Well known Canadian photographer Andrew McNaughton’s new book “Grace: Africa in Photographs” was inspired by a 3 week trip in Kenya and Tanzania where he photographed warrior tribes, school children, local townspeople and some of the most beautiful animals in the world. McNaughton is renowned in the music world for his photographs so the music tie-in with this book makes perfect sense. My Matt Tracks this week are inspired by this project and highlight some of the artists you can find in Grace: Africa in Photographs, sales of which will result in new child sponsors for World Vision.
As a producer Daniel Lanois has helped shape great records by artists like Bob Dylan, U2 and Willie Nelson. As an artist himself he has made some amazing music such as the album “Here is What is” which was also the name of documentary released at the same time examining his music making process. You will love it.
Not the first or last time you’ll hear me say this: Ron Sexsmith is one of the great songwriters on the planet. His songs have been covered by people like Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and Steve Earle and this song, which he released on his 1995 self titled album, has been covered by Rod Stewart, Nick Lowe and most famously by Leslie Feist.
Nobody is more surprised than me that I’ve picked a Fefe Dobson song as a Matt Track, believe me. I dug this tune the moment I heard it and that’s all that matters, it’s a good song and kinda has a little Joan Jett thing happening which I like. (I really like this video too if I’m being honest).
Listen up all you Vampire addicts. Here’s what you need to know before your little Twilight took over the world: The Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula-that’s all you need to know. This song was used in the end credits of Bram Stoker and was written and performed by the excellent Annie Lennox.
Bruce Cockburn has been making music since the late 60’s and is not only a renowned songwriter in this country and around the world but he’s also a well known humanitarian and environmentalist who has tackled social issues inside and outside of his songwriting. “Waiting for a Miracle” is without a doubt my favorite of his many tunes (Ps it was also one of Jerry Garcia’s favorite songs).
Buy this book and support a great cause,
I’ve been interviewing musicians for a long time; nine years in case you are wondering. Sometimes it feels like nine seconds, sometimes it feels like 90 years, depends on what day you catch me. This job is really just a form of people watching and a successful interview has as much to do with being well researched as does the circumstance in which the interview takes place. Interviewing musicians backstage while they are running between media outlets, their seats, and the bar, at the biggest celebration of Canadian music is not exactly Charlie Rose territory, but that type of in-depth conversation is not really expected at the Juno’s.
The idea is to be prepared to chat with anyone, at any moment, and just hope that if Neil Young or Robbie Robertson decide to stop by for a chat you are mentally ready and not flustered by the fact that you just spent 10 minutes reading about Melanie Fiona because she was supposed to stop by first. You have to understand that every media outlet in Canada is back there hoping to grab a sound-bite and scoop the next media outlet and all the artists want to do is celebrate with their friends and family because they just won a Juno. For our part, we were not interested in scooping anyone or adding to the mad rush of competition. We just wanted to try and find a moment out of the madness to have a conversation, as short as it might have to be, and paint our own picture of the night.
Is it ideal? No. Is it enjoyable? Meh. Is it exciting? Absolutely. There is something exciting about trying to force interesting conversations with artists for five minutes at a time, every 5-10 minutes. I’ve never experienced speed dating but I would suggest that our backstage Juno experience is exactly like speed dating and lucky for me…I’ve dated most of these people before.
What you are seeing here is the raw and unedited interviews we managed to score and even though Neil Young and Robbie Robertson did not stop by, I did see them walk by and I’m kinda glad that’s all it was because I want my first date with those dudes to be a little more romantic and special, like a first date should always be.
Highlights you ask? Me trying to cheer Sean and Bob from Great Big Sea up after losing their 12th straight Juno, Daniel Lanois’s hat and confession that there is no rhyme or reason to how he has navigated his almost perfect career, Classified making it through my three minute questions, Blue Rodeo making it through my three minutes questions and Keshia Chante’s mouth answering the question, but her eyes wondering “why in God’s name at the Juno’s is this guy asking me about Minnie Mouse?”
But my favorite moment of the night was interviewing “New Artist of the Year” winner Meaghan Smith because it was her first Juno experience and we were her first interview after she won her first Juno. It’s about as honest as it gets in this industry, she is over the moon with excitement and cannot believe that she just won a Juno and it’s written all over her face. She is giddy in the way I assume most people are after a first date with me.
Speed dating is fun,
Blue Rodeo 1
Blue Rodeo 2
Buck 65 1
Buck 65 2
Daniel Lanois 1
Daniel Lanois 2
Great Big Sea 1
Great Big Sea 2
As soon as the business of music became such an important part of getting it to people’s ears, music started to get lost under the shadow of cool, scenes, cliques and the people who possess the influence of it getting heard. On the flip, for just as long, there have been people trying to find ways for music to get it’s proper due despite all of those things. I think for the average unaffected music lover, those things don’t really matter and they are in a fortunate position where they can just love what hits their ears if it connects with them. For some of us however (at least in my opinion), knowing the garbage truck of events that often carry’s music to it’s ultimate destination….it’s hard to know which way to look, as much as music means to us.
Even excellent events like the UK’s Mercury Prize and our own Polaris Music Prize can sometimes run the risk of becoming their own scenes with a slight air of elitism in their righteous goal of rewarding music on the merit or art and song rather than sales or popularity, it’s hard to avoid. That being said, we all need to find something we can relate to or find someplace we feel as though we belong; that’s what music is. Maybe I just feel like I belong to the group who has to question everything….which I’m kinda ok with. I think because I’m so overly skeptical of that garbage truck which delivers music to us, that when I do find something that connects with me that also has found a place on the biggest of popularity contests like an industry award show, I get really happy. I get really happy because I’m either feeling like the underdog is getting a shot or that for a brief moment all that matters is how the music makes me feel and I’m just digging what I’m hearing with no thought of the back-story. It’s also possible that maybe I’m not happy at all and I’m just reacting to the “outside the garbage truck” riding shotgun in the garbage truck. Either way, the garbage truck is hard to avoid and sometimes it carries something beautiful ……enter Laura Marling and Janelle Monea.
Rambling Man-Laura Marling (2010)
The years 2 big music award shows have already come and gone if you can believe it: The Grammy’s and the Brit Awards, popularity contests at best lets be honest….but I can’t ignore the appearance of Mumford and Sons, Janelle Monae and Arcade Fire. I mentioned Laura Marling last week in Matt Tracks as originally a back up singer for UK band Noah the Whale but this week she joins us after winning best female solo artist at the Brits. In a time when the UK is blowing our minds with amazing female voices……she is your next favorite.
Cold War-Janelle Monae (2010)
Janelle Monae performed in the middle of the Grammy awards and was introduced by Bruno Mars who sat in as her drummer. Most people at home were wondering who the hell she was and the near perfect performance she gave not only proved why Big Boy of Outkast put her on the “Idlewild” soundtrack as an unknown artist in 2006 but also why she was signed to P Diddy’s Bad Boy records in 2008. In a time when we long for spit, guts and heart to take us through a live performance that can use lights and production as an accomplice rather than a disguise…..she is here to make it so.
Chuck Berry’s importance to the history and evolution of Rock and Roll is best kept simple as not to write something that feels full of all the reasons necessary to do him justice, just to end up probably not doing him justice at all. Basically his influence and pioneering set the stage for The Beatles and Elvis, without Chuck Berry it’s very likely that music’s path over the past 60’s years would have been completely different. Here’s an interesting fact about his first hit Maybellene: Back in the day influential radio DJ Alan Freed was credited as one of the writers of this song which had nothing to do with any creative input, it was a form of payola in hopes of getting the song played on Freed’s radio show. At one time Alan Freed was the most influential figure in music who could single handedly turn a song into a hit, and his appearance at the stage shows he put together caused as much of a reaction from screaming teenagers as did the sight of the musicians on the bill. Freed was at the forefront of a musical revolution that saw black Rhythm & Blues music find the ears of a white audience and despite the payola scandal that has become attached to his legend, Alan Freed is another person who helped shape the path of Rock and Roll.
It’s easy to talk circles around what was happening with payola in the 50’s; on one hand it was a dirty extension to the gate-keeping that has plagued music and has never really gone away and on the other hand it helped expose a lot of the artists who are now our legends of music. Was it wrong for Leonard Chess of Chess Records to slip Freed and every other DJ cash in exchange for pushing a record? Yes, it was wrong but it did expose Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly and Etta James (and every other music legend you can think of) so you can almost (ALMOST) justify it with some sort of hindsight formula, but what cannot be justified was the loss of royalties the musicians faced as a result. Granted, without a DeLorean and Dr. Emmet Brown to bring us back into the middle of the1950’s music industry it is hard to pass judgment, but the fact that Alan Freed along with a guy who was an investor in Chess Records were both listed next to Chuck Berry as songwriters for this song, resulting in Chuck losing an enormous amount of money is hard to comprehend. The worse detail about this common practice in the early days of rock and roll and roll is the fact that very often the artist had no idea it was happening.
Daniel Lanois –The Maker (1989)
Daniel Lanois is best known for his renowned work as a producer with artist like U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Neil Young and Willie Nelson…not bad right? However, you need to learn about him as a songwriter; his own albums over the years-even though they have lived under the shadow of the famous people he has produced, are easily just as good, if not better. Form one of the greatest Canadian albums of all time, 1989’s Acadie, check out The Maker by Daniel Lanois which has been covered by Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson and Jerry Garcia.
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret-Queens of the Stone Age (2000)
Josh Homme has quietly become one of the most important figures in Rock and Roll over the past 20 years. In the late 80’s it began with the band “Kyuss” who are still one of the best stoner rock bands who have ever lived, most recently of course he is part of the epic band “Them Crooked Vultures” with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones but his best contribution to ze rock in my opinion has been with “Queens of the Stone Age” in particular their 2000 album “R”. On this album Homme takes the heavy and mixes it with the catchy in a way that mothers and their kids with tattooed knuckles can still find common musical ground when the Johnny Cash records are all over.
thanks for listening,
Posted: March 15th, 2011 | Category: Matt Tracks, Uncategorized | Comments: No Comments
Tags: Chuck Berry, Daniel Lanois, Janelle Monae, Josh Homme, Laura Marling, Matt Tracks, matt wells, Queens of the Stone Age