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Sometimes you discover a song in the most unlikeliest of places – a figure skating exhibition.
Such was the case for me when I heard “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. It was a #1 hit in the UK for Baz Luhrmann in 1999. Yes, you could cast a vote for it as one of WYEP’s Top 100 Songs of the 90s.
This lyric has quite a history. The Sunscreen Speech goes back to a 1997 column in a Chicago newspaper. A commencement address that never took place, but perhaps should have. The essay actually called "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" was written by Mary Schmich and was popularized in music by Baz Luhrmann. Mr. Luhrmann added the opening words to the song: "Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '99".
The song just recently re-entered the UK Singles Chart.
Lines like this continue to hold true today:
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing everyday that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
The Edwin McCain Acoustic Trio is comprised of: Edwin McCain (vocals, guitar) and long time band members Larry Chaney (lead guitar) and Craig Shields (keys, sax).
Greenville, South Carolina’s Edwin McCain came to Greensburg to play his blend of folk, rock and soul for a small, but enthusiastic crowd. In the intimate theater setting, for 90-minutes Mr. McCain told stories and even played some requests. After years with long hair, the 38-year old has cut his hair, donating the locks to charity.
Edwin shined vocally when he held the long notes, which the audience graciously acknowledged each time with applause. With 10 albums to his credit, Edwin ironically could not remember all the lyrics to “Write Me A Song”. Edwin is a wonderful story teller, often adding humor to the history behind a lyric.
It was a relatively laid-back and mellow show, for this artist who made his independent recording debut back in 1991. Edwin of course sang a few of his more memorable hits like “I Could Not Ask For More” and “I’ll Be”. Highlights also included “Gramercy Park Hotel”, “Ghosts of Jackson Square”, “White Crosses”, “Let It Slide” and a very touching song he wrote about being adopted and never having the chance to meet his birth mother “Letter to My Mother”.
For the encore, Edwin did the tune “Let Them In” (Prayer to St. Peter) which was a WW II era poem that John Gorka set to music.
Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Christopher Laughrey opened the show with a 40 minute set of original and Irish tunes.
P.S. Apparently Edwin had a good time in Greensburg - his comments can be found under the On The Bus section of his website (http://www.edwin.com/onthebus.html)Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
Good Night, States represents all the best qualities of Pittsburgh. They are innovative but humble, intelligent and hardworking, ambitious and independent. And also like the city of Pittsburgh, the rest of the world has yet to recognize all that they to offer. Recently though, with their debut album Short Films on Self-Control and a string of local shows, they’ve been making the turn from underground secret to source of local pride.
(left to right: Trevor, Megan, Steve, Dan and Joe)
Their music rings in your head for days after listening; it is aggressively melodic and includes influences of Glam, Americana, Rock and Pop. Even the melancholy songs somehow manage to shine.
The band certainly shown bright while opening this past WYEP Summer Music Festival in Schenley Park. I recently broke bread with the local contingent (Singer/Guitarist Steve Gretz and Guitarist Joe Tanner live in New Jersey) and discussed their Internet Singles Series, the reception of their work as a “Pittsburgh” band, and plans for the near future that may or may not include an accordion.
-Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday
WYEP: Megan said this is your “study hall.” What do you guys usually do during study hall? It seems like a fun idea.
Megan: [laughs] When it’s going well, we’re all working on our various spheres of influence. Trevor is our web guy, and Dan books and I do press and PR. The idea is that we forget to do things unless we keep each other accountable. Every Wednesday night, we do it together.
WYEP: Speaking of the website – the inspiration obviously came from a keyboard, but was there a light bulb moment where you figured it out?
Trevor: That was kind of the keyboard that was the centerpiece for Short Films on Self Control, so we were trying to brainstorm ideas on what the website would look like –
Megan: - I drew it out in the middle of our – I do a lot of doodling when I’m supposed to be paying attention – I doodled it out in a musical staff in one of our books. But then I think we didn’t remember for a long time, and then all of a sudden Tim [who helped set up the website] was like ‘We can do that! I can wing it!’
WYEP: I think it works, and it’s totally in keeping with the sound of the band too.
Dan: It’s where the sound’s coming from.
WYEP: And it’s also where the sound’s going with the Internet Singles Series. What was the idea behind that?
Dan: We were brainstorming about anything we could do that was slightly different than what we had done before. The regular 'creating of a crowd out of nothing' by booking shows in a town where you don’t know anybody, and you don’t know bands, and you don’t know venues, and making a record and trying to sell it at that place – just a grassroots thing – hasn’t seemed to be our way yet. And maybe it will some day, but it seemed like we were in need of newer music because Short Films was released only this January [ed. note - official release date: December 11, 2007), and we recorded it last March, meaning that we were recording it throughout . It’s new music to the public but it’s very old to us. You always have to have the ball rolling, so we wanted to figure out a way to make new music but at the same time not have to do the standard ‘Let’s save up some money, let’s go to a studio. It’s going to take probably nine or twelve months before this is released.’
Trevor: In addition to all that, in all our talking about the band, we wanted music to be the primary thing, not image or not –
Megan: - Or merch! [laughs]
Trevor: We aren’t very good at marketing ourselves, image-wise, so I really think that the music is the primary thing that people will latch onto. So we are trying to build a listenership through the website – to use that as a vehicle to get music to people.
WYEP: You guys do have a really high quantity and quality of electronic interaction with your audience through weblogs, photo albums, Internet Singles Series, Youtube videos. Do you think that’s what you kind of have to do now as a band, or did you grow up knowing you wanted to know more about bands and you saw these things as really good resources [for your fans]?
Trevor: I think the thing that people really grab onto is when they feel they can be a part of something, and that was one of the goals of having a blog-style website and lots of things for people to interact with.
Megan: I guess the more you can know about people you don’t actually know, the more interesting they are. In that sense, I think we are all nerds to the extent that we pore over the websites of bands that we really like.
WYEP: You’ve played out of town – do you get a reaction from other bands when they hear you’re from Pittsburgh?
Trevor: I would say it depends where you are. In Philadelphia, we definitely got the strongest negative reaction – not from bands but from people at the show.
Dan: I think it’s just sentiment. It’s ‘Philly vs. Pittsburgh’ and I think that’s all it is.
Trevor: Yeah, and everyone assumes we’re like huge Steelers fans. That’s the universal thing, I’d say.
Dan: I think at least on the blogs Megan has gotten us written up in recently, people have exclaimed, if [the blogger is] from Pittsburgh, ‘I can’t believe this band is from Pittsburgh!’ And if the [the blogger is] not from Pittsburgh, they’re saying ‘I can’t believe this band is from Pittsburgh!’ So, good no matter which way you slice it. I think people are usually more intrigued by the New Jersey-Pittsburgh difference – ‘Why is it like that? How do you pull it off? You guys are crazy!’ I think that usually illicits some sort of reaction.
Steve was the impetus for moving out [to New Jersey], but all along he’s always chosen to say that we’re from Pittsburgh, and I don’t really know why. To make it seem like we’re not this crazy two-headed beast I guess, telling people we’re from fourteen different locations? And it sounds weird but in the long run of being in a band, the more I realize that lots of other bands don’t live in the same city. Lots of them.
WYEP: The Walkmen, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah –
Dan: - Yeah, Matt Pond PA live all over the East Coast. And of course, insanely huge bands on insanely huge record labels certainly don’t need to all be in the same city. The Damnwells, at one point, were all in Brooklyn and the one guy moved out to L.A. and they continued to be a band. I guess if you find a way to do it you find a way to do it.
WYEP: Going back to what you were saying about the reaction people have – both from Pittsburgh and not Pittsburgh – of being amazed that you guys are from Pittsburgh, do you think it’s a nurturing town for young bands?
Dan: Whew, that’s a question we’ve always wrestled with. I certainly have a ton of people who say to me: ‘You need to be in Austin’ or Nashville or L.A. or New York City. We always ask ourselves that question and we all ask other people we think have an opinion about that, but really, nobody has a good answer.
Trevor: We’ve fallen in with a fairly nurturing bunch of people, in the past year and a half or so.
Trevor: The circle of bands we run in right now is pretty supportive of each other. Even beyond bands, there’s a group of people that sort of surround those bands that is very supportive. It’s very good to be around each other.
WYEP: What are those bands for you? Lohio –
Trevor: Lohio, Briar Fox, Cindy [Howes], Blindsider -
Megan: - Triggers.
Trevor: Yeah. I think there’s a bunch of us that have sort of been around for five years or so, and we sort of know each other.
Megan: I think having a home base is kind of important, but even because [Steve and Joe] live in New Jersey, we have kind of a home base and a half. Steve grew up there – that’s why he’s there now – and he’ll pull from all his family and friends. We can have a sort of small, guaranteed crowd there, and a slightly larger crowd here. I think we’re just hoping that at some point, it will all just congeal.
Trevor: It’s been really interesting to try to transition over from a “friend” fan base to a “people who just like music” fan base. I would say that – and I don’t mean this as any kind of slight to our friends – our friends aren’t the music-lover types. They come out to see us because they’re friends with us.
WYEP: Because you’re you.
Trevor: Yeah, and trying to build the music-lover fan base is a long process.
WYEP: Do you think there’s anything that would make the city better for younger bands?
Trevor: I think the venues, I would say –
Megan: - A mid-sized venue.
Trevor: - Yeah, it’s weird. Club Café is a pretty good size for us.
Megan: It’s hard because if you’re a little larger than the Brillobox but you can’t pack Mr. Small’s, what do you do? I feel like there are enough incredible old buildings around town that surely someone wants sweep in and renovate something and make a mid-sized room.
WYEP: You recently played two shows at Club Café – you played an acoustic set and an electric set and you played an acoustic set opening for Men Women and Children. Obviously that’s a different experience for the listener. Does knowing you have those acoustic sets to play change how you write or prepare songs at all?
Megan: It’s a lot of preparation.
Trevor: I don’t know if we always end up changing parts - sometimes we do – but it definitely takes a lot of effort for us. I don’t just play acoustic bass and Dan plays with brushes and everyone else plays acoustic guitar. We definitely add some – I would say - interesting instruments into it. Like Megan playing accordion this time around; Megan had some synths onstage at the Club Café stage. I’ve played two-octave synth bass for acoustic shows before - quiet, not acoustic. The “Quiet” Show. That’s what it is.
Dan: The alternative set.
Trevor: Right, and I think that since we’re only together on the weekends, there’s a lot of effort that goes into the arrangement and rehearsal. We know the electric songs cold, so we don’t have to rehearse those as much. The effort that goes into acoustic shows is significantly larger.
Dan: We need to stop!
Megan: Yeah, they’re hard.
WYEP: Did you play accordion growing up?
Megan: No… [laughs]
WYEP: I was hoping there were pictures of you –
Megan: Oh that’d be awesome! There’s a photo of me, probably three or four years old with pigtails playing my dad’s trumpet. I’ll have to see if my parents have it.
The accordion was fun for that show, but one song in particular was not well suited to it. But it’s really fun to experiment with different instruments. From things that Steve has said, I think we may be pulling more instruments and more sounds into future songs, into either the next album or an EP or something.
WYEP: Are you working on a second album?
Dan: The plan, at this moment, is we’re taking two months off from the Internet Singles Series releases.
WYEP: Did you record those songs yourselves?
Dan: Yes, Steve engineered them all.
WYEP: Did you play those songs out before you recorded them? Or is the recording process also the songwriting and arranging process?
Dan: They’re being written as they’re being released. We didn’t start any of those songs until the one before it was finished.
Trevor: I find, in general, for my own personal “band” life, it’s so much more helpful to have a recorded version of the song because it just solidifies everything. You’re not goofing around playing different stuff during a live set. You know what you’re playing and it’s much easier to settle into that than try to figure out whether you like this part or don’t like this part.
Megan: I kind of forgot that other bands do it the other way – that they fit into their songs as they’re playing live and then record them.
Trevor: I think that lends itself to a different type of album though. Songs that are written that way are less coherent as a whole. Songs that gelled in a live situation could tend to be more disparate across an album.
But, going back, we’re taking two months off and then in October, November, December we’re releasing internet singles again and then in 2009 we’ll be writing a new album.
WYEP: I look forward to hearing that, and I look forward to seeing you guys at Third Thursday in October. Do you guys have anything up your sleeves? Any pyro? Go-go dancers?
Megan: I hope so… [laughs]
Trevor: I think that was supposed to be a secret. [Dan and Megan laugh]
WYEP: Oh did I blow your cover?
Trevor: We’ll have to come up with a bigger and better idea.
Dan: Dancers holding the pyrotechnics?!?!!
Acts from Jamaica, the UK and the USA made a tour stop in a steamy shed in Philly. A reggae legend, up-and-coming British singer-songwriter and long time American favorite singer-songwriter combined for a night of great music in the City of Brotherly Love.
Toots & the Maytals hold the current record of number one hit songs in Jamaica, with a total of 31. They took the stage promptly at 7 pm. A 4-piece band with 2-female back-up singers, including Toots’ daughter. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert was dressed in a black and white leather outfit. They played about 35 minutes. Lights behind the stage illuminated the group at first in red, yellow and green and throughout the performance they changed colors. Toots encouraged those in the crowd, still filing into the venue, to participate on almost every song. At 63, you can tell Toots still loves performing reggae music from his home island and was pleased that Sheryl Crow invited them on tour. The energetic set included: “Take Me Home Country Roads” (yes the John Denver song) and “54-46 That’s My Number”.
James Blunt’s 4-piece band looked very Beatles-esque in black suits, white shirts and skinny ties. Even their hair needed to be trimmed. I’ve only seen James Blunt a few times on TV, in videos and on DVD. I expected a mild mannered singer-songwriter who would share his songs in a simple intimate manner. Instead, James came running out, wearing a grey suit with a short-sleeved white shirt underneath, guitar in hand, doing an up-tempo number. The 11 song set was high energy for almost 60-minutes. Touring seems to have helped build-up his confidence. James, at 34, has passion for his music. His face revealing a lot of emotion. Going on before the headliner you sometimes have to win the crowd over. James did that and more. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, during one song he actually ran into the audience to almost the top of the venue and came bounding back to the stage. Of course James did his biggest hit “You’re Beautiful”, with only 2 studio albums to date, he made the most of his catalog of music. At the end of his set, James, along with his band, were on stage facing the crowd which was on their feet applauding. With a camera in hand, James asked us to wave our arms in the air, and took photos of us, perhaps a way for him to remember the evening. That endeared me even more to this English singer-songwriter. While not as well known here across the pond, a few people probably discovered him this evening. I hope we will be hearing and seeing more of James Blunt in the future.
It was actually hard for me to imagine that Sheryl Crow could continue the energy James Blunt created from the stage. Sheryl has a tight, well rehearsed 6-piece band and 2-female back-up singers. She also has a lot of hits to draw from and many years of experience to draw upon. The 46 year-old was dressed in blue jeans with an orange and green trimmed sleeveless cowboy shirt, and cowboy boots. The humidity in the air didn’t seem to bother her, she still looked fresh throughout the 1-1/2 hours on stage. Sheryl weaved her numerous hits with politics, personal reflections / beliefs and even the Summer Olympics while videos and lights were helping to create the different moods. You can visit Sheryl’s tour diary on her website for a set list (http://www.sherylcrow.com/tour/tourdiary.aspx). In general, the song selections favored her latest release “Detours”. From which I think the stand out was “Gasoline”. For the encore, Toots came out to join Sheryl on the Stevie Wonder song “Higher Ground”.
All in all a hot evening of music with three great performances!
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
I’m a child of the 70s. I grew up listening to AM Radio.
In case you haven’t noticed, I absolutely love singer-songwriters. Especially MALE singer-songwriters. There are a few female singer-songwriters, like Sheryl Crow, who you will find in my CD collection, but mainly it’s a lot of very talented guys.
Please don’t hold it against me that I’m a “fanilow”. Back in March 1977 I watched the “1st Barry Manilow Special” on TV and I’ve never been the same since. I can’t help it. Barry Manilow’s music continues to move me over 30 years later. I still think of him as a singer-songwriter. His best work, to date, in my humble opinion is 2001’s “Here at the Mayflower”. Barry was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
In my formative years during the 70s decade I listened to people like John Denver, James Taylor, Billy Joel and Elton John. I also liked the music of the Bee Gees and the Eagles. I was probably too young to realize that many of these artists wrote the songs they sang. I just knew I liked what I heard. For me, their music still stands the test of time to this very day. I really miss John Denver. I think if John were still alive today, he would have a lot to say to us and I hope we would be listening to him.
Later in the 70s and into the 80s it was performers like Livingston Taylor, Tom Chapin, Daryl Hall and John Oates and Michael McDonald who caught my ear.
Fast forward to the 90s and I found Marc Cohn, Edwin McCain and Shawn Mullins.
In the new century I discovered John Mayer and James Blunt. They and many others like them are still coming onto the music scene with their unique song-writing abilities.
Thanks to WYEP I’ve found some new (to me) singer-songwriters, like James McMurtry and John Hiatt.
I realize my taste in music and singer-songwriters leans toward Adult Contemporary. But think about it, most of these acts are still around after 20 to 30+ years in the business. They are actively recording, selling albums and placing albums on the charts. They’re touring and filling up venues. People apparently still want to hear their music and see them perform. Perhaps it’s like comfort food for the ears.
I’m happy to say that the singer-songwriter music genre is alive and doing very well. It seems like almost every artist we play on WYEP is a singer-songwriter. I’m in awe of the talent that’s out there. I hope to continue to discover new artists and expand my CD collection.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host