Rock My World
1. Blame It On the Boogie – The Jacksons
2. Enjoy Yourself – The Jacksons
3. Can You Feel It – The Jacksons
4. Say Say Say – Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
5. They Don’t Care About Us – Prison Version
6. Why? – 3T featuring Michael Jackson
7. One More Chance – previously unreleased
Mike Ragogna: Bebel, I was living in L.A. when your album Tanto Tempo was released, and I remember it was played very often in a record store called Amoeba Records. But enough of that, how are you?
Bebel Gilberto: Thank you, I am doing very well. I am in New York City and am happy to be talking to you.
MR: Let’s talk about your association with a new book called Swing Caf, which is a sweet story about a cricket named Zaz…that would be you!
BG: Yes, that’s it.
MR: Please, Bebel, would you fill us in on this character and how it relates to the book and your narration?
BG: Well, the character is actually a cricket and she loves to sing, you know? And she is really into singing. She is an artist.
MR: And she comes to New York by hopping a ride on a fruit hat.
BG: Exactly, exactly. Nobody notices her until she is over there. And for me, the experience of doing that was amazing because I had to speak in English, but it was supposed to have my accent. So, it was quite fun because I made a voice for her but at the same time, I could totally visualize myself as the character. It was a very pleasant thing to do and I really enjoyed doing it.
MR: You meet a savvy fly named Buster, right?
BG: Exactly, yeah.
MR: And David Francis is the voice of Buster?
BG: Yes, he is the voice of Buster.
MR: How did you get the narration down? Can you explain how that was.
BG: I was invited by this Canadian group of people and they invited me to do this narration and I did it quite a long time ago.
MR: Now, the storyline goes that the Swing Caf is on East 54th street in New York, and there is a lot of jazz music associated with it.
BG: Yes. Absolutely. It is really, really amazing.
MR: Some of the artists represented are Duke Ellington, The Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Fats Waller. Now, this is straight out jazz, mainly. But you are associated mostly with Bossa Nova and Brazilian music, right?
MR: You’ve also released some remix albums emphasizing beats.
BG: Yes, yes.
MR: Bebel, musically, who inspired you?
BG: Many people from Billy Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald. I have been listening to every kind of music, from Michael Jackson to Prince to Bossa Nova itself. It’s where I get my inspiration from.
MR: You are the daughter of Joao Gilberto and your mother Miucha. I would imagine while growing up, there was nothing but music in that house.
BG: Absolutely! You are right about that.
MR: Was it obvious you always were that you were going to be part of the dynasty?
BG: Well, I guess it is still a question mark because when you have so many artists in the family, you know how it is. That’s one of the reasons I decided to move to New York and start everything on my own. But anyway, I guess everyone is proud, of course.
MR: So far, you’ve released four Brazilian-flavored albums–Tanto Tempo, Bebel Gilberto, Momento and All In One. Plus the remix projects and all your EPs.
BG: Yes, yes.
MR: So do you tour a lot to support all your works?
BG: Yes, I tour a lot. I have basically been touring since 2000 when Tanto Tempo came out. I started touring ostensibly everywhere in the world, and that helped me a lot because my music got spread around and people just wanted to have me come back…and in the most awkward places. It was amazing! I got to know the whole world, and it’s amazing to see how Brazilian music is growing, you know, in the world, because that also opens the door for other singers. And Brazilian culture in general is getting much (more) well known today and that makes me feel very proud.
MR: Why do you think it’s taking off?
BG: I guess it’s because it’s a real opening from the whole world as well. In Europe, maybe 40 years ago, Brazilian music kind of got a boon with Bossa Nova. But then it kind of got frozen and now people are just more curious and open-minded, basically.
MR: There’s a popular Norwegian duo called Kings Of Convenience who, regardless of not being Brazilian, have a real mastery of acoustic Bossa Nova, and they combine it with a love of Simon & Garfunkel. Plus there are a few other rising groups that, surprisingly, though they’re from different parts of the world, have made Brazilian music their own.
MR: So, here in the States, you’ve had songs on very popular television shows here, such as “Lonely” and “So Nice” on Nip/Tuck.
MR: And you had music appear on Entourage too.
BG: Yes, Entourage and Sex In The City as well.
MR: Yes, “Samba de Bencao.”
BG: That is the Black Samba.
MR: And also “Tanta Tempo,” those featured in the movie Closer.
BG: Yes, they were all featured recently. My song “Samba Da Bencao” was on the movie soundtrack Eat, Pray, Love.
MR: Let me introduce Julianne here. She is Brazilian, and she has a couple of questions.
Julianna Neves: Oh, how are you? I am really a big fan of yours and your Dad’s. He is my favorite and the one that I play most here on my show, Tropical Waves. My show is to make people imagine they are close to the ocean and this is your Dad. You and a lot of Brazilians do very well regarding music.
BG: Oh, wow, great. I am so happy to hear that! I must listen to it and do my homework, I guess. I am going to take some time off finally at the end of the year and I will definitely search for it.
MR: So, really? You actually do get some time off?
BG: Oh, yes definitely. I have a husband. You must always make a way to make a little bit of fun. This year has been much more calm. Last year was the year that we released All In One and I was touring, basically, until Christmas. So, now I am just going for a few concerts and staying there until January 20th, so it’s going to be a long one.
JN: Oh, enjoy it! I have a quick question about Joao Gilberto and meditation.
BG: Well, I am kind of not allowed to talk about my Dad because I made a deal with him. But I must say that yes, he is a Yogi and practices Yoga and self-realization, and basically meditates. But I don’t want to go deeper into that.
MR: Building on the concept of a meditative style, Bebel, your music has seductive, meditative pulses running through it. Are you also taking a look at things like Trance music? I can see other influences coming into your music as well. What other genres are you particularly fond of beyond Brazilian?
BG: It’s interesting that you should say that because I never really thought about it. Yesterday, I had a bunch of people who didn’t know about my music asking me how could I describe it and I said, “Oh, you know, it’s almost like music for you to kind of meditate to, to feel good, and to be like in the parallel kind of feeling. The influence that I had from my father that I mentioned before is very obvious in my music. But also the way of singing, whispering…that also kind of achieves some kind of wave into your head that makes you feel good and kind of connect with the sound that I am creating with my music. That’s what I instantly feel.
JN: How does the music from Bahia inspire you? I have been noticing more and more that I get closer to all of the Brazilian artists that the Bahia state has a lot of influence on. Bahia artists have a lot of influence and I was reading that Carlinhos Brown helped you with this last CD. Is that right?
BG: Yeah we worked together. I was in his studio for about a month in Bahia, and Carlinhos is from Bahia. He can create incredible sounds that you could not get from anywhere else, but he also works with a lot of talented Bahia-based people that played with me, and also on my second album. He kind of created a thing with everyone in the community that he takes care of it. The reason that this works is because the people in Bahia, they are so into music that everyone kind of has music or a rhythm feeling or talent inside of them because Bahia itself is a town and a State that has a lot of music and magic and passion and this is the influence that you get just being there. I got married in Bahia, and that’s where I am going to be going now. So, I would say you don’t know Brazil if you don’t go to Bahia.
JN: We have to be very grateful being Brazilian for the influence from Africa. I think what makes Brazil different from the other countries in South America is that we had the experience. Unfortunately, it was a slave ship, but we had influence come from them and I think this is what makes a big difference in our music. Do you agree with that?
BG: Oh yeah, for sure.
MR: Most people don’t understand the lineage or know the history. Most listen to it and enjoy it, but they kind of stop there, the intellectual questioning stops at the enjoyment.
MR: Bebel, who are some of your favorite artists that are out there right now.
BG: It will be hard for me to choose as I have many. But let’s say that people that really changed my way of thinking…I would say Bjork, for instance. When she came in, I was really into her music, and Sad when she came into the ’80s. This was a person that influenced me a lot. Michael Jackson. I saw him for the first time as the Jackson Five and it got me crazy. I always wanted to be Michael Jackson, you know? The way that he approached pop music and disco was, for me, very, very influential. And I will say, from Brazil, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa, they are the most influential artists since my childhood because also, I am the daughter of my mother who also loves to go to concerts, and she is also a singer herself. I was lucky to get to see most of the interesting concerts in the ’70s.
MR: Did they send you a copy of the Swing Caf yet?
BG: They did send me and I was here looking while I was talking to you and I just realized it was gone.
MR: Did you take a second or two to check out the artwork on the packaging?
BG: Oh, yes, the art is beautiful. The whole thing is beautiful, I really, really love it. It made me really proud of it. You know, its like with audio-visual, you can really hear and read and see it. It’s very well done and is a beautiful package.
MR: Have you done more voiceovers?
BG: Right after that, I got to do a little voiceover for this animation film coming out next year about Rio de Janeiro. I was happy that I got to do a cricket and then four months later, I was a toucan. So, it has been an interesting year doing voiceovers.
MR: Maybe that’s your future. You want to do more of that work?
BG: Oh, I would love to it is really, really nice.
JN: Starting off your career you started singing for kids, is that right?
BG: I always have a thing with children. It is very interesting, and I also did a huge musical that we were playing for two years in a row. It was huge. And after that, when I was 13, I belonged to the stage. I guess this gave me a lot of base, and I feel very comfortable on stage, so that helped me a lot.
JN: You are beautiful on stage. The videos, and everything…so natural. You are doing great, Bebel. You are beautiful!
BG: Thank you. Thank you so much!
MR: Yeah, we all love you around here, Bebel, once again proving that Iowa continues to have great taste.
BG: Oh, my God, thank you so much.
MR: Do you have any advice for new artists that are starting out?
BG: Well, I guess that the most interesting thing– maybe most people don’t think about unless you are raised by artists as I was–is to combine discipline and artistic methods which, for me, was always difficult. It is good that you study a little bit and practice and take it a little bit serious as a job, than just, “Okay, I am an artist, I can do whatever.” Most of the time, I felt like, “Oh, I don’t need to think about it,” or was just waiting for the feeling to come in or just waiting for the projects. It’s always good to have some discipline and to prepare yourself in that way.
MR: Bebel, thanks so very much for your time. Speaking of time, you’re going to be taking time off for the rest of the year, but are there plans for a new album?
BG: Well, I should be doing another album next year for sure, and also, I have a big plan with a DVD so that will be kind of based on my 10 years of the albums and the tours. This is the project that has taken a lot of my time and I should be releasing it next year and should be filming down in Rio de Janeiro. Not sure if it’s going to be a whole, full album, maybe an EP with a few songs to go with the DVD.
MR: When you have this all ready to roll, we would love to have you back!
BG: Let’s do it. Anytime. I have more to tell, and I will ring you guys.
MR: Thanks again for visiting us, Bebel.
JN: Yes, thank you, Bebel.
BG: Thank you so much and please keep listening to my music.
1. Manuello – Carmen Miranda
2. Hot And Bothered – Duke Ellington
3. Creole Love Call – Duke Ellington
4. Tiger Rag – The Mills Brothers
5. Chinatown, My Chinatown – Slim & Slam
6. Shakin’ The African – Don Redman
7. Jivin’ The Vibes – Lionel Hampton
8. Handful Of Keys – Fats Waller
9. Daybreak Express – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
10. A Bunch Of Rags – Vess L. Ossman
11. Minnie The Moocher – Cab Calloway
12. Sing Me A Swing Song – Ella Fitzgerald
13. Hot And Bothered – Duke Ellington
14. Creole Love Call – Duke Ellington
15. Tiger Rag – The Mills Brothers
16. Chinatown, My Chinatown – Slim & Slam
17. Shakin’ The African – Don Redman
(transcribed by Erika Richards)
This Blogger’s Books from
by Mike Ragogna
Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter:
A Conversation with Shawn Mullins
Mike Ragogna: Hi Shawn.
Shawn Mullins: Hello Mike, how are you?
MR: I’m pretty good, how are you doing, sir?
SM: I’m doing just great, man, I’m doing just great.
MR: I have to say, I was a fan of your music before The Thorns.
SM: That’s great. Well, I’m just grateful that you even know about The Thorns.
MR: (laughs) The Thorns absolutely was on my radar when it was first issued. Now, you’ve been the songwriter’s songwriter for a long time, care to go into some of the Shawn Mullins story?
SM: Well, I started off in around ’89, trying to write my own songs–I mean, I’ve been doing it since I was in high school, but I started getting a little bit better at it by then. I put my first record out in ’90, and then I kept making records almost every year. There were eight releases, and then Soul’s Core happened in ’98. There were already six studio albums and two live albums before that, and a few of those records are really good too. I’m sure I probably started recording before I should have, but I was just dying to get in the studio and record, you know? I was always wanting to write songs, but I was also interested in recording them and then singing them live for people, so I kind of did all of that. My first real success was in ’98 with “Lullaby,” which started as an alternative hit and crossed into the pop charts. I never had an idea that would happen, but that was cool and it went to #1 on the charts for five weeks. I did another record on Columbia, and then The Thorns happened. Matthew Sweet has always been one of my favorites, and I loved Pete’s work as well. So, when we got together–I think it was around the end of ’02 because I think the record came out in ’03–we wrote all the songs together out on this ranch in Santa Ynez, California, and that was the most fun we had–writing the songs.
MR: Pete Droge and Matthew Sweet, of course, are incredible artists, so it must have been terrific when you got together with them.
SM: Yeah, no doubt. We did that for close to three years–the writing, making the record, and then touring the world a couple of times. We opened a ton of shows for The Dixie Chicks in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, we did a proper tour of the U.S. with The Jayhawks, which was really a great tour, and then it was time for us all to get back to our individual stuff. I started writing in Nashville shortly thereafter, as well as continuing my own recording career, and I wrote a little bit with Zac Brown on the tune called “Toes.” A couple of years later, he got a deal, and it just went to #1 on the country charts last year. It’s just kind of been fun to have this other thing going, with the professional songwriting in addition to doing my own records and touring. I love both of them a lot.
MR: You also had one of my favorite songs by you, “All In My Head,” featured on Scrubs.
SM: Yeah, I actually wrote it for Scrubs. They were looking for a theme song in their first season, and Jerry and I wrote that song and sent it in. They didn’t use it for their theme song, obviously, but they ended up using it in an episode, and then I ended up putting it on a record several years later. Funny how songs can kind of come back to life.
MR: I know. And they used the demo version, right?
SM: They did, they used our original demo version, which is kind of funny because we just slapped it together really fast to see if they’d like the song. They did like it, and in fact, that used it on TV. We were kind of hoping that we would get to go back and record it properly, but I was still pretty psyched that they used it. It’s always funny when you slip someone a demo because they may like that, but you weren’t giving it to them the best way that you could, you were just doing it fast. (laughs)
MR: You also had a song on Dawson’s Creek.
SM: You know, Dawson’s Creek, Party Of Five, and a bunch of those shows in the late ’90s used a ton of songs. I think Dawson’s Creek used four songs off of Soul’s Core. They used “Shimmer,” and I know they used “And On A Rainy Night” and “Lullaby,” so they used at least three. That was kind of fun, and that really helped, actually. It helped get more and more people to know about my music. What’s weird is that I seemingly disappeared after that, but at the same time I’m doing two-hundred shows a year, and kicking as much butt as I could kick without having a major label or a huge hit. So, it was a weird predicament because I never stopped doing anything, but I’ve had so many people come up to me recently and say, “I’m so glad you’re back.” Mostly, I just think it’s funny, but it’s a strange feeling because you’re like, “Wow, I never really went anywhere. In fact, I’ve been trying to hard to stay on your radar.” It’s hard without some kind of major success, and it’s also hard to top or to keep going after having a hit that was that big. I kind of look at it similar to Aimee Mann’s career with ‘Til Tuesday, where she had this huge pop hit in the early ’80s and then she seemed to go away until the early ’90s, when Whatever came out, which is this unbelievable record that her and Jon Brion did. But I’m sure she was doing shows, writing songs, and performing and stuff. I’m thankful that anyone still knows who I am. It’s always a funny thing to go through that, you know?
MR: I guess it depends on how you measure success and what kind of success you are looking for, huh?
SM: Well, the way I measure success, and probably you as well, is probably really different from the masses out there, you know? They’re watching American Idol every week, and that is kind of the pinnacle of success–to be the winner of American Idol. Hey, big things grow and change, and also they’re cyclical. It’s a very similar thing to Star Search back in the ’80s, it’s just bigger. I’ve never looked at my success in terms of how many people know about it. It’s more of how good I’m getting or not getting, and my trying to become a better songwriter, singer, and a better entertainer live. I look at the masters–people that are just great at being onstage acoustic, like John Hiatt or Lyle Lovett, and Shawn Colvin is another one. There are people out there who are just master singer-songwriter-entertainers, and these are people that I’ve always looked up to and studied. And the more shows I do, hopefully, I’ll get better at it. I think that’s how I measure success, you know?
MR: Nice. You and those names you mention are all in a higher caliber of “artist” that I really wish the masses could hear more of.
SM: Thanks for saying that. Those people are like serious masters, and they’ve been doing it long enough that they just keep getting better and better. John Hiatt is the perfect example of these people who just kind of do what they do, and that grow and change, and their audience grows and changes with them. Yeah, it’s not American Idol, but I think that’s just another thing, you know? It’s TV, it’s hype, and sometimes on American Idol, it’s a great artist that slips through and wins.
MR: Yeah, like Daughtry and Josiah Leming, I said sarcastically.
SM: Yeah, I mean there are some great singers that end up doing that, but typically, they’re not also writers or whatever. Working in Nashville as much as I have in the last couple of years, I’ve seen a lot of really great singers that no one may ever hear about and musicians as well. There’s something to be said for those people who kind of transcend all that, stick with it, and don’t try to change what they’re doing according to whatever fad is happening at the time. I think that’s why John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris…well, Emmylou doesn’t write a lot, but what an interpreter of song, you know? She’s one of the best. Her doing a Townes Van Zandt song is one of my favorite things to hear. But yeah, I think they are classic performers, writers, and singers. It’s just that the audience is not the every day masses, and I think that most great art is like that–the masses don’t get it until years later, and maybe they don’t ever get it, you know?
MR: Yeah, a very good point. When you have a choice between commerce and art, in a lot of cases you have to make your choice.
SM: Absolutely. It’s funny, I’m constantly being asked for my music to be licensed in commercials or things that like, and you know, times are hard. I would prefer to have more of the Bill Hicks mentality, which is that no artist should ever support a corporation with their art. But since we’ve had a kid, all that’s changed for me. Of course, I have to be picky about what I support and endorse; but at the same time, we’ve got to make a living as artists, and, obviously, it’s harder and harder to do that with record sales. So, if you’re a songwriter, any way your song can be worked as a copyright is a good thing.
MR: You downplay your level of writing with regards to being in a class with John Hiatt, Nancy Griffith, and the rest. But anybody who can turn a traffic jam in California into a wonderful love song is amazing. You, sir, did just that with “California.”
SM: Listen, I appreciate that, and I do work hard at it. Also, I have to give Chuck Cannon some credit on that because Chuck and I wrote some of these songs on this record, and “California,” in particular, is one that we wrote together and we really both brought it. Often times when you’re co-writing a song, one person is kind of the leader on it, and the other person is filling in the gaps. “California” and “Light You Up,” both of the songs that Chuck Cannon and I wrote, were truly equal, collaborative efforts. I’m glad you like it, it was fun. We were talking about Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and how we loved that double meaning of a woman and a car, and the whole rock ‘n’ roll imagery, and then I had mentioned that we had done a video of mine, years ago, in an old El Camino, where I was getting to race it down the desert highways. The next thing we knew, we had the El Camino, and then we had a red Trans Am instead of a Corvette, which you obviously wouldn’t want to do.
MR: I especially love the lyrics, “Her stereo was blaring Dylan, The Bootleg Sessions, and oh ‘The Times They Are A Changin” made a pretty good impression. She looked over and caught him smiling. Under the California setting sun they fell in love on the 101.” Sweet!
SM: The verse before that basically uses two cars to kind of describe the characters. You’re not ever sure which one is driving which, but you can kind of take a good guess at it.
MR: Right. Let’s get into “Light You Up,” the title track of this album. Shawn, you know that if you build a man a fire he’s warm for a day, but if you set a man on fire he’s warm for the rest of his life, right?
SM: (laughs) Exactly. I like that, that’s the old “teaching a man to fish” thing taken a little bit further.
MR: But the title track is another great song, can you go into it a little bit?
SM: Yeah, that’s another one that Chuck Cannon and I wrote together. It started off in weird sort of way that has only happened to me two other times out of all the songs I’ve written, which is about eight-hundred songs at this point. It’s only happened a couple of other times where I dream the song or I wake up with part of a song kind of playing as a soundtrack to a dream, and that’s what happened with “Light You Up.” I woke up one morning and I had all that “I just want to write you a…” It had been kind of playing over and over as the background of whatever dream I had, which I soon forgot about, but luckily the song kind of hung out. I sang it for my friend Chuck, and he said, “Man, are you asking me in on that?” Which is kind of a songwriter’s way of saying, “Are you opening that song up to me? Because that’s great, and I want to be a part of it.” And I was like, “Yeah, man, let’s write it together.” So, we stayed up all night in Nashville–typically that’s how Chuck and I write. We don’t do a three or four hour songwriting session, we kind of do it in a day or two, and it’s a very long, drawn out, concentrated deal. I’ve seen so many other writers try to write with the two of us, and it’s a matter of concentration. You have to take breaks, but you have to stick with it, and you’re not satisfied if the song’s just okay, you just keep working on it. You don’t want to take it too far, where you’ve worked it to death because that’s part of the art too, knowing when to quit. I love that song, and Chuck and I write the lyrics to the verses together just staying up, having a little scotch, and just kind of trying to think of the most random things that we could think of that everybody wants, putting it together in a song, and making it rhyme.
MR: So, no surprise, I’m a big fan of yours. I’m also a big fan of Matthew Sweet’s as well as Pete Droge’s. Now, when the three of you got together, that was a celebration for me, when you guys formed The Thorns on Aware Records. You said that was what, ’03?
SM: Yeah, I think that’s when the record came out. We got together a little bit before that.
MR: What’s the story behind that? How did that all come about?
SM: Well, it originally was a writing exercise. Originally, it was myself, Pete Droge, Marshall Altman–who is a songwriter, producer, and has been in A&R for Columbia too–and Glen Phillips from Toad (The Wet Sprocket). It was the four of us originally writing together, and we wrote “No Blue Sky” together, and a couple others. Then, when we sent those demos in, Aware and Columbia all kind of flipped out over the sound. They were like, “Hey, would you guys be into doing kind of a vocal, acoustic band?” You know, we all had to kind of think about it, and Glen Phillips in particular was like, “Man, I just got out of a band, and I’m trying to solo stuff.” So, he punched out of it, and Marshall ended up having another obligation, but Pete and I were into the idea. So, my manager, Russell Carter, asked Matthew Sweet to join in and see what would happen if the three of us wrote together. So, that’s really how it started, and when we wrote together, it was even more magical than before. It was just like the right combination. I have to give Russell Carter credit because he was a big part of it–he and Greg Latterman who really kind of thought this whole thing up. So, that’s kind of how it started. We wrote a bunch of songs together–we wrote twenty songs in ten days, and eleven of them ended up on The Thorns record, I think. Then, we toured really hard for about two years. That was the hard part, I think, for The Thorns. It was just hard because you’ve got three guys that are used to being their own boss, and now no one is really in charge, but we’re all kind of used to having things the way we want it on the road. So, that was the harder part, I think–the traveling.
MR: Yeah, you were three grownups as opposed to three brothers. When bands start out together really young, it’s a different vibe.
SM: Yeah, that’s totally true. We’re three guys with three different types of successes, but we all produced our own records. We all were songwriters and leaders of our own bands, so it was interesting. Matthew really likes to be ahead of the beat, and Pete actually is the other way, where he likes to be on the very back end of the beat–for all you musicians out there, you know what I’m talking about. So, I was in the middle of them on stage, so there was always this like three beat thing happening. It was the funniest thing in the world, and both of them would be yelling at the drummer–not yelling, but going, “Come on, man, speed up!” And the other guy would be like, “Come on, man, slow down!” (laughs)
MR: (laughs) Nice.
SM: Yeah, it was a blast. I love the songs we wrote, and “No Blue Sky” I always felt like didn’t get it’s proper tracking. I felt like it was done too fast on The Thorns record because they wanted it to be a single and they didn’t want it to be too slow. I think we kind of didn’t do it right because we recorded it too fast, and the production was just too big and slick. So, that’s why I put that song on my new record–to kind of do it like I always heard it, which was really stripped down. You know, my drummer is playing with his hands on the kit, and it’s just a very acoustic-based song that way.
MR: Now, you have a song on Light You Up that you’re not the author of called “The Ghost Of Johnny Cash.” Can you talk about what inspired you to cover that song, and also about the song itself?
SM: Well, first of all, I’ve never been afraid to put a cover song on a record. You have to be careful about what kind of cover song you put on a record if you’re a singer-songwriter. But James Taylor’s biggest songs ever were not his songs, and he’s obviously a great songwriter, so I’ve never had a real problem with it. The trick is to pick one that’s right, and I had first heard Chuck Cannon do this song, he was one of the writers on it, and it just blew me away. I just felt like this was the song that we all needed to hear, that mentions Johnny Cash. This is the one that really describes, from what I know–and I’m pretty good friends with Kris Kristofferson, and he’s told me a lot about Johnny–it just nails the whole deal, you know? So, typically, if I’m going to cover a song on a record, it’s one that I wished I had written. That’s part of it, and the other thing is that it needs to fit. We kind of had a place on the record for something like this, so I felt like it was the perfect song to do, and it hasn’t been recorded other than on Chuck’s album. So, I thought, “Hey, here’s an opportunity to get the song out there, hopefully with a lot more listeners too.” I really wish I had written that one, and I love interpreting it.
MR: It’s a great song, and you give it such a personal spin, it’s as if you had written it. Now, “Tinseltown” is sort of a reflection on the L.A. scene and all that. That had something to do with the thought behind this album as a whole, right?
SM: Well, here’s what happened. As the songs were coming together and being written, they just started being written about Southern California, specifically, Los Angeles and Hollywood. It just kind of happened. I didn’t set out to write a record–I never do that. It would probably be an interesting way to write a record, to go, “Okay, this record is going to be about the Midwest.” I just typically start to have themes that roll in, and I start to notice it. This one was definitely L.A. and Hollywood heavy, and I kept asking myself why. I was like, “Gosh, you’ve never lived out there, and you’ve always had kind of a love-hate relationship.” Maybe that’s it, that I am fascinated by it, and I also kind of don’t want to be there for very long before I’m ready to get back home. “Tinseltown” I wrote with Max Gomez, who is a great young singer-songwriter. He’s twenty-three, and he’s out of Taos, New Mexico. We wrote a few of the songs that are on this record, actually. He just has this fresh perspective that’s very hip, and also very old school–his favorite artist is John Prine. He’s a twenty-three-year-old songwriter, and you just don’t have that a lot, you know? So, Max and I wrote that, and you know who I was thinking about? The character in the song who I was thinking about when singing it was Matthew Sweet because he’s kind of a homebody. He lives up in the canyons, he doesn’t really like getting out that much unless it’s something really special, and I was kind of embodying him a little bit when we were writing that song. I was thinking, “Gosh, if somebody wanted to go downtown, down to Hollywood or whatever, what would Matthew say?” He would be like, “Man, I don’t want to go downtown tonight.” So, that was a little bit of an influence on that song–just knowing Matthew as well as I had in the past.
MR: Nice, I got to work with Matthew on a project called To Understand, which was a collection of all his material up to the A&M stuff, and it included the demos for “Divine Intervention” and “Girlfriend,” which, at that time, I think was called “Good Friend.”
SM: Yeah, and it’s really slow, right?
MR: Yeah, it’s a different vibe, but I know what you’re talking about with the home body thing because I was at his house a couple of times when we worked on his collection together. By the way, one of the many enviable things he has is that old Fender Rhodes.
SM: Oh yeah, he’s got so many things and so many instruments. There are two sitars, a real Fender Rhodes, and a couple of different organs. Was he a collector of the “Big-Eyed Children” paintings when you visited him last?
MR: Yes, I think he was. The animation on his early videos were perfect for him too. He really injects himself into his art personally, and I love that.
SM: It is really cool. He’s definitely kind of multi-canvased that way. There’s a lot going on. He’s an interesting guy to work with, and he’s very fast at songwriting too. I remember him coming up with certain lines with The Thorns where I was like, “How did you come up with that just like that?” I typically have to work kind of hard at the lyric before it’s like I like it, so I was always fascinated by that. Melodies tend to come a lot easier for me, naturally. But yeah, I really like that song “Tinseltown,” and Max Gomez is somebody you guys should check out because something’s going to happen for Max. It’s just a matter of time because he’s so talented and such a good guy.
MR: You’ve got it. Send him our way.
SM: Yeah, I will. Also, he’s from Taos, which I believe may be one of the only other solar-powered radio stations in the whole country. I know there’s you guys, and the one in Taos is a really interesting place too. I don’t know if you guys know each other.
MR: Yeah, we know of them, it’s terrific. Let’s talk about that for a second. I don’t know how into it or not you are, but for me, it’s just a bizarre thing that every business and home isn’t using solar power and getting off the grid, especially in the Southwest. The sun is shining virtually every day of the year.
SM: You’re talking about an energy source that, well, we will probably go before it will. I’ve wanted to do a solar tour, and I’m looking for sponsorship this next year to try and do that. Basically, you put on all the concerts with solar power, you’ve got the panels on top of the bus, you’re going down the highway collecting energy, and then the shows can be powered with it. We have done a few shows solar-powered with a company in Atlanta that is a solar-powered recording studio called Tree Sound. Those guys are really, really hip, and they’re into wind power as well. So, that’s something that I’m kind of looking into doing, and I agree with you. I guess it’s because it’s still kind of expensive. The initial buy I think scares people off.
MR: But in the old days people used to invest in things for their home that were as expensive, it’s just that the concept of solar power is a little more complicated than turning on the TV. There is an expense, of course, but if you have to replace your septic system, well, that’s going to be an expense. You have your daily spending rituals and you have your expenses for your home, and my feeling is that this should just be one of them, you know?
SM: Yeah, and in a lot of states, you can get a break by doing that anyway. Obviously, you’re going to save money, but you can also get a rebate to help pay for that initial cost. It’s an interesting thing, I think it will happen, and I think it’s starting to get more and more into the population. I’m hearing more and more people talk about it, and I feel like the more people like me that can tour around the country talk a little bit about it, and maybe even put it into action, hopefully, the better.
MR: It feels like a steadily building thing. Sometimes “green” issues end up being a ten minute concept. But solar power is always discussed, I guess because of the energy crisis that we always seem to be in–aka manipulated prices at the pump–and the real cost spikes of oil.
SM: Absolutely. I think it’s totally building. I don’t think it’s going to go away. It’s been around. When I was a little kid, my brother was really into the idea of solar power when he was twelve or thirteen and had built this little model home that was solar-powered. It was a really cool thing and that was the late ’70s or whatever. So, it’s been around, obviously, a long time. It’s just going to take a little while, but it’s also going to take the corporations. G.E. is one of the biggest solar power companies in America. They have a huge solar power sector, but they need to start talking about that, and commercials need to start happening related to that because, let’s face it, everyone is sitting in front of their flat screen TV at this point. I’ve got to be the only person in the city of Atlanta who doesn’t have a flat screen TV–we just try not to watch it a lot. I like them and whenever I see them, I go, “Wow, that’s so cool. Look how big.” But we just had our son a year ago, and I got to thinking that I’m not sure if I really want him growing up, sitting in front of this massive screen.
MR: Very smart. When you do that solar-powered tour, you come back and let’s talk again, okay?
SM: That would be great. I’m going to keep working on it. I’m going to keep working on G.E.–they’ve got a pretty big base here in Atlanta, and I’m going to keep working on them, to try to help sponsor this whole thing.
MR: It’s important, it just seems like we had a lot of energy to do something once, and now we’re petering out. Like we said before, I think solar power is building, but I just wish there was a little bit more of a national initiative. So, I have a traditional question which is what is your advice for new artists coming up now?
SM: I always love the story I hear that Tom Waits told some kid. Some guy spotted Tom Waits a few years ago, went up to him, told him he was a fan, and said, “Listen, what is your advice for young, upcoming artists?” Tom was like, “Forget about it kid. Go home. Be a doctor. Be a lawyer.” I don’t know if I would say that though. What’s kept me going this long–being in and out of popularity and having my own definition of success–is kind of always trying to remain true to what I’m doing, and not to change with the times. You’re going to find something that you think is really cool, that you can utilize in the studio–an instrument, a sound, or a recording technique. But for the most part, you just need to do what you do and keep doing it. Those are the people that grow and change over the years, but they’re not doing it to follow trends, you know? So, I think the big thing is to do what you do and do it well. For songwriters, you need to be reading because you’ve got to have words pouring in for words to pour out, and I think people don’t even think about that sometimes. Stephen King talked about that in his book on writing. You’ve got to read, you know?
MR: I love how you phrased that, “You have to have words pouring in before you can have words pouring out.”
SM: Yeah, and old school songwriters that I’ve met within Nashville say the exact same thing. You know, the Harlan Howards and the Hank Cochrans. Those guys were old school and they were great songwriters, and they read a ton, you know?
MR: It does seem like a lot of people are reading still–that’s not going away. It just also seems like there is a lot of video game time and having to go through the complete season of whatever television show you’re watching on DVD to compete.
SM: I played video games growing up, and I went to the arcade whenever I could to play Pac-Man and Battlezone, or whatever. But I also loved to read, always, and my dad really encouraged that. I think, just as a songwriter, you need to be able to take in words to pour them back out. It just taps into another part of the brain that sitting in front of a screen and taking in the images does not.
MR: Very wise advice. Sir, You’re smart as a whip, as they say.
SM: Man, thanks so much for having me on. I can’t wait to come and visit you guys (KRUU) again. Maybe when I do this solar tour we can meet up.
MR: Absolutely. Let’s end with a discussion of one of your favorite songs from your new album. What should that be?
SM: I really like “Can’t Remember Summer,” the Michigan auto worker song.
MR: Nice. What’s the story on that?
SM: Well, basically, when I was watching TV at some point, I was flipping on CNN and I saw a helicopter view of a soup line going into a church in Michigan. It was like scenes from the depression, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is really…”–I kind of tapped-in for a second and got that this is a huge thing. This industry that we once had in our country that was driving the whole thing, to a degree, is for the most part gone, and all those jobs are gone. A lot of these people were counting on a few more years, then retiring. So, this song’s about one of those characters. It’s a song sung from that person’s point of view, and it has a chill about it, and you can kind of feel Michigan in the Winter somehow.
2. Light You Up
3. Murphy’s Song
4. No Blue Sky
5. The Ghost Of Johnny Cash
7. I Knew A Girl
8. Catoosa County
9. You Make It Better
10. Can’t Remember Summer
11. Love Will Find A Way
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
A Conversation with Chely Wright
Mike Ragogna: First of all, let me pose a question in a rather pointed way. This is 2010, right?
Chely Wright: Yeah, last time I looked at the calendar it was.
MR: Okay. Why is someone’s personal life anybody’s business?
CW: Well that’s a very multi-layered question.
MR: I’m talking about why this would be some sort of a concern anymore, like ever? It’s unbelievable to that your private life is up for discussion.
CW: Well I’m with you, but I can tell you why. I can tell you exactly why–religious beliefs and what people are being told to echo. They’re hearing it in their churches, and they’re being told to tell young people, “Try not to be that. You’re best to not be that.” We tell our kids, “Do your best to not become a drug addict, do your best to not become a thief, and do your best to not become a homosexual.” And we should not be saying all of those three, we should not be telling our young people to not be who they are as God made them to be.
MR: There’s such a disconnect there. I guess there would be a disconnect with people who are blindly following a faith, incorporating whatever prejudices they want to incorporate into their belief systems. I was brought up Catholic, and I know a lot of Christians whose wiring doesn’t go there. Yet prejudice seems to be the political football that’s used by those that want to control others through fear. It just seems like in 2010, why is homosexuality even worthy of a debate?
CW: And those are political waters that are easy. When you get down and dirty, and you just want to get primal and divide people, that’s the easiest way to do it. For politicians that want to divide people in the name of God, this is fodder for them, this is so easy it’s like painting by numbers. When you want to go out and sling daggers of hate and division, this is the easiest one.
MR: And, like you said, It’s been used and it’s still used as a divisive play in order to get people to the polls if they want to defeat something else, some other issue.
CW: It’s a trick. It’s a manipulative trick, and unfortunately, most of the constituents that find themselves manipulated by it, they know not what they do. Most people who find themselves manipulated by this don’t have the time to dissect it. They’re busy working, feeding their kids, figuring out how to pay for three-and-a-half dollar per gallon gas.
MR: There you go. I interviewed Steve Forbert months ago, and we were talking about the oil spill. We were talking about things like how California killed the electric car because of interests that were more greed-oriented than humanity-oriented. It’s almost like no matter where you turn, you’re being manipulated, and you can always follow the buck. Even with what we were talking about earlier, that ignorance always seems to be a financial payoff in the end for somebody.
CW: In that documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, the same principles apply to this. I don’t hold parents that responsible for echoing what churches tell them because when you have a baby, you take it to the church and say, “Help me raise this human being. Help me do the right thing.” I feel like we have to stand up as a largely Christian society, that’s why I joined the Faith in America board because of the damage that’s being done to young people since parents are echoing what the churches are saying–”Try not to be gay.” Well, there’s no need to try not to be gay. You really should try not to become a junky, you should try not to shoplift–these are breaches in judgment, and we shouldn’t judge people for these breaches in judgment because we’re all human and sinners, and we all make mistakes. But I don’t have a choice to love a man or a woman, I can’t love a man. I’ve devastated men trying to love them the way they loved me, and I’ve devastated myself trying to love them the way they loved me. It’s not a breach in judgment for me to be gay.
MR: It seems to be an older generation thing, most young people I know don’t even care. This ridiculous type of prejudice seems to be going away culturally.
CW: Well, you’re right. There is a new generation of understanding and young people who really have absorbed the notions of equality and liberty. Now, it’s not as far reaching as you and I would like to believe, I have to say. It hasn’t reached the far corners of small town America like you and I would like to believe. You are an educated man who’s writing for a living, and you’re finely evolved. I’m fortunate enough to make my living in the arts, and I’ve been lucky to travel around the world and hang out with smart and forward thinking people. But my tour bus also makes stops at every small town in America, and I see that we have a long, long way to go. I just got off the phone earlier with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and I also work with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), and today, the statistics are such that young kids who are in transgender identification situations are called, “faggot” or “dike” in nine out of ten school days. Nine out of ten days that they go to school someone calls them that, and that’s nine days too many. I know we have come so far, but we have so far to go, and to go back to your question, “It’s 2010, why are we still talking about this?” You’ve got me. It blows my mind. I thought ten years ago, “I’m never coming out in country music, surely someone else will do it.” It’s staggering to me that no one did it–no one in commercial country music. I just thought someone would come out or be outed before me.
MR: I lived in Nashville for a while, and there were known homosexuals who were stars–you just didn’t utter their names, and, of course, they didn’t come out. It was sort of this “happy ignorance,” and it’s really unfortunate that I would say something to you like, “Gee, it’s really great that you did that.” It should just be understood, period. It’s just mind-boggling.
CW: But you know what? I was one of those who was whispered about; but no one knows for sure until you say it, and whispers don’t make it to the airwaves in Albuquerque. Quite frankly, what if an eleven-year-old kid is being driven to school by his mom, and my record comes on the air and she says, “Oh I love that Chely Wright.” What if that kid is about to go to school and get picked on? What if that is my chance for that mom to turn that radio station up and hear the disc jockey say, “Chely Wright came out as a lesbian today”? I took that chance, I cashed in my public equity, and that did happen on that Albuquerque radio station–that announcement happened. And that mom that says, “Chely Wright is my favorite. What a great American. What a nice lady.” That did happen. And that eleven-year-old kid in the backseat who’s getting picked on? He feels one less person alone. There’s a difference in being a whisper–and you’re right, we get protected in Nashville, although I was more in the closet than anybody I know of in Nashville. I’m not okay to be a whisper, I’m too proud of the steward I’ve been in my life, and at some point, it’s a narrative of who I am as a human being. Am I really going to allow another fourteen-year-old kid to sit in his bedroom and feel like an alien?
MR: I read the Entertainment Weekly piece in which we learn some new facts about you. For instance, you gave Rascal Flatts their start. Let me ask you about that. How did you discover them?
CW: Well, I hired them both. Jay was my piano player, I hired him from a Contemporary Christian background in Nashville. I hired Joe Don sight-unseen out of a club in Oklahoma, and he drove through an ice storm and slept on my drummer’s couch for an audition in Nashville. He kept following me around for an entire day in Nashville saying, “Do you want to hear me play now?” I said, “Just bring your guitar and follow me.” We were just boppin’ around the studio and I finally said, “You know you have the gigs, Joe Don, it’s okay. You don’t have to get out your guitar and play for me, I’ve heard your CD.”
So, then we went to dinner and I knew how much he loved Vince Gill–he just kept talking about Vince Gill and how amazing he was. And I said, “Well, of course, everybody loves Vince Gill. You’re a guitar player who sings high, of course you love him.” So, I happened to get a phone call from Vince that said, “Hey Chely, let’s go listen to the Bluebloods.” They’re great session players that were playing out at a club that night, and I said, “Okay, cool. I’ll see you out there later.” So, I didn’t tell Joe Don that we were going to go hang out with Vince later and I said, “Come with me.” I invited him and my drummer, Chris. So, we walked into this club, and Joe Don is saying, “Oh my God, that looks like Vince Gill in the back.” Then, we’re walking toward Vince’s table and he’s saying, “That is Vince Gill!” Lo and behold, we sat down at Vince’s table. Joe Don and Vince got to have a conversation all night about guitars, and then we ended up touring with Vince.
Now, Joe Don tells everybody, “My first night in town, I got to meet Tony Brown, I got to be at the studio. Chely Wright took me to dinner, I got the job, and I got to meet Vince Gill.” So, we worked together on the road for a couple of years, and I knew that they were working on a side thing–I think they were just trying to make some side-money. Jay said, “Chely, we recorded ourselves, would you mind listening to our CD?” And I said, “I’ll listen to it,” but I was thinking, “Oh no. Another couple of my band guys trying to get together a band, this is going to be awful,” because it had happened before, and it’s usually bad when that happens. So, I was driving to my house, I put their CD in my player, I heard two songs, and I hit stop, picked up the phone and called Jay and said, “Jay, there’s something here.” I said, “This is really, really good.” Shortly after that, they were signed to Lyric Street, played their last few months with me, and the rest is country music history.
MR: (laughs) That is so cool. Now, fact number two from that same Entertainment Weekly piece: Patty Griffin saved your life.
CW: What did I say?
MR: You said, “I became aware of her during my breakdown in ’05, which eventually led to her coming out. I was looking for anything divine. When I heard ‘Living With Ghosts,’ I felt like God was whispering in my ear.”
CW: Yeah, I said it right. That’s the truth. As a musician, I don’t think that I am different than a non-musician. When something amazing happens in my life, I go to music, and when something devastating happens in my life, I go to music. During my breakdown, I sought out–or perhaps music found me in a way that I didn’t even know. I became aware of Patty Griffin during that time, and that album, Impossible Dream, really kind of held me. There were days that I laid on the floor of my bedroom in Nashville. I mean there were entire days, and I don’t want to say they were wasted because I was absorbing that music, but there were days that that’s all I did–lay on the floor and hit repeat on Patty Griffin records. She changed the way I wrote songs, and she freed me from the constraints of commercial songwriting. You understand what I’m talking about. As a music writer, you understand the commercialism of Nashville songwriting.
MR: I’m so over the whole Nashville cheesy pop thing. Where’s Merle when you need him?
CW: Again, there’s a certain craft to it, and I don’t want to begrudge the people who have figured that out. To a large degree, I made my living making commercial country music, and I love that part of my history. But I’m not nineteen anymore, I’m thirty-nine.
MR: Well, I also noticed, by the way, when I put your CD in my iTunes, the “genre” that comes up reads “folk,” not “country.”
CW: Oh, does it really?
MR: Yeah, so, some entity has designated you as folk now. That’s interesting because when I listened to your album–which we should probably get to–one of the things I noticed is that it maintains your country style, but it does feel like it’s embracing more of a Jakob Dylan meets Court Yard Hounds-ish kind of sound.
CW: Wow, cool.
MR: Maybe it has to do with how you approached this, as the person you are now, embracing other things besides needing to have a country hit.
CW: Oh, wow. Thank you. You’ve just given me some very high compliments. I want to stew in those–I want to wallow around in how that felt.
CW: In listening to the music that I did during my breakdown, quite frankly, I had kind of dipped my toe in it on my last record, The Metropolitan Hotel, which really was a low selling record for me, but my most critically acclaimed. To that point, really what I found success in, personally and creatively, was writing what I know and doing my best to suspend my intellect. I made kind of a half-assed attempt to do that on my last record, and on this record, I couldn’t have employed my brain if I had tried. I didn’t even know where it was. I really kind of lost my mind, and that was such a good thing for me, creatively. You read about the great poets, painters, and creative people of legend, and they all were crazy. For once, I finally lost my mind. It was so good for me.
MR: You know, that line, “I lost my mind”? When you think about that, it just means you let your mind get out of the way and let the creative process happen.
CW: Right, and I think I always probably got in my own way. Art meets commerce is always a bad intersection. When you’re trying to make anything for the masses, something has got to give. When you’re trying to make food for the masses, you get fast food, and when you’re trying to make art for the masses, you get fast art. You get what you get.
MR: That’s a really brilliant point. It’s like you’ve got to be in the moment when you’re doing your craft or even every day at work. I mean, the people that are multi-tasking–what are they really getting done, you know?
CW: Right, there’s a point of diminishing return. What I learned through the process of rolling around on my floor, listening to Bob Dylan, which I admit this with a lot of guilt and shame, I’d never really listened to too much. Shame on me. I’d really never explored Tom Petty the way that a singer-songwriter should, but I’ve corrected that.
MR: Let me ask you where you would rate Blood On The Tracks?
CW: Oh, a thirteen.
MR: (laughs) What would you rate as his “one”?
CW: What would I rate as his best one?
MR: Yeah, we’re looking at it differently. In the pecking order of Bob Dylan albums, where would you place Blood On The Tracks?
CW: Oh, gosh. Well, I don’t want to fall in line just because I’m on the phone with you, but it’s really hard to beat that one.
MR: That’s kind of why I threw that one out there. Though Blonde On Blonde and his earlier albums were brilliant, for me, there was something about–wait, I may be wasting our time…
CW: God, no. This could never be a waste of time.
MR: Blood On The Tracks, for me, was like a turning point, where I felt like I could relate totally to everything he was saying on that record, even on lighter tracks like “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts.” Even in the wackier, more fun moments, there was still a groundedness…what a brilliant album. It’s probably in my top five albums with Joni Mitchell’s Court And Spark, Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, and albums like that.
CW: There’s a reason that so many people who write songs, like you and me, site that as one of their top five records of all time. If anybody has ever squeezed themselves out on tape, it’s that one.
MR: (laughs) That’s a good way to put it. And I’ll never understand why “Tangled Up In Blue” wasn’t a huge hit. I think it’s an American classic.
CW: Well, look at the records that came out during that time. It’s all relative, and it’s so funny to look at the landscape of what came out at that time. You wonder what gets lost in the shuffle, you go back and look at records like this Conway Twitty album that just blows my mind, though the title has escaped me. It didn’t even have one hit on it, but I think it was his best record. But it was the year that the new generation of hit makers came out, and he just got kind of retired. He became the old guy. Now, you mentioned Joni Mitchell. Let me tell you how obsessed with Joni Mitchell I became during this process. I didn’t know much about her either, but I was–do you know who Steve Buckingham is?
CW: Steve is a very good friend of mine, and a guy that I confided in early on about not only my breakdown, but the reason for my breakdown. He’d say, “Let me come over and hear your songs and talk to you.” When he got there and listened, he said, “What are you doing on that guitar?” He’s an old session player who has played on a lot of hit records, and he said, “That’s fascinating, what you’re doing with your tunings.” I couldn’t get my fingers to do what I was hearing, so I just started turning my knobs. I’m a piano player, so I just decided on this record that I was going to start turning knobs until I could get the voicings I want. So, I made up these crazy tunings, and he said, “Where’d you get that tuning?” I said, “I made it up,” and he said, “So, you didn’t go to some Joni Mitchell website?” I was like, “No. Did she do alternate tunings?” He said, “Well, she was famous for it. You’ve got to come over and watch this documentary about her crazy tunings.”
So, I watched this documentary about her whacked-out tunings, and I realized that none of my tunings are actually the ones she used, which I was glad about. That way I couldn’t be accused of ripping off Joni Mitchell, but then I started discovering her body of work, which is mind-boggling. So, I really kind of feel brand new about music. I feel like I have this old country past, but when I hear Bob Dylan’s Live At Carnegie Hall album, which is, I think, the best live recording in all of music, it still gives me chill bumps. Then, I hear Joni Mitchell and that crazy tuning stuff she was doing, and it makes me want to just jump off of a building. I feel like two different artists. I feel like before breakdown, BBD, and after breakdown, ABD.
MR: (laughs) I was lucky enough to work with Joni on a compilation of her Geffen and Warner recordings, and I learned so much about her first hand. When people bring up negative things she says, I remind them it’s because Joni doesn’t have a filter, and most great artists were lacking them as well. To me, it seems like since she’s a fountainhead of creativity, that stops her from having a filter because if she had a filter, then it would afflict her creativity with everything else. You know what I mean?
CW: Thank God. I can’t believe you know her. I can’t believe you got to be near her.
MR: It was brilliant, a beautiful period. It was always fun to be eating dinner together somewhere and have folks like Warren Beatty stop by and pay tribute to her. Okay, that was kind of a wild sidebar, let’s get back to the third point from the Entertainment Weekly piece. That is: “She and God have an understanding,” and your quote is, “I felt like there were two Gods, the one they told me about in church that I should fear, and the one that knew my s**t. The one I believe in told me not to lie. When I was on my knees and said, ‘Tell me what to do,’ God said, ‘Tell the truth.’”
CW: That’s true, she quoted me correctly.
MR: You know, you would think that anyone with a functional mind would understand the concept that God doesn’t hate anybody. Isn’t Christianity supposed to be based in love?
CW: Yeah, it just doesn’t make sense to me. God also blessed me with discernment. Even before I knew to pray for discernment, I was given it. I have a spiritual compass that God gave me, but I was being told about this God at church that was going to burn me in the fires of Hell, once I died. That was really scary. Then, when I got home, there was this other God that was on the piano bench with me that was giving me songs to write. And when I’d climb a tree, there was God up there. I never felt alone. I felt the presence of this being or this “something.” So, I thought, “I’m supposed to keep this secret from this being that’s with me?”
MR: That being is supposed to know everything, right?
CW: Yeah, this dude, not a bearded guy in a robe, but this God–this present power that’s with me–I’m supposed to keep a secret from that being? Or am I supposed to run around with this abiding fear of this poster on the wall in Sunday school of this guy who’s going to burn me up and throw me to another guy in a red suit with a pitchfork. I don’t get that, and it didn’t make sense to me. So, the God of love and light won out, and it changed everything for me. It changed the course of everything. I knew I was okay, I just knew it.
MR: My friend’s son once had a nightmare about burning in Hell. Now, he didn’t hurt him, but he pinched the little guy just a tiny bit. The child said, “Ow! Why’d you do that?” My friend asked his son, “You felt that, right?” The boy said, “Yeah, so?” and his father told him, “Well, that’s because you have a nervous system. Now, when you die, do you have a body?” The child answered, “No,” and the father continued, “Okay. Well, your body has these nerves, and that’s why you feel everything. So, if you die and you don’t have a body anymore, are you going to feel like you’re burning up? You don’t have a nervous system!” It sounded like a brutal lesson to me when I heard it, but I realized that it probably saved his son a lifetime of fear.
CW: Well, way to go. Nice job. (laughs)
MR: (laughs) It’s sort of like, if somebody thinks that through for just–how long did it take for me to tell you that story, fifteen seconds? If somebody just takes fifteen seconds to think that through, it sounds as crazy as it is, you know?
CW: Right. We’re supposed to be taught that God’s love is unfathomable. Now, Jeffrey Dahmer’s parents knew that he ate people, and they still went to see him in prison and said, “Son, I love you.” He ate people. And I’m supposed to believe that if I fall in love with a woman, then my God will condemn me to a fiery Hell? He ate people! And his parents went to see him and said, “Son, I love you.” God’s love is supposed to be that kind of love times infinity. This is not adding up, people. Come on, it’s crazy.
MR: Alright, though I’m thoroughly enjoying our tangential conversation, let’s discuss your latest album. Lifted Off The Ground. I wanted to start by talking about the song “Heavenly Days” on which you teamed up with Rodney Crowell. I especially admire the lyric, “Dare to be different, dare to be true.” How did you get hooked-up with Rodney Crowell?
CW: Well, it happened in the most odd way. One would think that I decided to come out, wrote a bunch of songs about freedom, and went and asked Rodney to make my coming out record. You have perhaps read the book, and if you haven’t, I hope you do because the timeline is much more different, odd, and perfect.
MR: Yes, I read it. Very personal.
CW: When I was writing these songs, I had no idea I was actually writing my next record. I was halfway through making this record with Rodney before I decided to come out. Rodney did not, of course, know that I was gay until halfway through the making of this record. I did not approach Rodney about making this record, Rodney approached me. I had sought him out in my pajamas a couple of months into my breakdown, and all I wanted to ask him was, “Am I dying? I need to know if I’m dying.” He wrote on the back of my guitar, that day I showed up at his house in my pajamas, “Dear Chely, I love your broken heart, and someday you will too.” About a week after I went to see him, he said, “Do you have those songs you played for me on tape?” I said, “Well, I have my work tapes that I do each time I write a song. They’re just little home studio recordings.” He said, “Bring them over, and come have a meal.” I said, “No, thanks.” At that point, I was embarrassed that I’d even sought him out just to ask him if I was dying of a broken heart, and I said, “I don’t want to come over and eat.” Then he said, “Well, drop the songs in the mailbox.” So, I did, and every couple of weeks, he’d just email me, “Songs?” and I’d make a pilgrimage to his mailbox and leave songs.
This went on for about nine months. No phone calls, no dinners, no “friend” nothing–we weren’t hanging out. Then, he called me and said, “You have the option to go to dinner with me on Friday night or Saturday night.” I went to dinner with him, we sat down, and he said, “I’m not going to beat around the bush. You need to make a record, and you need to let me help you make it.” I said, “What, a record?” He said, “You do want to make a record, don’t you?” I said, “Well, I hadn’t thought of it. Why would you, Rodney Crowell, want to help me make a record?” He said, “Well, seldom does a producer get to see someone really going through a change and is giving into it. You’re really giving into it. I’m emotionally invested in these songs, and I want to make a record with you.” I said, “Do you need money to…,” and he said, “I don’t need your money. Do you have a label at this time?” I didn’t, so he said, “Fine, when you’re ready to make your record, then we’ll make it.” I said, “I’m not ready now. These songs are still coming to me.” He said, “Great, when you’re ready, we will.” We didn’t start that record for another nine months. So, the next summer, we started the record–that was the summer of ’07, I think May is when we started it.
We were six songs in, and I was realizing, “Holy crap. I’ve written all these songs by myself,” because he and I didn’t write “Heavenly Days” until the record was completely finished, in the can, and then in ’09, we wrote “Heavenly Days” kind of as an addendum and put it on the record. But I realized that I had all these songs, written by myself, and I had to go out there and promote this record, where people are going to ask me, “Who are these songs about?” I talk to journalists when I make a record, people like you, and they were going to say, “Who’s this relationship…” or “Who is this break up about?” As it stood, nobody knew about a relationship I was having. What was I going to do, make up a fake boyfriend from Buenos Aires? I realized my truth was, again, hunting me down. I could see myself back in that dark, dark place. You know, our truth is stitched to our feet, and no matter how hard you try to outrun it, you can’t. I was feeling that layering of my truth, and I felt God continuing to whisper in my ear, “Stand up, stand up, stand up, this is all I expect of you.”
Rodney came to my house one day, flew in from LAX, and said, “I need to land in Nashville, and I need to come talk to you.” He came over, sat on my porch, and he said, “I gossiped about you, and I want to apologize. People have asked me as long as we’ve been making this record. They’ve said, ‘I hear you’re working with Chely. She’s great, what a great gal?’” And he said, “Then they’d always whisper, ‘But isn’t she gay?’” He said, “I always say, ‘I don’t know, we’ve never talked about it,’ but I flew out to L.A. four days ago and I participated in a four hour conversation about your sexuality. I’m here to tell you I did that and that I apologize.” I think that Rodney thought that I would melt into some kind of admission, “Oh, Rodney, I am gay.” But I didn’t. I just thanked him for telling me something I surely would never have found out.
That night, he left, and I thought about it and prayed about it. Then, I called him the next morning and said, “Can you come back over?” He came over, and we sat on that same porch, and I said, “Rodney, I am gay, and I am going to come out.” I said, “There’s one song I held back from you the entire time. Out of all the songs I’ve written in the past couple of years, it’s the musical heart of all the things I’ve written, and I’ve held it back from you because it clearly depicts my being in a relationship with a woman.” He said, “Play it for me,” and I said, “No, I’ll email it to you. Just go home now.” So, I went to my computer, emailed him the song “Like Me,” opened up a word document, wrote the cover page for my book, Like Me, and I started my book on that day.
MR: Beautiful. What was the process like when you were writing it?
CW: It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most profound experience of my life. I’m really thankful that I have had fourteen years of therapy under my belt. I know myself better than most people I know, but I needed every tool that I possess of self-introspection and self-awareness to write this book. All of the work I’ve done on myself, especially in the past few years, seemed to coalesce during the writing of this book. I wrote it myself, I didn’t have a ghostwriter, which most celebrities who write books have. It was an amazing, profound experience, and hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
MR: Another of my favorite songs on this record is “Broken,” although it’s a toss up between that and “Notes To The Coroner”–I love your sense of humor in that one. In “Broken” you have my favorite line: “Why can’t you just believe in me? Not everyone is an enemy.” To me, that says, “I’m doing the best I can, what do you want from me?” I totally relate to it, it’s so reasonable.
CW: That’s the best thing, as a writer, if you can get the listener to take it on as their own. and to see themselves in it. That’s great and that’s a compliment. Really, I’m not a cynical person, but we all find that the older we get, we bring that baggage with us. That song really–I know the title is “Broken”–but it’s really a song about hopefulness. It’s about, “I’m a little beat up, you’ve been a little beat up, but let’s join hands and jump. Let’s give it a shot, love might be waiting for us. I know we’re both broken, but broken can be pretty.”
MR: Nice. What advice do you have for young people?
CW: My best advice for young people, even if you’re going to school and trying to get your masters, or if you’re trying to be a music star, follow that compass within. If it feels too good to be true and it feels like somebody is offering you something that you shouldn’t be getting, you probably shouldn’t. There aren’t a lot of short cuts in life. You know, in school, when you earned your “A” and you know in school when you haven’t earned your “A” because you happened to look at your neighbor’s paper? Your internal compass and your spiritual compass tells you. I guess my spiritual compass told me to do some things that I should have done a long time ago, and I’m finally honoring that compass. I’m so glad I named my album Lifted Off The Ground because it’s how I feel. I guess that’s my advice. Honor that compass within.
2. Heavenly Days
3. Hang Out In Your Heart
4. Notes To The Coroner
5. Snow Globe
6. Like Me
7. That Train
8. Damn Liar
9. Wish Me Away
10. Object Of Your Rejection
11. Shadows Of Doubt
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter:
Even here in the normally sunny Southwest, the rain has been falling in recent days. And so at the request of Rebekah, here’s a damp but intermittently lovely playlist for all those rainy days in our lives. Please remember these words by John Updike: “Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”
HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY – Frank Sinatra
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN – The Eurythmics
SONGS ABOUT RAIN – Gary Allan
BUCKETS OF RAIN – Bob Dylan
RAIN KING – Counting Crows
BUY FOR ME THE RAIN – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
BROKEN HEADLIGHTS – Joey Ryan featuring Sarah Bareilles
WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN – Creedence Clearwater Revival
I CAN’T STAND THE RAIN – Ann Peebles
WALK BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS – Donald Fagen
RAIN ON MY PARADE – Bobby Darin
LADY RAIN – Daryl Hall and John Oates
BOX OF RAIN – Grateful Dead
I THINK IT’S GOING TO RAIN TODAY – Randy Newman
MY OLD RAINCOAT – E
LITTLE BIT OF RAIN – Amos Lee
IN THE RAIN – The Dramatics
FLOWERS IN THE RAIN – The Move
RAINMAKER – Harry Nilsson
HERE COMES THAT RAINY DAY FEELING – The Fortunes
IT’S RAINING AGAIN – Supertramp
THINK OF RAIN – Margo Guryan
TOO MUCH RAIN – Paul McCartney
ONLY HAPPY WHEN IT RAINS – Garbage
PURPLE RAIN – Prince
FOOL IN THE RAIN – Led Zeppelin
EARLY MORNING RAIN – Gordon Lightfoot
COME IN WITH THE RAIN – Taylor Swift
RIGHT AS RAIN – The Band
RAIN – The Beatles
NOVEMBER RAIN – Guns N’ Roses
RAIN – The Wreckers
MANDOLIN RAIN – Rickey Scaggs and Bruce Hornsby
IT NEVER RAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – Albert Hammond
RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS – The Carpenters
CRYING IN THE RAIN – The Everly Brothers
THE RAIN, THE PARK AND OTHER THINGS – The Cowsills
RAINDROPS KEEP FALLIN’ ON MY HEAD – B.J. Thomas
Dry off and add your own songs to this watery playlist please.
Follow David Wild on Twitter:
If you had to be stuck in an elevator with an actor, the name Eric Balfour might not be the first one that comes to mind. But it should be, because this is one interesting guy. In a relatively short phone conversation, he speaks passionately about the need to conserve the world’s oceans and sea life, then shifts to a critique of President Obama’s administration and somewhere in there discusses the inner life of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And it’s not just shallow musings either.
Maybe his upbringing in Los Angeles has something to do with it. “I grew up in a creative home,” he recalls. “My mom was the original hippie.” He and his family made visits to Esalen in Big Sur, which describes itself as “an alternative educational center devoted to the exploration of the world of unrealized human capacities that lies beyond the imagination.”
Eric’s family was not in show business, but, he says, “I had an innate desire to be an artist. When I was two, my mother showed me Prince’s Purple Rain. Later I watched Staying Alive and Flashdance over and over, and memorized the entire making of Thriller.” By 15, he was playing in a band and “running around the streets of Hollywood.” That same year, he auditioned for and got a role on the kids’ TV show Kids, Incorporated on which he sang and danced. Other alumni of that show include Fergie, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mario Lopez.
The seminal event in Eric Balfour’s career was meeting acting coach John Homa. “He showed me how to fall in love with the storytelling of acting,” says Balfour. “He helped me learn to look beyond the words and to look for the inner meaning in my character. By my early 20s, I knew it was what I wanted to do.” Balfour’s career is diverse and full: Movie roles include Secondhand Lions, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hell Ride and What Women Want. He currently stars on the Syfy Channel as Duke Crocker on Haven which is based on a Stephen King novella. His past credits range from Six Feet Under to Valemont to Saving Grace to Monk. In addition, he is in a LA band called Born as Ghosts.
When not acting or singing, Balfour is developing a series that is “musically-based” for Fuse TV and also a Broadway musical. “I am in love with singing and dancing,” he says. He loves Glee and says his favorite film is the indie hit Once. He is also a fan of the show So You Think You Can Dance: “It is so exciting to see a show that gives choreographers a platform, and you can’t lie about someone’s ability as a dancer.”
Within minutes of talking to Eric, it becomes apparent that he may be of and from Los Angeles, but his head is elsewhere. He uses Fidel Castro and Ahmadinejad to illustrate his belief that no human is all evil or all good, and he has clearly read up on each man. He wants to travel to Africa and Middle East to explore age-old conflicts and culture clashes. He also says, “I always wanted to sit down with Osama bin Laden and ask, ‘What would make you stop what you’re doing?’”
And this is a man who embraces organizations and individuals that are trying to make positive change in the world. On this website, he lists four of his favorites. They include two conservation groups, the Surf Rider Foundation and Sea Shepherd because, he says, “I surf and spend a lot of time in the water. Oceans are being destroyed. It’s wholly disgusting.” He supports Falling Whistles which campaigns for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and asks people to be whistleblowers for peace. He also supports the No H8 Campaign in favor of gay marriage.
“I have no illusions that I’m an important opinion maker in the world. But I do believe that artists have a responsibility to shine a light on important issues,” reflects Balfour. “I don’t care if I leave a mark but at the end of my life, I want to look back and know that I did something worthwhile with it.”
Eric Balfour points out that his parents’ generation in the 1960s was more innocent than his as they “spread the idea of love and community.” But, he says, “My generation is one that takes responsibility. Look at our financial crisis and the fall of Wall Street – we must all take personal responsibility for buying things we couldn’t afford.” As he turns his attention to the pastor who threatened to burn the Koran, it is evident that Eric Balfour is a triple threat with his acting, singing and dancing talent. But he is also an actor with a lot to say…and someone definitely worth listening to.