Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Kyla Fairchild of No Depression: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

The No Depression Festival takes place Saturday, August 21, 2010 at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington and features Sera Cahoone, The Cave Singers, Alejandro Escovedo, The Maldives, Chuck Prophet, The Swell Season, and Lucinda Williams. Buy tickets for $45.

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Long before the internet came barreling along, music magazines were one of the most important ways for music fans to read about their favorites and discover new artists.

I've spent my share of time and money reading great 4-color, glossy, music magazines and newspapers through the years: Rolling Stone. Creem. Trouser Press. NME. Melody Maker. The Big Takeover. Goldmine. Musician. The Bob. Record. Matter. Forced Exposure. Spin. Magnet. Ray Gun. Jazz Times. Paste. Filter. Harp. Mojo.

How would the audiences of modern music have grown and expanded were it not for all these magazines and dozens more like them? I'd be lying if I said all these wonderful publications didn't greatly shape my tastes in music, art, culture, and prose--and my record collection.

But why are they important? Just like blogs or podcasts, it was and is the people behind them...the writers and editors, photographers and designers, sales reps and trafficking and subscription folks. People who, by and large, really loved music and played the roles of tastemakers and critics and curators, bringing their favorites to the masses.

No Depression was another magazine I often bought, too. No Depression published its first print edition in 1995 and continued through 2008, carrying on the great traditions of smart writing and in-depth interviews with a focus on Americana or roots music or, alt-country, as it was called in its earliest days.

No Depression was co-founded and co-edited by Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock. The pair of writers brought Kyla Fairchild on as Publisher shortly thereafter and today she's keeping No Depression on as an online-only publication to galvanize fans and musicians of Americana and beyond.

The name No Depression comes from The Carter Family's 1936 song No Depression in Heaven, covered by Uncle Tupelo in 1990 on their debut album. From there, it became the name of a bulletin board about alt country that lived on America Online back in those early days of the consumer web, at the same time when this idea of country-influenced rock was beginning to gain traction. You can read more about this history of the song and magazine on nodepression.com.

I first discovered No Depression in 1995 at the UW bookstore when I was living in Seattle while working at another start-up magazine: MovieMaker, a title about independent film.

Over the course of 13 years and 75 issues No Depression featured artists such as Blue Mountain, Solomon Burke, Steve Earle, Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, Patty Griffin, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Buddy Miller, Gram Parsons, The Shins, Son Volt, Ralph Stanley, The Waco Brothers, Whiskeytown, and Lucinda Williams, along with many others. We'll hear music from some of these artists during our interview.

Through the years the No Depression brand expanded through books, bookazines, radio series, tours, and more.

The Internet has clearly opened a lot of doors for music, without a doubt. I could argue, though, that it's reducing our attention span to nothingness in this era of “there’s always something else over there that is more shiny and new.” The reality of a shifting business model also means fewer record labels have a budget to advertise in magazines, making producing quality productions like No Depression magazine impossible.

Is this a good thing? I don't think so.

No Depression was highly regarded for its in-depth articles and interviews: they received Utne Reader’s Independent Press Awards for Arts & Literature coverage, and was cited as one of the nation's Top 20 magazines of any kind in 2004 by the Chicago Tribune.

With all their back-issues online, you can read 99% of their editorial content. You can also buy back issues of most of the print issues.

Fairchild is keeping the brand going by using the Ning social networking platform, volunteer writers and contributors, and 80,000 unique readers per month connecting and conversing at nodepression.com.

In 2009, Fairchild added a concert held just outside Seattle in Redmond's Marymoor Park with Justin Townes Earle, Iron & Wine, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and Gillian Welch among others.

The 2010 No Depression Festival takes place Saturday, August 21st and features Sera Cahoone, The Cave Singers, Alejandro Escovedo, The Maldives, Chuck Prophet, The Swell Season, and Lucinda Williams. I’ve also featured many of them in this episode, too. Buy tickets for $45.

As so many online ventures, No Depression is now supported by advertising, merchandise and donations, so if you like what to hear in this show and on their site, then click on ads that interest you, buy something from from their advertisers, buy some No Depression back issues, books or bookazines, wearables, posters, bags and stickers, or make a donation.

I met with Fairchild in Seattle this spring to discuss:
* how she made her way into the publishing and advertising biz
* why she decided to take the leap to publishing No Depression online
* what she's learned being a pioneer in the field

Songs featured in the interview include:
1) Uncle Tupelo: No Depression (No Depression)
2) Lucinda Williams: Real Love (Little Honey)*
3) Son Volt: Catching On (Trace)
4) Blue Mountain: Blue Canoe (Dog Days)
5) The Shins: New Slang (Oh, Inverted World)
6) Jason and the Nashville Scorchers: Hot Nights in Georgia (Fervor)
7) The Carter Family: No Depression in Heaven
8) Buddy Miller: Returning to the Living Water (Universal United House of Prayer)
9) Merle Haggard: I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink
10) Emmylou Harris: Every Grain of Sand (Wrecking Ball)
11) Patty Griffin: Rain (1000 Kisses)
12) Loretta Lynn: You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man
13) Solomon Burke: Don't Give Up On Me (Don't Give Up On Me)
14) Steve Earle: Amerika v. 6.0 (The Best we Can Do) (Jerusalem)
15) Ralph Stanley: Poor Rambler
16) The Waco Brothers: Do You Think About Me? (Do You Think About Me?)
17) The Maldives: Tequila Sunday (Listen to the Thunder)*
18) Sera Cahoone: Baker Lake (Only as the Day is Long)*
19) Alejandro Escovedo: Faith (Street Songs of Love)*
20) Chuck Prophet: Where the Hell is Henry? (Let Freedom Ring!)*
21) The Swell Season: High Horses (Strict Joy)*

* Performing at 2010 No Depression Festival.


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