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Mike Ragogna
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In his teens, New York-born Mike Ragogna was developed as a singer-songwriter by producers Terry Cashman and Tommy West. He wrote and recorded jingles before penning the Top Ten country hit “Slow Boat to China” for The Girls Next Door, his original songs also featured on various projects including the Roar soundtrack and Lifesong's Spider-Man release.

Mike recorded seven albums (Safari in America, The Almost Brothers, Body Politic, Minefield Diaries, Writer’s Block, Valentine’s Day and Summerland), and his video duet with Dobie Gray, “Home,” premiered on The Huffington Post where Mike has blogged since 2008. He worked for record labels EMI, Universal, BMG, and Razor & Tie, producing compilations and reissues for hundreds of acts ranging from Joni Mitchell and Aerosmith to Sublime and D'Angelo. He also can be heard as an instructor on over a thousand online courses.

Mike’s resume includes artist development, teaching voice, and co-presenting leadership courses with Prof. David Goodman. Iowa’s KRUU-FM aired over 500 of his interviews with popular entertainers, and he hosted sixty “Fairfield 2.0” television episodes/webisodes. He acted in productions of Hair, South Pacific, Annie, and Big River, was featured in a Bruce Springsteen tribute, performed as Bobby Darin in a movie music retrospective, and in 2013, co-produced and added background vocals to the Midwest indie group Control’s debut CD.

Entries by Mike Ragogna

Medical & Musical Journeys: An Interview with One of Time's Persons of the Year, Pardis Sabeti

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2016 | 2:32 PM

PARDIS SABETI ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES, HER TIME MAGAZINE NOD, MUSIC, AND MORE

A Conversation with Pardis Sabeti

Mike Ragogna: Pardis, congratulations for being one of Time’s Persons Of The Year. Your statistical research in the medical field and your recent work with Ebola is being celebrated...

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Chats with 3 Doors Down's Chris Henderson and The Sword's J.D. Cronise, Plus Rayvon Owen, Elida Almeida, Gabe Dixon, James McMurtry, Kyle Reynolds, Rosie Carney, Hero The Band and Chaser Eight Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2016 | 3:55 PM

3 DOORS DOWN'S "THE BROKEN" EXCLUSIVE

A Conversation with 3 Doors Down's Chris Henderson

Mike Ragogna: Your new single "In The Dark," as well as your new album, Us And The Dark, points to a new musical direction for 3 Doors Down. From your perspective, what's happening this time around?

Chris Henderson: Well, first and foremost, we have two new guys in the band, and our drummer, Greg [Upchurch], did some writing on this record as well. That's a wake-up, that kind of adds new breath to the writing process, fresh ideas. The second thing is we made a conscious choice when we were writing this record, as we were recording demos to kind of push the envelope as far left as we could go before it got really uncomfortable for everyone. People tend to speak up when things don't feel right, so we started pushing and pushing and pushing and as far as programming and doing the ProTools things, I took every opportunity that I could to do something that we wouldn't have done before. I got a lot of stink-eyes and a lot of people didn't like a lot of things. But that being said, when it started getting pulled back towards 3 Doors Down, it just didn't get pulled back all the way, if that makes sense. We were able to find a place to live between weird not-us and us and it made the band grow by default. Going into this process, we talked about doing it like that, but then when we started doing it, everybody said, "Oh God, I don't like it," but it started to kind of take shape after a while, things started happening, creativity started going and people started to get comfortable, and it's nice, man. It's a really nice process.

MR: What were the biggest changes as far as the sound? What happened to the band from there to here that you can put your finger on? What is the most push that you ended up doing on this album?

CH: Just the fact that we wrote with programmed instruments. Not every song, but we wrote demos and we recorded demos. There are a couple songs on there that were written to programmed drumbeats and then we went back and put real drums in it. That's something that we'd never done before. It's something I kind of did on my own for a few years, but those ideas would typically not get used. Chet [Roberts], our guitar player, programmed the full songs in Garageband and then brought it to us and said, "Hey, listen to this." Those were approaches to writing that we as a band have never done before.

MR: What were you guys aiming at with the lyrics this time out?

CH: Just not so dark, not such a dark theme. Lyrics, over time, tend to start leaning a certain direction with artists, and this isn't true for every artist out there, but it's true for us; they start at a certain point here and then over the course of a record, especially when you write about yourself and you write about experience they start being about the road, and then they start being about isolation, and then they start being about loneliness and then they start being about grey skies, "Can't wait for this, can't wait for that," and then they start being about gloom and doom over all these years. Not every artist is like this, but I say for artists like us it's what happens because we write about what we experience. This time going through we had new people in the band, we did an acoustic tour that went well, the new players were great, everything's really a positive thing. Brad writes all the lyrics, and he went in specifically saying, "I'm not going to let the darkness hit us. We're not going to be dark, it's going to be NOT away from the sun, it's going to be in-the-sun type stuff." That's what happened, man.

MR: You're coming off of one of the biggest albums of your career last year--it debuted at number one--and there was a greatest hits album. You have some new juice in the band with the new members. Wasn't all this that energizing, like you were being propelled into this new project?

CH: Yeah, it was definitely being propelled. It was one hundred percent different from our last album because Time Of My Life was written during a real gloom and doom period for the band. Everyone was tired and everyone was kind of burnt and everyone had been touring a lot and the life had taken its toll on a lot of us and that record reflects it. We toured the whole time but it felt like we had a break because the new members really just reset the band. 

MR: Will you take us on a short tour of the album? What are some of the highlights of making Us And The Night from the band's perspective?

CH: I would say some of the highlights of the record were the recording process with Matt Wallace and how he was able to bring us together even further than we were before. We were really close and we wrote together, but at the same time we weren't as close as we could've been as a band. When he came in he came in like a fifth member, like the fifth Beatle, if you will. He brought us all together. Matt was really the highlight. Just watching it all work and for the first time watching the process happen with no one getting their feelings hurt and no one having to have their particular little element on this particular track in a certain house. It was really cool, that was really the highlight of the whole process.

MR: What do you think about where you ended up now creatively and psychologically? Might Us And The Night sort of represent your maturing both as people and as a band?

CH: I believe so, yeah. I think you kind of hit the nail on the head, actually. Definitely, in that spot from start to finish; even the writing process. It definitely wasn't a bunch of ragtag kids getting flunked out of Escatawpa, Mississippi, and dropped off in Times Square, New York City. It definitely wasn't that, it definitely came from a different place of experience. 

MR: How much Mississippi do you feel made it to the new album?

CH: Well, not a lot, man. Not a whole lot. There's still some 3 Doors Down elements in this record that you can't really take out of us. The down-home feel, the no cussing and the no evil part of Mississippi and being raised down there, something that your grandma can listen to, something that some kids can listen to. We're not singing about suicide or any of that stuff. That part of us stays the same and will always stay the same, and that's a Mississippi trait for us. So that part stayed there, but the music, man? All the other players in the band, like Greg, he was born in Louisiana but he lived out in LA for so many years, he was in Puddle Of Mudd and he's a professionally trained jazz guy, Justin is from North Carolina and he's a rock cat, he loves classic rock, and Chet is a Nashville player who's also trained and has all these different Nashville vibes to him, it's really not a Mississippi record this time.

MR: What do you think 3 Doors Down has contributed to popular music?

CH: I don't know, that's a really good question. From my perspective, I don't know, I'm one of my worst critics so I'd say we contributed a sound that's unmistakable. I'll say that. When you hear a 3 Doors Down song when it comes on the radio, you know it's us. Up to the greatest hits record at least. I'm not going to speak for this one yet because people haven't heard it. But up to the greatest hits record, when you heard four bars of guitar, you knew that it was 3 Doors Down, and as soon as Brad opens his mouth, it's unmistakable, so I would say we definitely contributed a pinpoint sound.

MR: Most successful bands inspire other bands. Can you hear your influence in bands you catch on the radio or YouTube or bands that are on the road with you?

CH: Absolutely. Even in some country bands, I've heard some 3 Doors Down. I've heard "Here Without You" in several other tracks out there.

MR: It's my theory that the band always had some country music running through its veins without even being conscious of it.

CH: Yeah, just by default, man. Just by being from Mississippi, we get a little bit of country and gospel and the blues all mixed up into one. Just because you live in that area, it happens.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists? 

CH: The environment is so different now and since I don't know exactly how different the environment is for new artists. I would probably say don't get discouraged by what's happening on radio because there are so many different avenues for music to get to fans now with Twitter and all these different places. My advice would be to explore those avenues as well as the traditional avenues, because you can't exist without them. You can't exist without print, you can't exist without radio, you can't exist without labels, you just can't. But you can have a good following on the internet, so I would say to learn what those avenues are and to try to change with them because they're changing every day. 

MR: What about from a creative perspective?

CH: I would say just to be really true to what feels good and what feels right for you and don't really try to be the next thing, because when you try to be the next thing you're going to be the last thing. Either it's going to happen or it's not going to happen. You can't make it happen. Creativity doesn't come from a place of pressure, it just really doesn't unless you're that guy. It comes from where it comes from, and if someone tries to force it, if you try to force yourself into a little box, that's where you're going to live and it's a sad place.

MR: Did the band ever get into that spot and then you had to shake the blanket out?

CH: Absolutely, and it happened without us realizing it. It wasn't a conscious choice, it just happened because we were writing so fast and touring so much and putting out records that we lost touch with ourselves, man. We lost touch with ourselves as musicians and we just because mechanical things that wrote songs, you know what I mean? We didn't even notice it, and it was almost too late before someone said, "Hey, this sucks. We've got to figure this out." No one's saying that we've got to put out a country record or a rap record or an R&B thing, but we've got to evolve and we've got to do it naturally. So it's time to take a step back and let that happen.

MR: If you were to sum up the album in a few words, what would you say that US And The Night ultimately did for the band?

CH: I would say that this one mixed a sound of what we used to be, something like The Better Life with something that we've never done before. We kind of skipped all the stuff in the middle, we went straight from The Better Life to the next thing and made a record combined of those two things. Like the first and seventh part of a seven-part poem.

MR: Do you think you'll continue in the direction you chose, with maybe another leap of the same kind next album out?

CH: I think so, man. But I'll say this: some of the things that we tried to do "worked," so we have the confidence to try again. But also, some of the things that we've always done in the past also worked, so we're always going to have a little element of that, too. Definitely, everyone's going to grow as songwriters, and we've got these new guys in the band who are getting ready to go out and do a couple years of touring and do some writing again, so it's definitely going to evolve.

MR: What does the future look like for you? What plans do you have?

CH: We're going to do some festivals coming up, we're going to go to Europe and do the promo over there, hopefully things roll that well in Europe, and then the summer tours come up, so that's the immediate plans. I think touring is the main thing, and doing it right, and doing it and having fun. Those are kind of what's on the agenda at the moment.

MR: I do have a random one last question for you: David Bowie and Glenn Frey just passed. Did that mean anything to you?

CH: Yeah, man. Both artists had a profound impact on my musical life. Glenn Frey, his solo career even had an impact on me. He's one of the guys I followed and one of the guys I appreciated. When David Bowie died I was in shock. I heard about it by phone and it was a shock. My girlfriend actually told me about it and I couldn't believe it. When Glenn Frey passed I found out about it on Facebook. It seems like such a tragic month for music history. Those were two of the greatest songwriters and performers of all time. You can put them all together and those guys are going to be in the top twenty at least, both of them. To lose guys like that, it's a tragedy, it really is.

MR: What does the passing of idols like that do for your perspective of how you fit into the musical field? 

CH: I don't know at this point, man. I just don't know. I've never thought about that, and I will now that you've put it in that perspective. I don't know, I hope that one day three doors down is thought of in the light that I think of those two guys, because that means that we've done some really good work on planet Earth. The way I think of David Bowie and Glenn Frey, I think of them on a whole different level than I think of a lot of other artists.

MR: When you get to that level of creativity, contribution, fame, I think it ends up being intimidating to the tiers under you.

CH: Yeah, it's like being on a high school football team playing against the Carolina Panthers, if you will. It's almost unfathomable how much better they are than you at the moment.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

For more info: http://www.3doorsdown.com

RAYVON OWEN'S "CAN'T FIGHT IT" EXCLUSIVE

"I co-wrote 'Can’t Fight It' with an LA-based singer/songwriter, Mylen. We got the rough instrumental track done by Nate Merchant--a.k.a. MERCHANT--and Isaiah Tejada, and we were instantly inspired by the cool electronic sounds and the overall vibe of the track. The feel hit the nail on the head when it came to the sound I wanted for my new music. The inspiration for the lyrics and melody stems from a lot of places, but the major part is love and accepting/surrendering to who you love. I love all the new fans I made along my American Idol journey, and I am so excited to share more of my heart and my personal experiences with them. My music has certainly evolved since my first EP, Cycles, but listeners can still expect the pop sound, but with a little more of an electronic influence. You’ll definitely still hear some ballads, but a lot of the music is fun and upbeat as well. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!"

ELIDA ALMEIDA'S "NTA KONSIGUI" (ACOUSTIC) EXCLUSIVE

Elida Almeida is a new talent from Cape Verde who’ll be performing at SXSW this year. She’s recently released an album of bittersweet folk pop, “Ora Doci Ora Margos” that reflects the hopes and dreams of Cape Verdeans eager to escape their isolation and embrace the world.

According to Elida Almeida...

"This is a very special song for me. It is of my own composition, the first song I wrote, when I was only 17. That was a difficult period of my life and I wanted to sum up my experience on a scrap of paper. It is about the bitter and sweet things I was going through and especially my self-confidence, promising myself that I would make it one day."

Here's the new acoustic version of her international hit "Nta Konsigui."

GABE DIXON'S "HOLDING HER FREEDOM" EXCLUSIVE

According to Gabe's gang...

Over the past few years, Gabe Dixon changed almost everything. The Nashville-based troubadour focused on starting from scratch following the release of 2011’s One Spark. He sought out independence and growth, parted ways with his longtime management and record label, Concord Music Group, and began feverishly penning ideas. However, the one thing that didn’t change was that honest, heartfelt approach to songwriting that countless fans fell in love with when he first emerged in 1999. On April 8, 2016, Gabe will release his sophomore solo album, Turns To Gold. Produced by Paul Moak, the LP marks Gabe's first official release as an independent artist. The album opener and first single, “Holding Her Freedom,” coasts between piano melody, organ swell, guitar rumble, and vocal performance from Gabe. It also conveys a cinematic narrative. “It’s a story about a woman who has been burned by love, and she’s afraid to let herself be vulnerable and fall in love again,” he explains. “She’s figuratively holding her freedom like a cage. That same ‘freedom’ keeps her trapped and unable to love again. I was glad to write a song with a little story to follow.”

JAMES MCMURTRY'S "COMFORT'S JUST A RIFLE SHOT AWAY" EXCLUSIVE

According to James McMurtry...

"'When you're starting out, it's not so much about money,' McMurtry says about performing at Finlay's Cheatham Street Warehouse early on. “It's more about getting your chops, getting out in front of people and figuring out that you're not just playing the guitar. You're playing the room. I think that might be where I learned that: It's the room and the people in it and whatever energy you can feed off. Cheatham Street would let me play my songs. That took balls back then.”

“Jenni Finlay gave me the title 'Comfort's Just a Rifle Shot Away' before I ever heard the song. For some reason, it conjured up an image of Kent Finlay standing beside the highway with a rifle propped up on sandbags on the hood of his pickup sighting it in on the city limits sign of Comfort, Texas. That's the image I got. Turns out, it's something totally different."

KYLE REYNOLD'S "HOLD YOU TIGHTER" EXCLUSIVE

According to Kyle Reynolds...

"In a generation where people are always looking for the next best thing and are looking for the quickest exit strategy when things get tough, I want to interrupt that brokenness with the song 'Hold You Tighter.' I believe when things get tough, instead of trying to run, you should lean in even more than you usually would. If you usually would walk mile for this person, run 10. If something’s broken, fix it, don’t buy a new one, because chances are that one will break too. I pray this song can be an anthem that saves relationships, friendships, and marriages. I’ve never believed in the message of a song so much. I hope you decide to join me in this and repair peoples' broken hearts and relationships, and that when we feel like we’re slipping away, we can hold our significant other tighter."

A Conversation with J.D. Cronise

Mike Ragogna: Hey J.D., there's this new project called High Country, have you heard of it?

J.D. Cronise: Yes, I believe I have!

MR: So tell me everything you know about it.

J.D.: I believe it is the new album by The Sword.

MR: Ah. And how did this alleged new album come about?

J.D.: Just kind of the way they all do. They're all a little different, I suppose, but we took some time off after the tour from the last record, Apocryphon, and I just started writing songs. I guess maybe the thing that changed philosophically for us on this record, or for me as a songwriter, was I realized I just kind of write songs and most of them end up being Sword songs, but it's kind of easier for me as a songwriter when I'm writing them to not really even think about that. That's kind of the place I got to after the last tour, just trying to write songs but not really think about what they would necessarily be used for. It ended up that most of them that I wrote during that period went on to become Sword songs.

MR: Do you think that this has changed the way you're going to approach writing songs from now on?

J.D.: Probably a little bit, I think it opened us up a lot more to different possibilities and different ways of expressing ourselves. I think we felt maybe that we had been put into a box in some ways by other people, by fans and critics and whoever, but I also felt like we started to see ourselves in this box as well. It helped to try to ignore those notions.

MR: Is it the difference between "contrived" and "real?"

J.D.: No, not at all really, I think its actually the opposite. This is what's real, and if it was to please fans or to please record labels or whatever, then it would be contrived.

MR: That's what I'm saying. Could it be that this revelation brought you to a more real method of songwriting?

J.D.: I guess you could see it in that way. I didn't feel at the time that it was contrived, but looking back on the writing for the last record, I definitely was putting some restraints on myself. I was definitely in a mindset of, "I can only write a certain type of song for this band," and I didn't really approach these songs on this record with that mindset.

MR: I'm sure it's a common thing, you get your formula and your comfort level down of what fans and critics like and then it naturally becomes what you're likely to play.

J.D.: Yeah, absolutely.

MR: Your last album was very successful, it was a top twenty album and there were significant airplay tracks on there. What changed for the band with this level of success?

J.D.: As far as a success level it's stayed pretty much the same, we all live pretty modestly and that's as much as we can afford to do. In other ways, I think all of us have gone through various personal changes and whatnot, we have a parent in a band, another member's getting engaged, I moved away from Austin, our bass player also moved out of Austin, we've all gone through our own little changes. I think all that stuff effects where we are as people and thus where we are as musicians as well.

MR: That's interesting. So in some respects it's a maturing process that's going on.

J.D.: Yeah, totally.

MR: Okay, so here's a tricky question: How does this maturation effect your music? Metal is not normally associated with a maturing process.

J.D.: Well, exactly. You are exactly right. Ultimately I think what we we're coming to understand in people's perceptions of us is that we haven't really considered ourselves a metal band for a while, but that's a label that we seem to be very tied to--understandably, given a lot of our catalog. But as musicians in 2015, I don't really consider myself a metal guitar player or a metal singer at all, and I really haven't for a long time. I think it's just a matter of getting the public to re-approach their idea of what kind of band we are. I think they're looking at it right now as, "Isn't it strange that this metal band made this rock album?" And to us, that's looking at it the wrong way. It's not strange for a rock band to make a rock album and that's what's happened.

M.R.: Yeah, although a lot of times "metal" ends up being the default category for a lot of the harder rock that's out there.

J.D.: It's true. Like you were saying, in a lot of those bands, it's not about development and evolving and maturing or anything like that, it's kind of about pleasing a fan base or staying true to a sound or what have you. Really, that's just not the mindset that we have, I find that a state of arrested development that I don't really want to remain in.

MR: That was a great answer. J.D., when you look at High Country, were there songs where it was clear an evolution had really happened?

J.D.: Yeah. Apocryphon was even my attempt to make a rock album in the genre that we were in, but this one was us just not caring at all about genre. I don't know if there was a particular song, maybe "Tears Like Diamonds," that's one of my favorite ones to play. When I did the demo for that, I realized this is a different song from what we've done. I guess we have a couple of other slow build songs, but that one to me had a different kind of vibe. But really, there were a lot of different points like that during the writing and recording process where we realized, "Wow, this is really different. This is really good but we're on to some new territory here for us."

MR: Are there any songs from the album that you're looking forward to doing unplugged versions of? Are there any that lend themselves to a more universal approach?

J.D.: Yeah, I think so, and that's something we've played around with a little bit, doing alternate versions of some of the songs--not live yet, but we've done some demos of different versions, including some acoustic versions. A lot of them work really well that way, actually. The one I've always thought could be anything, because essentially all it is is a very simple chord progression and a set of lyrics, is "Seriously Mysterious." I always thought that we could do a total rock version of that with guitar riffs and the same lyrics. Or we've toured around with the sparse acoustic version also.

MR: Did you test drive any of these live before recording?

J.D.: Oh yeah, quite a few, actually. We usually like to do that. You kind of get a sense of how the songs work dynamically in front of an audience a little bit better, and that can help your performance in the studio. That being said there was a lot of improvisation in the studio and just using the studio as a creative space a little bit more on this album than in previous ones.

MR: And that studio time is restricted with a lot of bands because it's just like, "Let's get the product out."

J.D.: Yeah. We were lucky that we got to take a little bit more time in the studio. All in all I think it was about as much time as we usually take, but we captured a little bit more of the live performance and so we didn't have to spend as much time doing overdubs and we could play around with it a little bit more.

MR: When you see what's going on with the pop charts and you know how to handle the formula, is it tempting to make the compromises that would give you a big pop hit?

J.D.: I don't know because I don't know what those compromises would be. I haven't had any producers or anybody like that tell me, "Okay kid, this is what you need to do to make this song a hit." Presented with that I'd have to decide from there, but as far as now I feel like the songs I'm writing are as good as I can do at this moments, it's a constantly improving process hopefully. I'm always trying to write songs that are in some way going to appeal to people in some way and have some sort of pop sensibility, if you want to call it that. Something memorable, a hook, the universal things that everyone enjoys about popular music, be it rock music or blues or country or whatever... I'm always trying to up my songwriting game in some way and infuse it with those qualities. But I don't know what the compromises would be. Let me know and I'll let you know if I'm willing to make them.

MR: [laughs] Was it always a goal to grow within the field or when you first started?

J.D.: I didn't necessarily envision exactly what's happened or anything. I think I probably did have the mindset at the time that I'm always going to want to play super heavy music in some way. I still do like my rock heavy, but I think everyone changes in ways that they're not going to predict, hopefully. If you're eighteen or twenty four or however old and you think, "When I'm forty, I'm going to be exactly the same." And then you are. Well, I don't know.

MR: That's sad.

J.D.: Yeah, I guess.

MR: Promise me that while you're maturing, you're not going to lose your love for sci-fi.

J.D.: [laughs] Oh, probably not. That's one thing that has not diminished as I've grown older.

MR: So what's going on with that front? What are you looking at lately?

J.D.: Right now, not too much. I haven't really had a lot of time lately. We've just come back from a tour and I'm just kind of taking time off. I'm trying to think of the last good thing I saw or read. I've been playing a lot of video games lately.

MR: What have you been playing?

J.D.: The latest Batman game and I got the new Mad Max game.

MR: Did you see Mad Max last summer?

J.D.: Yeah.

MR: Would that rank up there as one of the great sci-fi flicks you've seen this year?

J.D.: I had to see it twice to really appreciate it. I have really mixed feelings about it, but it's a great movie and I actually enjoyed it a lot better the second time. For me, personally, I was a die-hard old school Mad Max fan, so I was a little disappointed with the portrayal of Mad Max himself in Fury Road, but the overall movie is great and spectacular and awesome and all the other characters are great. I was just disappointed that it wasn't the Mad Max that I knew and loved in any way, shape or form.

MR: Was it because it was hard to accept another Max other than Mel Gibson?

J.D.: A little bit. Far be it from me to be some sort of movie critic or acting critic or anything, but even though I've enjoyed Tom Hardy in other things, his portrayal of Max... Maybe it's just in the shadow of Mel Gibson, like you said, but I just think being that Mel Gibson is actually crazy, portraying somebody called "Mad Max" came a lot more easily to him. When he had that crazy look in his eyes, it was a genuine crazy look. Those movies all had this overarching theme of him being the survivor in the face of devastating loss after devastating loss. In all those original three movies, he begins at one point and ends at a point much lower, and every movie, it just gets lower and lower but he still survives. I think that was what was lost a little bit from this new one. They shifted the focus off of Max a little bit, which is fine. But as I said, for an old-school fan of that particular arc, it was a little disappointing at first; but on the second viewing, I enjoyed it a little bit more. I just had to let go of my nostalgia a little bit.

MR: That's a good point, because to evolve, that Mad Max character needs the devastation that we see in all of those movies.

J.D.: I didn't understand the end where he voluntarily leaves and fades into the crowd, because in all of the other movies, he is left alone. He gets left behind, or has to save everyone and sacrifice getting to escape. He never wants to be left behind, he always is just left. The whole, "I have to be a mysterious loner" angle I didn't really get.

MR: Maybe it's the big statement of getting "lost in the crowd"--that kind of loneliness. And I think that the original Mad Max concept has been watered down to not necessarily "Mad" as in "Crazy," but "Mad" as in "Angry." So are you excited about the new Star Wars movie coming out? [Note: This interview was conducted prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.]

J.D.: I am excited. I think that like everybody, I'm excited but with a little grain of salt. My heart's been broken once before, so if it is again, oh well, but I have faith that it's going to be at least half decent. Like everybody else that's my age and a little older and a little younger, I'm just excited to see the characters that I know and love and the actors that I know and love on the screen.

MR: Me too, yeah. Even if it's the worst movie ever, it'll be good for the five or ten minutes that we do get to see the original cast. All right, we've got to do the usual question: What advice do you have for new artists?

J.D.: Oh man, that's a good one. As the years go by, that question gets harder and harder to answer. Really, I think just do you and do it as well as you can. There's a big tendency these days with how quickly things are proliferated on the internet, for very quick imitation and homogeny to spread amongst musical genres. I think the best way to combat that is to be yourself, mix things up, combine the different things that you like that people think shouldn't go together, put them together anyway. As long as you like it and you're into it, it will work somehow.

MR: That's what you did.

J.D.: Yeah.

MR: Do you find that since you've recorded this latest project and because of its different approach that your creative process is different now? Do you find yourself heading to write songs because they're not committed to anything? Has that changed at all?

J.D.: Not at this point, just because I haven't had time yet, but I think it probably will. I've had more little ideas for things and little parts and sketches and things like that come to me than usual for a post-album period, but at the same time, for me, I need a clear head and to not be thinking about the upcoming tour to really get in that space. I think it is a little bit more freeing now to approach it from the point of view that, "It doesn't have to be a Sword song, but if it's good enough, maybe it will be." So maybe that will lead to all the other material being my solo album at some point.

MR: So that IS in your mind!

J.D.: Well, we've got a long way to go for that. Most of what I write ends up being in Sword.

MR: All right J.D, as always it's been a pleasure. Be sure to write a sci-fi novel so I can interview you on that, too. Cool?

J.D.: [laughs] I'll see what I can do.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

ROSIE CARNEY'S "WINTER" EXCLUSIVE

Hailing from Downings in County Donegal, "Winter" is a video starring 18-year-old singer songwriter Rosie Carney. Gathering inspiration from the rugged landscape of her home, Carney writes songs that are at once spare yet beautiful. "Winter" is the latest in a series of songs she's sharing in advance of her U.S. performance at SXSW this year.

According to Rosie Carney...

"‘The concept of the song  is really hidden in it’s title. It is partially dark, partially stripped back to the bone, if you can say that about emotions. It was inspired by the events that occur at the end of any relationship, and how you do feel the vulnerability, the rawness, the real human emotion. It’s not meant to be all sad…..after all, the season winter holds the promise of life, of bursting forth into spring, doesn’t it?’"

HERO THE BAND'S "REM DEEP" FT. KYRA KORCHACK EXCLUSIVE

According to Hero The Band's Justin Barnett, Jerramy Barnett, DJ Barnett, and Nick Barnett collectively...

"'REM Deep' is about looking at yourself, and truly loving what you see. So many of us let others define who we are, we think that being in a relationship will fill some void within us. But truly loving others is a lost art form, because we have forgotten how to love ourselves. Inspired by the Golden Legends, Prince and Radiohead, and infusing the originality of our group, the video for 'REM Deep' delves into a world where the lusts of war, power, religion, and greed have destroyed the pure essence of Mother Nature. The woman in the video (Kyra Korchak) symbolizes Mother Nature, who was reborn to replenish the earth. In the video, the members of Hero The Band represent Earth's guardians. The video shows how the lust of flesh can detour you from your path and your mission in this world."

CHASER EIGHT'S "STEP INTO THE LIGHT" EXCLUSIVE

According to Chaser Eight's Audra...

"Here is our salute to The Black Keys and 'Lonely Boy.' It just so happens that our subject is a little more intense then theirs was. You won't be able to look away as Danny Henry interpretative dances his way through our new single, 'Step Into The Light.' Magic happens when you turn on Chaser Eight and a camera then tell a man to dance like nobody is watching."

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An Interview with Producer Larry Klein, Chatting with Ben Lovett, Plus Clavvs, Aleko, The Riflery, Dan Lipton, Alex Dezen and Joe Lazo Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted January 21, 2016 | 10:33 AM

CLAVVS' "LEVIATHAN" EXCLUSIVE

According to Clavvs' Amber Renee... 

"'Leviathan' is one of my first bedroom songs, which is to say I wrote it back before I’d ever even recorded in a studio. I sat on it for nearly five years before I sang it for Graham,...

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Tenderness, Family, PTSD & Micky Dolenz: Chatting with J.D. Souther, Peter Noone and Kathy Sledge, Plus Jumpcuts and Liqs Exclusives and Altered Minds' "Happy"

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2016 | 10:44 PM

WILL OSCAR-WORTHY "HAPPY" GET OSCAR NOD?

Erin Sax's "Happy" is the featured song in the critically acclaimed movie Altered Minds, directed by Michael Wechsler and starring Judd Hirsch. Below is the official music video for the recording in which Sax and co-writer Patrick Kelly address PTSD as it manifests within...

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Talkin' Jaco with Metallica's Robert Trujillo, Chatting with Denise Donatelli, Plus The Nolatets, Svetlana & The Delancey Five and Rolla Olak Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted January 5, 2016 | 11:00 AM

A Conversation with Robert Trujillo

Mike Ragogna: Robert, was your first big musical inspiration Jaco Pastorius?

Robert Trujillo: Yeah. I'm always pulling and really feeding off of my inspirations, I think most musicians do. But I try to incorporate a lot of that influence in...

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Talkin' Jaco with Metallica's Robert Trujillo, Chatting with Denise Donatelli, Plus Nolatet, Svetlana & The Delancey Five and Rolla Olak Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted January 4, 2016 | 11:00 AM


A Conversation with Robert Trujillo


Mike Ragogna: Robert, was your first big musical inspiration Jaco Pastorius?


Robert Trujillo: Yeah. I'm always pulling and really feeding off of my inspirations, I think most musicians do. But I try to incorporate a lot...

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The Return of Tusk: Fleetwood Mac's Exotic Classic Expands, Plus Anomalisa, Myriam Phiro, Jeremy Nash, American Darlings, The Paperboys, and Sea Caves Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted December 17, 2015 | 5:21 PM

SUPER-DELUXE VERSION OF FLEETWOOD MAC'S TUSK RELEASED

When Fleetwood Mac's Tusk finally was unveiled to the masses back in 1979, it critically dropped like a white elephant. After releasing two of the best, almost flawless pop albums of the seventies--Rumours and Fleetwood Mac--folks expected the band's formula of non-stop, potential singles to remain...

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Boys In/Songs From The Trees: Carly Simon Shares Secrets, Plus Chapell, Cameron Dezen Hammon, Daiana Solange Segovia, Nick Urb and Marcus King Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2015 | 2:35 PM

CARLY SIMON RELEASES AUTOBIOGRAPHY & COMPANION ANTHOLOGY

On the title track of her classic album No Secrets, Carly Simon sings, “Sometimes I wish that I never knew some of those secrets of yours.” With the release of her autobiography Boys In The Trees: A Memoir, Simon surrenders so many...

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Dark Before Dawn & "Delta Dawn": Chats with Benjamin Burnley and Tanya Tucker, Plus Brooklyn, Jon McLaughlin, Out To Lunch, The Paperboys, Amy Raasch and Alex Pinto Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2015 | 10:00 AM

BROOKLYN SOUNDTRACK "BOOLAVOGUE" EXCLUSIVE

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Lakeshore Records digitally releases Brooklyn: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack today, December 4th. The classic track is performed by music coordinator John Carty with James Blennerhassettt, Paul Gurney and Jim Higgins.

"Everyone has a favorite...

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Remembering the Carpenters: A My Music Presentation and Paul Williams Interview, Plus a Christmas Chat with Plácido Domingo

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2015 | 9:37 AM

MY MUSIC PRESENTS CLOSE TO YOU: REMEMBERING THE CARPENTERS

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The TV presentation and DVD Close To You: Remembering the Carpenters is a poignant musical portrait of Richard Carpenter and his late sister, Karen that airs on Public Television stations nationwide this Saturday,...
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Prima Donna Revisited: Chats With Rufus Wainwright, Marty Balin and Band of Merrymakers, Plus Dre Towey and Pre-Christmas Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted November 24, 2015 | 10:57 AM

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A Conversation with Rufus Wainwright

Mike Ragogna: Rufus, I'm honored. Your opera Prima Donna's had a September revival in Athens. How satisfied were you with the performance?

Rufus Wainwright: It was incredible. The fact that we pulled it off in Athens at such...

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Chats with Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood, Oak Ridge Boys and Sky-Pony's Kyle Jarrow, Plus Gregorio Uribe, Transmission Party and Mary Jennings Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted November 20, 2015 | 9:09 AM

GREGORIO URIBE BIG BAND'S "CUMBIA UNIVERSAL" EXCLUSIVE

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photo credit: Mulato Films

According to the Gregorio Uribe folks...

"Cumbia Universal" is the title track to the Gregorio Uribe Big Band's latest album which has catapulted the Colombian bandleader into the spotlight as one...

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Evolution and Silver: Chats With Narada Michael Walden and Fourplay's Bob James, Nathan East, Chuck Loeb & Harvey Mason, Plus Shaina Taub's Exclusive

(0) Comments | Posted November 13, 2015 | 10:45 AM

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A Conversation with Narada Michael Walden

Mike Ragogna: Narada, as The Beatles almost would say, "You say you want an Evolution. Well, you know, we all want to change...ourselves!"

Narada Michael Walden: [laughs] Yeah, that is true, brother. I love that song. That...

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Chats With Lynyrd Skynyrd's Johnny Van Zant, Pentatonix's Avi Kaplan, Ben Rector and Widespread Panic's John Bell, Plus We/Or/Me and HPnB/Dan Zanes Exclusives

(1) Comments | Posted November 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

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A Conversation with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Johnny Van Zant

Mike Ragogna: Johnny, the new one is titled Lynyrd Skynyrd Live In Jacksonville. Using the old term f there's really such thing as a blast from the past, this would be it, right?

Johnny Van...

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Lost Soul: Reintroducing Bob Hillman, Chats with Peter Case, Maia Sharp and Ben Caplan, Plus Alphanaut, Sit Kitty Sit and Butchers Blind's Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted November 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

ALPHANAUT'S "UNNECESSARY SOLDIER"

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According to Mark Alan, aka Alphanaut...

"The term 'Unnecessary Soldier' comes from Thomas Jefferson's vision for keeping military costs controlled in the US by reducing the number of soldiers employed in times of peace. This idea stuck in my head...
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Light Me Up: Chats With Bronze Radio Return's Chris Henderson, Steve Forbert, and Martin Turner, Plus a Slaughterhouse-Five/James Franco Exclusive

(1) Comments | Posted November 3, 2015 | 10:47 AM

JAMES FRANCO INTERPRETS SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE

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Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five gets the James Franco treatment on Audible Studio's audiobook version of the classic. Vonnegut's breakthrough masterpiece brought him international praise and cult status, and Franco's read personalizes the adventures of Billy Pilgrim with a mix of...

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Uncovered: Chats with Shawn Colvin and Au Pair's Gary Louris and Django Haskins, Plus Steve Forbert, Aaron Camper, Lauren Marsh and Andy Hackbarth Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted October 30, 2015 | 11:38 AM

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A Conversation with Shawn Colvin

Mike Ragogna: Shawn, how are you?

Shawn Colvin: I'm good, I'm doing support for Don Henley, I'm on my bus right now, I had an eighteen hour ride yesterday from Denver to Dallas.

MR: So let's take...

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Fangs & Wilderness: Chats with Andrew McMahon and Matt Nathanson, Plus Brent & Co., The Tins, The Electric Sons, Mystic Braves and Jacky Winter Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2015 | 12:05 PM

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A Conversation with Andrew McMahon

Mike Ragogna: So how did you decide everything was going to move from Jack's Mannequin into the wilderness?

Andrew McMahon: There were almost two separate events. As I was finishing the last Jack's Mannequin record it was pretty...

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Conversations With Andrea Bocelli, Lang Lang and NCIS: New Orleans' Shalita Grant, Plus Fathers & Daughters, Ryan Aderréy, Golden Age and The Glorious Exclusives

(0) Comments | Posted October 23, 2015 | 11:06 AM

FATHERS & DAUGHTERS EXCLUSIVE

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Multi-platinum singer Michael Bolton and Richard Clayderman cover "(They Long To Be) Close To You"--a '70s hit for the Carpenters written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David--for the Fathers & Daughters: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, presented exclusively at HuffPost....

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The Loneliest Man I Ever Met: Chats With Kinky Friedman, Alberta Cross' Petter Ericson Stakee, Astrella and Dr. Stephen Greenberg, Plus an Amanda Lamb Exclusive

(0) Comments | Posted October 20, 2015 | 10:00 AM

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A Conversation with Kinky Friedman

Mike Ragogna: Your new album The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is literally the first album of new material in thirty-two years. What the hell, Kinky!

Kinky Friedman: That's part of the curse of being multi-talented...life gets in...

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