Pop music is a strangely wonderful artform. On the surface, it can sound deceptively simple and carefree. However, like a calm and inviting ocean, mystery lies beneath the windswept ripples. The melodies may dance around in the ether but there are a lot of moving parts that make them seem effortless. Every beat, every bass thump, every electronic whirl, every guitar strum, and every harmony is there for a reason. It is up to you, the listener, to realize what that reason is. Yes, you can read interviews and find out what the artists’ intents are but often times, they don’t fully realize the meaning of their songs until years later. On the other hand, one song can mean something different to nearly every person that listens to it. And that, in and of itself, is one of the great mysteries of Pop music.
In the music industry, fame can be fleeting but true success is measured by the lasting impact the musician’s art has on the listener/consumer. For example, let’s look back at the year 2000. There were a lot of big worldwide hits that year by well-known artists (U2, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Britney Spears, etc.) and some long-forgotten artists as well (Darude, BBMak, Wheatus, MxPx). While many of the hits from that year are still fondly remembered, an equal amount of chart-climbers have been tossed aside like an old stick of bubble gum – chewed up and spit out once they were out of flavor. However, there are singles released in ’00 that were not only lovingly embraced by music fans but also inspired a new generation of musicians. A few of those – including “Babylon” – were released by British singer/songwriter David Gray. The success of his WHITE LADDER album took many by surprise yet it was far from an overnight success…
Nova Scotia, Canada has given us some fine musical talent over the years. Anne Murray, Denny Doherty (The Mamas & The Papas), Sarah McLachlan, Feist, members of April Wine and Sloan, Holly Cole, and Hank Snow are just a few of the native Nova Scotians that have made their mark in Rock history. There are many others, of course, and there will be many in the years to come. Singer/songwriter Steve Poltz hails from Nova Scotia as well. However, he kickstarted his musical career as a member of San Diego legends The Rugburns. For over two decades – and releases on Priority and Bizarre/Planet Records – The Rugburns has remained a sorely underappreciated outfit. Alongside The Rugburns’ trio of releases (two albums and an EP) and a dozen solo albums, Poltz is also known as the co-writer of his former girlfriend Jewel’s multi-platinum hit “You Were Meant For Me,” which reached #2 on Billboard. In short, Poltz has achieved quite a bit in a career that, by and large, has been under the radar. Perhaps it is time for more listeners to get to know Steve a bit more intimately with his 2019 album SHINE ON…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: EASY WAY is now ready for release. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
PAGE BURKUM: Getting a new record out in to the world is a great feeling. People are playing “Please Don’t Call Me Crazy” on the radio and our new songs seem to get a good reaction at our live shows, so hopefully that’s a good sign!
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: TIDES OF A TEARDROP is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction to it so far?
ANDREW MARLIN: We have been sitting on a few of these songs for a while and there is always a little anxiety and a little relief in releasing new material. Folks seem to be digging the new tunes so far, so I guess some of the anxiety is giving way to relief!
So, what do you do if you create music that is completely in step with what should be popular but is apparently out of step with what is actually popular? Playing great music that reaches a specific audience is definitely admirable but it can be frustrating – for the band and their fans – if a talented act continually releases outstanding albums that don’t immediately race to the top of the charts. Sadly, this type of situation is quite common. For example, for nearly 30 years, St. Louis’ The Bottle Rockets have released a series of albums that embrace the heart of American music while reinterpreting it in fresh, new ways. BIT LOGIC is their 13th album and might be the album that finally connects them with a larger audience.
Amy Ray is best known as one-half of Indigo Girls, the Grammy-winning Folk duo she formed with Emily Saliers. Formed in 1985, the duo released an EP before signing with Epic Records and becoming one of the most popular Folk-Rock duos of all time. Although they have remained active for over three decades, Amy would use her downtime between projects to follow her own path. Beginning with her 2001 solo debut, STAG, Amy has pursued a slightly different path than that of Indigo Girls. Her voice may be instantly identifiable but her solo releases tend to travel down different musical paths that eventually converge onto the same road that she travels down with Indigo Girls. HOLLER, her 2018 album, is no exception…
The YouTube stars of today don’t understand the meaning of ‘paying your dues.’ Before American Idol and YouTube became the springboards for success, the artists of yesteryear rehearsed, played nightly in smelly clubs, and drove from city to city in a rickety van to build their audience. They wrote songs from the heart. They lived those songs before they even laid them down on tape. And the chance of them getting a record deal and achieving any level of success was slim to none. For many of them, sharing their music and baring their soul was the reason they created music. Fame was just a reward for their hard work. However, hard work doesn’t guarantee success without a little bit of luck thrown into the mix. Then again, there’s a long list of talented artists that never caught a break and have sadly faded into obscurity. Country/Americana singer/songwriter Blaze Foley spent many decades in in that sea of obscurity but now, nearly three decades after his death, this underground legend is finally getting the attention he has deserved since his humble beginnings in the mid- ‘70s.
Forty years since the release of his debut album, ALIVE ON ARRIVAL, Steve Forbert remains one of the most honest and warm singer/songwriters in Folk, Rock and Americana. Unfairly declared ‘the new Dylan’ for a brief moment in the ‘70s thanks to that debut, Forbert proved himself to be more than just a guy strumming an acoustic guitar at the front of the stage. His hit single “Romeo’s Tune” (1979) became a Top 40 hit thanks to Forbert’s earnest performance, great songwriting and that incessant piano riff. But Forbert was not one to crank out formulaic Pop or Folk – he was always moving forward while still paying tribute to his past. With more than two dozen studio, live, and fan-club albums in his back pocket, Steve Forbert still remains a songwriter that finds inspiration in the every day. His Mississippi soul may have moved to New Jersey but this is one cat that understands and connects with every inch of America.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: THE MAGIC TREE is about to be released. How are you feeling about the way it turned out and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
STEVE FORBERT: I feel pretty good about it. We got the cat ears and legs and tail and whiskers – I think we got the cat in the bag. It’s hard to do.