Some of you know I have a podcast called ‘Tell Me About Your Song' where I talk to musicians about one of their songs. I just released a 'special' episode where, in addition to my friends Mary Bee and Heather Rose, I took questions about one of my songs (“Just You”) from a studio audience. I had a good time and I hope other people enjoy listening to it!
As some who read this know, I host an NPR show called Bullseye. On it, I interview the greatest creators in popular culture, get tips from top critics, and recommend amazing stuff.
I’m really proud of the show (which you can and should get free in iTunes or your favorite podcast app), and I think you’ll love it.
Take a couple seconds and listen to this little piece we’ve put together featuring some of our favorite guests - Big Boi, Dolly Parton, Jeff Bridges, Mavis Staples and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Then subscribe. Because there’s a lot more where that came from.
I’m not going to lie: I like this podcast/radio show a lot! Check out this sampler, with clips from a bunch of interviews, and maybe you’ll see why!
A few weeks ago, I started a kickstarter fundraising campaign to help me record and release my next album. People could pledge $10 to preorder the album, or more to get various other rewards. The campaign ends tomorrow (Monday) at 10:10 pm EDT.
Since it started, I’ve reached my original fundraising goal, and have also reached two subsidiary ‘stretch’ goals. The result is that now the CD will include a couple of full-band covers (Tom Waits’s ‘Way Down In The Hole' and the Flaming Lips's 'Waterbugs’), and my friends Chris Monti and Tracie Potochnik are each going to record a cover of one of my songs (their choice which), with the recordings to be distributed for no extra charge to anyone who pledges any amount of money to the kickstarter.
I’ve got some other stretch goals. If I make $207 more dollars and reach $2500 total, then I will commission artists Shaenon Garrity and Scuffy Genius to each make an illustrated lyric sheet to one of my songs (they choose the song). I’ve worked with both of them before; earlier this year I had them design shirts based on my songs, both of which turned out great. The lyric sheets would be distributed to anyone who pledges any amount to the campaign as high-resolution PDFs, again for no extra charge.
I have other things I can do if the campaign meets additional goals (see the website at http://kickstarter.jwgh.org/ for details), so I’m excited to see what happens in the final push! Any help you can provide in spreading the word is appreciated.
Songs about loneliness, breakups, exploding whales, knitting kittens, infidelity, and time travel.
I’ve been planning out my next album for a while now — what songs I want to be on it, who else I want to play on it, and ways to make it better. I’ve booked some studio time for September and October, have rounded up most of the folks I want to perform on it, and am ready and raring to get going on it.
I’ve even found a small local record label that will press the CDs (the covers will be silk screened by hand!) and help me get it reviewed!
So if you’ve known any musicians for the past few years, you know what comes next: To help me fund the recording, the mixing, the mastering, and the printing of the CDs, I’ve set up a Kickstarter campaign, which you can see at
I’ve tried up to come up with some good rewards for y’all. There’s shirts, pies, biscotti, and so on; probably the weirdest one, and therefore my favorite, is this $60 reward:
CD + PIE RECIPES + SLIPCOVER: If a limited edition CD, silk-screened by hand, isn’t luxurious enough for you, consider this crazy option: A signed CD in a CD slipcover hand-knitted by me, plus a small booklet of some of my favorite pie recipes. I will only make five of these, so this will be a limited edition of a limited edition!
I’ve set my fundraising goal as low as I can manage (it’s actually less than it was for my last album). I’m hoping that I will exceed that goal, though, as that will allow me to do things like:
Record some cover songs to include on the album. I’d love to include the Flaming Lips song Waterbugs and the Tom Waits song Way Down In The Hole. You can hear live versions of these songs (performed by the same musicians I’d record them with) here:
I know some musicians who have covered my songs live, and I’d love to have recordings of those performances. These wouldn’t be part of the album, but would be available for free download to all of my kickstarter backers.
You know how I’ve commissioned various artists and designers to design shirts for me? I’ve been thinking it would be really cool to have them put together illustrated lyrics sheets, which could be distributed to backers as PDFs or sheets of papers.
I’ve got other ideas too that I’d love to be able to do. It’s one of those situations where, the more money I raise, the better the project gets for everyone.
So, if you enjoy my music, I hope you will consider pledging something! The place to do that again is here:
What time is it? Time for me to release another damn album already! A little while ago I launched a kickstarter to raise money to record and release my next album, ‘Time To Break Up The Band’, a diverse collection of songs I plan to record with a bunch of different excellent local musicians and release on the 75orLess record label. Have a look at the campaign and, if you’re so inclined, pledge a few bucks!
When I recorded my last CD, ‘Circumstantial Evidence’, I also recorded a few covers. There are separate licensing fees for physical distribution, digital distribution, and streaming, so I thought it would be simplest to put the covers on a separate EP; then I could offer ‘Circumstantial Evidence’ as a digital download without worrying about the rights, and I could release the covers as physical copies only.
This morning I finally went through the process of securing the digital and streaming rights, so now you can finally hear these three semi-lost recordings! Two of the songs were recorded with guitarist Natalie Markward and drummer Joe Auger; this was the first band that I was the official leader of, and listening to us playing together makes me really happy. Here’s some notes on the three tracks:
'Waist Deep in the Big Muddy' is a song by Pete Seeger; he famously sung it on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, until CBS's censors objected and took it out. The political content aside, Seeger's storytelling is masterful on this one, and Joe and Natalie gave it a really excellent swampy sound; they also convinced me to try taking a solo on the recording studio's Wurlitzer electric piano, which was pretty fun.
This song is by Andy Breckman, who recorded a couple of comedy albums before abandoning music to write for TV shows and movies; he’s probably most well known as one of the creators of the detective show ‘Monk’. In this song he takes a concept and pushes it about as far as it can go; it’s one of those songs that I wish I had written, except Andy did it first, and better than I would ever be capable of. This is the one song in the ‘Circumstantial Recording’ sessions that I caught the recording engineer cracking up to. This one is just me and my guitar.
Tommy Johnson’s ‘Big Road Blues’ has been covered a million times, but I thought Joe’s drum beat gave it a new life and I really wanted to record it in the studio. Natalie’s smoking guitar solo was also kind of a revelation. I also remember having a long conversation with the recording engineer about exactly how much distortion to add to my acoustic guitar part.
I’m thinking of starting a podcast where I talk to songwriters about a song they wrote which is not necessarily their most popular, but which they are particularly proud of, or which they think has interesting aspects that people aren’t necessarily aware of.
The questions are:
Would anyone listen to this?
Would anyone actually be interested in being a guest on it?
Do I actually have time for this project?
The third question is one I will have to figure out on my own (though part of the appeal is that these discussions probably don’t have to be very long), but if you have something to say about the other two, then let me know.
In 2010, I read a New Yorker article about Brad Paisley which painted him as a guy who was easy-going and who didn’t take himself too seriously, someone with a voice of his own and a mischievous side that informs his stage presence and his music. I like a lot of old country, and some new alt.country, but though I’ve tried listening to mainstream country on occasion it’s been a while since I’ve found much of it enjoyable — there’s something about hearing autotune on a country song that sets my teeth on edge — so I was curious to hear some of Paisley’s music, since it seemed more along the lines of something I would like. However, I listened to a few songs and it left me pretty cold.
I asked my dad about Paisley — he’s the reason I was exposed to a lot of country music growing up and I was curious about his opinion — and he said that he thought the article accurately reflected the state of country music today, which is that it isn’t really about the country. In the New Yorker article, it says, “… in the post-Garth era, the music has thrived partly because of its willingness to chronicle domestic bliss in plainspoken language. This is a big a lucrative niche — and, by definition, an unhip one, because it suggests that respectable suburban family life can be pretty good.” My father says that, basically, the older the country music, and the closer to its roots as a rural music, the better he likes it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that myself, but it’s true that in most (if not all) cases I am not all that interested in listening to songs about comfortable suburban domesticity. (The fact that his music isn’t my cup of tea shouldn’t be taken as a criticism as such. There are a lot of clearly talented people whose music I don’t particularly like listening to.)
As many of you may be aware, Paisley recently released a collaboration with LL Cool J which has been discussed quite a bit online. The song is named ‘Casual Racist’, and I’m not going to say anything about it here, as I can’t imagine I would find anything to say that someone else hasn’t said better. However, the discussion of that song made me check out Paisley’s back catalog again, and (thanks to @travisnorris on twitter) I came across his song ‘I’m Still A Guy’, which he wrote in 2008. This caught my eye because, eight years or so ago, I wrote a song called ‘I’m A Guy’ which is basically the exact opposite of ‘I’m Still A Guy’.
Now, different people have different ideas about what my song means. I recently talked to someone who said that he enjoyed my song about metrosexuals, which surprised me, because the song is basically about me, and I wouldn’t consider myself a metrosexual. (Inasmuch as I understand the term, it implies that the person in question spends a lot of time working on their appearance, which I don’t think is realistically how anyone would describe me.) And that’s all legit — I try not to tell people how to interpret my songs too much, because I am a good postmodernist and don’t consider myself to be the ultimate expert on my own songs’ meanings.
But in terms of what I think “I’m a Guy” is about — well, it’s an attempt to write my own version of those songs, like ‘Hoochie Coochie Man' and 'I’m a Man' and 'Mannish Boy’, which were all about what an awesome specimen of masculinity the singers were. (Taken to exaggerated lengths, because those songs are supposed to be, and are, funny.) But my working definition of masculinity is different from theirs, and my song reflects that, hopefully also in an amusing and exaggerated way. If the song has a message, it’s that not adhering to traditional norms of masculinity does not make you any less of a man.
Paisley’s song is mostly about how there’s all this stuff he likes, or would like, to do because he’s a guy: hunting and fishing and riding bulls and so on. (How seriously we’re supposed to take this excuse for, say, not wanting to walk his wife’s little yappy dog, is debatable, but I think that on some level we’re supposed to buy into it.) Which is all fine; that’s a legitimate kind of guy to be, though it’s not the kind of guy I am. And it’s kind of couched as a struggle between him and his wife who tries to ‘civilize’ him, and him punching some guy who tries to cop a feel on her, none of which I’m real crazy about — there’s a lot of gender essentialism here, and a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude — but it’s a country song, and a comic, somewhat exaggerated one, a fact that the audience would by and large recognize, allowing them to enjoy the song even if they’ve never punched anyone in their life, and would rather stay home and watch TV than fish. (Also, the song implicitly recognizes that these days ‘boys will be boys’ isn’t generally considered a great excuse any more.)
However, the last verse starts talking about things that make you less of a guy, and (as you might expect) I’m even less crazy about that:
These days there’s dudes getting’ facials — Manicured, waxed and botoxed. With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands, You can’t grip a tackle box
Yeah, with all of these men linen’ up to get neutered, It’s hip now to be feminized. I don’t highlight my hair. I’ve still got a pair. Yeah, honey, I’m still a guy.
Oh my eyebrows ain’t plucked. There’s a gun in my truck. Oh thank God, I’m still a guy.
This section of the song I might call ‘I’m A Guy (But Those Dudes Aren’t)’, and it’s why when I first heard it my first reaction was, this is the exact opposite of my song! Though that might be a overstated: interestingly, the New Yorker article mentions ‘I’m Still A Guy’ and says of how Paisley handles it during live shows:
"He likes to stop, after the second chorus, to tease the men in the audience, telling them that no matter what their beauty regimen is — ‘Even if you’re a man here tonight who wears Estée Lauder lotion on your face, or has hair highlights, maybe some Botox work’ — they’re all still real men."
Which seems a little weird given that the last verse expressly mocks that kind of thing, but I reckon that Paisley’s song really is supposed to be an assurance to all the middle-class guys out there who think real men work with their hands and go hunting, even though they don’t do either — to reassure themselves that that they’re still a guy — a guy who listens to country music, even — and manlier than those other people, whoever they are.
I joined the party kind of late — the movies aren’t on Netflix Streaming, and it took me a while to realize I could watch them via iTunes — and so the first set of my own notes that I’m posting are for the first Roger Moore episode, “Live and Let Die.” It’ll be a little while until GirlDetective makes her own post about the movie, but she encouraged me to go ahead and post mine.
Yesterday I took the day off of work and headed down to the headquarters of theday.com, a Connecticut newspaper, to participate in a live broadcast in which I played seven songs and answered some questions from the host, Rick Koster. I had a great time, and the episode is now online at http://www.theday.com/article/20130321/MEDIA0104/130329943/1128/medialivelunch . If you know anyone who might enjoy it, please share it around!
After listening to this episode of my current favorite podcast, Baby Geniuses, I realized that all comedy podcasts should include a heartfelt, informative, and touching tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her husband Martin. Check it out!
This week on Baby Geniuses our guest is the delightful, passionate, knowledgeable, exquisite man GUY BRANUM! In one of our most informative episodes ever, Guy explains to us in no uncertain terms why we should all be worshipping Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the heroine that she is.
Then! Teen expert Nate Fernald McWilliams David gives us the three keys to understanding our most sought-after demographic. Mostly it’s about fruit snacks.
And also: fossil words! Weird facebook friends! Internet haters! LISA’S PUBES!!!! Will we get hoisted by our own respective petards??? Listen to find out!!