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46 minutes | Jul 13, 2022
Episode 49: A Conversation with Barry Lynch
For me, this episode is 11 years in the making. For my guest Barry Lynch and his group the Armagh Rhymers? We’re talking 30 years. The Armagh Rhymers (https://armaghrhymers.com/), a traditional Irish mummers band from Northern Ireland, released their first album in 1992. So now 30 years later, “Vol. 2” is on the streets and, well, you need to take a seat, grab a pint or two, and listen in. Mumming, for those who don’t know, is an ancient tradition, dating back in Ireland to the pagan, pre-Catholic days. It consists of musicians wearing straw masks, becoming characters, and performing a play based on fables and other rituals dating back thousands of years. They go door-to-door, singing and playing for whomever let them in. So yeah, this one goes back a bit. Barry helped produce and mix the album, as well as playing all kinds of stringed instruments and adding his distinctive vocals. I met Barry more than 11 years ago on a trip to Northern Ireland and we stayed in touch over the years. This is the first time we’ve talked since we met at a pub in the small town called Moy, maybe 45 minutes west of Belfast. Barry is an accomplished musician, having played all over the world and even at the White House in the late 90s, promoting the peace process that ended decades of sectarian strife in Northern Ireland. While this is an ancient artform, the Armagh Rhymers Vol. 2 is at its core about peace; it’s about coming together through music. So go grab that pint (or two) and welcome Barry Lynch to For Songs.
45 minutes | Jun 11, 2022
Episode 48: Another Conversation with Peter Argyropoulos of Sons of Silver
Peter Argyropoulos has a way with words. The lead singer/songwriter of the LA-based hard-rock band Sons of Silver has his finger on the pulse on what’s happening across the country and, indeed, the world. On his band’s debut EP Doomsday Noises, he presaged the pandemic, the social unrest, and the decaying fabric of society that has been our existence the last two years. Now, a year and half later, the band is back with a blistering follow-up EP called Ordinary Sex Appeal. In this five-song set, Peter and the band capture the angst, divisions, and frustrations that seem to be a part of our everyday lives. But there’s also a little hope included, if you listen closely. Peter joins me for the third time to discuss the new EP, when/how it was recorded, the magic of drummer Dave Kruzen’s playing, and much much more. As much as this is a commentary on society, this interview is also a clear love letter to the power of music. So sit back, get on your thinking caps, and welcome Peter Argyropoulos back to For Songs.
42 minutes | May 23, 2022
Episode 47: A Conversation with Ben Vaughn
There’s something about simplicity and subtlety that sets the best songwriters apart. The simplicity in using the exact, perfect word—and only that word—to describe a feeling in a way that everyone can relate. And the subtlety of taking the listener on an emotional journey with a song that only lasts three minutes. Few artists have attained a mastery of both quite like my next guest, singer/songwriter Ben Vaughn. An exceptionally talented musician, Ben is a persistent writer; indeed, he writes almost every day. The tough part is getting it all down before it goes away. His music may remind you a bit of They Might Be Giants, a little Tom Waits mixed in with some Lou Reed. Ben’s been at it since the early 80s and even scored music for television shows and movies. He’s funny, witty, subtle, and unfailingly polite. We spoke from his California home about his newest album The World of Ben Vaughn, released in May 2022. Listen in as he discusses how he approaches his craft, his inspirations, and four songs from new album—Wayne Fontana Was Wrong, Blind Alley, Asking for a Friend, and New Jersey Rock and Roll. Dig in and welcome Ben Vaughn to For Songs.
41 minutes | May 7, 2022
Episode 46: A Conversation with the Waymores
Funny how the world works, at least in the world of music. This is the story of Kira Annelise and her husband Willie Heath Neal, who together make up the country duo The Waymores (https://www.thewaymores.com/). When they met, Willie was a seasoned songwriter about to hang it up. He was still singing in bands when Kira saw him performing, and her world changed. A talented singer, Kira had yet to pick up a guitar or even listen to real country music—real being Hank Sr., Johnny Cash, John Prine, etc. After seeing Willie, Kira started playing guitar and writing music. It wasn’t too much longer that they started playing together, and, predictably, they became an official couple. Fourteen years later, Kira and Willie are still at it, and their newest album The Stone Sessions is proof positive of their magic. In this episode of For Songs, Willie and Kira talk about their past, their future, and, most importantly, their compelling present. We talk about four songs in particular from The Stone Sessions—Even When, Bat Shit Crazy, Roll That Chain, and I Don’t Like the Liquor. Their lush harmonies will send chills down your spine as they recall June and Johnny, while their self-depreciating humor will leave you in stitches. Buckle up, grab a drink, and welcome Kira and Willie to For Songs.
23 minutes | Apr 18, 2022
Episode 45: For Songs Singles! Restless Companion, Michael Patrick F. Smith
It’s been a little more than since my next guest first joined me on For Songs. Michael Patrick F. Smith and I go way back. Way way back. To elementary school, middle school, high school, and even church. Michael returns to the show for the first time since January 2021, a few weeks before his book The Good Hand was published. The Good Hand (https://www.thegoodhand.org/) is a blistering read, telling the tale of his journey to North Dakota at the height of the shale-gas revolution that turned parts of the state into a latter-day gold rush. With the paperback version having just been released, Michael joined me to discuss a new song called Restless Companion. Restless Companion was one of a few new songs accompanying the audiobook of The Good Hand. It is a breezy tune that would fit right at home on Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne, or Son Volt’s Trace. The song itself is an ode to The Good Hand and all the literal blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. So sit down, grab a beer, and welcome back Michael Patrick F. Smith to For Songs.
40 minutes | Apr 10, 2022
Episode 44: Another Conversation with The Pug--Talking the Clash, Joe Strummer, Big Audio Dynamite & Much More!
It’s been a rough two years, to say the least. Music is one of the few things keeping us together, and for some of us, The Clash have been doing the heavy lifting. In this unique episode, Tony from the Pug joins me for an enthralling conversation about music, the Clash, and so much more. The general theme of this conversation is as follows: What Big Audio Dynamite/Joe Strummer solo songs would’ve been great Clash songs? We tried to put in some ground rules, but those quickly went out the door. Aside from the Clash we talk about Poguetry, go-go music, cow punk, ska, and you name it. So rather than sum it up, it’s better if you just listen in. And join us online for an ongoing conversation! What songs would you pick? Ping us on Twitter--@thepugdc & @forsongs2!
46 minutes | Mar 20, 2022
Episode 43: A Conversation with Emily Capell
Question for you: If you had the chance to spend an hour in the car with one of your musical heroes—you are driving—what music would you play? Believe it or not, this is a difficult, stressful decision. And my next guest, northwest London-based Emily Capell (https://www.emilycapell.co.uk/), faced this very dilemma. Emily, who literally grew up on the Clash and its various offshoots, is an old soul. Her music is inspired by, well, the Clash, Big Audio Dynamite, but it goes beyond that. You’ll hear some Sinatra, you’ll hear some ‘60s doowop, you’ll hear a lot of ska, Blondie, you name it. In this exhilarating interview, Emily and I talk about two songs from her 2019 debut album Combat Frock—Bonanza and Ipso Calypso—and then we talk about two newer songs, 2020’s Flamingo, recorded with the London-based Dreadzone (https://www.dreadzone.com/), and a cover of Big Audio Dynamite’s E=MC2, recorded with the song’s co-writer, legendary punk-rock DJ and studio innovator Don Letts. We discuss what it was like to record with Letts, one of her heroes, and the troubles and trials of being a musician in a pandemic. Mostly, though, we talk about the music. Emily is one of the freshest talents recording today, so go grab your beer, sit down, and welcome Emily Capell to For Songs.
45 minutes | Feb 18, 2022
Episode 42: A Conversation with the Whitmore Sisters
It is a cliché that blood is thicker than water, but its also true. And my next guests are living proof. Bonnie and Eleanor Whitmore of the Whitmore Sisters have just released their first album as a duo. Ghost Stories is an emotional powerhouse. And it is full of inspiration. Eleanor and Bonnie have been in and around the Americana genre for pretty much their whole lives. Eleanor and her husband Chris Masterson make up folk rock duo The Mastersons, and they also play in Steve Earle’s backing band The Dukes. Bonnie, meanwhile, has released a number albums over the years and has played with a who’s who—James McMurtry, Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, on and on and on. Despite their roots, Ghost Stories is their first album together, and let’s hope there’s more to come. We talk about four songs —Hurtin’ for a Letdown, Ghost Stories, Greek Tragedy, and The Ballad of Sissy and Porter. We talk about death, drugs, influences, and, of course, songwriting. We also talk about life—celebrating and appreciating the simple act of being alive. This interview gets pretty heavy at times, so be ready. It is my high honor to welcome Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore to For Songs.
41 minutes | Jan 21, 2022
Episode 41: A Conversation with Ian Jones
So if there’s one theme in most all these interviews I’ve conducted the last nearly two years, it’s that the music biz is a tough one, even in the best of times. When you think about it, it’s almost impossible to make money—spotify, pandora, and the Internet have seen to that. And my next guest, Seattle-based singer/songwriter Ian Jones, (www.ianjonesmusic.com) knows this better than most. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, Ian left his home to give music a go in California, moving to Santa Barbara. While the weather may have been better, the industry changed so dramatically from when he first started that after a good many years, it was time to head back home. He chronicles portions of this journey on his new EP The Evergreens, released in October 2021. We discuss four songs from the EP—Evergreens, Liars Beggars Criminals and Thieves, Promised Land, and Last Call. We also talk about his inspirations, how he got into writing in the first place, and his hopeful plans for 2022. Ian Jones is serious about his work and his craft, and it comes through in his professionalism and songs. So please join me in welcoming Ian Jones to For Songs.
22 minutes | Jan 7, 2022
Episode 40: For Songs Singles! Keeping On, Franklin Gotham
Here we go—nearing Year Three of this pandemic. Not to mention the coldest days of the year, hazardous weather, you name it. Days like these, you gotta dig deep to keep going. If you are struggling to trudge ahead as the news seemingly gets worse every day, have I got a song for you. Joining me for this first episode of 2022 is my old friend Kevin Adkins of Franklin Gotham. In this episode, Kevin and I talk about Franklin Gotham’s latest single Keeping On, a tune for our time. It is no doubt one of the catchiest songs you’ll hear all year, and it’s also a perfect way to start 2022. Kevin and his bandmates—guitarist/producer Jarett Nicolay and drummer Christopher Speich—have crafted a near-perfect pop song: catchy chords, a hummable chorus, and impeccable production. Each time you listen, you’ll hear something new. Kevin and I talk about how the song came to be, how they recorded it across two states, and how their writing process works. If you need a bit of a pep talk heading into the year, dig into this!
42 minutes | Dec 26, 2021
Episode 39: A Conversation with Nicole Atkins
It is Christmas time, and while this isn’t a Christmas episode per se, it is the gift that keeps on giving. If you’ve ever heard Nicole Atkins sing, you know there’s something eerie, calm, haunting yet beautiful about her voice. There’s a sense of mystery, a compelling sound that keeps you coming back for more. Perhaps this has something to do with where she’s from, a small town not far from the Jersey beaches, maybe 40 minutes south of New York City. If you’ve ever been to the Jersey shore, you know there’s something in the water. Something that lures you to the insanity of the boardwalk during the summer, but you also know there’s something more appealing about being there in the dead of winter, when no one else is around. You’ve got it to yourself. Listening to Nicole Atkins brings back those feelings—the beautiful calm of being somewhere on your own, almost all alone. In this episode of For Songs, Nicole joins me from her home in Nashville, which was filled to the brim with her newest album Memphis Ice. Recorded in Memphis in one day, Memphis Ice is Nicole’s Judy Garland moment. She stripped down songs from her slick, enchanting 2020 release Italian Ice and recreates them here, and the results are breathtaking. We talk about four songs—Promised Land, Domino, Mind Eraser, and Captain. Nicole discusses her songwriting process, how she was able to do more with less, and how her hometown still seeps into her music. Please welcome Nicole Atkins to For Songs.
25 minutes | Dec 17, 2021
Episode 38: For Songs Singles! Dreaming of a Revolution, by the Sweet Lizzy Project
The spark of freedom can be seen anywhere if you look for it. In this episode of For Songs-Singles, we bring back Lisset Diaz of the Sweet Lizzy Project (www.sweetlizzyproject.com) to discuss her band’s latest single, Dreaming of a Revolution/Otra Revolucion. The song is inspired by the protesters in Cuba, who are putting their lives on the line to protest against the existing regime. The song is the first from their forthcoming album Pirate Radio/Radio Pirata. Every song on the album was recorded in English and Spanish. In this episode, we talk about each version of the song, along with the special editions featuring legendary Cuban singers Carlos Varela (https://twitter.com/noeselfin) and Raul Malo (www.themavericks.com). Lisset details the emotional ride that led to this song and the difficulties in getting the perfect translation from English to Spanish. She also talks about how she drew inspiration from learning that a childhood friend was among the many protestors putting their lives on the line. Freedom is not to be taken for granted, so it is a great honor to welcome Lisset Diaz of the Sweet Lizzy Project back to For Songs.
43 minutes | Dec 3, 2021
Episode 37: A Conversation with the Mighty Joshua
Never doubt it—music can change lives. My next guest is living proof. Renowned reggae singer The Mighty Joshua (http://mightyjoshua.com/) certainly had no intentions of singing and playing in front of thousands. In fact he started his musical career in Richmond, Va., as a percussionist in a few reggae bands, content playing a supporting role to others. But at the heavy urging of well-traveled reggae keyboardist Chris ‘Peanut’ Whitley, Joshua embraced his calling and truly became Mighty. Suddenly Joshua was opening for legendary reggae acts in Virginia and elsewhere, and now he’s become a staple of the East Coast reggae scene. In this episode of For Songs, The Mighty Joshua talks about his journey, how he went from a shy percussionist to an energetic front man capable of moving mountains. We talk about four songs, including his most recent single You Snooze You Lose, which appeared on a compilation album featuring a number of legendary African musicians. You will be inspired, educated, and uplifted. Please welcome The Mighty Joshua to For Songs.
38 minutes | Nov 19, 2021
Episode 36: A Second Conversation with Louis Michot
With Hurricane Ida bearing down on his home state of Louisiana, musician Louis Michot felt helpless. After a quick jaunt for his band’s—Grammy winning Lost Bayou Ramblers—first gig outside Louisiana in nearly two years, Michot and his crew raced home to be with their family as the storm approached. An unlucky break during the show led to a short COVID scare, but even more frightening were the cries for help he saw online as Ida pummeled New Orleans and other areas, knocking out power for weeks. Once he felt safe and healthy—he never did get sick, thankfully—Michot and his band raced into action, setting up gofundme campaigns to bring goods and services to those areas devastated by the storm. His band raised tens of thousands of dollars for supplies like food, gas, and everyday needs. Once the immediate crisis ended, he started thinking bigger. He launched the Louisiana Solar Fund (https://www.gofundme.com/f/Louisiana-Solar-Fund)to bring portable solar generators into indigenous areas wrecked by the storm. In this special episode of For Songs, Louis talks about this work, the state of the power grid, and why it is so important to bring resilient forms of energy to all corners of the country. Oh yeah, we also talk about music and his latest EP, the five-song live recording Tiny Island (https://nouveauelectricrecords.limitedrun.com/products/711205-tiny-island). Tiny Island was recorded by his second band Michot’s Melody Makers outdoors on his property. The Melody Makers are joined by the incredible and versatile singer/songwriter/cellist Leyla McCalla. We talk about three songs from the EP, how the band maintains its tight sound without rehearsing, and how cool it is when the bugs and frogs living on Louis’s property accompany the band. Please join me in welcoming Louis Michot back to For Songs.
43 minutes | Nov 5, 2021
Episode 35: A Conversation with Jade Jackson and Aubrie Sellers
It sounds like a cliché, but sometimes when you expect the unexpected, you might just get exactly what you need. That’s what happened to then-California-based singer/songwriters Jade Jackson and Aubrie Sellers after a chance meeting in 2019. Jackson and Sellers, both accomplished artists on different ends of the country-rock spectrum, began working together on one of Jade’s songs Hush during the start of the pandemic. One thing led to another, and both relocated to Nashville to record the compelling new album Breaking Point, released in October 2021. Breaking Point is a revelation, with both artists pushing themselves into an earthy, atmospheric album driven by loud, crunchy guitars and tight hooks all around. In this interview, Jackson and Sellers discuss how and why their voices blend so well together. We also chat about how their unlikely pairing has turned into a deep friendship and dramatic artistic statement. Join me as Jade and Aubrie walk us through four songs from Breaking Point—Devil is an Angel, Waste Your Time, Hush, and Fair Weather. We also discuss the fickle nature of the industry and how hard it is to make a living as an artist.
18 minutes | Oct 15, 2021
Episode 34: For Songs Singles! Hesitate, Sons of Silver
Welcome to the first episode of For Songs Singles! Instead of four songs, we talk about one. It’s a bit shorter and lets us take a deep dive into the creation and meaning of one song in particular. On this first episode we feature Hesitate, the blistering new song from LA-based indie-rock band Sons of Silver. Hesitate is a musical and lyrical tour-de-force. It jumps out of the speakers with driving guitars and pounding bass and drums. Singer/songwriter Peter Argyropoulos takes the global decline of our discourse, where we wall off those we disagree with, whether they are family or friends. The song is both provocative and funny—certainly not an easy task. Yet Peter and the band pull it off with ease. You may not agree with what he says or how he says it, and that’s almost the point. For those who aren’t sure where they fit in these hyperpartisan, hypersensitive times, Hesitate is the song for you.
40 minutes | Oct 1, 2021
Episode 33: A Conversation with Dar Williams
Time has a funny way of working, right? Some days feel like they last forever, while others are over in a blink of an eye. And the cruel joke is that as you get older, time seems to move even faster. One day you are a bright eyed, bushy tailed 20-something ready to take over the world, and the next, the world has chewed you up and spit you out. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but you get the point. On this episode of For Songs, singer/songwriter Dar Williams covers these themes and more on her latest album “I’ll Meet You Here,” released on Oct. 1. Dar has been making music since the early 90s, following in the footsteps of folk-rock luminaries Joan Baez, Jim Croce, and others. In fact, Joan Baez’s cover of Dar’s 1993 rune “You’re Aging Well” led to a career defining relationship. Joan took Dar under her wing, offering her advice and spots on tour throughout her career. And now Dar is roughly the same age as Joan Baez was when they first met, and she is returning the favor. Dar and I discuss “You’re Aging Well” and three other songs from “I’ll Meet You Here.” We talk about her influences—some will surprise you—and how she is gearing up to tour during a pandemic. So join me and welcome Dar Williams to For Songs.
27 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
Episode 32: Catching Up with Dom Flemons
It’s a #ForSongs first! Check out my in-person interview with the mighty Dom Flemons (www.theamericansongster.com), singer/songwriter/historian/storyteller/trailblazer. Dom and I chatted about a hour before a mid-August 2021 show just south of Washington. Listen in as Dom discusses the touring life during COVID, what’s changed, and how his connection with his fans is deeper and stronger than ever. We also discuss his important work in changing the narrative of American folk music and highlighting the contributions African-American artists have made throughout the course of history. And if you find yourself with a hankering for hot chicken at the end of this show, you’ll know who to thank. Listen in as Dom Flemons makes his return appearance to For Songs.
35 minutes | Jul 18, 2021
Episode 31: A Conversation about #Cuba with Lisset Diaz
Let me be clear: this is the most important interview I’ve ever done. It is my humbling honor to welcome the amazing singer/songwriter Lisset Diaz of the Sweet Lizzy Project (www.sweetlizzyproject.com) back to For Songs. Lisset and her bandmates emigrated from Havana, Cuba, to Nashville, TN, in 2017 to record their second full-length album Technicolor. Lisset is a frequent guest of the show, but this interview is different. If you’ve been watching the news, you know there is a once-in-a-generation protest movement in Cuba. Cubans are putting their lives on the line to bring an end to the authoritative regime. For Lisset, watching this from afar is both painful and inspirational. Painful because she doesn’t know if her friends and family are safe, but inspirational because of the incredible courage her fellow Cubans are showing by taking to the streets. In this interview, Lisset talks about her hopes and her fears for her country. While she faces no repercussions in the US for speaking out, she knows there’s a chance she may never be able to return to Cuba as long as the current regime is in power. And because Lisset is taking such a huge risk, we owe it to her to listen. Please, if you care about what’s happening in Cuba, share this episode with a friend or family member. Make sure the world knows what is happening right now. Thank you and please welcome Lisset Diaz back to For Songs.
49 minutes | Jul 16, 2021
Episode 30: A Conversation with Larry Kirwan of Black '47
Buckle up folks. This is a special episode of For Songs. My guest is Larry Kirwan, lead singer/songwriter for the seminal Irish-American rock band Black ’47. Black ’47, for a time, was considered New York City’s house band; they had a massive following up and down the East Coast. For folks of a certain age, Larry’s music was their introduction to Irish history, particularly the Northern Ireland conflict. Join us as we talk about three great Black ’47 songs, along with a brand new, exclusive track Rockaway Blue, based on his newest novel of the same name. If you like history, music, politics, and songwriting, you won’t want to miss this!
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