292 episodes

THE THIRD STORY features long-form interviews with creative people of all types, hosted by musician Leo Sidran. Their stories of discovery, loss, ambition, identity, risk, and reward are deeply moving and compelling for all of us as we embark on our own creative journeys.

The Third Story with Leo Sidran Leo Sidran

    • Music
    • 4.9 • 155 Ratings

THE THIRD STORY features long-form interviews with creative people of all types, hosted by musician Leo Sidran. Their stories of discovery, loss, ambition, identity, risk, and reward are deeply moving and compelling for all of us as we embark on our own creative journeys.

    274: Ella Feingold

    274: Ella Feingold

    Ella Rae Feingold is a guitar player, composer, orchestrator, educator and content creator.

    She has spent three decades devoted to the soulful side of the electric guitar, and has worked with an impressive list of artists, including Bruno Mars, Erykah Badu and Common, The Roots, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Queen Latifah and many more. On her Instagram and TikTok she is a rhythm ambassador, focussing on the importance of groove, pocket and feel in her playing and demonstrating various techniques and traditions in rhythm guitar.

    Hearing Ella play and talk about music, it’s clear that she has thought deeply about her craft for a long time. Guitarist Charlie Hunter recently referred to her as “one of the baddest, greasiest guitar players on the planet.” (Of course in this context “bad” and “greasy” are two of the highest compliments one can pay.) And yet she is also very much a new arrival.

     Feingold has been hiding in plain sight for years - both figuratively and literally - standing in the shadow of giants, just out of the spotlight and not attracting too much attention. This may have been partly a musical disposition, but it was also a function of feeling that she was simply in the wrong body.  Ella is transgender, and after transitioning several years ago, she began to share more of herself online including regular musical dispatches which have exposed her to a steadily growing  audience of students, fans, followers and collaborators.

     She describes the process of transitioning as less an act of creation and more one of excavation. We spoke recently about her personal and musical rebirth, the importance of rhythm - she tells me “I don’t want to impress anyone I just want to make people feel good,” discovering inverted tuning, orchestration, transfobia, and why she hopes to be the Mister Rogers of funk guitar.


    • 1 hr 42 min
    273: Paula Cole

    273: Paula Cole

    Paula Cole on her early success, dreaming big, her life and career, the power of “the beginner’s mind”, the distinction between being an artist and an entertainer, the feeling of being pregnant with song, speaking for those who cannot speak, navigating a life in the music business, learning from young people, and her new album, Lo. 

    • 1 hr 13 min
    272: Ben Sidran on Rainmaker

    272: Ben Sidran on Rainmaker

    In a career spanning over fifty years and thirty five records, Ben Sidran has established himself as a philosopher poet. Equally celebrated for his precise, probing writing style as he is for his improvised spoken word jazz raps, he has carved out a truly unique space for himself. The Times of London aptly described Ben as “the world’s first existential jazz rapper,” and The Chicago Sun Times once referred to him as “a renaissance man cast adrift in the modern world.” He is one of a kind. And he is, of course, also my dad.  
    There is no one else like Ben so it’s not uncommon for his fans and followers to search his songs for meaning in times of trouble. When the world is uncertain, many find comfort in the wisdom of his words (myself included!). Some of those songs have become classics among his elite tribe of hipster devotees, like “Life’s A Lesson,” “Face Your Fears,” and “Don’t Cry For No Hipster”. 
    So it was curious when, during the Covid pandemic, Ben chose to make his first ever fully instrumental record in 2022, Swing State. It was as if he had finally run out of words, at least for that moment, and he chose to let his piano tell the story that he was unable to sing about. 
    But those who know Ben well understand that he’s never really out of words, so it was just a matter of time before he began to write again. And last summer he found himself back in a Parisian studio joined by a group of American and French musicians to make what would become his latest record, Rainmaker. 
    In many ways Rainmaker is just another in a long line of Ben’s records - a new collection of songs written in his particular style of hipster philosophy set against a backdrop of easily digestible grooves. On the other hand, he describes the process of making it as “wrestling with the devil.” The accumulation of political, environmental and personal conditions made this particular project resonate differently for him. 
    We spoke recently about the process of making Rainmaker, the stories behind the songs, his belief in the power of humor to help survive adverse situations, how Philip Roth’s retirement from writing affected him, whether or not he thinks retirement is truly possible for an artist, if this is in fact his last record, and what French rapper MC Solaar has to do with any of it. 
    Ben has been featured on this podcast many times, most recently on his 80th birthday last August. On each of his birthdays going back a handful of years we have talked, as well as on various other episodes. If you have heard any of them, then you know that it is always a huge treat to have him, and in fact the episodes with him are among the most listened to and shared on the podcast.

    • 52 min
    271: Shabaka

    271: Shabaka

    Shabaka Hutchings grew up between the UK and Barbados. He started playing clarinet as a young boy in Barbados and eventually moved back to England to go to music school in the early 2000s. 

    After college he began a period of working furiously on a kaleidoscopic range of projects and became an icon of the new sound of London jazz, which integrated African rhythms and modes, Caribbean and Middle eastern sounds and was largely danceable.

    Shabaka himself has never fully embraced the jazz label. While the music is highly improvised, and it owes much to the American jazz tradition, his influences are very broad.

    Over the course of the past decade, the majority of his touring and recorded work has been with three bands: Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors. In these formations he displayed a fundamental approach to creative practice in different contexts spanning Afro-Caribbean fusion, London dance music club culture and the South African jazz tradition.  

    Part of his signature on the saxophone has been inspired by rappers, and his sound is often evocative of the human voice, conversational, expressive, and rhythmic.

    A somewhat chance encounter with a flute maker in Japan several years ago led him to develop an interest in the Shakuhachi flute tradition, and during covid he committed himself to the flute. Last year he announced that he would be putting away his saxophone and ending all of his bands to dedicate himself almost exclusively to playing wooden flutes.

    His latest release Perceive its beauty, Acknowledge its Grace (Impulse!) is his first full length album since making that transition. It’s more meditative, contemplative and introspective than his earlier work. But it’s still clearly Shabaka.

    The album features appearances by pianist Jason Moran, drummer Nasheet Waits, harpists Brandee Younger and Charles Overton, vocalists Lianne La Havas, Moses Sumney and Saul Williams, string wizard Miguel Atwood Ferguson and percussionist Carlos Niño.

    I talked to Shabaka earlier this year at Winter Jazzfest as he was embarking on a new adventure, both personally and musically. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation about his own creative development and philosophy, his new record, and why this historical moment is “showing the importance of slowing down, of patience, of contemplation.”


    • 1 hr 5 min
    270: Jose James

    270: Jose James

    Singer Jose James on his new record 1978, his professional and personal journey, the unique demands of being a jazz singer today, why he believes good art should be transformative, how he stays healthy, the creative challenges brought on by happiness and whether or not one needs to suffer in order to make good art. 
    This episode is dedicated to the late saxophonist and vocoder master Casey Benjamin who passed away on March 30th at the age of 45. Casey, a brilliant and influential musician, spent much of his career at the crossroads of jazz and hip hop. I never knew him but I was always very aware of him and a big admirer of his playing. 
    During this conversation with Jose James, Casey’s name came up several times. Given the context of his recent passing, what was originally a set of casual commentaries about Benjamin’s dedication to music and community was transformed into a tribute to him and I am heartened by how much admiration Jose and Taali had for their friend.

    • 1 hr 6 min
    269: säje

    269: säje

    säje, the vocal group made up of singers Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick, and Erin Bentlage won their first Grammy on Sunday for their arrangement of “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning”. 
    They recorded it with one of the most admired musical minds today, Jacob Collier.  And like much of what has happened with so far, that recording was both unintended and totally right, somewhere between the reward for the hard work of talented artists, and magic. 
    The story plays like a dream. One day Jacob Collier stopped by the LA recording studio (Lucy’s Meat Market), where was working on their debut album. One thing led to another and he ended up playing a few free form takes of “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” There’s footage of it online and you can see him improvising his arrangement. You can also see his childlike enthusiasm, his playful energy, his request to do just one more take, because he was having so much fun. 
    After Jacob left, the singers in säje built their vocal arrangement around what he had played. It’s a beautiful marriage of improvisation and arrangement, and the result ends up sounding completely inevitable. They contextualized Collier’s spontaneous approach, brought it fully into their world, built a frame for his impressionistic gestures, and then filled in the landscape. 
    This was not their first experience with serendipity. Before was , back when it was just an idea floated by Sara Gazarek in 2018 to put some kind of vocal group together, the four women gathered at a rental house in Palm Springs, California to get to know one another and discuss the possibility of doing something together.  They came out of that weekend with a song “Desert Song”, a sound, and the makings of a story. 
    The members of don’t live in the same place (Sara and Erin live in Los Angeles, Johnaye and Amanda live in Seattle), but they started to work as a group, and eventually recorded “Desert Song”. They submitted the song to the Grammy’s  - their first song! - and it was nominated in 2020. 
    Eventually released their debut album in 2023. It featured guest appearances by Ambrose Akinmusire, Michael Mayo, Terri Lynn Carrington, and of course Jacob Collier, among others. But at the core of the album was the signature silky sound which is a little hard to define, but very easy to identify. It’s technically challenging to execute - suspended chords and interweaving lines - and very satisfying to experience.  They like to say that they ascend beyond their training, and into artistry. 
    We met at a photo studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn late last year and had a beautiful talk about their formation, their journey - from that first weekend retreat in Palm Springs to the release of their first full length album and its subsequent Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement Instruments and Vocals with Jacob Collier for “In The Wee Small Hour of the Morning”, collective lyric writing, managing logistics and juggling four schedules, the emotional space that feminine energy allows, and discovering who they are in public.


    • 1 hr 10 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
155 Ratings

155 Ratings

deremo_h ,

Excellent and deep interviews!

Leo asks the right questions and he allows his guests to complete their thoughts (unlike some other podcast hosts). Most of all he chooses very interesting people to interview. Absolutely invaluable podcast!

Beeebopp ,


Leo Sidran is a truly gifted interviewer and conversationalist. I loved the talk with Daniel Lanois. The long stretch of silence, which some would label “dead air,” when the subject of the death of Lanois’ brother was mentioned, was an unusual gift to the subject and the listeners of the awareness that words aren’t always called for or necessary.

Michael Kramer Guitar ,

Deep Diving

Probably five years ago I was recommended Leo’s podcast from a mutual friend. It might have been the Larry Goldings episode - but from there I noticed all of these other amazing interviews and listened to them because of the interviewee. After a while I found myself listening to interviews of people I’d never heard about previously and realized I had switched to being just as engaged by the interviewer. So much love for this podcast. Great work, Leo

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