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 9: Jon Platt
Season 2: Episode 9
Welcome to Episode 9, Season 2 of Song Chronicles. Our special guest is Jon Platt, the Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Publishing – a man Jay-Z proclaimed as the “the Obama of the music industry.”
Jon took a quite unusual path to becoming one of the most powerful and influential (music) publishers of the past 25 years," according to Variety. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Oakland, Jon was a high school student in Denver when he took his first step into the music industry. While working in a sporting goods store, he befriended a local DJ named Thomas Edwards, who showed Jon the deejaying basics and he soon became a popular club DJ.
Jon with Chuck D. photo by Desiree Navarro/Wire Image
Jon's next life-changing moment came when Jon was MC’ing a Public Enemy/Ice Cube concert. He got to talking with Public Enemy’s front-man, Chuck D, who told Jon not to settle for just being a DJ. “My music dream started the next day from that day,” Jon reveals in our conversation.
Inspired by Chuck D's words, Jon began managing some songwriters and producers in Los Angeles. In 1995, he got a low-rung job in EMI’s A&R department and quickly struck gold by signing Marqueze Etheridge, co-writer of the TLC’s smash, “Waterfalls,” one of the year’s – and the decade’s – mega hits. He credits his “DJ instincts” for his talent for breaking records like “Waterfalls” as well as his role behind the making of the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys smash single, “Empire State of Mind.”
Jon (on the right) with Sean Combs, Jay-Z, and Clarence Avant, one of Platt's mentor figures. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Image
At EMI Music Publishing, Jon signed Kanye West, Jay-Z, Diddy, Beyoncè, Drake, and Usher, while working his way up to being President of North America, Creative in 2011. He later moved Warner/Chappell, where he was appointed Chairman and CEO in 2015. Then in 2019, he took the same positions at Sony Music Publishing, the world's No. 1 global music publisher with a catalog of over three million songs.
Highly respected inside and outside the music business, Jon has received such honors as SESAC’s Visionary Award, Morehouse College’s Candle Award in Music, Business and Entertainment, and Black Radio Exclusive Magazine’s Man of the Year, and has been a perennial presence on Billboard’s prestigious Power 100 list.
with Pharrell Williams. Photo by Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Jon’s most cherished honor, however, is the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award - because the event raised more than $6 million for the hospital. He wholeheartedly believes in the importance of helping people because you can help. This belief is underscored in the story he shares about assisting in getting Kanye West onto Usher’s Confession tour along with his many philanthropic endeavors – such as starting the Big Jon Platt Scholarship Program in 2005 to help Denver high school students go to college.
Jon with his wife, Angie, Usher, and Rita Ora
He’s extremely proud too for being able to assist songwriters during the pandemic. Jon, who has championed songwriters throughout his career, helped to have Sony’s COVID Global Relief Fund donate over $2 million to songwriters – and not just Sony Music Publishing songwriters -worldwide. We also discuss the Music Modernization Act, which he believes is a step in the right direction for songwriting compensation. It’s important, Jon says, “to do the right thing by songwriters.”
Photo by Mary Beth Koeth
Please enjoy this very special conversation with Jon Platt as he offers his perceptive personal insights along with talking about his unique place in the music business, and his love for music and music-makers.
Season 2 Episode 8: Suzie Brown
Welcome to Season 2, Episode 8 of Song Chronicles. Our special guest this week is cardiologist and singer-songwriter Suzie Brown, whose work has been recognized by NewSong Music Competition, the Great American Songwriting Competition, and the International Acoustic Music Awards.
Born in Montreal and raised in Boston, Suzie seemed predestined to follow in her parents’ footsteps to become a doctor and didn’t consider being a musician to be a potential career choice. While pursuing medicine at Harvard Medical School and later at the University of Pennsylvania, she started performing purely for the love of it, joining an a cappella group in college, moonlighting in a production of Hair with other busy grad students, and fronting a cover band during residency. She wrote her first song during her cardiology fellowship.
Over time, Suzie became a staple of the Philadelphia music scene, where she released her first three albums. Now living in Nashville with her husband Scot Sax, she is a part-time Vanderbilt cardiologist and a full-time mom.
Suzie and her husband Scot Sax
This full plate of responsibilities caring for others means Suzie has to fiercely defend her own creative time. Her sixth record, Under the Surface, was made by stealing away the hours of 6-10pm each evening with her producer Billy Harvey who lives down the street in Nashville. Making music during the COVID-19 pandemic was the one thing she could do for herself that allowed her to process the heartbreak she felt caring for her patients.
In this conversation recorded in March 2021, Suzie shares her insights for tapping into inspiration amidst an impossibly busy schedule, wrestling with perfectionism, and how going to med school prepared her for adjusting to the "new normal" of living in a pandemic.
Enjoy this conversation with Suzie Brown about living a full and fulfilling life.
Season 2 Episode 7: Aaron Lee Tasjan
Welcome to Episode 7 of Season 2 of Song Chronicles. Our featured special guest is Aaron Lee Tasjan. We spoke back in February, right after the release of his fantastic new album Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!
Aaron's newest album
Aaron has led a fascinating life. He's lived in many different corners of the country, and has worked with the New York Dolls, Lucinda Williams, Jack White, and Tony Visconti. In this conversation, Aaron shares insights he learned from the artists he's connected with along the way.
While living in Ohio at age 16, a song of Aaron’s caught the attention of Peter Yarrow, who invited Tasjan onstage to perform with Peter, Paul and Mary. He learned from Yarrow how far songs can go from their intended meaning based on the projection of the listener.
After earning a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, Aaron dropped out after only one semester to get on with the business of making music. "Learning, that's a two-way street — you have to be open to it," he says.
At the age of 19, he moved to New York City to start living his dream and had to figure out how to become part of the city's network of working musicians. Eventually, he got encouragement from and got to work with some of his Mount Rushmore musical heroes. We talk about the lessons he learned about creative passion and work ethic during that time and how he found community within the NYC music scene.
Aaron met singer-songwriter Justin Tranter and together they formed the glam rock band Semi-Precious Weapons. Tony Visconti produced their debut album. We talk about what makes rock & roll work — Aaron’s take is that rock & roll is slightly embarrassing — and how the band’s manager BP Fallon created rock & roll moments for them, such as connecting them to Kate Moss for a hang that got them on the cover of the Daily Mail.
After Aaron left Semi-Precious Weapons, he spent three years as lead guitarist for the New York Dolls.
Aaron playing with the New York Dolls
Since 2013, Aaron has lived in Nashville, writing songs and recording genre-defying solo work. In this time, he has released five solo albums: In The Blazes (2015), Silver Tears (2016), Karma For Cheap (2018), Karma For Cheap: Reincarnated (2019), and Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! (2021). His songwriting can be heard on recordings by Pat Green, Yola, BP Fallon, and JD McPherson. We discuss the good and bad parts of the professional music culture in Nashville.
BP Fallon and Aaron Lee Tasjan
Aaron's fashion sense is all his own. He makes some of his own clothes, such as the sweater seen on the cover of Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! We talk about what songwriting has to do with sewing and other ways he finds creative inspiration in non-musical activities.
Aaron in the sweater he made
Enjoy this conversation with Aaron about everything that goes in to a creative life.
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 suffered
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
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.
I always look forward to Louise's newest podcasts
I always look forward to Louise's newest podcast's. As a music biz insider I still learn from each one. It is so interesting to hear the inside story and history others have gone through.
Audio quality improves
I’ve been a Louise fans since Kid Blue. Great to hear her talk to other song writers, always good. Early episodes had audio issues, newer ones, like Kathy Valentine, is very pleasing.
Dylan episode is great but a tough listen.
Really enjoying the interviews and content! Thanks for your contribution to the industry, Louise!