158 episodes

Basic Folk is a podcast with honest conversations between musicians and Cindy Howes, a well-versed public radio host and music curator, and guest host Lizzie No, a talented singer/songwriter. Basic Folk approaches interviews with warmth, humor and insightful questions. This podcast fosters the folk community and showcases a genre that is often misunderstood. Basic Folk features complex conversations about the human experience witnessed from an artistic angle. Our definition of “folk” is extremely broad, so you’ll hear interviews from Amythyst Kiah, Tom Rush, The Lumineers and many more.

Basic Folk is dedicated to showcasing the best in folk and roots musicians including BIPOC musicians who have been excluded, or felt like they did not belong, in the folk world. Both Cindy and Lizzie bring unique perspectives to our honest conversations and are dedicated to changing the landscape and the gatekeepers of the folk music community.

Basic Folk American Songwriter

    • Music
    • 4.9 • 60 Ratings

Basic Folk is a podcast with honest conversations between musicians and Cindy Howes, a well-versed public radio host and music curator, and guest host Lizzie No, a talented singer/songwriter. Basic Folk approaches interviews with warmth, humor and insightful questions. This podcast fosters the folk community and showcases a genre that is often misunderstood. Basic Folk features complex conversations about the human experience witnessed from an artistic angle. Our definition of “folk” is extremely broad, so you’ll hear interviews from Amythyst Kiah, Tom Rush, The Lumineers and many more.

Basic Folk is dedicated to showcasing the best in folk and roots musicians including BIPOC musicians who have been excluded, or felt like they did not belong, in the folk world. Both Cindy and Lizzie bring unique perspectives to our honest conversations and are dedicated to changing the landscape and the gatekeepers of the folk music community.

    Tré Burt, ep. 149

    Tré Burt, ep. 149

    Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at basicfolk.com/donate
    When Tré Burt was signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records in 2019, he was one of only two artists—including label-mate Kelsey Waldon, to join the label in the past 15 years. The Sacramento-born singer/songwriter had released his debut album independently, catching the attention of Prine’s son Jody Whelan, who sent Tré a message on social media. Sadly, the message, which landed in one of those secret inboxes no one knows about, remained unread for a long time. When Tré finally found it and responded, it began a relationship with the label and allowed him into John Prine’s orbit. He only met the man once after John came backstage at one of his shows. The kindness and opportunity Prine imparted on Tré cannot be understated by the young musician. We talked about John’s impact and how he helped shape and reinforce Tré’s writing.
    Tré is easy to talk to and we cover a lot: from his grandfather’s impact to an operator at T-Mobile recognizing his name from his music. One thing we didn’t mention, but I mentioned her in the Lightning Round is his pet bearded dragon, Yara. I thought he had a pic of her online, but I couldn’t find it. I swear she exists. Okay enjoy Tré!
    thanks to a school project. Formerly a fast picking guitarist (much like the busy and flowing style of The Tallest Man on Earth), his playing slowed down when his writing got more intense as that helped in getting people's attention. We also discuss the range in his comfortability when it comes to speaking about the Black experience in folk music. This stemmed from his appearance on Adia Victoria's excellent podcast Call and Response, which is a must listen. It’s an important moment where two Black people who create music in a white space talk about what that entails in finite detail.

    • 47 min
    Eliza Gilkyson, ep. 148

    Eliza Gilkyson, ep. 148

    Eliza Gilkyson is a middle child, a constant reinventor of herself and a surprise teacher of songwriting. Her father, the acclaimed folk singer/songwriter Terry Gilkyson, moved his family to California in the late 1940's to pursue a career in folk music. He found success with his group The Easy Riders and as a staff songwriter for Disney. He wrote songs for animated films and most famously "Bear Necessities" from The Jungle Book, which earned him an Oscar nomination. Terry greatly influenced Eliza's style with a love of melody, natural talent and visceral writing. Young Eliza spent time in the southwestern US soaking in the sounds of "western folk." That sound encompasses her new album Songs From the River Wind (out on Jan 14, 2022). She's spent many years going back and forth from New Mexico to California, to Austin, Texas and back to New Mexico again. The pandemic and settling into her third act put a lot of things into perspective, including officially moving 100% to her beloved Taos, New Mexico.

    The new album is not political, which is unusual for Eliza, who's been known to write pointed political scorchers on her records. Lots of these songs and sounds are encompassing a time gone by featuring moments of joy and beauty. The sounds of the album completely encapsulate her dad's trademark style, led by Taos band The 'Rifters, who accompany Eliza this time around. Eliza's embarking on another new reinvention of herself, which she has been known to do over the course of her amazing life. Most famously, at 50 years old around the year 2000, Gilkyson reclaimed the identity of "folk singer" and released her career-affirming and changing album Hard Times in Babylon. That record unlocked her writing and set her on a path of authentic creation in her music and she has not looked back. Here's to constant reinvention! 

    • 56 min
    Backstage Preview: Music Hang with Christopher Pappas (The Everyday Visuals)

    Backstage Preview: Music Hang with Christopher Pappas (The Everyday Visuals)

    A song finds life in this very special recording with Christopher Pappas. To hear the full episode, join us Backstage by donating to Basic Folk today at: basicfolk.com/donate

    • 4 min
    MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, ep. 147

    MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, ep. 147

    Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at basicfolk.com/donate

    It’s hard to put into words why I love MC Taylor so much, but I know when it started. His band, Durham’s Hiss Golden Messenger, stopped by to play live at WYEP in Jan of 2017. They were the first band I interviewed after Tr*mp was inaugurated. Like a lot of people (and like the white liberal woman that I am), the state of things had shocked me awake. I decided to use my platform differently and this was the first interview where I attempted that and Mike picked up what I was laying down. I got him to talk candidly about Trump, he declared his band was against Trump and stood with marginalized people, but still invited anyone who supported Trump to his show. After that interview I felt some pressure and anxiety inside of me release and then I never forgot his grace and bravery. This guy is so full of wisdom and we get to experience that through his music and his person. I’m so thrilled to talk to him about his music and latest album Quietly Blowing It. Although he’s also just released a Hiss Golden Messenger holiday album, O Come All Ye Faithful, and a companion holiday release from his new project, Revelators which he refers to as “spiritual jazz and dub-influenced.” The guy is prolific.

    Mike was always playing music, thanks to his music loving parents. His dad played guitar; outside of his school teaching career he would play occasional gigs around their home in Orange County, California. He spent some time in San Francisco in a hardcore punk and alt country band. He became burnt out on playing music and headed East to The University of North Carolina to study folklore. He decided to start writing and recording some music under the name Hiss Golden Messenger (an homage to his complicated feelings about religion and love the the lo-fi). He’s since released a dozen or so albums and EPs under that name with a rotating cast of players backing him up. In our conversation we cover topics including uncertainty, boundaries and the state of music journalism. He also told me what the C stands for in MC Taylor. He said no one ever asks that and no one knows, so I’ll just keep that one to myself.

    • 58 min
    Brad Kolodner, ep. 146

    Brad Kolodner, ep. 146

    Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at basicfolk.com/donate

    Once Baltimore claw-hammer banjoist, radio host and community organizer Brad Kolodner got a banjo in his hands, it was game over. Brad had previously played the cello in the school orchestra and had held a strong interest in sports, but his true passion for old time was realized at Meadowlark Music camp in Maine. He signed up for the banjo for beginners class after his father (the renowned fiddle and hammer dulcimer player Ken Kolodner) brought him along to the camp under the condition that he was to play some kind of music that week. While Brad had grown up around traditional music through his father's performances with his band Helicon, dad's recordings and music lessons at the house, he wasn't drawn to that particular style of music. Once he started on the banjo, however, he began going down YouTube rabbit holes, going out to jams and soaking in as much as he could. Brad went to school in Ithaca, NY, where he started hosting a folk radio show that further deepened his love of old time. Once he returned home to Baltimore, he became invested in community organizing with weekly jams and music festivals.

    Brad's released albums with his band Charm City Junction, as Ken & Brad Kolodner and recently, he's put out his debut solo record, Chimney Swifts. The album focuses on what he calls “private music.” This is what musicians play when they first pick up their instruments, it’s familiar and evokes time and place. In our conversation, he goes into detail about what that means and how the pandemic has impacted his practice of "private music." He also talks about his most recent project The Birds' Flight with Pete Sutherland and Timothy Cummings. Pete and Tim were working on Scottish songs and then decided to bring Brad in since he has an affinity towards genre-mixing and is a kick-ass banjo player. As a DJ, you can hear Brad on Folk Alley, Radio Bristol for the Old Time Jam and on Bluegrass Country Radio, you can find him playing at the Baltimore Old Time Jam, Baltimore Square Dance, Baltimore Old-Time Music Festival. And you can find him online teaching banjo and making everyone feel comfortable at the slow jam.

    • 58 min
    Miko Marks, ep. 145

    Miko Marks, ep. 145

    Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at basicfolk.com/donate

    Miko Marks’ story starts in Flint, MI where she was immersed in music, specifically country music (Loretta Lynn and Kenny Rogers were in heavy rotation) and in the music found in Black church at the Church of God in Christ. As a young girl, she first sang live in that church and found the experience to be overwhelming when she noticed it was making members of the congregation weep. She got more comfortable with performing once she recognized that it was only people responding emotionally to the music. It’s important to keep in mind HOW talented of a singer Miko is. Her chosen sound is based in roots and country, but this woman can sing ANYTHING. She attended college at Grambling State University, a historically Black school in North Louisiana – FULL SCHOLARSHIP for singing. This fact will also lead you to her Erykah Badu connection which, OF COURSE, I asked her about and OF COURSE she has a very good story.
    Miko was living in San Francisco when she won a radio contest for singing. After that, her dream-boat fire-fighting ultra-supportive husband encouraged her to pursue a music career in Nashville. She went for it and started making some traction in the 2000’s. To make a long story short, she found a lot of people that really really loved her music, but she could not find a major label that would sign her because she was too “innovative.” Which, we can assume is code for too Black. She decided to not go after any major label dreams, focused on smaller musical projects and stopped writing. That is, until she had a dream that she was playing with her former bandmates. She texted them both about the dream and they both responded, got together to play, recorded a few songs and then recorded Miko’s first full length album since 2007. 2021’s Our Country was followed just recently by her EP Race Records, which focuses on country songs written by white men. The EP inserts this extremely talented singer/songwriter and Black woman into the songs that she loves. Miko Marks is graceful, generous and holy cow, what a voice and what a spirit. Enjoy!

    • 34 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
60 Ratings

60 Ratings

Tina Bobeana ,

So freakin' good

As a folk musician myself, I love Cindy's approach to these interviews. She seems to have a way of making the musician's interviewed very comfortable. She asks very interesting questions and I love love love her casual tone. Plus, she picks the best people to interview. Thank you Cindy for giving folk lovers some really fun behind the scenes yumminess to chew on.

Tdnbunny ,

The best

Cindy is the best. This podcast is the best.

Edie Carey ,

Cindy rules

I admit I've known Cindy for years, and I'm also featured on the podcast, so hell yes, I'm biased...but the truth is she is one of the smartest, most insightful interviewers out there. She really does her homework and asks truly interesting questions -- aaaand she's totally hilarious. One of the most enjoyable interviews I've ever done, and I'm loving listening to her interviews with so many of my songwriting heroes. Go, Cindy! 🙌🏼🙌🏼

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