Episode 404: Kat Edmonson

3Jul

In 2018, Kat Edmonson declared herself an “Old Fashioned Gal,” with an LP and track of the same name. The Brooklyn based musician sings and writes songs steeped in pop-jazz stylings of another era. But her work aims deeper than simple nostalgia. This year brought followup album, Dreamers Do, a mix of Disney covers and originals. “Too Late to Dream” finds Edmonson pondering her approach to the world during a sleepless night, a notion that gave rise to what amounts to a loose concept album. The singer joins us to discuss jazz singing in 2020, going through the major label ringer and the major label wringer and the connection between insomnia and the creative process.

Episode 403: Jen Shyu

27Jun

There’s a video shot in 1991 of a 13-year-old Jen Shyu playing the hell of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on grand piano backdropped by the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. A lifelong musician who studied theater and opera at Stanford and has performed at  Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Shyu’s current work veers into the experimental and avant-garde, all while paying homage to a wide range of musical traditions, including Taiwan an East Timor.Often highly theatrical, her work utilizes a wide range of languages (she speaks ten) and instruments, including piano, violin, the two-string Taiwanense moon lute and the Chinese er hu, among others. Shyu closed out last year with the performance of her show “Zero Grasses,” a part of John Zorn's on-going Commissioning series in New York.

Episode 402: Elliot Moss

19Jun

A Change of Diet finds Elliott Moss living in the wake of a decade-long relationship. The singer writer grapples with the all of the major and unexpected knock-on effects of such a life change. It’s his most deeply personal record, intertwining such sentiments with a dense electronic soundtrack over the course of its 11 tracks, marrying the brutally honest with the willfully opaque. Like much of the rest of his work, the musician record the album largely solo, constructing its pieces with an arsenal of multi-instrumental prowess. On a recent visit to the city, Moss discussed the process of musical catharsis and transforming the personal into a public display.

Episode 401: Tayla Parx

13Jun

Well before her debut album We Need to Talk arrived in April 2019, Tayla Parx had already established herself as a music force. As a songwriter, she’d penned tracks for some of the biggest names in the business,fFrom Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande, to K-Pop bands like BTS. A decade prior, Parx made her film debut, in the role of Little Inez in the adaptation of the stage music. At the ripe old of age of 26, the music is ready to take on the world, courtesy of a prolific writing career, tireless work ethic and a thoroughly choreographed stage show. We sat down with Parx in a Manhattan rehearsal space for broadway performers — a perfect temporary home for the Los Angeles musician.

Episode 400: Colin Newman (of Wire)

9Jun

It was shaping up to be a banner year for Wire. When we sat down in the Musical Hall of Williamsburg green room, the band was in the process of adding a west coast leg to their tour in support of the band’s terrific new record, Hive Mind. The band also used the opportunity to announce 10:20, a second new LP released in conjunction with Record Store Day. The album finds the band taking a very Wire-esque approach to revisiting old material, revamping sketches and long abandoned work from earlier decades. There are no half-measures with Wire — and there has very rarely been a misstep. It’s an absolutely remarkable track record for a 44 year old band that took nothing less than a global pandemic to monetarily slowdown. Frontman Colin Newman joins us to discuss how the band has managed to stay ahead of the curve so many decades into its career and describe the touring life of rockstars who are now pushing 70. Episode 400 also features an introduction from friend of the show, The Moth’s Dan Kennedy.

 

Episode 399: Kelli Dunham

30May

At 19, Kelli Dunham was living in Haiti in the midst of a Civil War. From there, it was a fairly straightforward path to becoming a nun — albeit one that also required a conversion to Catholicism. These days, Dunham lives in New York City as a genderqueer nurse and standup comedian. It’s a natural combination for an artists who happily draws the line between comedy and tragedy, drawing on material from her own life for both. Experience as a hospice nurse and the death of two partners who died of cancer have left her uniquely positioned to grapple with the darkest subject matter in her comedy routines. What’s more, she manages it all with an unwavering sense of positivity, no better exemplified than in the track “Deep Biological Optimism” from her new standup album, Not the Gym Teacher.

Episode 398: Emily Panic

30May

When I first met Emily Panic, she was a touring musician. Her work as a bass player and backup singer brought tours with Foxygen, Run the Jewels, Sleigh Bells and Miike Snow. There was even a spot performing vocals on a Bryan Ferry album. In recent years she’s shifted into comedy — arguably an even harder racket than the life of a professional musician. But her sketch work has landed her a hosting gig for Pitchfork and appearances on Funny or Die and Netflix. She also cohosts the paranormal comedy podcast, Ghosts to Show You. Panic joined us to discuss transitioning career focuses, the ups and downs of comedy and a podcasting run-in with a pig ghost.

Episode 397: Michael Blume

23May

The grandson of an opera singer, Michael Blume took to music at an early age, first learning the piano and trumpet and ultimately touring with an a cappella group while attending Yale. Yes, the it was the Whiffenpoofs. But the singer found his true voice after moving away from academia. Supporting himself in New York first through SAT tutoring and later wedding gigs, Blume has since become and idiosyncratic front man, blending genres and peppering in performance art. To mark the release of his latest track, In Between, Blume joined us to discuss queer identity in music and simple acts of transgression in the age of Trump.

Episode 396: Colleen AF Venable

17May

A fixture in the New York indie comics scene for some years, Colleen AF Venable has made a name for herself designing covers for publishers like First Second. An accomplished author in her own right, Venable has released a number of children’s and YA titles, including Mervin the Sloth and the Guinea Pig series. Most recently, her young adult comic, Kiss Number 8, earned her and artist Ellen T. Crenshaw a National Book Award nomination. Venable joins us to the discuss the genesis of the book, which deals with a range of deeply personal issues, from LGBTQ identities to Catholic school.

Episode 395: Jamie Drake

16May

At 19, Jamie Drake was sure that she was too told to break into the music business. Nearly two decades later, she officially has, with the arrival of Everything’s Fine. There was music in the meantime, of course, but the singer-songwriter is confident that she finally found her voice of what’s been deemed her debut LP. And indeed, she’s in fine form, as both writer and musician. On a trip to New York, the Los Angeles-based musician sat down to discuss the road that brought her the debut, and how she learned to stop worry and love simply love the music.

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