Robbie has recorded 12 solo albums of crafty-lyric, country-folk music since 1996, including the new, Grammy-nominated Upland Stories. We discuss “America is a Hard Religion” and “Fare Thee Well, Carolina Gals” from that album, then look back to “Where There’s a Road” from Georgia Hard (2005) and conclude with “I Told Her Lies” from South Mouth (1997). Opening/closing music: “Hamilton County Breakdown” a 1989 live recording released on The Very Best of Robbie Fulks. Learn more at robbiefulks.com.
The singer/guitarist shifted gears many times through Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets (which shifted from acoustic to electric to electronica), and has since put out five distinctive solo albums.
We discuss, from the collection Freedom I Love (2017), the title track and “Indie Boys”; and then “Christian Says” from Stripped (2014). End song: “Flame On” from the Hog Fever soundtrack (2016). Intro music: “So Alive” from Love and Rockets. Learn more at www.danielashmusic.com.
Todd held down the beat and wrote some songs for Grand Rapids, MI’s Molly in the ’90s through 2003, then wrote more songs and sang a bit for Dutch Henry for about ten years, then pushed forward to sing and write all the songs for his projects The Star Darts and now Cartorson.
Featuring Cartorson’s “The Last Time” and “Hearts on the Highway” from the new Richfield Skyline EP, “Say It” from Shooting Star Darts (2014) and “44 Days” by Dutch Henry from All That Space (2007). Opening music: Molly’s “Another Day of Regrets” from The Finger (2002). Learn more at toddlongmusic.com.
Asif led Canadian band MIR from 1998 to 2008, and has since recorded with real instruments for commercials and films, and released a one-man-band Police-influenced album Synesthesia in 2013.
We discuss the title track and “Electrical” from that album, also MIR’s “A Day in Your Life” from 7 Directions (2004). We conclude by listening to “The Chosen One” from MIR’s A Soldier’s Carol Christmas EP (2008). Intro music: “No Taxidermy,” produced for Empire Theaters.
Bradley fronts the Bay Area band, The Bye-Bye Blackbirds, which inhabits the niche of Byrds-influenced “power pop” even though Bradley really doesn’t like that term. We discuss the band’s 2016 boogie single “Let Your Hair Fall Down,” the country ballad “Hats” from Fixed Hearts (2011), and a pre-Blackbirds song eventually recorded for Fixed Hearts, “Elizabeth Park.”
End song: “All in Light” from We Need the Rain (2013); opening music: “The Ghosts Are Alright” from Houses & Homes (2008). Visit byebyeblackbirds.com.
Michael has played on 500+ recordings; he was the house bassist for the Windham Hill label in the ’80s and has put out seven solo albums. He expands what electric bass can do by using many tunings, even retuning on the fly using a custom-built system, using his bass as a percussion instrument, and sometimes playing multiple basses at once.
We discuss “Excuse Me, Mr. Manring” from Soliloquy(2005), and “My Three Moons” and “The Enormous Room,” both from Thonk (1994). The opening music is “Thunder Tactics” from Unusual Weather (1986), and we wrap up with “Unclear, Inarticulate Things” by Attention Deficit from Idiot King (2001).
Learn more at manthing.com.
Seven-time Grammy winning drummer Paul Wertico and his multi-talented cohort David Cain are two-thirds of Wertico, Cain and Gray, an improvisational, “impressionistic” jazz trio who have released five albums since 2013.
We discuss six tracks from Short Cuts: 40 Improvisations (2016) and “Where Brush Meets Flow (Go Van Gogh)” from Sound Portraits (2013). Intro music: “Destroy the Box” from Organic Architecture (2014).
Hear and see more at werticocainandgray.com.
Jason fattens out his eclectic guitar pieces by writing string and horn parts, and The Jason Seed Stringtet includes members of the Chicago Symphony sawing away furiously. Hear more at jasonseedmusic.com.
We’ll discuss “Ishtar,” a Bulgarian/Latin-inflected piece from In the Gallery (2013), “Any Night Now” a more traditional chamber jazz number from 2015, and “Mammoth” from the Jason Seed Exlier Ensemble’s album 3 (2008). We’ll wrap up by listening to “Pinch” from the Stringtet’s The Escapist (2010). Intro music: “Invocation” from In the Gallery.
Jill was part of a 3-woman vocal band in the ’80s called The Life is Grand Band, and then in 1995 released Songs About Sex & Depression, and only in 2015 unveiled her long-awaited study of the dark psychology of fairy tales, A Handmade Life.
We focus on this most recent project, discussing “Letters from Murdertown” and “Eyes of Fire,” and playing at the end “Walking on Glass.” Our third discussion song goes back to the previous album with “Everything Makes Me Cry.” Opening music is The Life Is Grand Band’s “Harry’s Song” from Feel Like Makin’ Art (1989).
Peter’s violin was a key part of Steeleye Span’s updating of traditional folk songs from 1971–2013. His original songs were among the group’s most heartfelt. We talk about being creative with traditional music, authenticity, and finally getting the hang of songwriting late in his career.
We discuss “We Shall Wear Midnight” from Steeleye Span’s Wintersmith (2013 with Terry Pratchett), “Bows of London” from Gigspanner’s Layers of Ages (2015), and “From a Lullaby Kiss” (2014 solo). End song: “Who Told the Butcher” from Bedlam Born (2000 Steeleye); intro: “The Butterfly” from Lipreading the Poet (2008 Gigspanner).
This orchestral tubist and pop songwriter has composed fun new additions to the solo tuba repertoire and classically influenced piano-vocal songs.
We discuss “Mendota” and “Love for My Own” and listen to “Disco Tubas” from Dare to Entertain (2015), and also discuss some of his “Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra.” More at patdoty.com.
Bill was the original drummer for Yes, a default member of King Crimson, and briefly played with Genesis and the late ’70s supergroup U.K., but most of his output has been with his own jazz-inflected Earthworks and Bruford, as rock proved too confining for his rhythmic and tonal creativity.
We discuss King Crimson’s “One more Red Nightmare” from Red (1974), “Thistledown” from If Summer Had Its Ghosts by Bill Bruford, Eddie Gomez and Ralph Towner (1992), and “The 16 Kingdoms of the 5 Barbarians” from Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song by Bill Bruford/Michiel Borstlap (2004). We also hear “Hell’s Bells” and the title track of One of a Kind by Bruford (1979), plus “Five Per Cent for Nothing” from Fragile (1972) by Yes.
Tyler (editor of this podcast!) can rap endlessly, and has filled up ten albums with his machine-gun musings on life and politics. A great intro to indie hip-hop for the ignorant (like me)!
Songs: “Negative Space,” “Long Way Down,” and “Ciphers” (feat Grimm) from Long Way Down (2015), and “Kids of the Earth” from Quest for Meaning (2008).
Hear more at soundcloud.com/sacrifice.
Sean writes music for video games. He uses five computers, with massively realistic orchestra sounds, and he performs every part with a breath controller for expression.
We discuss “Beyond the Desert” (from Empires Apart), “Mega Adventure Time” (from Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Game for Gear VR), and “Celestial Light” (from Stellar Wanderer).
We conclude by listening to a non-video-game tune, “Salve Regina” featuring Fr. Gabriel. Opening music is “Dr. Evil’s Lair of Doom.”
Jon has been a key member of art collective The Mekons since 1977, injecting country/folk/reggae/etc. influences into a seminal punk band to create an inimitable melange that has put out 19 albums, plus he puts out solo albums and is involved with many side projects including the country-punk Waco Brothers.
We discuss “Lil’ Ray O’ Light” from his solo album Here Be Monsters (2014) and two Mekons songs: “This Funeral Is for the Wrong Corpse” recorded in 1991 and released on I Have Been to Heaven and Back: Hen’s Teeth and Other Lost Fragments of Un-Popular Culture, Volume 1 in 1999, and “Cockermouth” from Natural (2007).
We conclude by listening to the title track from the 2016 Waco Brothers album Going Down in History. Intro/outro music is from “Mephis Egypt” from The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll (1989).
Trey is master of a many-stringed type of guitar that you play by tapping with both hands at the same time. His mentor was Robert Fripp, with whom he played in the seminal progressive rock band King Crimson. He has also released over a dozen exploratory solo albums. Learn more at treygunn.com.
We talked about “Kuma” from his solo album The Third Star (1996), “Level Five” from King Crimson’s The Power to Believe, and “God’s Monkey” from the David Sylvian/Robert Fripp album The First Day (1993).
We conclude by listening to Trey’s current touring group The Security Project, as they play the Peter Gabriel classic “No Self Control” from Live 1 (2016). Beginning and end music is from Trey’s Live and Hugo House EP (2015).
Dave is a consummate craftsman in the acoustic singer-songwriter vein, but with the added bonus that he’s an amazing guitar player, who for 15 years or so has acted as sideman for ’70s Brit-legend Al Stewart, i.e., filling in the entirety of the musical palette apart from Al’s singing and strumming. And Dave has a philosophy Ph.D., and put that to use in crafting his most recent album Spinoza’s Dream (2016), where each song reflects a particular philosopher.
We talk about the title track from that album, plus two songs from Step Up (2011): “Sheila Won’t Be Coming Home” (a duet with Al Stewart) and “Descartes in Amsterdam” (originally written and recorded in 1997). We finish by listening to “All Good” from the new album. The opening music is Dave’s instrumental version of Al’s hit “Year of the Cat” from Wordless Rhymes (2005).
Learn more at davenachmanoff.com.
Chad’s 2015 album Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are has received heaps of nice reviews, with its carefully crafted, groove-oriented soundscapes and cinematic lyrics. We discuss “Afrikaner Barista” and “Steven & Tiwonge,” and then go back to Beauty Pill’s first release with “The Idiot Heart” from the Cigarette Girl from the Future EP (2001).
We close by listening to “The Prize,” a cover of an Arto Lindsay song. The opening music is “A Good Day” by Chad’s previous band, Smart Went Crazy, from Con Art (1997). Learn more at www.beautypill.com.
Jill is a big personality, rivaling Elvis Costello in the creation of acerbic, stylistically varied singer-songwriter material, and shes been putting out tuneful, story-laden albums since 1990. Visit jillsobule.com.
We discuss “Jetpack” from Underdog Victorious (2004) and get to meet her frequent co-writer Robin Eaton, “Empty Glass” (co-written with Elise Thoron) from The California Years (2009), and “Pilar (Things Here Are Different)” from Things Here Are Different (1990). Finally, we hear a new recording of her political manifesto “America Back.” The intro/outro music is “Supermodel” from her 1995 self-titled album.
Carrie fronted Seattle grunge favorite Hammerbox in the early ’90s, then moved to the more poppy guitar rock band Goodness for the latter part of the decade, and released three solo albums in the ’00s. The overall movement is from harsh exuberance to quiet reflectivity, and Carrie’s role evolved with her starting off as new newbie to rock bands singing over already-composed music and ending up in a much more controlling position, as she experiments with different musicians to get deep textures.
We discuss “No” from Hammerbox’s Numb (1993), “Cozy” from Goodness’s Anthem (1998), and “Reflection” from her solo album Home (2000). We also listen to “Coat of Arms” from the Rockfords’ self-titled 2000 album (a band that features members of Goodness as well as Mike McCready from Pearl Jam), and the opening music is Hammerbox’s single “When 3 is 2,” also from No.
Narada started as a fusion drummer in the ’70s (with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, etc.) then released numerous solo albums and produced and wrote for artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, and many more. He believes in working fast: creating a mood and getting the most out of it.
We discuss “Freedom” (written by Richie Havens) from Evolution (2015), “I Shoulda Loved Ya” from The Dance of Life (1979), and the title track from Garden of Love Light (1976). We also listen to “Billionaire on Soul Street,” also from Evolution. The opening music is from “Freeway of Love” which Narada wrote and produced for Aretha Franklin, and the outro music is from “How Will I Know?” which Narada produced and wrote the verses to for Whitey Houston.
Learn more about Narada at naradamichaelwalden.com.
Craig led Shudder to Think from 1986 to 1998 and has since had a solo career and done soundtrack work. Shudder to Think was a band that started as part of Washington DC’s “hardcore” scene, but challenged musical conventions to try to achieve U2-level success with Captain-Beefheart-level weirdness (they failed). We discuss their song “Pebbles” from Get Your Goat (1992), then go post-Shudder to “Show Down” by Craig’s short-lived pop-dance band, Craig Wedren & Baby. Then we talk about working on assignment on “I Am the Wolf, You Are the Moon,” for Wet, Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. We also listen to “Heaven Sent” from Crag’s album Wand (2011).
The opening music is “X-French Tee Shirt” from Pony Express Record (1994) and the closing music is the theme from The State. Learn more at craigwedren.com.
After serving a stint with the Flaming Lips, Jonathan has been putting out albums with Mercury Rev since 1991. Over time, their music has shifted from noisy alternative rock to symphonic, soundtrack pop songs… still psychedelic, but now with an unapologetically Disneyesque influence, with the magic of nature swirling out through harp glissandos and french horns, all standing behind a simple, stark melody delivered by Jonathan’s high, Neil-Youngesque voice, which sings of nature and things more abstract.
We discuss “Autumn’s in the Air” from The Light In You (2015), “Holes” from Deserter’s Songs (1998), and “Empire State (Son House in Excelsis)” from See You on the Other Side (1995). We also listen to “Central Park East” also from the new album and intro music is “Car Wash Hair” from Yerself Is Steam (1991).
Learn more about Mercury Rev at mercuryrev.com.
Beth fronted Clear Blue Betty from 2000–2007, then in 2009 became a solo artist, co-founding Madison’s Girl’s Rock camp and letting music consume all of her professional life. She’s a classic singer-songwriter whose mission is to help others unlock their creative rockery.
We talk about “Wrong Side of Gone” from the Beth Kille Band’s 2015 EP Stark Raving Songbird, “Dead Man in a Dream” from Dust (2012), and “Through the Walls” from the EP of that name by Clear Blue Betty (2007). Plus, “Little Bit Drunk” from Beth Kille’s Ready(2010). The intro music is “Go Back” from Clear Blue Betty’s Never Been a Rebel (2004).
Phil is the long-time string arranger for Tori Amos and has done a heap more production, arrangement, and keyboard work. He has a very deliberate production style, carefully crafting a very natural-sounding theatrical background using both cutting-edge and very old tools.
We talk about “Cross the Channel” from the Brik & Shenale EP (2012), Phil’s arrangement and production of “Stars that Speak” by Willie Deville from Pistola (2008), and “Pornokiss” from a project Phil initiated called The Royal Macadamians from their album Experiments in Terror (1990).
We also listen to a brand-new Shenale instrumental “Gautama in Love.” The opening music is from “Yes, Anastasia” by Tori Amos from Under the Pink (1994). Learn more about Phil at johnphilipshenale.com.
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Bob leads the Madison, WI band The Getaway Drivers; he shares the vocal duties with his wife Shiela Shigley. Though Bob has displayed a lot of affection toward old-timey, world-weary music since starting off his major songwriting efforts around 2000 at the ripe age of 28ish, The Getaway Drivers’ new album Bellatopia is a conscious attempt to break with that, though Bob still likes telling stories informed by nostalgia for a long-gone past.
We discuss “Suburban Summer Shine” and “Signs” from the new album, as well as “Stuck” from the Bob Manor 2005 album Ghosts of Yesterday. We end by listening to “Stay” from The Getaway Drivers (2006). The opening/end music is from “A Call Out” from the new album.
In 1986 Nick van Eede released a song (“I Just Died in Your Arms”) that will be played long after we are all dead. But he’s got a lot more going on than that, and on his new album (still under the moniker “Cutting Crew”) he’s recorded his best songs from the last decade without regard for continuity with the sound that made him famous.
We discuss “Reach for the Sky” from The Scattering (1989), “Berlin in Winter” from Add to Favourites, “Frigid as England” from Compus Mentus (1992), and wrap up by listening to “Looking for a Friend,” also from the new album. Learn more at cuttingcrew.biz.
Roderick Wolgamott Romero founded and fronted the Seattle 90s space rock band Sky Cries Mary. So how does a poet get a band? Is a poet’s process different from a typical lyricist’s?
We discuss “Gliding” from Taking the Stage Live: 1997–2005 (2011), “December Snow” from Roderick’s in-progress project One Point Moment Still (featuring Romanian techno duo We’d), and “Queen of Slug Theater” from Moonbathing on Sleeping Leaves (1997).
We also listen to “You Are” from Sky Cries Mary’s final studio album, Small Town (2007), and the opening/closing music is “Walla Walla” from A Return to the Inner Experience (1993).
Tim describes himself as not a singer, but a writer with a band, and he shouted at the front of Too Much Joy in the late’ 80s–’90s and has since recorded as Wonderlick while working as a big dog in the digital music industry with Google, Rhapsody, and now Freeform.
We discuss “King of Beers” from Cereal Killers (1991), “Donner Lake” from Wonderlick (2002), “Just Like a Man” from Mutiny (1992), and also listen to “Extraordinary People” from Wonderlick’s Super (2015). Read Tim’s words at tbquirk.com, and toomuchjoy.com.
Gary is a guitar virtuoso who’s put out more than 30 albums, typically by writing guitar instrumentals that then get a melody and words added by a singer/songwriter, the most famous of these being Jeff Buckley (Gary wrote a book about it!), but also Joan Osborne, and he started out playing with Captain Beefheart.
We discuss “Will O’ the Wisp” (a new instrumental), “Overture” (with singer Jann Klose), and “The Wall” (from his album of Chinese pop The Edge Of Heaven. We also listen to “The Kid” (with Peter Hammill), and talk about working with all these singers, working intimately with your instrument, and putting out music that is experimental yet accessible. Learn more at garylucas.com.
Steve is a one-man band, overdubbing his compositions both in jazz (steel drum!) and pop/rock (featuring his unique and sometimes disco-high voice). He’s also drummed and/or fronted bands (including one in college with your host Mark). The common thread through all of this is a love of his craft: a dedication to creation in the studio, whether or not anyone hears the result.
We discuss “P.I.” from his last original full pop album to date, Acoustinaut (2002); his jazz number “Perseverence” from the 2013 EP Where You Going with That?; and “Darkness” from his full-band album BAMF! (1997). Plus we hear the 2012 single “Warren Zombie Apocalypse.” Get Steve’s music at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/StevePetrinko.
Jeff was the voice of JudyBats until ’94, and is now Heiskell. He sings with character, or characters, always articulate, overly introspective, with intimacy issues. We discuss his current status as happy, self-funded, free-styled, hands-off yet obsessive compulsive solo artist and his high-pressure, compromise-filled time on a major label that led him to quit music altogether for a while.
Songs covered: “Firefiles” and “Just Can’t Say” from Heiskell’s Arriving (2015) and “What We Lose” from the JudyBats’ Full-Empty (1994). Plus we listen to “Our Story” from Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow (1992). Learn more at heiskellmusic.com.
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Gareth Mitchell is a post-rock academic, an innovative guitarist who now uses recorded splices of treated guitar (among other things) made into loops to meticulously construct electronic music, as on his upcoming album, 72. We dive deep into his tracks “Circle” and “Decay” from this album and get a taste of his dreaming singer/songwriter material with “Sovereign” from Spectre (2012). We also debut the track “Granulations.”
Gareth is as thoughtful an artist as you could possibly want to talk to, and really gives us some great insight into his unique approaches to composition. Learn more at garethmitchell.info.
Bonus audio from this discussion and preview access to the new album are available by signing up to support this podcast (a $5 donation).
Kevin Godley is a multi-media master, having directed many of the coolest music videos you’ve ever seen. But before that, he was half of Godley & Creme and 1/4 of 10cc, singing, drumming, and mostly coming up with ideas, ideas, and more ideas. Today he runs Whole World Band, a platform for collaborative video creation, and recently released his iBook autobiography Spacecake, but he still performs on occasion, and for the first time produced some solo music as part of his soundtrack to the audioplay Hog Fever.
We first discuss his song from that project, “Confessions” (2015), then “Punchbag” from the Godley & Creme album L (1978), “Barry’s Shoes” from GG06 (2006), and finally play “Lost Weekend” (feat. Sarah Vaughan) from Consequences (1977).
Fritz maintains a cool, direct front-man persona even while engaging in self-help, snarling social commentary, and referencing classic literature. He aims to write simple, repetitive songs that catch you and hit you and make you their dog. He’s been out there since the ’80s, moving around the country from band to band, but consistently delivering the goods.
We discuss “Spray Job” (The Bishops, 1994), “Try Something New” (Punchy, 2001), and “When I Say Jump” (Crown Vic, 2013), and also play “I’m on a Leash” (Crown Vic, 2008). Learn more about Fritz at fritzbeermusic.com.
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Welcome to Nakedly Examined Music, an offshoot of “The Partially Examined Life” focusing on the head and heart of songwriting. The front man of Cracker and Camper van Beethoven joins Mark Linsenmayer to discuss his songs: “All Her Favorite Fruit,” “I Sold the Arabs the Moon,” and “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” Plus “Almond Grove.” Learn more at davidlowerymusic.com.