Interview #4: Jonny Lang.

Jonny Lang began his career at the tender age of fourteen, catapulted into the world of blues with his preternatural guitar skills and grizzled voice a few decades older than he was. At twenty-eight years old he has offered up four studio albums - Lie to Me, Wander This World, Long Time Coming, and Turn Around - and infused a gospel sensibility into his latest work, one testament to a life that has been way more than just interesting.

1. From the point that you first picked up a guitar, how long was it before you were what we would call "proficient?"

2. How were you discovered? The music industry is full of tales of luck and connections; tell me yours.

3. Your voice changed in between your first two albums; how cool was it to be able to add even more grizzle and unearned life experience into a fresh set of lyrics? Did you try to overdo it a little, the way my brother would answer the phone in a deep voice in case it was a girl?

4. What is your assessment of the blues market today? What do you think it would take to attract more listeners to the genre?

5. How has your musical expression changed/evolved as you have grown up?

6. Describe your voice using one word. (Can't use 'grizzled'!)

7. Any time an artist goes in a different direction, they know they will alienate a portion of their fans. What kind of response did you perceive to Turn Around, especially concertwise?

8. When I saw you in concert last, you changed the lyrics to "Wander This World" a bit to reflect your conversion to Christianity. Are there any songs on your albums you would leave off now if you could?

9. With so much life still ahead of you, where do you want to ultimately end up?

10. Will you sign my arm and be a guest mentor on American Idol next season? :D



Interview #2: Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette helped define the nineties, a decade already awash in combat boots, tragically hip alternative musicians, and female empowerment. Her first album, Jagged Little Pill, sold over 30 million copies worlwide and helped her win four Grammys, including Album of the Year. Subsequently she released Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, Under Rug Swept, Feast On Scraps, So-Called Chaos, and Flavors of Entanglement, among other things.

1. What I found refreshing was learning that you went to India, as many celebrities were doing at the time, in search of something - enlightenment, whatever - and yet you were disillusioned by what you found. Describe what that was and how you interpreted it.

2. You have referenced 'God,' 'Spirit,' and other ways of naming a higher power. How would you describe yourself religiously?

3. In my opinion, SFIJ is one of those albums that young people will discover decades from now and absolutely adore. With it being the follow-up to your massive hit of a debut, how do you think of SFIJ now, in retrospect? Did you accomplish what you set out to do with a follow-up?

4. My personal favorite album of yours is Feast on Scraps. (It's comprised of songs left off of Under Rug Swept) Not only is it some of your best work, period, but the songs are much more edgy and haunting than the album on which they didn't make it. Why did you feel compelled to keep them off the original?

5. In the same vein, Under Rug Swept is probably your most 'pop' album. Describe the decision-making process in selecting the songs that made the final cut; and did they accurately portray the kind of sound you wanted for a follow-up to SFIJ?

6. With an Alanis album, I can always expect the quiet, haunting songs as well as the hardcore, in-your-face dark stuff. What parts of your personality help to create each of those disparate sounds? Which type of song do you prefer more?

7. The paradox of the music industry is: stick with a tried-and-true formula and be criticized for not trying new things; try new things and be criticized for veering away from your fans. Have you felt that you personally experienced this in your career?

8. With your latest album, Flavors of Entanglement (which has gorgeous album art, by the way), you introduced a more synthesized production. What are your thoughts about how it turned out? Do you feel in some ways the synthesizer is better equipped to provide the sounds you hear in your head?

9. Where do you see yourself headed next?

10. Be honest, now - what exactly did you see in Dave Coullier?!



Interview #1: Jay Clifford

For the uninitiated, Jay Clifford is the former leader of South Carolina band Jump, Little Children, which disbanded several years ago. They released three official studio albums, Magazine, Vertigo, and Between the Dim and the Dark, along with some demo tapes and EPs and live albums.

1. JLC spent some time in Ireland learning the musical traditions there, and it influenced quite a few of your melodies and lyrics. Why the Irish tradition in particular, and not something else?

2. Vertigo is probably the most experimental and ornate of the three studio albums. What influenced the new ideas?

3. With BTDATD, did the band feel the need, as a sort of last-ditch effort at broad commercial success, to "mainstream" their sound and if so, how was that decision reached?

4. Talk about the song Pidgeon and its inspiration. Did you have to research all the flora you name-dropped, or is gardening a secret hobby of yours?

5. The piano opening of Mother's Eyes is gorgeous. Have you ever composed classically, or ever thought about doing so?

6. Cathedral, from your first album, is perhaps your biggest hit. What do you think made it so popular?

7. For my sake, for once and for all...what is Say Goodnight really about?

8. Music has of course evolved since 1998 when you guys formally debuted. If the band were to put an album out today, what kind of sound do you think it would have?

9. Who are some of the musicians and bands today who you feel are most similar to the JLC catalogue?

10. Will you sign my arm? :-)


Encyclopedia Brown!

I've been realizing recently that I have an almost encyclopedic memory for all things American Idol. (Yeah, I know...that again. What can I say, it's my favorite show) If a contestant during the current season sings a particular song I know if it has ever been done before on Idol, and by whom, and when (and what they were wearing, and what the judges thought...)

For example, Matt Giraud sang 'My Funny Valentine' this season for Top 5 week, which had the Rat Pack theme. Melinda Doolittle also sang it during the semifinals in season 6, as did Constantine Maroulis for Broadway week back in season 4.

Adam Lambert's scintillating performance of 'Satisfaction' during the seminfinals this year? Bo Bice also sang it during season 4, Top 3 week, and it was Paula's "Judge's Pick" for him. (He wore a yellow shirt, I believe)

How about Heart's 'Alone'? Carrie Underwood claimed it as hers the second week of the finals in season 4 (the theme was Billboard #1 hits); Ramiel Mulaby attempted it season 7 the week before she was finally eliminated, and Allison Iraheta did just as awesome with it as Carrie, if not better, this year for her semifinal performance.

The ubiquitous 'All By Myself'? LaToya London tackled it during the semis in season 3 to great acclaim (though I thought it was just so-so) and wearing all white; Gina Glockson did alright with it during the semis in season 6, and Asia'h Epperson tried it during the season 7 semis (again, wearing white). My advice? Stop singing the song during the semifinals!

Bon Jovi, you ask? There was a Bon Jovi week during season 6 in which Bon Jovi was also the mentor; Blake Lewis pulled ahead of the pack, for a minute anyway, with his reinvention of 'You Give Love a Bad Name;' Jordin Sparks, the eventual winner, sang 'Livin' on a Prayer,' which the judges roundly dismissed; David Cook, season 7's winner, later auditioned with the song.

Whitney Houston? Who hasn't done Whitney? Jasmine Trias made it to the top 12 (sadly) season 3 by singing 'Run to You;' Kat McPhee sang 'I Have Nothing' during Love Song week (top 6) in season 5, wearing a gorgeous yellow dress with a dangerously high slit; Asia'h Epperson sang 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' during the season 7 semis (her last performance, which the judges hated and I loved); Syesha Mercado, later that season, sang 'I Will Always Love You' during Dolly Parton week, and - same season - Chikezie Eze sang 'All the (Woman) That I Need' not once, but twice (as an audition song as as his final semifinal performance, which got him into the Top 12).

It goes beyond that weird feat, though. There have been four female and four male winners; three African-American and five Caucasian (although I qualify it usually by reminding people that Jordin is mixed); all of them were single when they won except Kris and all of those singles are still single except for Ruben who was married last year. The only winner with children was Fantasia, and when people seemed to have a problem with that I reminded them that all the way at the beginning, in season 1, Nikki McKibbin had a four-year-old son and made it to top 3. The oldest winner was Taylor Hicks at 29; the youngest, Jordin Sparks at just barely 17.

There have been 4 male-female Top 2s, 3 male-male, and 1 female-female. Only once has there been an all-male Top 3 and that was this year. It would have been last year but Syesha outlasted Jason Castro; it would have been season 5 but Kat oulasted Chris Daughtry. There have been 3 female-female-male Top 3s - seasons 1, 4, and 6, and only one all-female Top 3 - season 3 (and they actually had the only all-female Top 4, also)

I could go into guest mentors and Bottom 3 statistics and audition cities but you may effectively want to kill yourself, so I'll stop. I just wanted to mention my cool and totally worthless talent. :-)