From Rock Hall-of-Famers to Grammy winners and emerging artists on the cusp of greatness — The Load Out Music Podcast is hosted by singer/songwriter Aaron Perlut of Atomic Junkshot and features intimate, long-form conversations with music artists.
Season 4: ZZ Ward Polishes That Dirty Shine
If there’s anything to be learned from the monumental successes of Beyonce and Taylor Swift, it’s that music artists can do more than simply record and perform music. Certainly, each has established themselves as exceptional artists. But they have also cultivated remarkably strong seemingly interpersonal bonds with their fans ranging from Beyonce’s “Bee Hive” to Taylor’s “Swifties.”
A few rungs down the ladder, yet furiously climbing higher and higher, sits the uniquely engaging Zsuzsanna Eva Ward. She is better known as ZZ Ward and was our most recent guest on The Load Out music podcast.
Ward’s fan community is known as “Dirty Shine,” a term revolving around being one’s authentic self—imperfections and vulnerabilities included. The term itself, “Dirty Shine,” that is, has become something of a mission statement and rallying cry for the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose alternative, blues and hip-hop-blending music has quietly exploded amongst her passionate fanbase.
“The concept of ‘Dirty Shine’ is larger than the record,” Ward said of her new album. “When I put out my first album (2012’s Til the Casket Drops), my fans and I started saying we are dirty shine. It was about embracing who you are—we are all dirty, a little rough around the edges. I’ve always had this vibe, but I feel like this time in my life is like dirty shine on steroids. I can fully be myself, and nothing can stop me.”
Ward, however, has gone beyond embracing her who she is, embracing her fans and polishing that dirty shine through her relationships each and every day, noting that she chats “with my fans on Discord every day.”
Ward’s Til the Casket Drops made a notable entry into the AAA Radio Charts Top 10. Her sophomore album, The Storm, clinched the number one spot on the Billboard Blues Charts.
On her third and latest effort, Dirty Shine sets a new bar as more of a cinematic piece with a diverse blend of sounds—from bold electronic textures, rugged hip-hop beats, to juke joint harmonica. The album was recorded in collaboration with renowned producers such as Ludwig Göransson, Mike Elizondo, Jason Evigan and more. The single "On One," features Jean Deaux and is inspired by Ward’s new role as a mother. It carries an empowering message, defying the stereotype that motherhood equates to weakness.
“You just have to run your own race and do your own thing,” Ward said.
As Ward expands her role in making music she has gone beyond artist and become a video director, record label owner, a new mom, and she hand-makes versions of her signature fedoras that are available for purchase via her website
Watch her polish that dirty shine as we enjoy a great conversation with ZZ Ward on the latest edition of The Load Out music podcast.
Season 4: Susan Gibson Still Loves Her Wide Open Spaces
Singer-songwriter Susan Gibson was born in Minnesota but spent most of her formative years in Amarillo, Texas. Growing up, she and her family would often drive between Amarillo and Missoula, Montana, where she drew comfort and inspiration from the wide open spaces along their route.
Ultimately, Gibson took to music and the continuum of movement through those scenic vistas would become an essential muse that, in the early 1990s, would end up on a cassette tape of her early songs.
“I didn’t start writing songs to become a professional songwriter at all,” Gibson recently told me on the latest episode of The Load Out music podcast.
Recorded way back in 1992, that cassette tape had a gem that, not-so-ironically, was called “Wide Open Spaces.” The song ended up on a demo tape for Gibson’s former Amarillo-based band, The Groobees, which they sent to legendary music producer Lloyd Maines in hopes he would produce a record for them.
Maines connected with the lyrics of “Wide Open Spaces,” a tale of a daughter leaving home. But he thought it would be an ideal match for the voice of his daughter Natalie, who had just joined a little country outfit called The Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks). And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Chicks released the album Wide Open Spaces in 1998 and the title track went on to become a smash hit around the world and one of the most impactful country songs of the past 50 years. But Gibson has no remorse about one of her songs turning into a hit for another artist. She not only adores The Chicks as a band, but is grateful that her inspiration remains so appreciated.
“I’m proud that I captured something at 24-years-old that still feels true to me today,” she said. “That idea of being a tumbleweed is really attractive to me. I lean into that part of the job…I love kind of a gypsy-ish lifestyle.”
Gibson is realistic about the song, playfully calling it her “lightning strike lottery ticket,” but it’s important to understand the context of just how big “Wide Open Spaces” became. Not only was it named the Country Music Association Single of the Year in 1999, but it won Gibson the American Songwriter Professional Country Songwriter of the Year award in early 2000, along with a BMI award the previous year.
Despite the acclaim, however, Gibson has remained grounded and committed to her craft—writing, playing, singing. She is highly respected across the industry as a songwriter which is on display throughout her catalogue of seven albums and a variety of singles.
Her last full-length record—2019’s The Hard Stuff—dug deep into her personal journey. It examined Gibson’s battle with alcoholism (she’s been sober since 2010), and we spoke at length about the signals she received that led her to finally giving up the bottle.
“I had all of the stuff that you are imaging happened when you have a drinking problem,” she said. “The lying, cheating, stealing, blaming other people for your own mistakes. It makes good relationships incredibly hard when you are an alcoholic.”
A hand injury suffered in a 2010 car accident turned the light on, leading her to realize that—without her physical talents—she had no music.
“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said. “Getting sober has changed my life profoundly.”
Thus, today Gibson is clear-eyed, loving the craft of playing music every single day; being thankful for moments in time like writing “Wide Open Spaces,” and the experiences that drove her to follow an artist’s path.
Enjoy an amazing conversation with a terrific songwriter and wonderful person, Susan Gibson, on the latest Load Out music podcast.
Season 4: Diane Gentile and Alejandro Escovedo Take a Walk
Singer-songwriters Diane Gentile and Alejandro Escovedo seemingly could not be more different.
Gentile grew up as one of eight siblings in Flushing, Queens, and every morsel of her oozes New York City in a manner that evokes memories of the famed all-female band The Runaways.
While Gentile cut her teeth in the music business as a club booker in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Escovedo—the son of a Mexican immigrant who grew up in Texas—was living the life of a classic, nomadic troubadour.
Yet, there were always connections. Mutual friends, moments where they occupied the same spaces. Eventually, they would meet and form a kinship. Together, Gentile and Escovedo joined me on a recent episode of The Load Out music podcast to discuss a new collaboration.
Season 4: Anthony and Steven Babino Get Their Rebel Kicks Out
Over the four seasons of The Load Out music podcast, we’ve had a variety of artists on the show that have ranged from Rock-and-Roll Hall-of-Fame inductees like John Oates, Steve Cropper and Chris Hillman; to Grammy winners, alt-country stars, longtime record executives and noted rap producers.
On the latest episode, we welcome an up-and-coming band from New York City that’s a little bit rock, a little bit pop, and a little bit electronic music—a very different twist for our listeners.
Rebel Kicks—comprised of talented, multi-instrumentalist brothers Anthony and Steven Babino—have shared stages with the likes of the Foo Fighters, Blink-182, Mac Miller, Iggy Azalea, Incubus and more. The band’s new EP features the well-received singles “Silhouette” along with “Electrophoria,” a hard-hitting, groove-centric track inspired by the recent growth of artificial intelligence.
The band drew its name from a line in the song ‘Feel It Still’ by the band Portugal. The Man—"I’m a rebel just for kicks"—and have gone on to draw comparisons with Grouplove, Portugal and The Killers.
Welcome to the Babino brothers!
Season 4: Red Dirt Pioneer Cody Canada Visits The Load Out
Let’s start here. Cody Canada—our latest guest on The Load Out Music Podcast—is many things but he is most certainly not some radio DJ in Canada, in the event you were curious.
No, he’s a pioneering figure in red dirt music and one of the more respected musicians in songwriting circles today. But many casual music fans might be unfamiliar with his name, instead knowing his work from the legendary band that he founded and led from 1994 – 2010: Cross Canadian Ragweed.
For those unfamiliar with red dirt music, it’s a genre stuck between country and rock-and-roll named for the color of the Oklahoma soil. It has featured acts such as Jason Boland & the Stragglers, Stoney Larue, Charlie Robison, the Turnpike Troubadours, and the Randy Rogers Band—but has also extended to the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard and those who have built the Texas country-rock scene.
Canada got hooked on music when he attended a George Strait show while living in Texas as a kid. The next day he asked his parents for a guitar and it was on. In his teen years, Canada was insulated, a loner, he freely admits he didn’t have many friends. His family then relocated to Yukon, Oklahoma, and his obsession with the regional outlaw country music and the Seattle sounds of Nirvana and Pearl Jam only deepened.
Music became his thing—his only thing—and in 1994, Canada put together a band with Matt Weidemann (bass), Grady Cross (guitar), and Randy Ragsdale (percussion). Cross Canadian Ragweed was born and one of their first gigs was playing a on a glorious trailer on “Czech Day” in Yukon—where they played for six hours.
The band would move to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and in 1998 put out its first album, Carney. But it wasn’t until Ragweed’s 2002 self-titled album featuring Canada’s song “17” that the band broke through. Then things really went next level in 2004 with the album Soul Gravy. It debuted at number five on Billboard’s country charts—despite Canada wanting to be as far from Nashville country as he possibly can to this day—and featured the hit songs “Sick and Tired” with Lee Ann Womack and “Alabama.”
But like happens in most bands, tensions rose in Ragweed—a topic Canada does not shy away from—and the band dissolved in 2010.
In 2011, Canada and bassist Jeremy Plato formed Cody Canada & the Departed, releasing the album This Is Indian Land, a collection of covers written by Oklahoma songwriters. The band ultimately minimized to simply, The Departed, and over the past decade, Canada has moved forward with the band as well as on solo projects, writing music and reaping the rewards of a legacy he’s built over 30 years. In 2020, MusicFest, the esteemed festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, paid tribute to Canada with live recorded performances from his songwriting peers, releasing the album The Years: A MusicFest Tribute to Cody Canada.
Ragweed also released the reboot of “Soul Gravy” in 2022. Womack returned to sing on the new version along with performances from some key musicians who helped shape the original album including Randy Rogers and Ray Wiley Hubbard. And just recently, Canada joined longtime friends Micky and Gary Braun (of Micky and the Motorcars) on the “Acoustic Healing Tour.”
All along, in spite of being a pioneer in red dirt music, family remains the bedrock of Canada’s life. He and his wife Shannon lead a School of Rock in their hometown of New Braunfels, Texas, where they are raising their children Dierks Cobain Canada (named for friend Kierks Bentley and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain) and Willy Vedder Canada (named for Willy Braun of the band Reckless Kelly and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder).
So, sit back for a great conversation on The Load Out Music Podcast with an incredibly accomplished musician and fascinating character in Cody Canada.
Season 4: Joshua Radin is Working to Create a World to Live In
Singer-songwriter Joshua Radin didn’t think he was going to be a musician. Certainly, he loved art and studied drawing and painting at Northwestern. But after college he worked as a teacher, screenwriter and other odd jobs.
In his late 20s, Radin’s father bought him a guitar and things slowly came together. In 2004, actor Zach Braff—a friend since college—helped Radin get his song "Winter" on the NBC show Scrubs. Ultimately, Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence cherry-picked several of Radin’s other songs for the show which would also go on to appear on Radin’s debut record, We Were Here.
And off Radin went.
He recently joined us on The Load Out Music Podcast, and over his career thus far, he has since tallied more than one billion streams. Radin’s single, “I’d Rather Be With You,” was certified gold, his music has appeared in over 200 films, television series, and commercials; and Ellen Degeneres loves his music so much that Radin played her wedding.
In recent years, Radin decided a change of scenery was necessary and essentially left his life behind, traveling with nothing more than the essentials (and enough tools to be creative). He decided to live somewhat of a vagabond lifestyle overseas while also making stops to record new material in places such as Stockholm, Paris, and Lisbon. The result is his forthcoming album (out August 4) Though the World Will Tell Me So, Vol 2, which follows Vol 1—also written in Europe—that came out last year.
Radin recently released the EP’s latest single “Man Of The Year,” which finds him exploring his personal struggles with intimacy and vulnerability.
“I build walls around myself,” he said, “Always terrified of being hurt, making myself too vulnerable, which is I’m sure why the music I write is the exact opposite—I try to create a world in which I want to live.”
So enjoy the latest episode of The Load Out music podcast with singer-songwriter Joshua Radin. It’s a great one!
Aaron Perlut is the sole host of The Load Out Music podcast, and his extensive knowledge of the music industry, coupled with his engaging and hilarious personality, make for an entertaining and informative show. Aaron's guests are also noteworthy, featuring musicians, producers, and other industry professionals who offer their unique perspectives on the world of music. With an interview style that's both humorous and insightful, The Load Out Music podcast is a great listen for casual music fans and enthusiasts alike. Aaron's passion for music shines through in every episode, making the show a must-listen for anyone looking to add a fun and informative music podcast to their playlist.