Sunday, November 01, 2009

Erin McKeown + Jill Sobule: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

I've been a fan of Jill Sobule (left) and Erin McKeown (right) for a long time and, in the last year or so, they have become pioneers of new fundraising models for the music industry. They both also have new albums out and are out on a US tour together through the start of December, including:

* Wed Nov 04: Ann Arbor MI at The Ark
* Thu Nov 05: Cleveland OH at Beachland Tavern
* Fri Nov 06: Buffalo NY at The Ninth Ward
* Sun Nov 08: Chicago IL at Old Town School of Folk Music
* Mon Nov 09: Madison WI at High Noon Saloon
* Tue Nov 10: Minneapolis MN at Cedar Cultural Centre
* Thu Nov 12: Seattle WA at Tractor Tavern
* Fri Nov 20: Santa Monica CA at McCabe’s Guitar Shop
* Sat Nov 21: Santa Barbara CA at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club
* Sun Nov 22: San Diego CA at Casbah
* Fri Nov 27: Denver CO at Walnut Room
* Sun Nov 29: Kansas City MO at Record Bar
* Mon Nov 30: St. Louis MO at Off Broadway
* Thu Dec 03: Asbury Park NJ at The Saint
* Fri Dec 04: New York NY at Highline Ballroom
* Sat Dec 05: Philadelphia PA at World Cafe Live
* Sun Dec 06: Goshen MA at The IMA Big Barn

I was lucky enough to have some time with them both just before their first show of the tour at Club Passim the famed club in Cambridge, Massachusetts that started as Club 47 in 1958. You can find their upcoming dates at on McKeown's site or Sobule's site.

Sobule has released eight albums since her first, Things Here are Different in 1990, including releases on the Atlantic and Artemis Record labels. Her latest album, California Years, was financed entirely by her fans with tiers of donation levels and corresponding tiers of how donors were involved with hearing or participating in the record itself. Aiming for $70,000, Sobule ultimately raised close to $90,000 from 500 of her fans.

McKeown has also released eight albums since her first, Monday Morning Cold, in 1999 including releases on Nettwerk Records and Signature Sounds. McKeown raised money to produce her new album, Hundreds of Lions, by producing a series of online video variety shows, each webcast from different spots at her home in Western Massachusetts. McKeown charged a subscription rate to view all four episodes. You can still subscribe and view these. The album was just released by Ani DiFranco's label Righteous Babe Records.

McKeown was also on a panel called "The New DIY: Creative Control in an Accelerated World" at the recent Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit in Washington D.C.

McKeown and Sobule are literally leading the way in the new music ecosystem where musicians and music fans are connecting directly with each other via the internet. Instead of musicians sharing their revenue with a record store, a distributor, and a record label, artists are utilizing fan-funded opportunities to allow them to bring new work to their fans. Some other recent examples include David Bazan, Kristin Hersh, Idlewild, Issa (Jane Siberry), Marillion, Amanda Palmer (hear the Well-Rounded Radio Interview), Public Enemy, and Michael Tarbox (hear the the Well-Rounded Radio Interview).

Sobule's California Years was produced by Don Was (Was (Not Was) and producer of Bonnie Raitt, Rolling Stones, B-52’s, and many, many more) and written over the past three years after she moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and is often very much about the Golden State. As she has long done, Sobule switches between subjects that touch you and humor with some real substance...she keeps you guessing and coming back for more.

McKeown's Hundreds of Lions was produced by her longtime musical partner Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter (hear the Well-Rounded Radio Interview), Langhorne Slim, Kris Delmhorst). Together they experimented with pairing acoustic and synthesized sounds, resulting in a lush, sophisticated record that continues McKeown's musical journey as a performer that you can never quite predict what sounds she'll be creating next. Just the way I like 'em.

We recently spoke in the dressing room at Club Passim--with all the sounds you'd expect in a nightclub and restaurant-- to discuss:
* how each of them came to decide to organize fan-funded projects
* some pros and cons to recording and releasing your own work
* what they’ve learned by being pioneers...and what they still aspire to learn

Songs featured in this episode from McKeown's Hundred of Lions and Sobule's California Years albums include:
1) Erin McKeown: Santa Cruz
2) Jill Sobule: Nothing to Prove
3) Jill Sobule: San Francisco
4) Jill Sobule: The Donor Song
5) Erin McKeown: The Foxes
6) Erin McKeown: The Rascal
7) Jill Sobule: Where is Bobbi Gentry?
8) Erin McKeown: To a Hammer
9) Jill Sobule: Palm Springs
10) Erin McKeown: You, Sailor
11) Jill Sobule: Empty Glass
12) Erin McKeown: The Foxes
13) Jill Sobule: League of Failures
14) Erin McKeown: (Put the Fun) Back in Funerals
15) Jill Sobule: Spiderman
16) Erin McKeown: 28
17) Jill Sobule: Mexican Pharmacy
18) Erin McKeown: Seamless
19) Jill Sobule: A Good Life
20) Erin McKeown: The Boats
21) Jill Sobule: The Donor Song

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Scott Kirsner of Fans, Friends & Followers: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

Somewhat unintentionally, a number of the last handful of episodes of Well-Rounded Radio have been about what may well be the future of the music business, with interviews featuring Michael Bracy of The Future of Music Coalition, Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity, Jeff Price of TuneCore, and Joshua Boltuch of Amie Street.

As more and more power has been taken out of the hands of the traditional music industry and put in the hands of musicians, it's feeling like the goals are no longer a major record label deal, massive amounts of commercial radio airplay, a hit video on MTV, or the cover of Rolling Stone, even if those things are still all very welcome.

So what's next, for both musicians and music fans who want to discover their next favorite band or recording?

Certainly it's going to be a more direct relationship between them than ever before and, at least for the near future, will entail the artists or their "people" closely managing these relationships through tools like email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace,, and an ever-growing list of online technologies that are helping us all to connect.

Scott Kirsner's new book Fans, Friends, & Followers looks at how some pioneers are using the internet to connect with their audience, grow that fan base, and turn it into something profitable without the traditional infrastructure in the music, comedy, publishing, and film & video industries.

Kirsner is a journalist for Variety and The Boston Globe and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Wired, Fast Company, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, BusinessWeek, and Newsweek, among other publications.

Kirsner writes the CinemaTech blog, which explores the way technology is changing the entertainment industry. He is the author of Inventing the Movies, a technological history of Hollywood published in 2008, and The Future of Web Video: New Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers, first published in 2006.

Kirsner is one of the founders of the Nantucket Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Future Forward events. He also speaks and moderates regularly at entertainment industry events, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the South by Southwest Film Festival.

As some recent success stories like Jill Sobule, Issa (the artist formerly known as Jane Siberry), or Amanda Palmer (hear the Well-Rounded Radio interview with Palmer) are proving, artists can also go direct to their fans to help fund recording or visual projects as well.

Kirsner's book approaches each subject as a question and answer session, featuring such Internet music successes as Jonathan Coulton, OK Go, DJ Spooky, Jill Sobule, Richard Cheese, Chance, and the Coverville podcast, along with a look at new business models in video, visual arts, and narrative writing.

The episode features music from many of these artists as well as a number of musical artists who I am friends with or follow or are fans of on things like Facebook and Twitter. I essentially sent out a note to a variety of musicians that I am connected to and, to Scott Kirsner’s point, I basically crowdsourced the majority of music in this episode in a matter of about five hours. Many of these songs are new that have not been released or demos, which I think is a great example of how the internet has changed how musicians, online media like me, and audiences like you are all now interacting.

I sat down with Kirsner at his office in Beacon Hill in early Summer in Boston to discuss:
* why he decided to write about a book about this subject now
* how all these changes in connecting are changing how musicians are behaving
* some ways to use the internet to better engage your fans--and find new ones

Music featured in the episode includes:
1) Pressure Cooker: Without Purpose (in preview)
2) Zoe Keating: Walking Man (in preview)
3) Lovewhip: Love Electric
4) John Haydon: Blue Van
5) The Jescos (including Timothy Bracy of The Mendoza Line): Movable Feast Blues
6) Lagoon: Blind
7) Song Sparrow Research: Colored Paper
8) Hallelujah the Hills: Classic Tapes
9) Jonathan Coulton: Code Monkey
10) Jill Sobule: Nothing to Prove
11) Amanda Palmer: The Point of it All
12) John McGrath: Some Holy Ghost
13) Preacher Jack: I'm in Love Again
14) Richard Barone: Girl
15) Dear Leader: Barbarians
16) OK Go: Here it Goes Again
17) Young Tremors: Pebble in My Sea
18) Bodega Girls: She's Into Black Guys
19) Jenn Vix: The Fire
20) Richard Cheese: Gin and Juice
21) The Sissormen: Maddie Sweet Maddie

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jay Sweet of Folk Festival 50: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

The Newport Jazz Festival started in 1954 by George Wein and is celebrating its 55th anniversary on August 8th and 9th in Newport, Rhode Island.

It's slightly younger sibling, long known as the Newport Folk Festival and going by the name George Wein's Folk Festival 50 this year, is celebrating its 50th anniversary on August 1st and 2nd. The folk festival was started by Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Albert Grossman, Pete Seeger and George Wein.

Jay Sweet (pictured with founder George Wein) has been producing the festival for the last few years and you may also know his name as Editor-at-large for Paste magazine. Sweet also co-owns a music services company called Sweet & Doggett.

This year's line-up includes The Avett Brothers, Balfa Toujours, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, The Campbell Brothers, Neko Case, Guy Clark, Judy Collins, Dala, Dear Tick, The Decemberists, Brett Dennen, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Tim Eriksen and the Shape Note Singers, Fleet Foxes, Arlo Guthrie, Iron and Wine, Ben Kweller, Langhorne Slim, The Low Anthem, Del McCoury, Tift Merritt, Tom Morello: The Nightwatchmen, Joe Pug, David Rawlings Machine, Josh Ritter (listen to the Well-Rounded Radio interview with Josh Ritter), Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples, and Gillian Welch. You'll hear some highlights from many of these artists woven into my conversation with Sweet.

You can buy tickets to next weekend's festival at and if you can't make it to Newport, listen to NPR Music's webcasts.

It's safe to say most people know about the festival because of a single event: the time Bob Dylan plugged in and allegedly got booed by fans of his acoustic music, but when you think about it, that's kind of silly. Newport has been going for all these years bringing new talent to their stages long before and after Bob Dylan was booed (or not).

I've attended the festival several times in the past and it's always great fun. It's a beautiful venue at Fort Adams State Park surrounded by Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay and the mood feels more like a gathering of friends than it does like many big music festivals these days.

To learn more about the spirit and performances of the mid-1960s version of the festival, there's a 1967 documentary film entitled Festival based on the 1963-1965 festivals out on DVD.

With Boston's Summer of 2009 non-stop rain ceasing for a little while, we took advantage of it and did the interview in Sweet's backyard on Boston's north shore. There’s a bit of wind hitting the microphones at the beginning, but it doesn't last. And so when you hear birds, now you’ll know they are the real thing.

I sat down with Sweet to discuss:
* how and why the festival has kept its loyal audience over the years while also keeping up with times
* how they curate the festival with both familiar and unfamiliar names on the bill
* why playing the festival is a seminal moment for so many artists in their careers

Music featured in the episode from artists performing at the George Wein's Folk Festival 50 in 2009 include:
1) Langhorne Slim: Rebel Side of Heaven
2) Josh Ritter: To the Dogs or Whoever
3) Pete Seeger: The Wreck of the Old 97
4) Tift Merritt: Broken
5) Arlo Guthrie: Grand Coulee Dam
6) Iron and Wine: White Tooth Man
7) Ben Kweller: Things I Like to Do
8) Neko Case: Don't Forget Me
9) Fleet Foxes: Mykonos
10) Del McCoury: I'm Bound for the Land of Canaan
11) Dear Tick: Friday XIII
12) Dala: Lonely Girl
13) Tao Rodriguez-Seeger:
14) Mavis Staples: Freedom Highway (live)
15) Billy Bragg: The Beach is Free
16) The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love 2
17) Joe Pug: Hymn #101
18) The Campbell Brothers: Good all the Time
19) Ramblin' Jack Elliott: Sowing on the Mountain
20) Balfa Toujours: J'au vu le loup, le r
21) Tim Eriksen and the Shape Note Singers: The Maid Freed From the Gallows
22) The Low Anthem: Charlie Darwin
23) Gillian Welch: My First Lover
24) Joan Baez: God is God
25) The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You

Jay recommends Bonnaroo, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and The Forecastle Festival.

Charlie recommends Bumbershoot and Green River Festival.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Joshua Boltuch of Amie Street: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

So, back in the 70s, my older siblings Michael, Maureen, Joseph, and John respectively turned me onto Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon, Led Zeppelin, and The Monkees and my cousin Thomas turned me onto The Clash, The Ramones, and Talking Heads.

With that kind of introduction and education, it's no surprise I got hooked on music and started buying vinyl.

If I remember correctly, Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was my first in 1973 at Korvettes in Flushing, Queens...of course a double album. My dad told me that if it affected my grades in any way, he would take it away. I was seven.

$4.99 was then the going rate for a single LP. Then the prices slowly starting climbing over the years, despite Tom Petty’s very public efforts in the early 80s, and vinyl rose bit by bit until it was about $7.99 or $8.99.

When CDs came along in the late 80s, even though they were less expensive to produce, the list prices put them at $14.99 or more. Over the last 10-15 years, the street price has settled at about $11.99 or so, but of course lots of places sell them for more and less than that. Of course now CD prices are dropping in price to compete with digital downloads and they are often costing less than mp3s albums.

After the demise of the original Napster and the rise of iTunes, the $.99 a song model arose and somehow took hold. But in an era where many listen to music free from myspace or off of artists’ web sites and others file share, most working musicians are wondering how they will make a living making music when it's clear you can’t rely on the sale of a physical product any longer, along comes an idea that I really like.

Amie Street was started in Providence, Rhode Island on Amie Street on July 4, 2006 by Elliott Breece, Josh Boltuch and Elias Roman while at Brown University. They are now based in Long Island City, just across the river from Manhattan. Roman is the Director of Business Development and Operations, Breece is the Director of Product Development, and Boltuch is the Director Public Relations and Marketing.

We'll talk more about how Amie Street works during my interview with co-founder Joshua Boltuch, but the idea is that when a song is added, it starts free up to .98 and will go up in cost as demand rises up to a maximum of .98. Occasionally, shoppers who frequently recommend artists will also get credits from Amie Street, so it’s a bit of a buy back strategy.

The mp3 files are all free of digital rights management, or DRM.

Musicians receive 70% of the revenue from each sale. And yes, I know that for musicians recording music costs a lot of money, especially if you go into an 24 track studio to do it, but I also know there's something to pricing things at the right point to get those impulse buys. Part art and part science, on Amie Street more than a few times I have bought an artist’s entire album because I heard 60 seconds of a song, like it, and it was priced at $3.00. Would I have done that if it were priced at $9.99 or $16.99?

I find the interface of Amie Street to be among the best out there in terms of leading you from one genre, artist, or song to the next. It might not be quite the same as wandering the aisles of your favorite brick and mortar record store, but there is something about the interface and sampling opportunities that are more thought-out than what most of the big online music retailers have done.
It has also incorporated some social networking functionality into the site, so you can see what other friends are listening to and be turned on to artists in a more webby way.

This interview was recorded in October 2008 and I'm afraid it just delayed for a handful of reasons, but I’m happy that it’s seeing the light of day now, just as Amie Street comes up on their third anniversary.

I sat down with co-founder Boltuch at the Amie Street offices in Long Island City to discuss:
* How and why mp3s started getting priced at $.99
* How Amie Street is using the net’s technology to help music fans find more music
* Why musicians are submitting their music to Amie Street and what they like about the business model

Music featured in this interview includes:
1) Passion Pit: Little Secrets
2) Dirty Projectors: Stillness is the Movie
3) Harlem Shakes: Nothing but Change Part II
4) Juana Molina: Un Dia
5) Tulsa: Fill Her In
6) Machel Montano: Defense
7) Sadie: Dien Blaues Auge-Brahms
8) Camera Obscura: French Navy
9) The Faraway Places: Run While True
10) Marco Benevento: Now They're Writing Songs
11) Boyou Roux: Zydeco Sont Pas Sale (No Salt in The Snap Beans)
12) Prabir and The Substitutes: Who's Going to Love You?
13) Chuck Brown: Autumn Leaves
14) Heidi Berry: Time
15) Elvis Perkins in Dearland: Shampoo
16) Peaches: I Feel Cream
17) Gongui: Me Ama Te Amo
18) Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens: Trouble in my Way
19) The Kills: Fried My Little Brains
20) These United States: Honor Amongst Thieves
21) MSTRKRFT: 1,000 Cigarettes

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rick Berlin: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

Rick Berlin started making music in the early 1970s and continued through a handful of bands over the last three decades, including Orchestra Luna, Orchestra Luna II, Luna, Berlin Airlift, Rick Berlin: The Movie, The Shelley Winters Project, and, most recently, simply as Rick Berlin.

As a piano player and songwriter, Berlin's style has run the gamut from the theatrical to the confessional. In several of these incarnations, Berlin came close to breaking it in the music industry, but as he's learned, sometimes the stars don't always align the way they should. During our interview, Berlin takes us through anecdotes about some of these bands and we'll get to hear musical highlights from throughout the years.

Having grown up in New York, I was aware of Berlin's music over the years and learned about his 2006 album Me & Van Gogh from Hi-n-Dry Records from feature articles in The Boston Globe and The Boston Phoenix. His latest CD, Old Stag, was released in 2008.

In many ways, these latest two records and his upcoming project are a third (or maybe a fourth?) act for Berlin’s career and at 64, it’s great to hear him making such intimate, sparse, and powerful music. Berlin is a truly great story-teller songwriter, engaging you in parts of the story without giving it all away.

For fans of Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, Ben Folds, or Leonard Cohen, Berlin's albums will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Berlin recorded Me & Van Gogh at Hi-n-Dry, the studio and music collective that I’ve featured on Well-Rounded Radio in the past with our interviews with Twinemen, Jimmy Ryan, and Monique Ortiz. Billy Conway, drummer for Morphine, Twinemen, and the Chip Smith Project, co-produced Me & Van Gogh and Tom Dube engineered and mixed it.

Old Stag was recorded in Berlin's living room, with help from sound engineer (and neighbor) Joe Stewart and string arrangements from Brendan Cooney.

Berlin will be performing at the new Hi-n-Dry space at The Somerville Armory on Saturday, May 9th with a string quartet. For more information and to buy tickets, visit Brown Paper Tickets. The concert is a fundraiser for The Mark Sandman Music Project. You can also check for other upcoming performances on Berlin's site.

You can see some video of Berlin on YouTube.

Berlin is also working on a video documentary about our shared home town, Jamaica Plain or JP. Take a look at some clips of Jamaica Plain Spoken on YouTube; Berlin is open to receiving donations to help complete the project.

We recently met at his apartment, down the street from the Brendan Behan Pub, to discuss:
* The various musicians and artists he's worked with while making music over the years.
* How he found himself playing on Mark Sandman’s piano to record Me & Van Gogh with the help of the Hi-n-Dry group
* How he recorded Old Stag at home and on a limited budget, with great results

Songs featured in the interview include:
1) Rick Berlin: House on Fire (Old Stag) (in preview)
2) Rick Berlin: Don't Talk about Joan (Me & Van Gogh)
3) Orchestra Luna: Doris Dreams (Orchestra Luna)
4) Orchestra Luna: Boy Scout Songs (Orchestra Luna)
5) Orchestra Luna: Little Sam (Orchestra Luna)
6) Orchestra Luna II: Greyhound (live) (Special Class)
7) Orchestra Luna II: Dear Kate (Special Class)
8) Luna: Dumb Love (demo)
9) Berlin Airlift: Over the Hill (Berlin Airlift)
10) Berlin Airlift: Don't Stop me from Crying (Berlin Airlift)
11) Rick Berlin: The Movie: Eddy Isn't Coming Home (Filmclip)
12) The Shelley Winters Project: Nothing (Forced 2 Swallow)
13) The Shelley Winters Project: Blood (EP)
14) Rick Berlin: Me & Van Gogh (Me & Van Gogh)
15) Rick Berlin: Rock n Roll Romance (Me & Van Gogh)
16) Rick Berlin: Do You Still Love Me (Me & Van Gogh)
17) Rick Berlin: City is Empty (Live at Jacques)
18) Rick Berlin: Never Stops Raining (Song Saves)
19) Rick Berlin: Unknown Soldier (Old Stag)
20) Rick Berlin: Happy Lesbians in the Snow (Old Stag)
21) Rick Berlin: Your Light is On (Old Stag)
22) Rick Berlin: Michiko (Old Stag)
23) Rick Berlin: Elle (Old Stag)
24) Rick Berlin: How Can I Hate People I Don't Know?
25) Rick Berlin: Walkin' in the Hood (Song Saves)
26) Rick Berlin: Criminal (Me & Van Gogh)
27) Rick Berlin: John Lennon's Nose (Old Stag)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Jeff Price of TuneCore: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

As anyone who buys music knows, the way we are finding it and buying it has changed radically over the last 15 years.

For musicians, it used to be that if you wanted someone to release your music, you'd have to get the attention and approval of an artist and repertoire (or A&R person) at a label, work to sign a deal either big or small so that the label would then press up your product and work with distributors to get your vinyl or 8-track or cassette or CD to ship them out to record stores where the music fan could have access to them.

Now, all you have to do it is get some audio files online and instantly be able to have your music available to the current online global audience of 1.5 billion people, which is still just about 23% of the world's population, so the potential for reaching new audiences continues to grow. As mobile devices get smarter, it's inevitable that consumers will be downloading more music and playing it without a desktop or laptop computer even being involved, too.

As a result of the rise of digital download stores such as iTunes and Amazon mp3, the need has come for new companies to aggregate songs and distribute them out to all these growing online stores.

That's where TuneCore comes in.

After SpinArt, Price went on to work with, first as a consultant, then as interim VP of Content Acquisition, and finally as the Senior Director of Music/Business Development. He contributed towards the creation of eMusic's initial business model and created and implemented the first subscription-based music sales and distribution structure.

In 2005 Price started TuneCore, which is an aggregator which helps get digital music into online stores such as iTunes, Amazon mp3, eMusic, Rhapsody, Napster, Amie Street, Groupie Tunes,, and lala.

TuneCore has also been in the news in recent months as some very mainstream acts have used the service to get their music direct to consumers, including Nine Inch Nails and Paul Westerberg. Just a few weeks back, it was announced that Aretha Franklin would be using TuneCore to distribute her version of My Country Tis Thee that she performed at the Obama inauguration.

TuneCore's competitors are services such as IODA, The Orchard, and CD Baby and I discuss with Price about what makes TuneCore different from these services. I hope to interview founders and representatives of these services in the future as well.

This episode includes music from a variety of independent music that has been submitted to be for Well-Rounded Radio. I can't say that all have used TuneCore, but they are indicative of independent musicians these days who are producing great music on their own and using the Internet to reach new audiences.

I met with Price during an event for held by The Future of Music Coalition's in New York City to discuss:
* how artists can use a service like TuneCore to get their music out to download-to-own music services
* what it costs to use and what other services TuneCore offers to musicians
* how it's a part of a very different music industry than what we had fifteen years ago

Music included in the episode includes:
1) Slow Car Crash: There It Is (in preview)
2) TVC15: Ao
3) Anais Mitchell: Shenadoah
4) Papermoon: House of Cards
5) Rev. Bob & The Darkness: Dead Man Running
6) Michael W. Smith: Above All
7) Ray Mason: Question to Answer
8) Clay McClinton: Left My Baby Blue
9) Los Soberanos: Francamente
10) Bill Noonan Band: Big Enough to Hide In
11) Satoru: Life is Never Long Enough
12) Fort Pastor: Fall With Me
13) Shauna Burns: Gotta Get Ahead
14) JJ Appleton: Falling Down
15) Nine Inch Nails: 3 Ghosts I
16) Paul Westerberg: Board of Edukation
17) Aretha Franklin: My Country Tis of Thee

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monique Ortiz: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

The first time I learned about Monique Ortiz (visit her Facebook or Myspace pages) was in The Boston Phoenix four or five years ago in an article about Bourbon Princess, the band she played in for several years and who released three albums: Stopline (2000), Black Feather Wings (Accurate Records, 2003), and Dark of Days (Accurate Records and Hi-N-Dry Records, 2005). Reading about Ortiz, who is a singer/songwriter who plays fretless bass and 2-string slide bass, and Bourbon Princess, and their approach to jazz, rock, and blues, I knew I had to hear more.

Over these releases, Bourbon Princess' members have included Dana Colley of Morphine and Twinemen (baritone and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, melodica, samples; listen to his interview with Twinemen on Well-Rounded Radio from 2002), Jerome Dupree (drums and percussion), Russ Gershon of Either/Orchestra (baritone, tenor, and soprano saxophones; stay tuned for the Well-Rounded Radio interview in the coming months), Dave Millar (drums and percussion), Jim Moran (guitars, piano), and Jonah Sacks (cello and backing vocals). Other musicians who appeared on their albums include Jimmy Ryan (mandolin, listen to his Well-Rounded Radio interview from 2005).

In recent years, Ortiz has released a sparse, solo album with Reclining Female (Obskur Vudu Records, 2007) and a new venture into "low-rock" with the band A.K.A.C.O.D. with Happiness (2008). A.K.A.C.O.D. includes Dana Colley along with Larry Dersch of Binary System, Angeline, and the Bad Art Ensemble on drums. The band's acronym name stands for "also known as Colley Ortiz Dersch."

Ortiz was inspired by Morphine's Mark Sandman in both his bass playing and voice. She's also been compared by writers to Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry, PJ Harvey, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Nina Simone, Patti Smith, and David Sylvian of Japan.

Depending on how you look at it, Ortiz's sound has either borrowed from Mark Sandman's sound or helped take it to the next level. As she explains in the interview, she was drawn to the sound that Sandman and Morphine were making and, over the years, has worked with many of the musicians and artists that Sandman created with, many of which are a part of the former Hi-N-Dry recording studio (which was Sandman's home before his 1999 death) and the record label.

Ortiz wrote a terrific post on her
Myspace page
a few months back about the difficulties of being a traveling musician in this era of constant flux in the
music industry. I had been trying to have her on Well-Rounded Radio for several years, but the blog post made me
want to sit down and find out more about how musicians are tackling the new economy of the music business. We go into
the subject in depth.

I spoke with Ortiz in September in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss:
* how her musical paths led from Pennsylvania to Boston and what lured her
* why it's so difficult these days for bands and artists to thrive these days
* how her recent projects developed and what's next in the coming months

Photo: Kelly Davidson.