Adults are always preaching about my generation. “You’re so consumed with technology you’re missing the world around you,” they say. And while I usually liken their sentiments to a ‘Midnight in Paris’ style critique, this might be the first times in history I’ll join the outrage. In case you missed it, President Obama took a selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.
The media is predictably and justifiably aghast. Though this was a memorial, not a funeral, the point remains the same. While celebrating the life of such an esteemed legend, is it appropriate to take a selfie? Is the narcissistic school-kid behavior appropriate for the President, or this too harsh a standard for the man who has predicated his presidency on being relatable? The answer is simple. Our leaders are held to higher standards, and had this been a personal friend, my reaction would be equal in its outrage. There are times for selfies (see Kim Kardashian), and this was not it. To see the photos in question, click HERE.
When I told my musician friends about my Alan Parsons interview, it solidified my eternal bragging rights. In fact, they insisted that I watch the documentary for the making of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the legendary album that Parsons engineered. His iconic career as a producer and engineer spans four decades. To date, Parsons has sold millions of records and earned 11 Grammy nominations. He kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!
The music industry has significantly changed since you entered the business. Do you think it will ever recover?
Clearly the established artists have suffered. The consumer doesn’t really understand that copyright holders have to get paid. Youtube is the biggest culprit. But up-and-coming artists love it because they have a chance to get exposed for nothing. And although record sales have declined, people will always pay to see a band play live. As long as there are live shows, people will see them. But I’m really worried about recording music.
Have the changes also paved the way for less talented stars?
There’s a tendency for people to think that because the technology has become so accessible. Anyone can make a half-decent record on a laptop. But in the end, the real talent will come through. And that’s always been the case.
You’re known for some high-profile concept albums. With the ability to individually purchase songs, is the concept album dead?
People don’t seem to be interested in listening to 40 minutes of music anymore. They want a three minute clip. It gives instant gratification. The reality is that probably one or two of the songs on an album will get picked up by other outlets. It’s lamentable that people aren’t picking up an album, turning the lights down, and enjoying it. But you still have to sequence an album. And people still expect me to make conceptual music. That’s what I do best.
With your level of experience, is it possible to listen to music from a layman’s perspective?
I’m very much a layman when it comes to listening to music. I rarely listen to other people’s music on my studio stereo. I listen to most of it in my car. If I do have the occasion to listen to someone else’s record under studio conditions, then I might be more analytical. I might be quizzical or jealous. But I’m most likely to play stuff I really like in the studio.
Do you have a preference for analog over digital recording?
Digital recording is young. We are already using video recorders to make movies, so why not use digital recorders to make an analog sound? We just haven’t found the right parameters and technology to exactly emulate analog. But we are getting closer every day.
While working as an engineer in the beginning of your career, did you know that you ultimately wanted to be a producer?
It was always a goal. I didn’t know when I left school that I would be a producer, but as soon as I got the job at Abbey Road, I had my sights set on production. I learned from watching other producers and engineers at work. I saw who had the magic touch and who didn’t, and it helped me learn from the mistakes and strengths of others.
When you work on high-profile projects like Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road, does your inner fanboy disrupt your objective outlook?
I think being a fan of the music has a value. I take no credit for the creative input on The Beatles though. I was too young and too green. But I was the ultimate Beatles fan. I was in 7th heaven. It was incredible.
If you could duplicate that experience now, would you approach it differently?
Not at all. I still work on instinct. I’m essentially rather selfish. I’m pursuing things that I think work. That’s not to say that I won’t team up with others. I enjoy the spirit of collaboration. But in terms of whether I work differently now, no. I’ve always worked the same way.
I have to ask you this, because my musician friends have discussed it extensively. You’ve obviously heard the controversy about Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” being a rip-off of your song, “Eye in the Sky.”
I have heard of that controversy, yes. And I have absolutely no comment.
Fair enough. And speaking of controversy, I’ve read a few interviews where you’ve addressed Dave Gilmour’s comments about your contribution to Pink Floyd. Have you ever had a personal conversation with him about it?
We only worked together during that period. So no, we’ve never had that conversation. The opinions of the band have occasionally been dismissive about my contribution and occasionally been very complimentary. To me, it doesn’t really matter what they think. I know what I contributed.
Tell me about your upcoming project with Jake Shimabukuro.
Jake is touring as we speak. What I like about the album is it’s a combination of unaccompanied solo, Jake playing with a rhythm section, and Jake playing with an orchestra. It was an idea I put forward. I thought he’d be incredible playing live with an orchestra.
What motivates your decision to choose a project?
In the past it was a matter of convenience and finance. But I would not get involved in something that didn’t have some merit. I’m not about to suddenly make a hip hop album because it pays well. I’ve got to be into the style of the music and to feel that I can offer the artist something as his or her producer.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
We are in the process of fundraising for an Anglo-Greek band called Electric Litany, and I’m hoping we will be recording their new album by the end of this year.
I’m always looking for records that I can listen to in their entirety. While this might seem like an easy task, you’d be surprised. And Hey Marseilles’ first album, To Travels and Trunks, met this very difficult standard. It’s clear the band knows their sound, and it’s consistent from beginning to end. It also puts me in a happy place, a task also difficult to achieve. The Seattle-based band, fronted by Matt Bishop, has seven members, a number that slowly grew from the original two (Bishop and Nick Ward) who met in college. They released their first record in 2008, and then re-released it two years later. And based on the new song off their second record, “Hold Your Head,” I anticipate great things. The record, entitled Lines We Trace, will be released on in February 2013. Read my interview with Matt Bishop below.
Your music has a European influence. Was that always your sound?
It slowly evolved. Our motivation isn’t [about] trying to capture a European sound as much as it is trying to do something eclectic and dynamic. [That sound] slipped into our first record because the music we were inspired by was very much European. But it wasn’t intentional.
Why did you re-release the first record, To Travels and Trunks?
It was about trying to get exposure for that record on a level beyond Seattle. We released it out of the back of our cars and sold it to our friends at shows. We felt that if we had the potential to get as strong of a reception elsewhere as we did in Seattle, it was worth re-releasing it.
Was there any particular moment when you realized that your hard work was paying off?
I wouldn’t say it was one specific moment. We’ve been a slow burn. We’ve been together for about six years and we’re now going on our first truly national tour. We’ve been slowly reaching [our] aspirations.
Are you ever surprised by an audience’s response to one of your songs over another?
I’m surprised when an audience responds at all [laughs]. Sometimes I can see the audience [sing along] to certain words. It’s awesome and humbling.
I read that some of your band members disagreed on your band’s name, and the majority won out. Do you vote on all band disagreements?
There’s always a discussion. But it’s helpful that there’s an odd number of people in our band so it’s kind of like the Supreme Court. We’re pretty egalitarian.
Why the time span between your first record and your upcoming record?
We’ve been writing our upcoming record for a year and a half. There were moments when we thought we were done and then we went back. We want to be intentional about releasing a record we are proud of, and we’ve finally gotten to that point.
I know you have a day job in addition to being in a band. Are you the coolest guy at your job?
I don’t know about that [laughs]. It’s gratifying that people at my job are supportive. But it’s also really frustrating to balance two different mindsets. It’s not easy. But with the release of our next record, I’m stepping away from it. I’m looking forward to solely focusing on music. We’ll see how that goes.
I read a funny story about you that I have to ask you about. Is it true you stole instruments from your school’s marching band?
There was a period where we used a sousaphone that we procured from the University of Washington’s marching band room. We returned it though and nobody knew. Not too many people [use] the sousaphone.
You’ve said that your study of poetry hinders your song-writing ability. I would assume it would be the opposite.
The rhythm and musicality of poetry is entirely dependent on the words and how they are spoken. When you’re writing lyrics for music, you have to depend on the musicality of the melody. I’ll easily write something and then have to step back and decide if it works well in the context of music instead of how it’s written on a page or how it’s spoken.
Does the songwriting process ever create friction with your bandmates if they want to go a different direction?
I’ve been lucky. They kind of let me have full control over the lyrics, so I have a lot of autonomy. But most of the collective work is on the music.
Does your new record have a different sound than your first record?
It’s much more mature. The strength of our musicianship has improved. I think it’s a good reflection of where we are at in our lives.
Watch below to see Hey Marseilles’ video for ‘Hold Your Head.’
I discovered Lukas Nelson by accident. I stumbled across Willie Nelson’s cover of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” and I noticed the very unique voice of the man singing with him. I immediately wanted an interview and was shocked to discover that the man in question is actually Willie Nelson’s son. I then found out that Lukas fronts his own band called Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real. After listening to his latest record, “Wasted,” I reached out to his team and he kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions.
Can you tell me a little about how you connected with your current band?
I met Anthony at a Neil Young concert, and we became surfing buddies. He’s known our bass player for years, and I’ve known our percussion player from Hawaii. We’ve all known each other for a while.
Is it true you wrote Wasted while you were wasted?
Yes, I was pretty drunk [laughs].
I heard you’re not undergoing that songwriting formula anymore.
No. I quit drinking for a year. I’ve taken it way easier. I took a year hiatus from everything.
Has that helped your creative process?
I don’t think it made a difference. It’s not better or worse. There’s not a universal way [of writing].
I read that your dad gave you a guitar at 14.
I was eleven. And I started playing in his band at 14.
Do you think it was an innate interest being a son of a musician?
I think being around it kept my interest high. It was nature and nurture. I was immersed in that world, so it became second nature to me.
I know you grew up around so many legendary musicians. Did you know at the time that you were around such greats?
I always had a lot of respect for them. But it’s still just hanging around the house with dad’s friends. If I didn’t think of it that way it would get awkward. They’re just people, but they’re really inspiring people so they have good conversations that makes it really interesting to be around them.
I imagine you get really good advice with all those resources. I read that Neil Young told you to record this live to tape?
He told me about digital recording, actually. He said if you’re going to record digitally, do it to the highest resolution. But when we mixed the original tracks, we mixed it to analog tape. So we did both.
Do you often go to Neil Young for advice about your records?
I try not to bother him too much. I usually go to him for technical advice. I really try hard to figure it out on my own first, because I have a lot of respect for his kind, and he probably gets thousands of emails a day. I’m just another kid.
Are you partial to this album with that different recording process?
I like this one as much as all the others. But in terms of recording, it’s definitely a more mature recording.
I saw your performance on Jimmy Fallon with your dad. You looked so relaxed. Do you get nervous at all anymore?
Sometimes. I’m just better at not showing it. I try not to stress too much.
I know in a lot of interviews you get asked about living in your father’s shadow. I read something great that you said about how you don’t feel pressured to prove yourself. How do you get to that space in your head? Was it ever an issue?
No, it never was. I just don’t really think about it. If I spent my time wasting my energy on crap like that, [which] doesn’t really matter, I wouldn’t be the musician that I am trying to be. I’m still growing and learning, and I don’t really think about that stuff. I have to just keep writing and keep playing and getting better.
Do you get along with your father on the road?
We’re buddies. I’ve never had an argument with my dad. That’s not the relationship we have.
Fifty percent of my taste in music is about the music, and the other fifty percent is about an artist’s personality. And Jesse Elliott of These United States has a great personality. I’m admittedly a new fan of his music, which I discovered when I noticed his joint tour with Trampled by Turtles — another great band. Once I found his music, I played every These United States album for about two weeks straight, an obsession that was solidified immediately after listening to Crimes. And because of my insatiable desire to pick the brain of artists I like, I reached out to his team for an interview. I knew it would be good, but I couldn’t predict the extent of his openness. He’s not just a good musician, he’s an interesting guy. In fact, I might have a new crush. Enjoy the interview!
I know your band started with different members. Why the rotation?
In the beginning it was a matter of practicality. We had a lot of different sounds in our mind that we weren’t capable of making ourselves, so we had to recruit other people. I think it mostly came out of liking different kinds of music and wanting to interpret songs in different ways.
What made you stick with your current band members?
It’s still a little bit of a free flowing thing, because all the people I play with have always played in their own projects with other people. I think of it as a big extended family, and people are free to come and go as it makes sense for their own lives. That’s been good and bad but mostly good, and in the long term it keeps most of us as relatively sane creative collaborators.
I’d always liked Daniel Bedingfield, but he entered my interview-radar when my musician friends played his first album from top-to-bottom, while endlessly praising his songwriting prowess and vocal range. “He’s incredible,” they said. “You have to be great to get a number one dance track and a number one ballad on the same album.” When I discovered his very catchy new single, “Rocks Off,” the next day, I considered it fate and wanted an interview. I quickly found out that he’s gone completely independent, and I’d have to contact him directly. So I tweeted him, and he invited me to his show at Hotel Cafe the following week. Though Hotel Cafe is often a low-energy singer/songwriter venue, I knew his performance would be unique when he showed up in very colorful clothing, removed all the tables and chairs, and took the time to greet almost every fan that arrived. His charm and stage-presence won over the audience, who danced to both his new material and his most-loved hits. We scheduled an interview the following week, and I had an extremely long list of questions. Where has he been for the last eight years, how often will he be releasing new music, and whose idea was it to get naked at the end of his “Rocks Off” video? I figured I’d hold that last question until the end and only ask it if things went well, which they did.
I notice your very colorful style of dressing. Is the wardrobe choice a product of being an independent artist now?
I used to think that you had to consider the opinions of the people that you’re working with, because they work so hard and they’re so successful and they’re making millions, so they must know what they’re talking about. It doesn’t really matter anymore. I think the make-your-own-decisions, do-whatever-the-fuck you-like [approach] is much better.
Did the label have specific demands about how they wanted you to sound?
Sure. That’s why they didn’t release anything for eight years.
The irony is that when you first started in the industry the label was something you were probably aching to be a part of.
No. Your first job for the mafia, you could become a Don, or you could try to get out, and they could kill your whole family. My version of that is eight years of my twenties.
How does it feel to now be completely independent?
Now that I don’t care whether I succeed or not — I hope that I succeed, I dream that I succeed — [but] I don’t have the same pressure. It’s tough enough fighting this world to get music out without having to fight the business side. I’m very glad that I did it, [but] I never thought it was a golden opportunity. I don’t get excited by success, I get excited by creativity. So when I wasn’t able to release anything, that was difficult. But it was good for me. Now I know what it’s like to desperately want to do something for eight years.
You must get a little excited by success, though.
I’ve had enough to satisfy me, and I know it didn’t satisfy me when I had it. It’s not success that’s ever going to make me feel good. On the day “Gotta Get Thru This” hit number one, it was my 22nd birthday, and I had my first kiss with this girl I had been chasing for two years, and I was certainly more excited about the kiss.
Is it true you wrote the song on the way to professing your love to that girl?
I wrote it in the morning crossing the Tower Bridge on the way to work. My feet hitting the pavement gave me the tempo. After an hour-long chat with my mom she said, “It’s very obvious what you have to do,” so I went up to [talk to her]. We were best friends, and we were trying to pretend not to be in love with each other.
Is “Secret Fear” from your new EP also about a specific girl?
Who’s the girl?
[He shakes his head to indicate he’s not going to tell me]. All my songs are true. As awful as it sounds, it’s that awful, and as wonderful as it sounds, it’s that wonderful. It’s a diary transcript.
Does the girl know it’s about her?
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard my song, “Wrap My Words Around You.” But it’s about whether it’s a good idea to tell a girl that a song is about her, because it can really play with the dynamics of a girl genuinely or not genuinely liking you. You can make a girl like you when she wouldn’t like you otherwise by writing a good song.
Is that a bad thing?
Yes. Because if you leave her, then it was all a lie. You can win someone’s heart and then leave her, and it can really hurt. It’s tricky. My songs have caused incredible devastation to a number of people. You can get absolutely into someone’s head with your song, and it becomes impossible to get out.
You didn’t answer my question. Does the girl know that “Secret Fear” is about her?
The beginning of that song is so shocking, what it says. I’m so frightened that any woman that I date will hear the lyrics and think I won’t be happy with her. It was a deliciously bad feeling writing that. I knew I could be fucking my life hard-core. I was getting-off on the danger. Imagine you’re lying in bed as my wife and thinking of those lyrics.
I also love “Rocks Off” from the new EP, and I like how different it is from “Secret Fear.” Is the variety on your records a calculated choice?
This idea of an artist having one sound is nothing I’ve ever connected with. I don’t think it’s a valid restriction, so no — I don’t think about variety, I just think about the song. I’m not trying to be clever, I’m just incredibly ADD.
I know you’re releasing EPs 3-5 months apart. Do you think this is the wave of the future in the music industry?
Everyone I’m listening to thinks so.
You’re in a family of musicians. Are there moments when you have to tell them to buzz-off?
We are the last people to hear each other’s music. We don’t like playing it for each other. An honest opinion might not have a place in your family. Is the point of family to criticize?
Were you ahead of your time with the social media transition in the music industry? You’re really good with replying to your fans on Twitter.
I really like them! I have an amazing social media coordinator. I told her I didn’t have the time and energy to reply to my fans on Facebook and Twitter. She said, “That’s incredibly sad.” She said so many people are finding a way of interacting with their true fans through this. She’s like a Twitter evangelist. So I started replying, and I now wake up in the morning so happy to see what people are talking to me about. I realize that it’s the beginning of peeling away the wall of managers and record company people that are supposed to protect the artists from their fans.
I read a tweet about your “Rocks Off” video where a fan called it misogynistic, and you said that you’d seriously consider the criticism. I found the exchange very funny.
It is misogynistic. It’s an expression. Art doesn’t have to be balanced.
Whose idea was it to be naked at the end of the video?
Me! I wrote this thing! I’m trying to say something behind that video, and one of those things is that I don’t give a fuck about clothes or what I’m wearing, and I desire to be naked in all my music and in this interview. And also — guys getting stripped by girls . . . I think that’s quite funny.
I’m not sure I’d have the guts to be fully naked in a video.
That’s the point. I found the guts to be naked in a video in front of the planet, and in my next video I’m completely naked, underwater, in fire, and spinning. It’s not a perverted thing. I’m a nudist. I’m naked all the time.
My other favorite song on the new EP is “Don’t Write Me Off.”
Thank you. That’s something that’s very important. There’s a whole crowd of people that want the piano stuff, and there’s a whole crowd of people who just want the rock stuff. [One guy will] say, “Daniel, nobody likes that falsetto.” Then the other guy will say, “The best thing about you is your falsetto.” So if it’s really moving me, and I’m feeling the energy of everything flowing through my veins, then I’m going to release it.
Listen below to Daniel Bedingfield’s EP, Secret Fear — Stop the Traffik, and watch the video for his new single, “Rocks Off.” Note: Be sure to stay tuned for the end of the video — that’s when he gets naked.
I requested an interview with Macy Gray thirty seconds into listening to her cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps.” I didn’t need to hear more. I knew the album would be good. When she agreed to the interview, I was elated — and nervous. I’m always intimidated by people I admire, but as soon as we began talking, everything changed. Her friendly, down-to-earth personality put me at ease. She’s just so damn likable. Read below, and buy her Covered album immediately. You will not regret it. Watch her “Smoke 2 Joints” video at the end of the interview.
What made you decide to make a cover album?
I wanted to do a cover album for a long time. I saw that Nina Simone did a cover album, My Way, by Frank Sinatra, and I thought it was so cool how she took it and made it her own thing. It was a challenge for me to see if I could do something like that.
How did you select the songs for the album?
There were four or five that we showed everyone, and the rest were really spontaneous [choices]. It was really off-the-cuff. I’m a fan of all the songs, but mostly it was the lyrics that I could make personal to me.
Is there less pressure on you as an artist when it’s not your original material?
The songs are completely redone. It was still really creative and challenging. We were all really nervous about whether the artists were going to like them.
Did you get any feedback from the artists you covered?
Me and Dave Stewart went back and forth on Twitter, and I said, “Did you send [“Here Comes the Rain Again”] to Annie [Lennox]? He said she loved it, and I felt better. My producer, Hal Willner, is good friends with [Metallica], and apparently they played it over and over again.
I love the Nicole Scherzinger skit on the album. Is that based on your personal experience in the industry of people telling you to change?
Oh yeah. I get suggestions all the time. People are always telling me what I should do next. Everybody’s always saying things like I need to make a dance record or change my afro — stuff like that. It’s crazy. But I’m really proud of what I do. I’m not The Beatles, but I really like the stuff that I’ve done.
Did Nicole immediately agree to do the skit?
Nicole’s a good friend of mine, and she does these impressions. She can impersonate anybody. She actually does a really good one of me. I told her the idea of what the skit would be about, and she just kind of ran with it.
I was surprised by her Britney Spears impression. It was so accurate.
I know! She should do that all day! She sang a song like Alanis Morissette, and you would swear it was her.
Some of your promotional shots for this album are so beautiful. Do you like promoting your albums, or is it a necessary evil to being in the industry?
It always depends on [my mood]. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood. I hate taking pictures, but I have this photographer that I’m really comfortable with. But if it was up to me, I’d just make music, have my label put it out, and go on with my life.
Is it true that when you first started in the industry you were not a fan of your own singing voice?
That is true. My voice has always been peculiar. When I was little they always made fun of me. But as you get older you get over stuff. When I started singing . . . it took me a long time to like it. I actually worked on it a lot to get to the point where I liked it.
You entered the industry before the social-media generation. Was it a difficult adjustment?
I actually get a kick out of Twitter. It’s crazy that you can have conversations with your fans. It’s an easy way to let people know about your record.
I had a few friends in Rio de Janeiro at the Back 2 Black Festival who said you killed it. I heard the other artists dropped out.
Prince dropped out at the last minute. That’s one of the reasons I agreed to do the festival, and then he dropped out [laughs].
Do you get nervous for big performances like that?
I still get nervous. I used to get really sick before my shows, and I got over that, but I still get butterflies.
Is it true you don’t read your own reviews?
It’s hard to get around it now, because everything is online, but [negative reviews] still affect me.
What music are you listening to now?
I really like Jack White’s The Dead Weather record, and I like Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole.
You’ve collaborated with some big-hitters in the past. Is there anyone on your wish-list for future collaborations?
I really want to collaborate with Kanye West. I’m always jealous of the people he puts on his album. That’s my big dream.
I fell in love with Monsters Calling Home almost immediately. I saw them perform at The Mint in Los Angeles, and I emailed lead singer Alex Hwang minutes after the show. Since then, I’ve shamelessly stalked them around Los Angeles, and then I took the stalking to the next level and invited Alex to Brick & Mortar Recording for an interview. He kindly complied. Listen below, and watch their new video, “Fight to Keep,” after the interview.
There’s a very valuable playlist in my music library entitled, “Music That Makes Me Happy,” and Eric Hutchinson has been on it for years. While playing his first album for the 500th time, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if he had a second album? Where’s he been? I want more Eric Hutchinson!” So I googled him, and my prayers were answered. He released his follow-up, Moving Up Living Down, on April 17th, and he achieved the rare feat of surpassing the quality of his debut. Because I’m The Dishmaster, and I have an insatiable need to pick the brain of everyone I admire, I requested an interview with the man himself — and he kindly agreed. Read below, and catch the video for his hit single, “Watching You Watch Him,” at the end.
I was a huge fan of your first record. I know you did the first record on your own and now you’re on a label. Do you have a preference?
I still consider myself an independent artist, but this way was a lot easier. I got to concentrate on the music and the writing and the singing a lot more, and I got paired up with some really great producers. I worked with Martin Terefe and lived in London for a month, and Mike Elizondo who I lived with in LA for a month.
Does the creative input from a producer ever create friction?
You have to find the right person. We had a few people that didn’t work out, but the most important part is the creative flow with the producer. Mike had pictures of The Beatles all over his studio, and The Beatles are probably my favorite of all time, so I had a feeling right off the bat that we would get along. It’s a really fun, creative vibe. Never for one second did it leave my head that here I am making an album for Warner Bros. Records, and how is this my life?
It’s been a few years since your first record. What’s the reason for the time-gap?
I toured for so long with the first record. It was sort of an unorthodox release, because it kind of came out on its own, and then it came out again when Perez Hilton sent it out, and then Warner Bros. picked it up. So I was just touring and touring. And then finally I came home to New York and got to process everything and started writing my record. I know from the outside it probably feels like a while, but I’ve been busy the whole time.
Did you know that Perez’s post would create such traction?
I was in LA and went to sleep, and the next morning I woke up, and my phone was blowing up. Within the day it was in the iTunes top five. It was a really great moment. Perez has been very supportive and continues to be very supportive.
I read that you went broke making your first record. Was there a definable moment where you thought, “I can make a living doing this.”
I had been making a living, but I went a little too far making that record. I feel a real privilege to be able to do this, but I got a lot of very lucky breaks.
One of my favorite songs on your record is “The People I Know.” It’s a really upbeat song with sad lyrics. Is that an intentional juxtaposition?
Yeah, it’s something I learned from The Beatles. It helps the medicine go down, if you will. I try to cram big ideas into a three-minute pop song, and if you do it with an upbeat feel it’s easier to process it all.
There’s a lyric, “I’ve got a sister who I barely see,” in “The People I Know.” Is that a literal lyric? Did she hear it and say anything to you about it?
I had a talk with her about it. It’s sort of true. My sister did live down the street from me, and I didn’t see her because I was on tour all the time. And then one day I ran into her on the street, and it was a weird moment. It’s a weird moment when you recognize someone that is that close to you and you see them on the street out of context. But I get along with my family really well, and they have been very supportive.
But you gave her the heads up before you released the song?
I did, yeah. She likes [the song]. The other thing that’s really cool about that song is I play it live and people come up to me afterwards and say, “I have an estranged relationship with somebody.” That’s when the music really feels special.
Do you ever have a revelation about your lyrics in hindsight and think, “Wow, I must have been really sad and not even known it?”
All the time. There are certain songs where I think, “I don’t even know what I’m writing,” and then I look back, and it’s so clear. That’s one of the good parts about the album. Having some time to release this album, I got a lot of perspective on it, and I could look at it clearly and think about which songs I like and what I wanted to say.
When you play live, do you have a venue preference? Do you prefer a smaller, intimate venue to a large stadium?
As long as the crowd is excited, that’s where the magic comes from. I could play to 50 people or 5,000 as long as they’re are excited about the tour.
You’ve performed on some really great late-night shows. Do you have a favorite performance?
The first time I played The Tonight Show. It was my first time on TV. It just felt really cool.
Do you still get nervous for those performances?
Not really anymore. I’ve performed so much at this point that I’m kind of used to playing. I really want to play Saturday Night Live. Maybe I’d get nervous for that.
What music are you listening to now?
A band I got really into is Los Lobos. My plan is to get them to come play on my next record. I love Vampire Weekend, the new Black Keys record, and Kanye West.
Who chose “Watching You Watch Him” as the single for the record? Did you write it and think, “That’s the hit?”
A lot of times I’ll have to [do something] and stop writing, but every now and then I’ll write a song and I just can’t leave it. I was supposed to meet a bunch of friends to watch a football game, and about ten minutes into writing “Watching You Watch Him,” I just knew I couldn’t go anywhere, and I called them and told them that I couldn’t come. I really love that song. To me, I can just picture driving through the desert on a road trip and blaring that song really loud.
I’ve had a crush on Craig Bierko for many years, and then one day while ruminating on my Dishmaster greatness — it suddenly occurred to me. Why not commission him for an interview? After all, if I can’t use this blog to solicit interviews from hot men, then what good is it? My Bierko crush began during his guest-stint on Ally McBeal (my favorite show in history), and it was solidified by his appearance on Sex and the City (my second favorite show in history). While researching his very impressive resume, I discovered that he’s not only a talented actor, he’s also a giver (a standard I require from my future husbands). He’s been involved with the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation for years, and if you’d like to join him in helping, just text “KIDS” to 27722, and you can automatically donate ten dollars to the hospital. It’s a pretty easy, charitable gesture. Did I mention he has great hair? Alright — enough drooling — enjoy the interview below.
You guest-starred on my two of my favorite shows. Do you still get recognized as “jazz man” — the guy who gave Carrie Bradshaw her most intense orgasm?
All the time.
Your scene in The Change Up was extremely disturbing, yet comedically brilliant. You stole the show. Did you break character while shooting?
Oh, God, yes.
I heard you trained as a boxer for Cinderella Man. Are there any dream roles you would like to play just to have an excuse to adopt another new skill? A ballet dancer, perhaps?
I would love to play “Max” without the burden of being the heavy. Baer was a uniquely charming, colorful personality, worthy of real attention.
You’ve said that most of the actors you’ve worked with seem mentally unbalanced. Is there a secret to maintaining your sanity in this industry? Does it have anything to do with living in New York instead of Los Angeles?
I think parenting is important. I was raised to value other people’s feelings as much as my own. Show business creates an illusion that the opposite is true, which leads to a great deal of unhappiness.
You’ve talked about the taxing hours of network television, but nothing can be worse than eight shows a week on Broadway. Do you have a preference?
No. I like to work. I’m always grateful about work.
Tell me about your work with the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation.
I stumbled on them, really. Out of an obligation I visited the hospital, and that visit transformed me. I was ready to care about something, I suppose — and it would have been easy to move on — but I decided that this would be the corner of the world on whose behalf I would advocate. I shamelessly pimp my friends for benefits, and we just raised about 50 grand in a night, which will help pay for a new satellite pharmacy. It’s the greatest feeling to know you contributed to something like LLUCH.
I hear you’re technically a Jew. I need to know if this is true so I can take you home to my mother.
I am a very proud, totally non-practicing Jew.
You gave a very beautiful description of what it was like to sit at the Tony Awards with your mom when you were nominated for The Music Man. Were your parents always supportive of your pursuit of an entertainment career?
I lucked out, yeah. They never questioned it.
When you go to your grave, do you think you’ll be most proud of somehow convincing the esteemed John Malkovich to do an interview with you in Carrie Fisher’s bathtub? Does that beat your Tony nomination?
I found both experiences completely surreal, but as they were occurring they just felt like work. I hope I can look back and feel good about everything in that same way.