When Kim Kardashian announced she was studying to become a lawyer in an interview with Vogue Magazine, I was immediately impressed and elated. That might surprise some, given my love/hate relationship with the Kardashians and the fact that I myself am a licensed attorney. In the past, I’ve taken issue with some of their business choices, particularly the alleged copy of other independant designers for their own product lines and their hawking of ridiculous products on Instagram. That being said, I take absolutely no issue with Kim Kardashian studying to become a lawyer. In fact, I embrace it. Continue reading “Kim Kardashian Studying to Become a Lawyer — My Thoughts”
Steve Gadd’s musical story starts early. Born in Rochester, N.Y., Gadd was given drumsticks by his uncle at age three. By seven, he received a drum set from his grandfather, which led to his first formal lessons. At 11, his parents began bringing him to local jazz clubs to see legendary performers such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who let Gadd sit in during a Sunday matinee. It was during that time that he first met jazz great Chuck Mangione, whose quintet he later joined along with then unknown pianist Chick Corea (Corea would later recruit Gadd for his own band). Mangione recalled his early years with Gadd, saying, “Steve was amazing at the age of eight. He was fundamentally sound in every area of the drums.”
Shortly after college, Gadd enlisted in the U.S. Army and played in their big band for the next three years before finally returning to the New York studio scene, which ultimately landed him two of his most iconic performances in history: Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and Steely Dan’s “Aja.” When Gadd was commissioned for Steely Dan’s title track, it was widely rumored that despite numerous takes from many other drummers, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen still hadn’t found a drummer that fit their vision for the song. Gadd famously performed his part in one take. According to Becker, “Gadd’s part was not written. [They] discussed the tune a little bit and by virtue of his musicianship he just knew what to do.” Fagen agreed, explaining that Gadd was one of the rare players “who was familiar with R&B’s backbeat and could negotiate jazz harmony with ease.” Paul Simon similarly reflects on his work with Gadd, calling him “the greatest drummer of his generation.” Simon and Gadd’s work together now spans decades, along with James Taylor, Eric Clapton, and many others.
The major takeaway from talking to Steve Gadd isn’t the technical elements of his talent and his impressive resume. It’s his humility. He’s had some of the most high-level gigs in history, and he does not take it for granted. He looks at every performance as an opportunity, and he’s simply grateful for the chance to do what he loves. When I asked Grammy-winning producer Peter Asher about working with Gadd, he eloquently explained the importance of his contribution, saying:
Throughout the history of jazz and rock and roll there have been a few great drummers whose touch, whose ideas, whose groove and whose tone were wholly distinctive and capable of changing the direction of a specific track or even music as a whole. The influence that the past masters (people like Gene Krupa or Max Roach or Kenny Clarke) had on the music of their time is matched by very few players today – and preeminent among those players is Steve Gadd. He contributes to the very essence of the songs and tracks on which he plays. Elegant, distinctive, witty, inventive – and yet somehow irresistibly funky at the same time. He plays like a gentleman- but a gentleman with a deep and dark soul.”
Read my interview with Steve Gadd below.
I’m always interested in the nature-vs.-nurture side of talent and creativity. I know your uncle bought you drumsticks at the age of three. Had he not provided that encouragement, do you think you would have gone down the same path?
I don’t think so. They saw interest, which guided me. My uncle gave me those drumsticks before we had television, and my grandmother used to take me for lessons. I lived with my parents, my grandparents, and my father’s brother. My grandparents and my uncle had horses, so I’d go to the barn and hang out with the horses. After they were bedded down, my uncle and I would put on records and the whole family would listen. We’d put on John Phillip Sousa marches and play on little round pieces of wood. It was a family affair.
Do you think they knew almost immediately, though, that you had an innate pull toward drumming?
Yeah, my uncle gave me sticks because I was banging with knives and forks. He saw that I had that inclination. He was a drummer in high school and he played in a parade with veterans. He had this red parade drum that I’ll never forget, and that was the first drum I saw. He was playing it in the parade. They just saw that I had an interest, and they nurtured it.
You’re a session drummer and a live, touring musician. Do you have a preference?
No, I like both. If the musicians are good and the music is good, they’re both enjoyable. It can get a little wearying to be away from family on the road, but musically I am inspired by both.
Your intro to “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is iconic. Are there any drum parts that were equally influential to you?
Not drum parts, per se, but there were drummers – Buddy Rich, the Dorsey band, Gene Krupa with his band, Benny Goodman, and hearing a recording of Louie Bellson doing “Skin Deep” with double bass drums. Those were iconic drummers. I was influenced by them and by what they did. There wasn’t a part that they played, but it was everything they did.
The intro to “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” has a marching style to it. I know you spent about three years in the military. Did that play a role?
Not the military, but I played in drum corps as a kid and we had a great drum line. They were my good friends, and we were pretty serious about writing our own parts and teaching the guys to play the parts. So I’m sure that had some kind of influence.
I’ve read a lot about your performance on Steely Dan’s “Aja.” As I understand it, you weren’t aware that Steely Dan already had other drummers record drum parts but weren’t happy with their performances.
No, I knew that. I think I’d heard that. I was doing a lot of recording back then, so I got the call. The band was there, and we did it live. They were well-rehearsed because they’d played it with different drummers. I didn’t hear what they did with other drummers, and I’m sure whatever they did was good. It was just a matter of whatever was done was not exactly what Walter and Donald were looking for, and somehow they were able to communicate it to me and we just went for it. So I was aware that other drummers were called to do it, but you never know which one they’re going to use. I didn’t know at the end of what I did whether they were going to end up using it or using something that someone else did. You never know. You just try to do your best.
Did you have a feeling after, like, “Man, that one worked.” Could you feel the energy when it was complete?
I felt like they liked what happened. It wasn’t as if I was trying to go in there and do my set. I was going in there to try and understand what it was they were going for and to try to give them that. You could feel the positive energy at the end of that session.
I’m sure you’ve had experiences where you feel like the energy in the room is not conducive to optimizing creativity. How do you handle that?
You just give whatever it is you give to try and make it happen. Whatever knowledge and experience that I have, I would put all my energy into just getting past that. A lot of times there’s just a miscommunication, so if you can help the line of communication or if you can help someone understand, it takes it to another level. Hopefully that would help, but there’s no guarantee. You just do the best you can.
I read an interview with Steely Dan that you’re playing worked so well because of your jazz background. Do you think it’s necessary for up-and-coming drummers to master all genres?
The things that I’ve mastered were things that I’ve loved, so I’ve just followed my heart. I think that if they hear jazz and they like it, then it’s worth pursuing, not for any other reason than to enjoy playing that kind of music with people who play that way. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get called to do that, but there’s a possibility that you’re going to have a good time with good players playing good music, and that’s the inspiration.
Do you think it’s an advantage that you learned jazz first, since it’s a more complex genre?
It was good for me. I don’t think that there’s any one way that works for anyone. I think it can work different ways for different people. There’s a lot of jazz drummers back in the day that weren’t inspired by groove or pop kind of music. At a certain point, I went to New York and I heard some guys play very simply and the groove was deep. You’d think it’s a simple, less technical approach, but it’s not. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s just as challenging as playing very busy, but in another way. The drummer I heard do it the first time was Rick Marotta, and that’s what inspired me. To play less notes and make it feel the best it could feel, and to record where you start with the minimal amount to make it feel musical and then add as you go, it gives you somewhere to go. If you start at technical level 1 and volume level 10. you’ve got nowhere to go.
You’ve talked a lot about your desire to challenge yourself.
If I’m sitting down practicing, I’m always trying to look for new things. Yeah, I do that. When I was in the studios a lot, whatever calls came in I would take, no matter what they were. I’d just go in and do my best. Now, the studio scene isn’t the same anymore. It’s a lot different. If I was in New York and I was in a position to be in the studio, I would take whatever came in and try to do the best I could. If it was something I couldn’t do or I didn’t do as well as I wanted, I’d probably just go home and try and do it better.
When you say the studio scene is different, do you mean because of how the music industry has changed, or are you just referring to the fact that you’re no longer in New York?
Both. First of all, there’s not as much recording as there used to be when I was living in New York. Back in those days, there were advertisements, record gigs, and it was from morning until night. Since then, a lot of the studios have closed down, and there’s MIDI instruments where one guy can program everything. It’s a whole different ballgame. It’s not better or worse now, it’s just different. I still get some recording and I do my own stuff, but it’s not like when I was living in New York getting calls tonight to show up tomorrow at 10:00. It’s not that way now.
It sounds like you’re not necessarily upset about it, you’re just saying it’s different.
I’m not upset, I’m very grateful for the music that I’ve had the opportunity to play. I feel really lucky. I play with great musicians either in my own band or if I’m out with James Taylor, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn with Bob James, or Will Lee. I play with some great players, and I love their music, so I feel pretty cool. I like spending time with my wife and seeing the kids when I can. It’s good.
You’ve talked a lot about self-evaluating, and I know you’ve said that when you’ve listened to your playback in the studio, it’s eye opening. When you’re playing live, can you get that same feeling in the moment of what works?
It’s a different thing. It’s not necessarily based on what you’re gonna hear back but on how much higher the person you’re working with is playing and how the audience is responding. There’s different ways to gauge it. And hopefully if you get a chance to hear it back, it will be something that you’ll like.
When you work with people like Eric Clapton or James Taylor, do you feel more creative freedom because you have worked with them in the past?
You sort of know what the music needs and you just try to get it to a certain level every night. The person you’re working with should get what they need. The bottom line is when you’re working with Eric Clapton, the arena’s going to be full. It’s about doing what you have to do for the music of the artist that hired you. You creatively figure that out in rehearsals. Then it’s just a matter of trying to get yourself ready to do it every night as if you were doing it for the first time.
Is it difficult to sustain that energy level when you’re performing songs that you‘re so familiar with?
Not if you’re clear about the job. It’s difficult if you’re thinking that you’re not doing as much as you can do creatively. You’ve got to just get your head around what you’re supposed to do. The performance takes a lot of energy. You’ve got to deal with monitors, different kind of halls every night, etc. There are hurdles to jump over when you’re on the road, even if you’re playing the same stuff every night.
You’ve discussed how you loved working with Chick Corea because the drum parts were not written. Is that something you prefer?
What I meant was the music was all written out, but I was reading off the piano score, so it was open for interpretation. I had music in front of me that was guiding me and his writing is beautiful, so it was just clear to me what I thought it needed. It was challenging because the writing was very high-level, and we recorded it live. It encompassed a lot of different areas of music that you work your whole lifetime to be able to achieve. You don’t always get in those situations where you’re able to apply everything, but that was one where I could pretty much apply it all – I could apply jazz, funk, reading music, playing in an orchestra – all of those things played a part in how I interpreted what I did for that music.
I would also imagine when you record live it creates a different energy in the room.
Yeah, all those situations are different when you record live. It’s another kind of pressure that you have to deal with. You have to work your mind to stay relaxed and remember that all it’s got to do is really feel good and everything else will fall into place. I don’t get too personal and try to get too slick with what I’m doing. I try to just be part of the process and do things for everyone else.
Tell me about your upcoming album.
I just finished our second album with the Steve Gadd Band, and we’re still mixing it. We haven’t decided on the title yet. Our first LP is called Gadditude, and it’s with the guys that I play with in James Taylor’s band: Larry Goldings (keys), Michael Landau (guitar), Jimmy Johnson (bass), Walt Fowler (trumpet). I like the music, and there’s a lot of original stuff. These guys are great players and they’re great friends and we love hanging together. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve also been doing some projects with Edie Brickell.
I love Edie!
Edie writes all the songs and I produce them. She came up with the name of the band, The Gaddabouts, because she doesn’t like to put herself in front, but it’s all her music that we played and worked out in the studio. There are two albums out, and we’re just about ready to release the third. I’m really proud of that music and being involved with producing with people that I really love.
Is it more enjoyable to lead your own project?
Whatever music I play is special to me, regardless of whether it’s my thing. I wouldn’t approach working for someone else any less diligently than I would approach doing my own thing. The thing that’s nice about doing my band is that I can make more decisions musically. It’s a growing situation for me. I’m learning something that I never did before and getting to spend more time in the studio, so I like that.
It’s my secret agenda in every interview to befriend my subject. And Langhorne Slim certainly made the list. His real name is Sean Scolnick, and he might be the most normal, down-to-earth guy I’ve ever interviewed. In doing my research for his new record, The Way We Move, I realized that we have a lot in common, which is a data-point that will surely help in our future friendship. We’re both Jewish, and we both exited five-year relationships that were subject to long distances apart. Because I’m egocentric, I made sure to ask about these commonalities, along with questions about his joyful, dance-worthy style of music that I’ve fallen in love with. Read below.
Do you refer to yourself as Langhorne, or do your friends call you Sean?
It’s different. Some call me Sean, some call me Langhorne, some call me Seany Boy, some call me Slim. I’ve got lots of names. It just depends on who’s talking to me.
Is it true you wrote this album while mourning a breakup?
I wrote a few of the songs after my wonderful ex and I broke up, but a lot of the songs were [previously] written. [When] we went into the studio to record the record, we had already broken up.
Is it difficult to record in such an emotional place?
It was a difficult period, but it was amazing to have that kind of release, and to feel it in such a raw, immediate way. Instead of leaping off a cliff, I had this creative outlet.
I assume “Someday” is directly about the breakup, right?
The funny thing is . . . we were still together. Maybe you’re breaking-up before you realize it.
Do you ever get a call from an ex who is combing through your songs and wants to know if it’s about her?
They know that it is. I’m a man that hasn’t been with very many women. The last fifteen years of my life I’ve been in relationships. My ex knows exactly what songs are about her, because she heard me writing them.
Is it hard to sing songs that remind you of the time when you wrote them?
When I listen to [this record], it takes me very much back to that time and place, and I think that it always will. But it’s freeing. Even if you’re singing about pain, it’s a blessing to be able to create something that gets me through it. I don’t feel the heartbreak, I feel the release.
You raised the money for this album through PledgeMusic, which requires you to fulfill some very random promises to fans you’ve never met. I know you’re Jewish, and if I told my over-protective Jewish mother about the promises I’d have to fulfill, she’d kill me. Was your mother concerned?
I’m ten years into [my career], and my mother embraces it. [But] I remember the first time we ever got booked in Europe, she said, “Okay, wait a second. You’re going to Italy to play for some random people? How do you know they’re not going to kill you?” [laughs]. Now [my family] gets it. They knew I wasn’t cut out for a conventional job. Thankfully, they supported [me]. [They’re] still neurotic though.
You’ve toured with some heavy-hitters. Before you go on tour, do you think about whether you’ll get along on a personal level?
At this point it’s a little different. We’re in a position of picking who we tour with. [But] when we were going out with other bands, it wasn’t random. It already comes with a bit of a connection. There’s already a respect.
What about in your own band? Is it tough to be in close quarters for an extended period of time?
You learn each other’s eccentricities. It’s very much like a romantic relationship, but the romance is creative and musical.
How do you sustain a romantic relationship when you tour for 8 months out of the year?
I don’t know. People have told me it’s not feasible. But I did it the entire time I was a touring musician. It’s difficult to connect on a day-to-day basis, but I believe in it still. I’m a big, sappy believer in love. I feel like it’s just as difficult in different ways to have a 9to5 job and come home to each other every day. It’s a different set of challenges.
Do you have a favorite song on your new record?
The song that’s really meaningful to me is “A Song for Sid.” I wrote it for my grandfather. I’m very happy with it. You were asking if I’m brought back to the heartbreak or pain of a song that I wrote, and I am brought back [with that song], but in a beautiful way. It’s a tribute to him that he would probably feel proud of me for writing.
Watch below to see the video for Langhorne Slim & The Law’s single, “The Way We Move.” And thanks to Sean for proving that you can be talented and normal at the same time.
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.
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.
The Lumineers did not come across The Dishmaster’s desk by accident. I’m on a constant hunt for new music, which includes an overloaded news feed flooded with music blogs and magazines. But with all that research, I rarely find anything worth listening to. You can therefore imagine my shock and happiness when I found The Lumineers. I discovered them through Paste Magazine, who voted them one of “The 20 Best New Bands of 2011.” I immediately listened to their EP, followed by playing their Daytrotter session on repeat. When I reached out to their team for an interview, I was elated when they invited me to their “Ho Hey” video shoot, which was filmed at a broken-down, old hospital that is also the home of some familiar movies, including Saw and Pearl Harbor. Though I was briefly afraid that ghosts might attack me, my nerves were immediately calmed when I met the band. They had been shooting all day and somehow still managed to sustain their fun, laid-back energy. I’m told by their manager that they revved up their dedicated, suspender-wearing extras with a live performance prior to the shoot, and it’s no surprise that everyone loved it. These guys are good. Our interview took place a few days later. They answered all my questions with the right amount of humility and honesty. In fact, after forty minutes I said, “I’ll let you off the hook. I’ve kept you way too long.” The band then said, “No, ask us anything. Keep going if you have more questions.” I took their bait and held them hostage even longer. Their self-titled debut album hits stores April 3rd. Enjoy the interview, and watch their “Ho Hey” video below.
As the daughter of a dentist, I’m intrigued by your name. How did you come up with it?
Wesley Schultz (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano): We stole it. We were playing at a place in Jersey City and they accidentally called us the name of a band performing the following week.
Why the move from New York to Denver?
Wesley: We wanted to move to the middle of nowhere and write songs. It was pretty random. We wanted to go somewhere new and cheap. It’s an absurd proposition to tour and live in New York. We wanted a low overhead. But we didn’t expect to find the really great music scene [in Denver]. There was a huge community of musicians.
How did Neyla join the band?
Neyla Peckarek (Cello, Piano): I just finished school and I had nothing on my plate and didn’t know what was next. I got a teaching degree and they don’t hire a lot of teachers in [December]. I checked the musicians page of [a Craigslist ad]. They sent me a couple of tracks and it was a pretty natural fit right away. I wasn’t looking to be in a band at all. It forged naturally. They wanted to go on tour, and I said yes.