A new podcast continuing the history as told by the music makers themselves, chronicling the life we love to live, behind the songs we live to love.
Season 2: Episode 6: Nicole Atkins
Season 2: Episode 6
Photo by Barbara FG
Episode 6 of Song Chronicles’ second season features a freewheeling conversation with Nicole Atkins, a singer-songwriter NPR Music hailed as “one of those people who is so inventive in everything she does.”
Last April, Nicole released her fifth full-length, Italian Ice, an album she described as to "an acid trip through my record collection." It certainly serves up an exquisite blend of soul, country, rock, blues, and classic pop that showcases her powerful, dramatic voice.
Unable to do her normal touring for her new album, Nicole got creative and hosted an online record release event. She also started presenting a weekly livestream variety show, We’re All In This Together. During the summer, Nicole switched to doing a live streaming series, Live From the Steel Porch, initially based out of Asbury Park’s Langosta Lounge (near her hometown of Neptune City, New Jersey) and later from The Dive Motel in East Nashville, her current home.
Nicole performing at the Langosta Lounge
In December, Nicole released the holiday single “Every Single Christmas,” which she co-wrote with JD McPherson. (She quite accurately described her version as “Cyndi Lauper and Brenda Lee, the spirit of the NY Dolls and The Ramones' 'Palisades Park,' all rolled up into a National Lampoon’s Christmas movie"). Endlessly creative, she has already put out via Bandcamp this year covers of Brenda Lee’s “Break It To Me Gently” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust," as well as a duet with her friend Marissa Nadler on The Fleetwoods’ gem “Mr. Blue.”
The pandemic also gave her the opportunity to spend a lot of time with another of creative loves: painting. In fact, this interview took place while she was creating a mural at the Ivy Manor Studios in Sheffield, Alabama in the legendary Muscle Shoals area.
Nicole points out a detail of the mural she was painting at Ivy Manor Studios
Portraits of the Swampers that Nicole painted
Muscle Shoals has been a favorite destination for Nicole of late. It’s the location for her label, Single Lock Records, which was founded by The Alabama Shakes’ Ben Tanner and the acclaimed singer-songwriter John Paul White. She also recorded Italian Ice at the renowned Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Featuring contributions from Swampers David Hood and Spooner Oldham, Spoon’s Britt Daniels, the album has garnered much acclaim. Consequence of Sound raved that Italian Ice is “the best thing she’s done so far,” and Elvis Costello stated it proves “once more that you can respect the ‘then’ and still be about the ‘now’.”
Nicole outside and inside the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Music has been a major part of Nicole’s life since childhood. She began learning piano when she was nine, taught herself guitar at 13, and was playing in bands by seventh grade. While she went to University of North Carolina at Charlotte to study art, Nicole admits she concentrated more on music. During her time in Charlotte, she played in the popular local band Nitehawk and the alt-country group Los Parasols. She then spent several years bouncing between Charlotte and New York City, sometimes playing in groups and sometimes solo.
Nicole performing on Late Night With David Letterman Show in 2007
Attracting major label interest, Nicole and her band The Sea signed with Columbia in 2006, with their debut, Neptune City, appearing in 2007. Nicole had a new band, dubbed The Black Sea, when she started doing her second album; however, problems with Columbia made her leave the label without the album being released. The record (entitled Mondo Amore) eventually came out on Razor & Tie Records in 2011.
Nicole singing at La Zona Rosa at 2010's SXSW. Photo by Kirk Stauffer
While preparing to make album three, Nicole su
Season 2. Episode 5: Bob Ezrin - Part 2
Season 2: Episode 5
This episode features the second half of our conversation with Bob Ezrin.
Few producers have had careers as Bob Ezrin has had. The award-winning producer has worked with some of rock’s biggest acts (Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Green Day, Kiss, Rod Stewart, Jane’s Addiction, and U2).
Bob worked with Jane's Addiction on 2003's Strays album. Photo by Neil Zlowzower
In the first part of our interview, Bob talked about producing The Wall, one of the greatest concept albums in rock history. In fact, he is well known for his work on concept albums, helming such projects as Kiss’s Music From “The Elder,” Lou Reed’s Berlin, Kansas’ In the Spirit of Things, Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, and Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare & Welcome 2 My Nightmare.
Bob in the studio with Kiss in 1976
According to Bob, his love for injecting a sense of theatricality into albums comes from his childhood, and his amusing explanation involves a historic record player, Sir Thomas More, and Spike Jones (the comical 1950s bandleader, not Spike Jonze the filmmaker).
Bob flanked by 2Cellos. Photo by The Canadian Press/Michelle Siu
Producing all those adventurous albums exemplify Bob’s values in record-making, among which that it’s important to see, as well as hear, the music when creating a record. A record is simply another form of theater. His work impressively has covered a broad range of genres: Americana (Jayhawks), New Wave (Berlin), Country (Johnny Reid), Celtic (Natalie McMasters), Classical (2Cellos), Folk (Murray McLauchlan), Jam Bands (Phish), Pop (Air Supply), and Soundtracks (Heavy Metal 2000).
Bob at work with the band Hanggai
The scope of his massively successful work includes recording acts from all over the world, such as Finland (Hanoi Rocks), France (Téléphone), Italy (Andrea Bocelli), Uganda (Geoffrey Oryema), Spain (Héroes del Silencio) and Mongolia (Hanggai). He also takes on music projects with iconic musician-actors like Tim Curry, Kristen Chenoweth, Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars), and Johnny Depp (Hollywood Vampires).
Paul McCartney stopping by a Hollywood Vampires' recording session. Johnny Depp on the far left with Bob, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry on the right side
Bob is also familiar with mixing for live recording projects such as Taylor Swift’s Speak Now World Tour Live, The Alice Cooper Show, and Roger Daltrey’s A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who.
Donovan (far left) visits with Glen Buxton, Alice Cooper, and Bob, circa 1972
Bob’s latest collaboration with Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories, came out shortly after our conversation took place. This project represents a truly special aspect of Bob’s career – his long-running relationships with performers. He’s done over a dozen Alice Cooper albums, going back to 1971’s Love It To Death. His partnership with Kiss spans from 1976’s Destroyer to 2012’s Destroyer Resurrected. It also shows up in his work with Peter Gabriel (Gabriel’s 1977 solo debut and 2010’s Scratch My Back) and Pink Floyd (1979’s The Wall and 1994’s The Division Bells).
The guys behind Detroit Stories Courtesy Detroit Free Press
Notable too is Bob’s lengthy work associations with two revered rock guitarists: Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter. He met each guitarist on two of his earliest production jobs: Hunter was in the Mitch Ryder-fronted band Detroit while Wagner played in the short-lived group Ursa Major. Over the years, Bob tapped Dick and Steve for other many projects, most prominently were the times the two played guitar together in Alice Cooper’s and Lou Reed’s bands. Not surprisingly, Bob also produced solo albums for each guitarist.
Bob with Steve Hunter
In recent years
Season 2: Episode 4: Bob Ezrin
Season 2: Episode 4
Episode 4 of Song Chronicles Season 2 presents the first of our two-part interview with the renowned producer Bob Ezrin.
Since the 1970s, Bob has been the producer of some of the biggest albums in rock history. Here are some of the albums he did during his first decade as a producer: KISS’s record Destroyer, Lou Reed’s Berlin, Peter Gabriel’s solo debut, Pink Floyd’s landmark record The Wall, and seven hit albums with Alice Cooper.
Bob with Alice Cooper circa 1975
A Toronto native, Bob launched his career at the age of 19 when he got a job with Jack Richardson, a top Canadian producer. In this episode, he reveals the funny circumstances involved with his first producer’s gig: Alice Cooper’s breakout record Love It To Death.
The important mentorship he received from Jack was a reason behind Bob starting the Nimbus School of Recording & Media, a school he co-founded with Jack’s son, Garth.
During our conversation, Bob touches on what he sees his job is as a producer, and why he feels it is vital “to keep the passion and wonder of youth for as long as you can.”
Bob in the studio with Phish's Page McConnell
Bob has produced albums for Deep Purple, Rod Stewart, Jane’s Addiction, The Deftones, The Catherine Wheel, Hanoi Rocks, The Jayhawks, Phish and more.
Bob and Deep Purple's Roger Glover
He also has made soundtrack albums, produced classical acts like 2CELLOS and the Canadian Tenors, and made opera superstar Andrea Bocelli’s first #1 album, Si.
Bob at work on Andrea Bocelli's album
In the 1990s, Bob helped start the computer software company 7th Level and the internet radio provider Enigma Digital. He co-produced the star-filled 2009 benefit The Clearwater Concert, which celebrated Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday and, more recently, was involved in the stage version of Berlin.
The stage adaptation of Lou Reed's Berlin
You will also hear some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about the making of The Wall, including the studio technology that Bob introduced to Pink Floyd.
Bob welcomes Alice Cooper, Desmond Child and Louise to his studio. Photo by Kyler Clark
And this is just half of our entertaining interview with Bob Ezrin! You’ll hear more from him in the next edition of Song Chronicles.
But for now, enjoy the first of our two episodes with the one and only Bob Ezrin.
Season 2: Episode 3. Jeff Trott
Season 2: Episode 3
“When you make a record, it's like a snapshot of your life at that time.” Jeff Trott, the guest on this episode of Song Chronicles, certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to making records. The songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist has appeared on hundreds of albums since he started out playing guitar with the San Francisco-based alt-rock band Wire Train in the mid-80s.
Wire Train (Left to Right)
Jeff Trott, Kevin Hunter, Anders Rundblad, Brian MacLeod
Jeff is best known for his long-running work with Sheryl Crow, a collaboration that has earned him a Grammy and BMI’s Songwriter of the Year honors. They first met, in a true case of serendipity, in the early ‘90s. Starting with her second album, he has served as a co-writer, accompanist and producer for Crow straight through her latest full-length, Threads.
Jeff with Sheryl Crow's band, circa 1997
Jeff talks about his songwriting process with Crow – including how her contributions to his early version of “If It Makes You Happy” turned the tune into the Grammy-winning smash hit – as well as why he finds collaborating such as fascinating, mysterious thing to do.
Jeff performing with Sheryl Crow
Now Nashville-based after living most of his life on the west coast, Jeff possesses a lengthy and impressive resume featuring well-known acts that cut across the rock, country, blues, folk, and pop genres. Jeff was awarded Songwriter of the Year by BMI in 1998. Along with hits with Sheryl Crow, such as "If It Makes You Happy”, "Everyday is a Winding Road” ,“A Change”, "My Favorite Mistake” and “Soak Up The Sun”, he's written songs with Counting Crows, G. Love, Clare Dunn, O.A.R., Robert Randolph, and more. He's toured with Tears For Fears, Pete Droge and World Party and recorded with the likes of Aimee Mann, Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Wade Bowen and Rob Thomas, to name a few.
During his days with World Party. Photo by Chris Whitten
As a producer, Jeff’s credits include working with Aaron Lee Tasjan, Fastball, Leighton Meester, Max Gomez, Martha Wainwright, and Pete Yorn. Probably his most prominent production work, outside of the Sheryl Crow albums, was doing Hootie and the Blowfish’s widely-acclaimed recent reunion record, Imperfect Circle. It’s a job he got rather unexpectedly, with a casual get-together with the band to talk songwriting leading to them asking Jeff to produce their album.
Assistant engineer Sean Badum, engineer Buckley Miller and Jeff during the Hootie & The Blowfish recording sessions
Jeff’s production work extends to film and TV too. He did the soundtrack for the Abigail Breslin film Janie Jones and co-produced a couple of Stevie Nicks tracks for the Practical Magic soundtrack. He even got a Daytime Emmy nomination for co-writing and co-producing with Crow the theme song for the Katie Couric talk show.
Despite his seemingly constant stream of work, Jeff did take the time out some years back to do a solo album, Dig Up The Astroturf, which he released on his own label. But even he used this project as a learning experience to discover all the things you need to know about making an album.
Photo by Kim Stringfellow
With his wealth and range of musical experiences, Jeff has accumulated all types of illuminating thoughts on what it takes to be a good collaborator, the tricky line you walk producing a band, and what has kept him enthusiastic about making music.
Photo by Steven Weinberg
Please enjoy listening to songwriter/musician/producer Jeff Trott on episode three of the second season of Song Chronicles.
Season 2: Episode 2. Robin Danar
Season 2: Episode 2
“I work in the shadows.”
For over forty years, Robin has operated behind the scenes making performers sound great whether he is manning the board in the studio or handling the front-of-house sound in venues large and small around the world.
The New York City native started hanging out with college DJs in Albany when he was a university student and soon found himself friends with musicians who were going places, writing their own songs. He went to NYC and introduced himself at CBGB, offering to sub for their front of house mixers and after getting the opportunity to fill-in doing freelance for them, hit it off with owner Hilly Kristal, becoming their full-time staff sound man in the late '70s. He got to mix for some iconic bands during their early days.
Robin working at CBGB
Robin also took a janitor job at RPM studios – a job that served as a way into learning engineering in a recording studio from mentors like engineer Jim Boyer (Billy Joel, Steve Winwood) and legendary producer Phil Ramone.
Some years later, the word on the street got out that he was known for his skills at getting a whole band, and particularly vocals, to sound great — so you could hear all the emotion and lyrics. He went on tour to mix sound for the likes of Laurie Anderson, Suzanne Vega, Cyndi Lauper, The Church, The Blue Nile, The B-52's, and more.
Robin's four-decade-plus career experience gave him a unique perspective where he is knowledgable in every stop along the way of an artist's career. Sometimes called to develop bands A&R wanted to sign, he also produced albums — even one of his own as artist-producer; he'd help performers focus their live performance; he understood how to tune a room, get the audience to enjoy a great mix no matter where they were seated or standing, the ins and outs of how to run a venue, the daily attitudes and devotion of a crew, how to keep performers feeling comfortable and at their best; and most of all, he's been the guy who knows what to do to make sure the artists and the audience can have fun at every gig.
At work at a show for The Church
“My goal is to make the performer be heard the way that they deserve to be heard so they can succeed.”
When he moved to Los Angeles, Robin collaborated with Nic Harcourt and the prominent NPR station KCRW, serving as a producer on the station’s “Sessions” series and "A Sounds Eclectic Evening" fundraisers, where six bands would perform on a revolving stage.
2008's Altered States, a unique producer-as-artist album featuring vocalists like Lisa Loeb, Rachael Yamagata, Pete Yorn, and the Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan.
At McCabe's with assistant John Calacci
Robin also mixes for shows he's passionate about, such as the revered McCabe’s Guitar Shop. For many years, he has been involved with the Wild Honey Foundation’s benefit concerts, where an all-star lineup of performers put on once-in-a-lifetime memorable tributes to a specific album by much loved bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Band, Big Star, and more. These shows raise money for autism research. Before COVID-19 venue lockdown, these shows were a yearly highlight for the Los Angeles community.
With singer Skylar Gudasz for a Wild Honey concert (Photo by Steve Appleford)
Since its opening in 2015, Robin has served as production manager at L.A.’s acclaimed Teragram Ballroom. After the pandemic hit, he started working with NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) and its Save Our Stages initiative, helping to compile a “bible” of production-focused protocol to help venues reopen safely and keep business flourishing.
Jeff DelBello, Ken Blecher, and Robin at the Teragram Ballroom
Throughout his interview, his hard-earned advice from his experiences within a diverse range of jobs he's ex
Season 2: Episode 1. Linda Edell Howard
Season 2: Episode 1
Linda Edell Howard
Song Chronicles launches its second season with a truly unique music insider conversation with Linda Edell Howard.
Linda during her high school cheerleading days
Linda is an attorney in Nashville who has been an advocate for songwriters and artists over the last 30 years. Her expertise, and the focus of our interview, is in the often-complicated areas of copyrights, publishing, and royalties.
In her first-ever podcast interview, she generously gives listeners an enlightening music business primer that any aspiring, or even experienced songwriter, would learn from. Linda discusses the significance of sync, blanket, and mechanical licenses, sources for royalties, and how song credits work — and the ways all of these can bring the songwriter, a "small business owner", as she calls them, money. We talk about how performing rights organizations differ from publishing companies, and how both differ from SoundExchange.
Linda Edell Howard with Charlie Daniels
One of Howard's specialties is in the field of legacy copyrights, especially termination rights. Her mantra “forever doesn’t mean forever” takes us further to her explanation of how songwriters can use the not-well-known termination laws to recapture the rights to their songs. In her world, people and their circumstances are always changing, and so is the value of a copyright. What does this mean for a music business attorney? Changing circumstances open doors to renegotiation, because as is the case with so many deals songwriters make starting out, no one knew the actual value of their catalog at that time they signed their publishing away. There is a window of time, Howard tells us, where those copyrights can revert back to the songwriter.
Linda with Desmond Child
You’ll discover the importance of the numbers 56 and 35 for copyrights, and what black box money and gray box money are — and how they can be windfalls for songwriters. Throughout our conversation, she shares some great insights and valuable tips.
Linda with her husband, Doug Howard
Linda currently is a partner at the Nashville law firm Adams and Reese, where she leads its Entertainment and New Media team. She was one of the seven attorneys featured in Billboard’s Women in Music 2016 and among Nashville Business Journal’s 2019 Women in Music City Award honorees. Linda takes deep pride in how her work, as she puts it, “actually changes people’s lives.”
Billboard's Women in Music 2016
(Linda third from the right)
As a teenager growing up in New Jersey, Linda aspired to be a rock photographer, hanging out at clubs along the Jersey Shore. She shifted her career goal from album cover design to law after realizing she could help musicians more as an attorney.
Kelly Putty (Ordinary Hero Foundation), Hillary Scott (Lady A) with Linda
After she graduating law school, Linda would spend her Sunday nights doing “contract clinics” for musicians at the Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony club, charging only a pizza slice and a beer. Her law career has included working for the Elvis Presley and George Gershwin estates and at PolyGram Music Publishing Group. More recently, her clients have included Fats Domino, Don Everly, Lady A, Desmond Child, Charlie Daniels, and Gretchen Wilson.
Linda and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Dickey Lee
We are delighted to present our first episode of Season 2,
an enlightening conversation with Linda Edell Howard.