There aren't a lot of people who can list "rodeo bull rider" and "Academy Award winner" side-by-side on their resume. But Ryan Bingham's not an ordinary guy. He's a folk rock road warrior who's not road-weary. And he's an award-winning songwriter who penned "The Weary Kind" after reading the script for 2009 country music movie Crazy Heart and realizing the characters from the movie's plot didn't stray too far from the characters in his own life.
"Reading about "Bad" Blake, I thought that my father was very much like him," says Bingham during an early March phone call. "A lot of his friends were like that [too], so I kind of grew up with those characters in my life from a very early age. ... And I wrote the song not even really thinking about the film - - there wasn't much expectations for me yet, because it was so early on."
The songwriting was less a pressure-filled experience than a career oddity that had Bingham in disbelief all the way up to his climb to the Academy Awards podium in 2010.
"It was very surreal for somebody like me to get thrown into that world all of a sudden, to be a part of it," says Bingham. "I was just having fun with it while it lasted; I didn't feel all this sudden pressure of living up to anything. I've always thought that all I can be is myself.
After years on the road and three full albums, Bingham parted ways with his long-time band and long-time label for the release of Tomorrowland. Nothing acrimonious with the band, just time for them to go their separate ways.
"I'd been on the road with the band for almost ten years, and they dedicated a lot of time going on the road with me and playing these songs," says Bingham. "None of us had much of a home life or any kind of normal life other than being on the road constantly and playing shows. We were tired and wanted a break. (One member) was getting married; another one (was opening a music venue)."
The label was the same kind of story. Lost Highway Records was absorbed and broken down by Universal, and the employees Bingham had spent time with had been let go. It was time to go their separate ways.
"The [people laid off] were the ones that mentioned to us, 'You know, you guys could probably do this on your own." It was a natural thing to do instead of finding another label."
So Axster Bingham Records was born, and the first release was Tomorrowland, a collection of solo songs. Tomorrowland doesn't stray too far from his Southwestern grit roots, and neither does Bingham. Although Bingham spent some time soaking up the glitz and glamour that comes with being an Academy Award winner, he looks back most fondly on his time as a young musician striking out in Texas. Growing up in New Mexico and West Texas, Bingham listened to a lot of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. He moved near Austin in the early 2000s, and found it a welcoming place for a musician trying to find his voice.
"It's such a melting pot for music," says Bingham. "It's really diverse; you have all the blues and zydeco; jazz comes up from Louisiana and the South; you have the mariachi and tehano stuff from Mexico and the Western swing and folk, songwriter, Woody Guthrie stuff from Oklahoma."
And it's a town that supports burgeoning talent by taking care of their beloved local musicians -- transplants or not.
"There's tons of programs that help musicians get health care; there's all kinds of stuff," says Bingham. "I don't think I could have done it anywhere else. If I would have moved somewhere else at that age and tried to play music I don't think I would have found that kind of support structure."
In the meantime, there's more Oscar-winning music to listen to - - while discussing current musical tastes, Bingham tells me he's been regularly listening to another Academy Award-winning musical release.
"I've been listening to this Rodriguez record from the [2013 Oscar winning documentary] Searching for Sugarman," he says.
Bingham will join HoneyHoney for a show at the Vogue Friday to celebrate NUVO's Spring Guide launch. Join us for a Bulleit Bourbon tasting at 6 p.m. at the Alley Cat before we move to three more bars. The tasting includes drinks at each location, a custom flask and appetizers
It's not so often you find novelty, holiday-specific, local hip-hop. In the spirit of the most sexual of holidays, we present: If Cupid Had a Gun [Prod. Uzi Beats]" by T-Smuve.
Matthew Milia, the frontman for Michigan folk rock group Frontier Ruckus, is verbose. His words tumble out of his mouth, one after the other after the other, in song, and as I found out Wednesday, in interviews.
It's often difficult to stay on track during a phone interview - artists have given the same versions of answers to questions so many times in so many slightly different ways that disjointed pieces of former thoughts can come together in odd ways. But Milia's tumbling words make sense; no, they more than make sense. They're pretty beautiful - and they should be, I guess. That is, after all, what he's known for.
We spoke last Wednesday, the day after the release of his band's brand new double album, Eternity of Dimming. It was a day spent monitoring online chatter and charts, and Milia was forthcoming about the strangeness of releasing art into the world to see it deconstructed in a million little ways all over the web.
It's probably more personal for Milia to see that deconstruction than for some others. He's very open about the fact that inspiration for most of his songs comes directly from his life, from his home, his family, his room. Enternity of Dimming is a collection of tales from Milia's life in the suburban outposts of Detroit: icy cold winters and green, green summers, freckles and drug stores and black ice and parking lots.
Frontier Ruckus will perform at the Bishop in Bloomington this evening with locals Rodeo Ruby Love and Cincinnati's Pomegranates.
NUVO: You just released Eternity of Dimming yesterday! Is it a relief to have those songs out of your brain and into other people's brains?
Milia: It really, really is. It's been done for about a year, so I've already written another record. But this is such a huge record; it's 20 songs. It's like a weight lifted to have people hear it.
But then I remember all the insecurities that come with putting art into the world. It's been overwhelmingly very positive, but it's the weird kind of things that take you by surprise. But it's been great.
NUVO: What's the day of releasing a double album like? Is anything that different? Do you eat a special breakfast?
Milia: You find yourself on the Internet a lot. More than usual (laughs). There's this whole side to it - the music business side - seeing how it's doing, how people are reacting to it. I wish I could remove myself from that. But I'm an only child though, so I'm really in tune to attention and what kind of attention I'm receiving. But I'm very open and honest about it - I can be an insecure person.
NUVO: It's hard to expose yourself like that. I have to say, I've read about a lot of albums, and this is the first one that I've ever seen a word count listed in the notes. 5,500 words in lyrical length - which is amazing.
Milia: Nobody can take that away from me. If the quality of the words isn't great, at least there's a lot of them.
NUVO: There are a lot of words. I am a huge fan of your music, and I love Okkervil River and prose poetry folk - you could read your songbook like a book, honestly, and get a lot from it. Can you tell me a few memories from writing this? I really love "If The Summer" and "Black Ice World."
Milia: "Black Ice World" is actually one of the more verbally economic tracks. There isn't that much verbosity going on, but that's kind of why I like it. It's kind of a refreshment in the midst of all this verbosity. That was very inspired by being locked up and lonely in a Michigan household in a very intense winter, where the outside world was just bitter, bitterly aggressively cold and inhospitable. So you're locked inside of this warm, glowing house at night, and outside is so cold that the windowpanes and doorknobs are dripping with condensation. It's kind of that internal, locked-up feeling. That was a very seasonal kind of song.
"If the Summer" is one of the few songs I wrote on a piano instead of a guitar. It's a young love kind of song. That was probably written in the winter, but remembering summer. Specifically, remembering a younger summer with a younger love, and regretting. It's very much a song about regret for the way something happens, and a fear that the next summer won't have the same kind of purity or innocence. Purity of love, goodness of love. It's a fear, "If the summer won't return in the same way," and it will just be full of adulthood and sunburns.
NUVO: Are you still playing that old '70s Epiphone that was your first instrument?
Milia: Yeah, yup. That was my dad's guitar that he got in the '70s.
NUVO: Do you think you'll ever let go of it, or will it be your main guitar forever?
Milia: No, no! (sounding scandalized). That's my guitar. I wrote the majority of my songs on it -
NUVO: You sounded so mad when I asked that!
Milia: You can't have it! (laughing) No matter how much you offer me, you can't have it. It's my most sentimental and prized attachment.
"Nerves of the Nevermind" by Frontier Ruckus
NUVO: Tell me about nostalgia. You're a collector of things - literally - and of memories, turning them into songs. What types of things do you collect?
Milia: Collector is a nice way of putting it. Hoarder is what other people call it. I'm on the road a lot, and what do you do when you have a couple hours to fill in the town? I go to record shops, I go to bookshops and I go to vintage clothing stores. I come home with way more shit than I left with. I just luckily moved in Detroit and I have more space to keep my hoarding stuff. But I have more books than I could ever read, way more records than I could ever listen to. Something about just having volumes of other people's verbosity just comforts me. Having those objects to me is inspiring. The history of art and creations and people's creativity.
NUVO: I also read you say that you have a compulsion to be a tour guide - to show off the things you know in your hometown. Could you create a songbook tour of places that have inspired you to write certain songs and then offer it to super fans? (laughs)
Milia: I've had people ask me to do that, actually, in letters and stuff. The thing is, I live in a very typical - I'm a product of a very typical, banal, suburban landscape. In all my music and writing, I've romanticized it and mythologized it as this extreme kingdom of memory and beauty. Really, it's just ugly strip malls that most people hate. But that's the kind of message in all the music. These are the specific and particular places that, just by the merit of them being what I know and where I come from, they're beautiful. And everybody has that exact thing catalogue of place, even if it's not suburban. Everyone comes from similar places, but everyone has a different system of locales that are beautiful [to them] just because they are physical extensions of those places - those parking lots, those drug stores and movie theaters.
I've chronicled mine very specifically, to gratify myself and release those kinds of memories. But I've found that other people can relate because they have a similar specific system of place.
NUVO: Do you collect maps?
Milia: I do. I wallpaper with maps a lot.
NUVO: I do too, actually. Have you ever felt - and I think this is a particular nostalgic feeling that I can't exactly describe; there's probably a German word for it - a sense of home in a place that you've never been before? That enough things are the same and familiar that it provokes nostalgia even though it's completely new?
Milia: I think there is probably a German word for that. Luckily, the place I'm describing that I come from is a very abundant and redundant landscape throughout America. Wherever I go there are strip malls and parking lots. Fortunately, what I'm trying to describe and express is reiterated in all of America's landscapes.
One time I was driving through South Dakota and it was dead of winter. Very inhospitable in the outside world - and I was driving through a system of malls and hotel chains that I swear to god look like exact replica of the mall where my mom worked growing up that I write about a lot. It was really eerie. Literally, the way it was laid out was exactly the same in South Dakota.
NUVO: What did you grow up listening to? What's your musical home?
Milia: I always say Bob Dylan and Neil Young because those are the things that my dad introduced me to that probably had the biggest impact on me as a songwriter. Those were my first experience with really idiosyncratic songwriters.
But, honestly, I grew up listening to the radio. I played travel soccer growing up, and on the way to soccer practice or a soccer game, I listened to '90s alternative rock. Gin Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind and Oasis. And a lot of that seeped in. I'm a sucker for the first time where we're honest with ourselves as products of the '90s, because that's what was everywhere. Some of the electric guitar tones and some of the chord changes reflect that.
NUVO: All right, I think I have time for one more question, and it's going to be about crafts. Is that white-out on a lot of your covers?
Milia: It's just white paint. And sometimes it's not always white paint, it's just paint. I do all the paint graphics because I like writing in paint like a child. But sometimes that person who lays it all out will change the color. But I like white paint. And it looks like white-out, which is a nice household tool. I'm all about domestic appliances, just things in junk drawers.
Top-of-the-pop charter and Simon Cowell creation Olly Murs will perform for free at new entertainment Latitude 39 tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 1. His sugary sweet and R&B-flecked tracks were developed at the X Factor, where Cowell groomed the then-25-year-old for Murs for pop stardom. And he's found it -- singles "You Are Not Alone," "Heart Skips a Beat" and "Please Don't Let Me Go" cruised to the top of the charts. Murs also holds the distinction of being the only person ever to appear on the stressful decision-making show Deal or No Deal. He's come to America now, though -- isn't that what a single with Flo Rida means?
This is an early one - doors at 5:15 p.m. and show at 6:15. There's plenty of time to take your tween to get an injection of pop and still head over to First Friday festivities.
"Heart Skips a Beat" by Olly Murs
"Oh My Goodness" by Olly Murs
Olly Murs' original X Factor audition.
Emerging out of a side-project/tape from 2009 called Open Sex on Every Street Corner, which was essentially a 30-minute, three-chord jam, Thee Open Sex now includes members of Bloomington outfits Apache Dropout and Landlord, as well as Magnetic South's own recording jedi John Dawson and lead singer Rachel "Miss Mess" Weidner. That kind of genealogy should leave very little doubt as to the general sound we're talking about here: heavy rhythms and mind-bending guitar fuzz explorations reined in by a bit of pop structure. Although clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, the album still manages to seem epic, traversing a variety of weird sonic landscapes while retaining a consistent mood. The result is a coherent statement, rather than a simply a collection of songs. This album demands that you listen to it from start to finish.
The second track on the album, "I Do Not Know What," is, in my mind, quintessential Kraut-influenced psych-rock, marching forward at a seemingly inexhaustible pace, never changing, never breaking into a chorus, with only Weidner's haunting, disassociated voice to provide a landmark of any sort to let you know that time has passed. In fact, this album owes a tremendous amount to Weidner and her ability to tread the line between sugar-pop vixen and pagan enchantress, providing continuity and a certain sensuality to this series of hard-edged electric guitar voyages.
After three full-on doses of psych-fuzz that build in intensity, the album takes a sharp turn with the fourth song, "Gimme Away." It's a dark surf-rock interlude that would almost seem out of place on this album except that it ends up being kind of refreshing. It's a palate cleanser - - and an example of the different directions this album can take in a very short space.
"Live Dead" is a truly bizarre cut that starts with a maniacally simple snare beat combined with long, slowly unraveling guitar notes and splashing cymbals that seem to crescendo along with Weidner's disembodied wail. The song builds and builds, sounding like a deranged invocation to long-lost gods of psychedelic rock and roll. Like Jefferson Airplane in their mid-'60s best, unleashed and asking for no one's permission to get as weird as possible.
The album is capped off by the somewhat oddly named "Maximum Rock n' Roll II." Weidner's voice is the focal point of this track, leading it over the hyper-sonic fuzz and repeated rhythm that make this a fun, almost sugary coda to this album.
...and their album is just a few days old. Their album release was pushed up after a fortuitous viral post that made the front page of Reddit yesterday. Produced by Paul Mahern and with help from Kenny Childers, Indianapolis sisters Lily (15) and Madeleine Jurkiewicz (18) are primed for great things. They've got the support of powerful locals behind them and great raw material. Their delicate, strummed folk melodies and clear vocal harmonies are intimate and simple.
Stream their new album here and click the link to purchase. They'll perform at the DO317 Lounge on February 9 (sold out) - but don't worry, these sisters will be back with more dates soon. In the meantime, you can buy their album on Bandcamp, where it just became the number one selling debut.
"In the Middle" by Lily and Madeleine
The purchase of a ticket package guarantees seat locations and will garner buyers exclusive access to the Jiffy Lube Country Megaticket pre-sale in 2014. The Gold Jiffy Lube Country Megaticket package includes one premium-parking pass for each concert. Tickets will be available through www.megaticket.com.
Joshua Radin's music is intensely quiet -- a strange quality for a musician, who is, by definition, a noise-maker.
It's silence that informs his new album, Underwater, named after the first time he was able to put his head underwater after the healing of a hole in his eardrum he'd had since childhood. After a doctor informed Radin he could now swim - - something he had never done - - he ventured to the ocean. There, he found inspiration.
"I heard this silence under the water that I'd never even heard before - not even a heartbeat. My mind was so free and clear. And all of a sudden, this melody [for title track "Underwater"] popped in my head," Radin says. (CBS local, Minnesota, Oct. 18 2012)
Underwater is a peaceful lullaby of an album, with the usual assortment of heartbreaking tracks from Radin.
"Every song I write is true," he told Marie Claire in 2009. "They're like journal entries. The record itself is about falling in love, falling out of love; it's about my friends, it's about my family, it's about the world I live in."
Although his songs are about his own personal life, they've been applied to the fictional romances of about every major network television show broadcasted in the last six years. Zach Braff, a college friend of Radin's, picked up the very first song he ever wrote ("Winter") for Scrubs in 2006. After that, Radin's tracks were television and film soundtrackregulars.
He'll perform at the ISO's Happy Hour program with Time for Three and the orchestra this Thursday.
"Underwater" by Joshua Radin
NUVO: One of my earliest memories of hearing your music is watching the movie Catch and Release very late at night a while after it came out --
Joshua Radin: You know, people tell me that. One of these times I should really see that movie.
NUVO: You should see that. That song fits so well in that scene. It's a deeply sad movie. I remember after it finished, I looked up that song and couldn't stop listening to it and thinking about how sad that movie was. As someone with so many TV and movie credits, what do you think it is about some music that works particularly well for film or television?
Radin: Well, I think of it this way. Most of my music is very emotional. Usually when I write is when I'm a little too emotional to talk about my feelings with my friends. So that's when the guitar becomes my friend. Maybe because my voice is pretty whispery, so it's not like a typical vocal with someone whose vocal would take over the scene. I don't know. I do think it's very cool that most people find out about my music that way. It's almost easier, for me. I'm not trying to sell myself short in terms of the songs, but it's almost like every one of my songs has a built-in music video with higher production value than I could ever afford to make in a video.
NUVO: With very famous people in it.
Radin: It's like every song I've written almost has been in some movie or TV show. I don't know, with great actors? If I ever wanted to make a music video, I wouldn't be able to call up Jennifer Garner (the star of Catch and Release) and ask, "Could you be in my music video?"
NUVO: Your writing is so personal, and you've referred to tracks as "journal entries" before. Do you ever watch your music applied to a scene and think, "Oh god, that is a misinterpretation or misapplication of that track"?
Radin: I wouldn't use the term "misinterpretation," because I think it's so subjective. If I write a song about something I'm feeling and someone gets something else from it, that's great. It's like a painting - - like an abstract painting that you're able to look at and see things. Certain people will see certain shapes or colors because they're going through a certain thing. It might be the opposite for others. I love that about art in general.
To answer your question, though, I did, when I first started about eight years ago. I started writing songs right away and my first songs I ever wrote were on TV shows and movies and things. I was watching them - - and now I don't really watch them - - but the first few I was so excited. There was one, the name of the TV show I won't mention, where they cut up my song and put the bridge in front of the chorus. Once you [sell it] they have the right to do that. Usually, they don't. But, it made me realize that once you release music into the world, or any kind of art, you just kind of have to deal with what people do with it. If people really want to hear the song that way it's been written, they'll go look for it. Now, I don't even watch them anymore, for fear of that happening.
NUVO: I always think of the 2002-2006 span of years as the time where music soundtracks on TV became this cultural curation. Grey's Anatomy, The O.C. - -
Radin: Those music supervisors really became the new radio program directors, but for the world, not for one city. I was very, very fortunate to be a part of it. It garnered me so much exposure and it was so cool that I could show up in cities all over the world where I had never been to, and never had music released, and sell out 2,000 seats in a theater. People said, "Oh, well, we heard your music in Grey's Anatomy." It's crazy. It's really crazy.
NUVO: Can you tell me about the different female singers you've worked with? I love the vocal layering that you use - - especially the tracks where you can barely tell that another voice is there until you reach a particular spot in the harmony, and both voices ring so clearly. It's really gorgeous.
Radin: I've worked with so many different [female singers]. I love the way my voice sounds with a female voice. I don't think I've ever used a male harmony on any recording unless it was my own. And if it was my own, I did a really good job of making it sound like a female vocal. [Laughs] So many of my songs are so romantic that it seems weird for me to sing with another guy.
My favorite collaboration was definitely with Patty Griffin on a song called "You Got Growin' Up to Do." She's probably one of my favorite songwriters of all time. That song is one of my most personal songs. I mean, they're all personal, but that one is really heart-wrenching. I wrote that 15 minutes after I broke up with the love of my life, so it just poured out. Usually I labor over things for a period of time, but that one just came out in 15 minutes.
I had never met Patty Griffin before, I was just such a fan. It doesn't hurt to ask, though. So I sent her the song and said, "I would love it if you would sing on this." And she said, "Oh, I love this song; I'll sing for sure!" I was so shocked.
So many people -- certain females that I have used on certain recordings -- who are like, "I want to get paid, etc." And that's fine. People should be paid for what they do. But Patty was like, "I don't want any money; I just love to sing and I love the song and I want to sing on it."
I learned so much from that experience. Not only that if you have a dream of doing something creatively, you should just try it. The worst someone can say is no. But I also learned what's it's like to be a real artist; they just want to play. They just want to sing. She's such an inspiration.
"You Got Growin' Up To Do" by Joshua Radin
When I rang up Grace Potter, she was "getting cozy" in a Sheridan Hotel in Baltimore. Unlike most touring musicians - whose nights are spent rolling in and out of different interchangeable, nameless hotels, if they're not in the back of a van - Potter's got a soft spot for temporary lodging. She even recorded part of her new album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, in a few of them.
Potter and I spoke about that new album, her tour with Kenny Chesney and her unorthodox recording process. But what I was really interested was talking about was the experience of being the frontwoman of a rock and roll band.
Look at that picture - Potter's a gorgeous woman. She makes no bones about it - even telling me that she thinks being a attractive woman in a miniskirt sometimes keeps people at her shows who might otherwise not stay. It's part of her philosophy; as she told Men's Health in June 2012, "Music and sex are one thing; they go together."
Potter will perform with her band, The Nocturnals, Saturday in the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre. Be prepared: their live shows are notoriously fiery. And why wouldn't they be? They combine the electricity of the group's jam band beginnings, the perfected dirty blues-rock of their 2010 self-titled album and their new penchant for pop anthems. It's a hot combination, carried by Potter's howling roar of a voice and her deadly Flying V guitar.
Potter and The Nocturnals have accumulated serious industry cred, albeit a strange mixture of it. Their fourth release was a live album recorded in Sun Studios and released on Record Story Day last year. Grace and her group were invited by Kenny Chesney on his summer stadium tour with Tim McGraw after recording the Grammy-nominated duet "You and Tequila" together. Those shows grew into the highest grossing tour of 2012; after that kind of success, it would have been easy for Potter and The Nocturnals to release a country album (and no doubt many fans expected them to do just that). Instead, we got The Lion The Beast The Beat, a collection of rock riffing with disco thumps and soaring pop ballads
NUVO: I wanted to ask you about hotels - I read that you recorded vocals for some of this album in hotel rooms. This album is not quiet. I immediately wondered after reading if you ever were reported to the front desk for being noisy.
Potter: Yeah, that happened. I'm a pretty loud person, apparently. I've been known to get more noise complaints than anyone. It's not my forte to be quiet. I really wanted this album to have the intimacy and privacy of feeling like you're in a hotel room. The vocals - we didn't need that big, booming studio sound. We wanted to create something that was more like a diary. We wanted it to read like a diary, to be more personal. I think we achieved that.
By going into the hotel, I felt so much more comfortable. I didn't feel so exposed like I do in a studio; when you're standing there and there's glass and microphones all around, a bunch of people with their arms crossed in a control booth staring at you. It's much different scenario when you're in the comfort of a place that you've made your home. And Jim Scott, our producer, did an amazing job of vibing it out, by hanging blankets all over the walls and lighting candles. We took that room over and made it our own.
NUVO: I was also reading an anecdote from the recording process where you were spontaneously jamming on a Casio keyboard, and then Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach [who co-wrote three tracks and produced one on the new album] ended up picking it up and moving it over and you just kept jamming - and in 45 minutes, that song became "Never Go Back," the first single. Obviously you don't have regular studio experiences. Do creative, on-the-spot flashes like that typify your recording process?
Potter: I look for those experiences - something out of the ordinary in a studio. I don't like that way some people treat the studio like an office. I tend to get a sense of doom whenever I walk into a studio that feels like it's going to be a day of work. That's just not why I got into this crazy business of music. I always wanted to have an experience that felt very much like the whole conversation about our live performance versus our studio performance, and the discrepancy there. I strive to find those immediate, lightening-in-a-bottle moments that make a studio experience special and memorable. Then, every time I hear that song, I can say, "Yeah, that's right! That was such a crazy day, and the battery was about to die in the keyboard and we ran [to the plug]." I remember, I was holding the keyboard and Dan was holding the cables so the keyboard wouldn't die, and kept going as we walked into the control booth. It was so unorthodox; the sound of the song still reflects that. It's different, in an exciting way.
NUVO: How has the lineup of the Nocturnals changed since you began touring as a group? Matt [Burr, drums, backing vocals] and Scott [Tournet, guitar, keyboards, bass] are founding members, along with you, correct?
Potter: Yes. Matt and I formed the band in 2003 and Scotty joined shortly after while we were all at college at St. Lawrence University. We toured our asses off in a broken down van for many years and played farmers' markets, art shows, senior living facilities and town squares. Benny joined in 2009, and by then we were humming along playing rock clubs and theaters. Then Michael Libramento joined a little over a year ago while we were recording The Lion The Beast The Beat and now we've found ourselves in front of 60,000 people in stadiums all summer! It's been quite a ride so far, and it's not even close to over.
NUVO: You gave an interview to Men's Health about sexuality and music that I found fascinating. ... You really got into sex appeal and sex in the industry, the connection between sex and music. In that interview, you said, "I think it's fascinating that with a woman [ramping up her sexual image on stage or in a photo shoot] that's something that everyone notices. But if Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Robert Plant or Rod Stewart decide to amp up their look for the night, it's not like they'll get an inbox full of complaints." (Men's Health, June 14, 2012) Can you tell me a few times you've felt sexism in your career?
Potter: My main thing about sexism in the industry is when people say, "You're my favorite chick rocker!" or "You're one of the best female musicians out there." To me, what is with the discrepancy? Why are there "female" and "male" musicians? Why is "female" a category all on its own? What have we done to define ourselves from just being musicians? [We] live in a culture where people don't even think twice about saying that. "You're my favorite chick rocker; you're one of the best chick rockers since..." and then they list off every other woman who's ever had blonde, long hair and yelled a little louder than normal. It's a weird thing.
As frustrating as it is, I see why people do that. Humans have a deep need to categorize, put things in their place and make things make sense to them. And females in music - I gather what people really absorb from a woman performing versus a man is that vulnerability and sometimes lyrics that cut right to the heart of the matter a bit more. But I've never done that. So I get what people mean, because there are certain female musicians who are iconic as women and have chosen to really identify themselves through being women. The fact that they are women makes them who they are [as musicians]. But in my case, I literally never try and sound like another female singer-songwriter.
I've never enjoyed hearing that sort of vulnerable thing. I always remember listening to more beautiful, vulnerable music and thinking, "God, grow a pair of balls or something." If you're angry, sing angry. Don't put this tenderness behind it that is disingenuous to the song you're trying to sing. If you're mad, be fucking mad. I like to strive to cut to the heart of the matter. That's why I wrote the song "Paris Ooh La La." There's no cute, flowery lyrics around it. It's, "Let's get on the floor and have sex." That was a surprise and one of the things that was appealing about the song for so many people. It was very unapologetic approach to a woman singing a rock song.
I've seen it in other women. I'm not saying that all women don't do it right. There's plenty of women doing it right and it's awesome. I just don't understand why we have to have our own little special category in people's record collections.
NUVO: It's an interesting problem with music journalism. I have to remind myself all the time, if you would write about a band as a "girl group" would you call an all-male group a "man group?"
Potter: Exactly! It's easy. I do shows every night where there's someone in the audience screaming, "You're fuckin' hot!" It's not, "I love your music; play this song" or "I love you for this or that, for what you've done." It's, "You're hot." And one of the things I've learned to use to my advantage is [this]. The sexism thing isn't going to go away, right? No matter what. I'm not a feminist. It's not my cross to bear, to fight this huge battle my whole life to try and be sanctified and recognized as just as good as Robert Plant or some bullshit like that. It's not what I'm here to do. ...
Dudes are gonna be dudes and gals are gonna be gals -- we just gotta work with what we all got, you know? Listen, I'm a girl in my 20s in a rock and roll band; I know I'm gonna get a few catcalls, but I'm not gonna let that drown out the other 2,000 voices that are singing along to every word and finding deep meaning in the songs. But I also I recognize the fact that I've been very fortunate. A lot of women who came before me paved the way and I respect them for breaking down the walls that were much more prevalent for the last generation of artists. ...
What I think is interesting is using to my advantage the fact that I'm a woman. Right down to having the production guys and the backline guys and production company be really nice to me. I can get a few more things done not by being a big dude with my arms crossed, saying, (in deep voice), "This is what I need; this is when I'm going to get it." But also [I'm] not a diva and [I'm] down-to-earth, but also being a woman and learning how to work what is left of my youngness - that works.
Maybe there's people who got dragged to the show and didn't want to be there, and what keeps them there is a girl in a miniskirt. They get hooked by the second or third song, and they become fans. Basically, they start out from a place of ignorance but grows into a very interesting dialogue between the audience and the performer.
NUVO: There's a quote by Kenny Chesney about you and your tour together. He says, "My fans are smart, Tim (McGraw)'s fans are smart - they know good music when they hear it." Essentially, they're not engrained to their radio pop country listening and would be cool with a non-country act opening. How have you felt the crossover effect since the Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw tour?
Potter: It's kind of faded now because our tour is so different and a lot of fans that we're seeing at these shows are integrated. There are country fans, and there are pop radio fans, and there are crazy college kids and old-school hipsters coming out of the woodwork from their hippie days. I haven't seen such a direct hit from the Kenny [tour and songs together] as I thought I would. I thought the whole fall tour would be country fans. I was interested in what would happen there, because we've got such a large group, starting with the jam band circuit, that we've built on.
... Like Kenny was saying - there's some brain activity that has to happen in order to draw the connection between our music and Kenny's music. But it's not that broad. Music is music, and the thing we have in common isn't necessarily the song, because the songwriting and production is vastly different. But we have the energy, and the stage presence, and the utter joy to share music and try your darnedest to make every single person in the room happy. People see me doing it, and I think they can see why Kenny and I are such good friends. We're very much the same kind of people, cut from the same cloth. Not annoying people-pleasers, but [we've got] genuine joy to be on stage and be doing what we're doing. We understand how lucky we are to have that job.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
"Nothing But The Water" by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals
The Sad Sam Blues Jam is three women out of Bloomington competing for the chance to play at Madison Square Garden. Sisters Sadie and Sam Johnson perform with Kaiya Grundmann and Jacob Gates to create soul-stirring blues. They're competing for a slot at the Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden. Find out more here.
The Misfits - no stranger to legal battles, lineup juggling and general punk nonsense - have announced their first live album since the '80s. Titled Dead Alive, this album looks like it leave Glen Danzig out completely (which is a bummer), but still will feature some songs we know and love. Catch up on the Misfits' history here.
Here's the official press release statement on the track list:
The diverse set of modern day Misfits classics included range from current hits like "Land of the Dead" and "Curse of the Mummy's Hand", on through all-new live versions of earlier-era material like "Scream!", "Dig Up Her Bones", "Helena" and more - recorded live, with a level of precision and intensity garnered in over three decades of horror business. In addition to 13 fiendish favs from the band's cryptic catalog, the live set also includes a cover version of the anthem "Science Fiction/Double Feature" (from the cult-classic "Rocky Horror Picture Show") performed by the Misfits for the first time ever on any release
The first vinyl pressing will feature 1,500 solid gold records.
"Shining" - The Misfits
Justin Timberlake shuts down his haters who are mad he hasn't put out music for a while with this new vid.
"I'm Ready" - Justin Timberlake
"I now know that, yes, I am powerful. I'm more powerful than my mind can even digest and understand."
Yes, that could only be Beyonce, who announced yesterday that Destiny's Child would release new, original music for the first time in eight years, released on Jan. 29 of this year. All hail Queen B.
[Music] Jazz + Blues + R&B
[Music] DJs + Dancing
[Music] DJs + Dancing
[Music] DJs + Dancing
[Music] DJs + Dancing