Independent's Day
Independent's Day
Joe Armstrong
The music business is changing at the speed of light. The traditional model of the way music is made, distributed and enjoyed is going the way of the dinosaur, allowing independent artists to control their destiny. Want to know how it's done? Independent's Day host Joe Armstrong brings you independent artists, producers and music industry visionaries with in-depth interviews, live performances and inside information - without hype and direct from the artists who practice their craft.
Episode 224: ID FFWD with Freedy Johnston
Freedy Johnston’s Can You Fly album landed on a number of 1992 best-of lists, with legendary music critic Robert Christgau calling it "a perfect album” and penning the following about the record: “Contained, mature, realistic in philosophy and aesthetic, its every song a model of open-ended lyrical detail and lithe, sly melodicism, it's a flat-out monument of singer-songwriterdom--up there with Randy Newman's 12 Songs, Joni Mitchell's For the Roses, and other such prepunk artifacts.” Not too shabby. But the peak of Johnston’s fame came with the 1995 single “Bad Reputation” from the follow-album, This Perfect World, produced by Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, et al). Johnston has been out there slogging it out ever since, releasing an ongoing career’s worth of albums filled with incisive songs delivered in his trademark reedy tenor voice. Johnston first joined us on Independent’s Day for episode #62 in December of 2012, and he was kind enough to return just in time for the release of his brand-new album, Back On the Road to You (Forty Below Records - 9/9/22). Joe and Freedy had a wide-ranging discussion that ranged from the making his new album, the perils of social media in a divided society, and how eager he is to get back on the road to play shows after being sidelined by the Covid-19 pandemic. He also treated us to three exclusive live performances of “There Goes a Brooklyn Girl,” “Somewhere Love,” and “Tryin’ to Move On” - three new gems from Back On the Road to You.
Sep 7, 2022
1 hr 16 min
Episode 223: ID FFWD with Dan Navarro
Dan Navarro had just launched his post-Lowen and Navarro solo career when he first joined us on Independent's Day for episode #103 back in March of 2014. Now he's back with his second solo album, Horizon Line. Between dates on his never-ending solo tour and a stop by The Grammy Museum for a special Q&A show, he dropped by the ID World Headquarters to tape a new FFWD episode in order to share some stories and a batch of new songs. Dan is never at a loss for words, and there is a lot to be learned from his approach to life and music.
Aug 24, 2022
51 min
Episode 222: The Whitmore Sisters
Perhaps there exists nothing more beautiful than when beauty is mixed with sadness. Add in some world-class musical talent, the type of harmony singing only possible between siblings, and the benefit of the 10,000-foot view of life gleaned by formative years in flying machines and you have a starting point for The Whitmore Sisters. The elder, Eleanor, has been making music for years as one-half of The Mastersons and performing and recording as a member of Steve Earle’s band, the Dukes. The younger of the pair, Bonnie, has been making a name for herself with a number of solo albums full of fearless songwriting and tours with the likes of James McMurtry. Although close, the Whitmore sisters hadn’t recorded together in an official capacity until the Covid-19 pandemic presented a silver lining opportunity in the form of a self-imposed Covid bubble of isolation and time away from their normally-busy schedules as working musicians. With music touring, recording, and nearly everything else shut down, Elanor’s husband, guitarist Chris Masterson, challenged Elanor and Bonnie to use the break wisely and finally get to work as a duo in order to feature their ample talents. With Masterson producing, The Whitmore Sisters conjured their debut album, Ghost Stories, in the midst of shutdowns and once-in-a-century uncertainty, and the results are self-evident and reflective of both their upbringing and their status as roots rock royalty. The Whitmore Sisters’ father was a Navy pilot and folk singer, and the album’s opener, “Learn to Fly,” reflects life as experienced in the unmatched freedom and peril of flight. As for the other half of their family tree, their mother was an opera singer, which makes for the perfect bloodline to imbue the real-life tragedy of the loss of a pair of Bonnie’s former romantic partners - one of whom was singer Justin Townes Earle, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2020 - into songs like “Friends We Leave Behind.” There is also a take on their friend Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “Big Heart Sick Mind” and a cover of the Paul McCartney-penned and Everly Brothers-sung “On the Wings of a Nightingale” to complement their original compositions. Ghost Stories has the beauty, the sadness, the wings, and the joy of life in its eleven songs, standing as a strong and long-overdue debut from The Whitmore Sisters.
Jan 19, 2022
1 hr 45 min
Episode 221: Elizabeth Goodfellow
Drummer, percussionist, and multi-instrumentalist Elizabeth Goodfellow has built a career for herself out of playing with an ever-growing number of innovative artists. You may have seen her onstage or heard her on records by Iron and Wine, Madison Cunningham, Calexico, Orkesta Mendoza, the indie-pop supergroup called boygenius made up of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus, the New York-based jazz ensemble The Hot Sardines, and the recently multiple Grammy-nominated Allison Russell. She brings a creative approach and a studied work ethic to her collaborations that are rare in the music industry, and indeed nearly any other discipline. When you’re as good as Goodfellow is, people take notice – and it’s the kind of devotion to her craft that earned her a feature in Modern Drummer magazine in 2018. And if that’s not enough, she has more recently added the titles of singer, songwriter, and composer to her impressive list of talents. Her compositions feature the marimba, angular vocal melodies, and personally fearless lyrics, as well as exploring the creative possibilities of audio looping and sampling technology in a whole new way. Utilizing the ability to layer sounds in real time during a performance, it would be easy to overlook the degree of difficulty in Goodfellow’s mesmerizing percussive soundscapes. But go ahead and get lost in her songs. It’s a hell of a ride and it’s worth every mallet strike. She released a vinyl single in 2021 called “Terror and Trust,” a title that could serve as a mission statement for her unique and courageous approach to making music. She makes it look easy, but it is assuredly not.
Dec 22, 2021
2 hr 18 min
Episode 220: Leeann Skoda
Nashville is a town filled with great singers and great songwriters, and certain rare artists are endowed with exemplary gifts in both endeavors. Leeann Skoda is just that kind of artist, and although she’s from Arizona and currently calls Los Angeles home, she chose Nashville as the setting to record her new EP, Lucky Penny. While it’s true that Skoda cut her teeth singing choral music and the kinds of country standards that comprise the foundation of every storied building on Music Row, her musical evolution on Lucky Penny reveals that her palette is infinitely more varied than yet another cookie cutter country singer in a sequined shirt. Sure, she can pull off a convincing Emmylou, Maybelle Carter, or Sheryl Crow - and she’s been doing so for years both with her own songs as well as a hired gun session singer - but the adventurous soundscapes of her new direction are more indicative of a Fumbling Towards Ecstasy-era Sarah McLachlan or even Radiohead’s pioneering The Bends or OK Computer albums. The five gems on Lucky Penny were written during an especially inspired artistic period fomented by a month-long songwriting challenge with a friend, and the self-imposed ambitious parameters of turning out new songs day by day paid off in spades. Skoda makes both the writing and the singing sound easy, but they most certainly are not. Making rare gifts sound easy is the hallmark of a true artist.
Nov 5, 2021
1 hr 30 min
Episode 219: David Burchfield
Anyone who has ever attempted to entertain an audience with only their voice and an acoustic guitar faces a daunting task. Both the guitar and the human voice to be sure are versatile and dynamic instruments, but it can be a serious challenge to pique and retain the interest of listeners without the driving beat of a drummer or the pyrotechnics of an accomplished lead guitarist or saxophone player - especially in the Internet age, when performers find themselves competing with a world of entertainment options in their listeners’ pockets. Solo performers had damn well better have good songs and an engaging presence, and Rocky Mountain troubadour David Burchfield is a natural in this setting. Burchfield cut his teeth playing in churches in his native Kansas, but it was during collegiate summers when he learned how to connect with an audience in an intimate setting by swapping songs around mountain campfires. A detour into a teaching career was redirected back to music after a nighttime scooter trip to the store resulted in a harrowing accident that left Burchfield bruised, but with a newfound sense of life’s fleeting brevity. His new lease on life and its associated perspective became a fortunate outcome for both Burchfield and his listeners, as he is adept at quickly and elegantly interpreting both life’s grandiose and intimate moments into song. Now fully rededicated to songwriting and performing, Burchfield’s newest album, State to State, is full of gems. Songs like “Glad I Got Out Of There” connect the things the author loves about the people and places of his formative home with what happens when a soul discovers that home can also be somewhere else life has delivered you. And on a recent tour, Burchfield found himself in Los Angeles for the first time, where he discovered that California’s largest city was something far more complex and nuanced than his expectations - and he wrote a song about that, too. It is a rare gift to be so close to one’s muse.
Jun 3, 2020
1 hr 24 min
Episode 218: Benjamin Jaffe
Benjamin Jaffe spent over ten years as half of the Americana duo HONEYHONEY, making acclaimed records and crisscrossing the country playing catchy and memorable songs for dedicated fans. But every band has a life cycle, and after more than a decade of steady grinding, HONEYHONEY’s indefinite hiatus left Jaffe in the challenging position of having not been the primary singer in his former outfit. But the lemonade in this situation is that Jaffe is an incredibly gifted singer, songwriter, and performer in his own right, and shedding the conventions and expectations of a band meant that he was standing at the threshold of a musical tabula rasa. Jaffe took the ball and ran with it, and his newfound freedom to explore any and all disparate influences is evident on his solo debut album, Oh, Wild Ocean of Love. With Jaffe playing nearly all the instruments himself, smooth crooning rubs up against aggressive electric guitars, pithy and clever lyrics delve confidently into subjects familiar to fans of the best of American songwriters, and a rich sonic palate may surprise fans more accustomed to hearing an Americana stomp out of Jaffe and Co. Benjamin Jaffe’s new solo direction places him in the company of Father John Misty’s wry observations, Jeff Buckley’s emotive vocal prowess, and Rufus Wainwright’s compositional bonafides.
Mar 11, 2020
1 hr 28 min
Episode 217: Geoff Pearlman
It was a concert by glam rock juggernauts Kiss that opened a 9-year-old Geoff Pearlman’s eyes to the possibilities of a life in music. Guitar lessons soon followed, as did a series of high school rock and roll bands playing the usual Rush and Van Halen covers. But when most kids were picking traditionally sensible collegiate career paths, Pearlman turned into the wind and signed up at Boston’s Berklee College of Music - a breeding ground for legitimate musicians and a unique place to learn the particulars of the craft. After all, a profusion of musicians can play some guitar, but it is a select few who put in the work to dig in and play the instrument beyond what’s necessary to accompany themselves. A significant percentage of Berklee students leave before finishing a degree program, launching themselves into work opportunities - but Pearlman stuck around and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in professional music in 1991. He gigged in San Francisco for several years before settling in Los Angeles, a town with a rich history of talented sessions players. Pearlman’s hard work continues to pay off, as his list of credits includes Norah Jones, Shelby Lynne, Jakob Dylan, Linda Perry, Syd Straw, George Drakoulias, Joan Osborne, Marc Ribot, Don Was, Disney’s High School Musical albums, and music written for for the Travel Channel, The Food Network, Fuller House, Jag, and more. His most recent high-profile gig was playing guitar in the house band in the 2019 film Echo in the Canyon, a documentary about the fertile late 60s music scene in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon. Echo in the Canyon found Pearlman sharing the screen and stage with some of the most respected and well-known musicians in history. Although Pearlman maintains a busy schedule working with other artists and producers, he continues to release his own albums to showcase his writing and performing. His new release, Lost in the Satellites, provides an interesting what-if glimpse into what modern pop music could sound like if the music industry hadn’t been waylaid at the mumble rap exit. Lost in the Satellites is sonically rich and packed with great songs, inventive arranging, and performances by Pearlman and other musicians devoted to putting in the work necessary to be great at what they do.
Jan 22, 2020
1 hr 18 min
Episode 216: Robbie Fulks
Robbie Fulks is a sort of latter-day Renaissance Man. After spending his formative years in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia, Fulks eventually settled in Chicago - where his fresh take on American roots music established his status as one of the progenitors of what would become the alt-country genre. Fulks’ fearless and uncompromising approach to his art is exemplified by a longtime association with insurgent country record label Bloodshot Records and a friendly working relationship with firebrand Chicago-based producer and engineer Steve Albini. In the last twenty-plus years, Fulks has released thirteen albums of his own, as well as accompanied numerous other artists both onstage and in the studio. Fulks is also known as a music journalist, having penned a blog and had his writing published in GQ, Blender, Chicago Reader and elsewhere. When he wasn’t playing, recording, or writing, Fulks has hosted an XM satellite radio interview and performance program and spent twelve years teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. But it is Fulks’ whip-smart songwriting, high lonesome Buddy Miller-esque vocals, and facile and inventive guitar work that first earned him fans in Chicago’s underground country music scene, and it’s what keeps them coming back to shows across the country.
Nov 27, 2019
1 hr 6 min
Episode 215: Monks of Doom
In the great and colossal tree of music there are many, many branches - and out toward the tall leaves on the side that faces the highway to psychedelic oblivion there exists bands and artists that truly follow their own sun regardless which way the wind blows. Monks of Doom grew out of the late-80s California experimental music scene that birthed one of the original indie rock juggernauts, Camper Van Beethoven. As Camper started to build a fan base and garner industry attention, it seems that the band's peculiar blend of gypsies-on-acid folk and angular psychedelic pop weren't quite experimental enough for Camper members Victor Krummenacher (bass), Greg Lisher (guitar), Chris Pedersen (drums), and Chris Molla (guitar) - the latter of whom was soon replaced by their friend, session musician and eventual member of Counting Crows, David Immergluck (guitar). Indicative of their fearless approach to creating music, Monks of Doom's 1987 first album Soundtrack to the Film 'Breakfast on the Beach of Deception' was a mix of improvisational instrumentals and quirky songs from a movie that didn't actually exist. After the dissolution of Camper Van Beethoven in 1990, Monks of Doom entered an artificially fertile period that saw the release of two albums and an EP in the span of less than a year. But even with a devoted fan base across the country, the grind of relentless indie-level touring and minimal label support took its toll and the band amicably split in 1992. Solo projects from Krummenacher and Lisher followed, and a 1998 send-off performance after Pedersen announced a move to Australia put the band once again in the same room, fomenting an atmosphere for Monks of Doom's legendary chemistry. The good vibes were an epiphany for the band, and perhaps inspired by the reformation of Camper Van Beethoven in 2004, Krummenacher, Lisher, Immergluck and Pedersen figured out what they already knew - that Monks of Doom makes music on their own terms, when and where they want - and the band has been sporadically active ever since. The band's most recent album, 2018's The Bronte Pin, is another beautifully strange chapter for a musical ensemble built to expressly exemplify being beautiful and strange.
Jul 31, 2019
1 hr 26 min
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