DYLAN GARDNER'S "TOO AFRAID TO LOVE YOU" PREMIERE
Newcomer Dylan Gardner's latest video is for "Too Afraid To Love You," one of the key tracks from his album Adventures in Real Time. A full interview with Dylan, fresh from his recent Warner Bros. signing, also appears later in this post. But first, check out the premiere of "Too Afraid To Love You"...
A Conversation with Carlos Santana
Mike Ragogna: Carlos, I attended your Corazón concert in Mexico a little over a year ago and it was a beautiful experience, the music, the guests artists, the love for you from the crowd...
Carlos Santana: Oh, thank you, it was very inspiring for me, too! Great energy, a lot of inspiration. I'm very grateful and proud of how everyone presented themselves. I really believe that we touched a lot of people's hearts in a positive way.
MR: Your new book is titled, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story To Light, and it seems that you've brought your life to light on a daily basis.
CS: When a lot of children cross the street, especially in New York, you've got to hold on to your father's hand or your mother's hand or someone you really trust. I think since I was a child, I was aware that I needed to hold on to the hand of something that is very tangible. I feel really grateful that music has served me correctly by keeping me with health and a good life, out of distractions and trouble.
MR: And your music and you seem thoroughly intertwined.
CS: I'm just grateful. I'm attentive to the frequency.
MR: As you allude to in your new book, you were born into a very musically devoted family, like you had no choice but to be drawn to music.
CS: You know, that's a good way of putting it, but I'm glad I didn't have a choice because everywhere I went, there was always something to remind me that there's a higher purpose. I think Rick Fox last year said to me, "What is the collective lesson we can all learn from this about love?" In any situation or relationship, what is the lesson that we can all learn today about love? Love is really expansive. Fear is very constricting and very limited. It has a very, very low ceiling, like a coffin. Love has no fear, so the sky is the limit--if there is such a thing as a limit as far as your imagination or your contribution or your achievements. It's more important to promote in billboards the divine qualities that each person has. People have such a hard time believing that they are divine or that we have light, we invest more in being wretched sinners and useless, hopeless, worthless, helpless. That energy is so boring! So with the book or anything that I do, I like to inject the reality that if you just take a deep breath and close your eyes and actually feel the center of your heart, you can access this essence that creates miracles and blessings.
MR: When you're creating music, do you feel that essence? Is that what drives you?
CS: Yes. You get really calm, really clear, and you have clarity, certainty and courage!
MR: You refer to having used drugs through a certain period in your career. I don't want to talk about that, but you mention how they supplied an opening of sorts. Was that a major change in how you created or looked at music from that point on?
CS: Yeah. You'll never be the same. How do we say it? Once you see the invisible, you can do the impossible.
MR: Beautiful. Around 1972, there was a jazz influence that began to creep into your work. What was the experience of shifting from an Afro-Latin style to something that was more improvisational, more of a jazz approach?
CS: Thank you for asking that. I think that it is important for any person. Everyone is an artist. If you can compliment life, you are an artist, no matter what your vocation or profession or way of doing it is. It's important to open the cage and let the hamster out. The hamster likes to just go around and around and around on his wheel, but just spinning your wheels can become very boring. That's more scary than anything, for me, to just be safe like that. I've been blessed with the right people at the right time in the right place; Michael Shrieve bringing me records of Coltrane and Miles Davis or learning about Olatunji and African music, or even The Grateful Dead. Especially someone like Bill Graham, it was a must for him at his concerts. "If you want to see Santana, you've got to hear Miles Davis; if you want to see The Grateful Dead, you've got to see Buddy Rich or Roland Kirk." Impresarios nowadays don't do that as much, but promoters back then wanted you to expand your horizons, especially as an audience, so being in the sixties, you would have to learn about Nureyev and José Greco, Manitas de Plata, Picasso. It can't just be something limited. If you listen to The Beatles, even they were listening to Ravi Shankar or Segovia. So real artists are not afraid to expand their wings and go for the unknown.
MR: You had a partner on your musical journey in Clive Davis. It seems he played almost a Godfather role and allowed you to continue creating your own vision.
CS: Yeah, you know, I'm very grateful because both times that he came into my life he has created a humongous door for me to walk through and then we're able to bring to all four corners of the world something that I can still say--this second--is relevant. Like Bob Marley or Michael Jackson. Santana's relevant. We're still here. We can coexist with Andrea Bocelli or Sting or Prince or the new people, Lady Gaga or even newer people. And I'm glad to see that Tony Bennett is the same way. That's the mark of a true artist, where you can coexist and make it relevant.
MR: Musicians recognize you as an icon, and I imagine playing or duetting on one of your albums would be a deep experience. What is that process like when you combine your talents with others?
CS: It's very rewarding to have your phone ring any day or night and it's Pharaoh Sanders or Wayne Shorter or Miles, back then, or Stevie Ray or Iago. I'm not dropping names, I'm just saying who I am. I am them. I am them because I love them. When my phone rings and it's John Lee Hooker and he says to me, "Man, when I hear your voice, it's like eating a great big piece of chocolate cake." I was like, "Damn." I just levitate because I love John Lee Hooker so much, and Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush, all the same musicians that Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page listened to. We grew up with them. They're our teachers and heroes.
MR: Every great teacher seems to say, "You don't get knowledge until you're ready for it." Did you find that there were definite times in your life when you were able to say, "I'm ready for it" and only then move up?
CS: Pretty much. At the right time, I was able to listen to Coltrane and Monk and say, "Well I know they're playing the blues, but it's not what I'm used to. I need to listen to it over and over until I can identify with this frequency because I love this frequency, but I don't know how to articulate it." Some things I'm never going to learn. Charlie Parker and Coltrane when they get really out there, or Wayne, or Herbie, this is why I say that some musicians are like an ocean and other musicians are like a humongous lake, and other musicians are like a swimming pool. I'd rather hang out in a big lake. I can't go with Charlie Parker and Miles and Wayne, not this incarnation. It's a different kind of vocabulary but it doesn't stop me from loving it.
MR: The roster of the group "Santana" changes frequently, adding techniques and qualities of that musician before they move on. Do you think you can define the entire exploratory process of Santana as spirituality?
CS: Exactly. Spirituality is not mechanical. There are mechanics to grace, but spirituality is about taking a leap of faith. This is why we love Wayne Shorter so much. Any musician who leaves my band is because what they're hearing is louder than what they're playing with me, so they have to follow their own voice. We grow, and they grow, in a different way. There was a time for Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon to create Journey and there was a time for me to embrace Weather Report and Miles. Sometimes people accuse you of "committing career suicide," but for me, it's really more about following your inner voice. It will always take you to the Land of Milk and Honey.
MR: Carlos, what advice do you have for new and emerging artists?
CS: I'm not into telling people who to be, what to do, or how to do it. I am into inviting everyone to make everything quiet in your mind and listen to that inner voice that has got oceans and oceans and galaxies of creativity. Those three words again: Clarity, courage and certainty.
MR: Was there any time when you felt like your direction or choices were not for the best?
CS: Only one time. I don't remember necessarily when it was, maybe the eighties, but I think that I was overly trying to appease a producer and then I said, "Wait a minute, I'm going to be playing this music, not him. So after a while, I said, "I think I overextended myself in trying to please someone who doesn't really understand my heart." I had to re-record half of the album in a different way. So I learned not to listen to producers that much. I honor them but I'm the one that's going to play the music for the rest of my life, not them.
MR: As you were writing The Universal Tone, did you have any revelations, maybe you saw things in a newer light?
CS: You know, I don't live with regrets or grievances, I think that everything that happened, as long as I could look at myself in the mirror and say, "I did my best with what I had and who I was back then," then I'm okay. I have asked forgiveness or apologized to whoever, and then I go on. I don't like to be stuck. If there's anything I'd tell anyone, it's don't get stuck with yourself. Keep going.
MR: Wonderful. Are you feeling creative in a certain way that'll send you on a new musical adventure?
CS: Yes, right now I'm busy listening to Sonny Sharrock, Alice Coltrane and Larry Young. A lot of Tony Williams and, of course, John McLaughlin. But mainly, I think, right now, I'm listening to Stevie Ray and other guitar players. I haven't listened to guitar players in a while, so right now it's like Stevie Ray and Sonny Sharrock and Alice Coltrane.
MR: Carlos, at this point in your life, do you feel that are you still learning?
CS: I'm learning to trust more and thrust more and be more economical with energy. When you get to a certain age you lose half the power and speed, but what you gain is finesse. Finesse is like a diamond that'd going to shine and be really brilliant. I'm not afraid of any of that stuff. If I am learning I'm learning to present myself more gently with humility. I have so much conviction that a lot of times it's misconstrued by arrogance. You have to have confidence if you're going to do anything. Sometimes people confuse your confidence with arrogance. I wanted to work more on humility and presenting the way Herbie and Wayne do.
MR: What do you think when you look at what's happening in the world today, as someone on a path of positivity and evolution?
CS: It's almost like when you throw up and you lose everything that's no good for you. A lot of stuff that we need to throw up is a lot of what we believe about God and the constitution. A lot of stuff in the bible is God-zilla. God is just love. You won't throw up with God.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Bobby Rush
Mike Ragogna: Hey Bobby, what's happening?
Bobby Rush: What's happening is me! I'm Mister Happening, man! [laughs] I say it in a joking fashion, but I'm so happy to be in the position. Now, I'm already a winner, I'm gonna win it. Whether I lose or win, I'm going to win it, because in this race, you're a winner just to be in it.
MR: Absolutely man, hope you get it. So it seems you've spent a lot of time with the blues, but this is your second consecutive "blues" album among the many albums you've recorded, and the second blues album nominated in a row.
BR: Yeah, it's not my first, but it's the first time they've been back to back. It makes me feel like eight years ago when I won the Blues Album of the Year and the Acoustic Album of the Year. I think that's the first time in history it's ever been done, one man winning both categories in the same year. But now, back to back is pretty hard to beat out, too. If we walk away with it we're happy, if we don't walk away with it I'm happy because we're in good company with the guys around us. Everybody does it to win, but if you're in this kind of race, you can pick cotton.
MR: Bobby, the album we're talking about is, of course, Decisions. It's backed up by Blinddog Smokin' and you've got Dr. John as a guest. What's the story behind you're association with Carl Gustafson, another of the projects participants?
BR: I was in New Orleans cutting a song and Carl Gustafson who is the writer for this song, wanted me to do it. When I first heard it, I thought he was putting down New Orleans. I'm from Louisiana, I didn't want him putting down my home state and my town that I thought so much of, but when I looked at it from all angles I found out he was talking about making sure that we as a people don't zip our lips when we see what kids are doing or old people are doing or what anybody's doing. Don't just say, "It's not my child, I don't have anything to do with it." It is our child. It takes all of us to raise a village. New Orleans is one town, but wherever you live, that's your New Orleans, if thing's aren't going right there.
MR: That's beautifully said. How did you get Dr. John on board?
BR: Dr. John came over, heard the song and said, "I want to be a part of this!" "Do you like the song?" "If I didn't, it I wouldn't be here." [laughs] You know Dr. John. It was like a great family reunion kind of thing for him and I. We're fifty years friends and being both from Louisiana we had something else in common. It just worked out perfectly for both of us.
MR: Bobby, so far, you've already won many awards with Decisions.
BR: It's well-written, it's well-recorded, it's well done. It's a new thing, but yet it's got the old elements in it. We haven't forgotten what it was and yet we modify what it is. It's just an all-around good CD.
MR: What is it about this album that resonated so big this time out?
BR: I think they're good songs, Dr. John brought some good elements to it with our friendship, I think the way it came off people can hear the honesty and the innocence of us doing it and we feel good about it. It's a good song that everybody should link on to when you're talking about "Murder In New Orleans" and then when you leave that song, you're going to the title song of the album because you've got to be careful making decisions. When you're making a decision, you're not only making it for yourself, it's for your family and the people around you. Even when you put a record out you don't just put a record out because of the record, you're thinking about who it's going to touch, what home it's going into. You've got to be careful what you do and say, you hope to say something positive that will be beneficial to everybody who listens to your records. This is that kind of CD. It involves all kinds of elements in this CD.
MR: Your last album, Down In Louisiana has been referred to as an "updating the sounds of the swamps and junkyards." It pushed the genre's boundaries.
BR: I'm always trying to modify things I do. I'm not trying to change the wheel of the wagon, but I'm trying to modify it and make it run better and reach more people and younger people, because younger people are the ones tearing up all the roads. Let's face the facts. My children and grandchildren are the leaders of this world. We try to do things that they can relate to, that they know about, and try and educate them and modify what we do. We don't want to take them too far and too fast, I'm an old man, not a rapper, but I do want to have some sayings that they can relate to so young people can get into what I'm doing.
MR: In your opinion, what unique thing do you bring to the blues?
BR: I haven't changed my story, but I change the approach to what I'm doing. I think I say, "Here, this one can have a little rap." I'm not talking about what Snoop Dogg or some of the other rappers do, but at least I can relate in that song fashion, the way I approach it so that young people can say, "Hey, this guy's up to date with us." It's almost like writing in our business twenty five or thirty years ago, we couldn't talk on the phone and do interviews, we had to be present, but now it's all digitized and we can do things on the phone and what we don't like we take out and what we shouldn't have said we can block out and make it right. That's what I try to do with my music, I try to think about where I'm going and who I'm singing it to so I can make it right for them. If you're selling candy to an old folk home they may like it, but they can't chew it. You have to put it in a form or fashion where they can digest it. Same thing with music. You've got to bring it to them in a way they can digest it.
MR: Bobby, you seemed like you had a great time on The Tonight Show.
BR: [laughs] Let me tell you! I hope that Dan Aykroyd can get this message: He did something to me that nobody hasn't ever did for me. He took me under his wing and respects what I do so well and I'm one of the last of the kind doing what I do, and he embraced me so well, I just love the man for what he's done. I could never pay him for feeling the way he feels about me in any kind of way. We haven't talked about this, but I'm hoping that somewhere down the line he and I can get together and make a black and white Blues Brothers. I'll never forget what he did with me. Jimmy Fallon's show was great, everybody treated me so well, it was red carpet and I hope we can do it again.
MR: And you also have that Take Me To The River connection.
BR: Right, that's the documentary, I'm playing a big part in that, Snoop Dogg's playing a part in that, Al Green, Otis Clay, William Bell, Lil' Peewee, Frayser Boy who's done some things with me, the late Bobby Bland and a lot of other artists were involved with this. It's down at Sundance now. It's gotten a lot of attention because it's great and because I'm part of it. On top of that I'm up for the Grammy nomination, I hope we win it and if we don't win it we're still winners because we're in the race.
MR: Where do you think blues is headed?
BR: I believe that Bobby Rush can make a big difference. If you think about the black entertainers today you think about B.B. King, Buddy Guy and me. If you think about black entertainers period then you've got to add in Little Richard, Chuck Berry and all the guys over eighty years old who have played a big part in what the young guys coming up are doing now. Entertainment-wise Elvis Presley played a big part for me because I'm out kicking my foot across the stage, but Elvis Presley did the same thing I do. He can get away with it, so did Tom Jones. They kind of opened the door for Bobby Rush along with B.B. King and all the guys who have come before me who set a trail for me to come through the door. Now I'm one of the top five who are left to do this and I thank God for putting me in this position. I never thought that I would be an icon as the leading role of the blues cats, man, especially the black blues cats. I never thought I'd be here.
MR: Do you look at that concept and feel a burden or a responsibility as a torchbearer?
BR: It's a responsibility. When you're the king of blues you've got to be careful what you say and do. Everybody's looking at you to carry this thing on. Now I'm finding guys who understand me and respect what I'm doing to try to pass my legacy on to someone else and keep it going. That's what you have to do. You've got to educate the people who don't know about it and encourage the people who are doing it so they can make a living at doing it.
MR: I know who influenced you, but do you feel their ghosts are still around when you're making music? Do they still influence you in that way?
BR: Oh, yeah! When I get on stage I can close my eyes and see them around behind me. I see Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf saying "Go, boy, go." Yes I feel that. Yes, man. I feel the presence of a lot of guys. I feel the presence of my father who was a preacher and never came to see one of my shows. Being a preacher he never told me to sing the blues, but he never told me not to. So with that in mind, I always feel I'm okay in the blues world because my daddy didn't tell me not to sing as a preacher. Muddy Waters always said, "Hey boy, you're going to be a big man one day, you're going to make a lot of money." "You mean I'm going to make a lot of money off something I would do for free?" It's not about the money, it's about the love of the music, you know?
MR: Where do you feel the blues comes from?
BR: Blues comes from a state of mind. Whether you're black or white, it's a state of mind. It's how you feel. The blues isn't always stuff that makes you feel bad, but it's not always stuff that makes you smile. When I lived on the farm as a country boy, on a Saturday night we'd come out of the cotton field and go to the juke joint and hear the blues because we were going to meet all our favorite girls, or if we didn't have a favorite girl we'd look at them and hope they'd be our favorite girl. That was a good time. The saddest time was late Sunday afternoon because Monday morning was a work day. That's when you had the blues because it was over and it's time to go to work again. You'd be glad the blues was coming back again on Friday because Saturday you'd go out to play. Everybody really sings the blues, because everybody wants the same thing: A good house, some money, some good health, a good girlfriend or boyfriend, you want to be peaceful in life; everybody wants the same thing. If you don't have that it'll make you feel sad, but if you have it it'll make you feel good. The blues can make you feel good, or it can make you feel bad. Someone asked me, "Why do you sing the blues? Because your woman left you?" You can have the blues when your woman leaves you, but you can also have the blues if they stay too long.
MR: [laughs] What are you going through when you sing the blues?
BR: When I really create, I'm by myself. Most of the time it's when I'm in the car and I don't have a pencil or my tape recorder. Things really come then, when you don't have anything to write on. Give me some toilet paper and I'll write on that! Write something on your pants leg and hope it comes out. I create from what I know, what I think, and what I wish. Where I wish I was, where I think I want to be, where I used to be, or some things that I'd like to do. All those kinds of things. When a man writes, he pretty much writes about what he knows. It's like writing a book: You can only write what you know. Other than that is fantasy. You can have fantasies about things you do or what you don't want to do and you write about those kinds of things. When I was a kid, I started to write about animals, my first big gold record was "Chicken Heads." At the time Louis Jordan had this song out about how a monkey and a buzzard were good friends, but the monkey was a better friend to the buzzard than the buzzard was to him, so the monkey said, "Mister Buzzard, straighten up and fly right." I got into writing about things that I could relate to on the farm. I watched the cows, the birds, the chickens and I started to write about things I could relate to. Then I started writing about the rooster, the boy, and the hens, the girls. I took those kinds of things and related them to me as the rooster and the girls as the hens. If you think about it, it's nice to be in the barnyard when there ain't a lot of roosters but there are a lot of hens.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
BR: Look in the mirror and face the facts and do all you can while you can, cause there comes a time that you can not do what you want to do. What I mean is be honest with yourself. You're either cold or you're hot, there's no lukewarm. In my position I guess I got caught up in a situation where I'm a performer. You've got to understand that this business is an entertainment business. It's not about singing, it's not about playing the guitar. All of that is good, but you've first got to be an entertainer. You can teach a man how to play a guitar, you can teach a man how to play any other instrument, but you can't teach a man how to perform. An entertainer's born, not made. You have to look at yourself and say, "Am I made, or am I born?" If you're born, it ain't much you have to do, but if you're made you have to know that and say, "Listen, I've got to go out on the road, I've got to work hard, I've got to rehearse and rehearse. Most of the time you don't have to rehearse if it's natural. If it's not natural, then you'll have to work on it. Work on your publishing, write the song and be independent, where you can control your destiny.
MR: You speak with such authority, do you think some of that comes from your dad being a preacher?
BR: Oh, yeah! I remember when my dad told me, "Son, I've got ten children, you're one of them, I want you to drop out of school because you seem to be more apt than all the rest of my children. I want you to help me do some things in the field so you can help me make a better life for the other children." I didn't know how to take that. I thought it was some great thing to do, I got to step out of school and I got a job at a gin and I was making twelve dollars a month. Three dollars a week. That was my first job. My job was to bring him the news. The news was, we as black people didn't know about Dow Jones, but people in the gin would pick up what they were going to sell, sell the cotton for this, sell the beans for this, sell the peanuts for this. My daddy would come in on a Sunday morning and go into the church for service at ten and tell them to meet him at nine or nine thirty so he could tell them what to sell or not sell by my information.
MR: You were the school.
BR: I was the newspaper, I was the school. I told them what to sell. My daddy would walk in and say, "Son, what you heard today?" I'd say, "You can't sell no peanuts today. You can sell some cotton, but you can't sell beans. They went down this week, they'll be up next week." That was the Dow Jones.
MR: That's amazing. I want to ask you a delicate question. It seems like as a country, we've certainly made big progress towards a non-racist society. But a certain level of racism was revealed with what happened in Ferguson and in NY this past year. What are your thoughts on this?
BR: Here's my thoughts. The more things change, the more they remain the same. They've got highway signs saying you should drive fifty-five, that's for the ones who have the desire to speed. But then if a man is a wife beater who learns not to beat his wife, he still is a wife beater. When you don't have a desire to beat your wife, that's the Godly principle. You can change the laws so they say that every man is equal, but that doesn't have anything to do with the heart. "The law says this is what we've got to do," but your heart is different. We have to understand that what we want is different from where it is now. We've come a long way, but yet not far enough. I'm sitting in a position different from a lot of guys as an entertainer, because I have crossed over to a white audience and I did not cross out of the black audience. So many men--and I'm not calling names--have crossed over to a white audience but they just no longer have the black people following them. I'm a blessed man to have this middle-of-the-road kind of thing going. Not everybody knows me, but it's growing. I'm so thankful to people that see me and accept me for who I am and what I do. That doesn't happen to every man.
MR: Do you know what you're going to say when they give you the Grammy?
BR: [laughs] I'm so thankful because when I walked away with the nomination it was already done for me. If I walk away with the Grammy in my hand it's just a plus for me. If I win, there's going to be somebody who loses, and I feel for the person who loses behind me like they feel for me when I lose behind them. Charlie Musselwhite won last year and I took my hat off because I love Charlie Musselwhite. Everybody's out here fighting for the best for them because winning the award will give you the upper hand to get more wood. At my age now I need more wood, I need more kindling. I'm working, I'm in pretty good health, let me do something so I can make some money to take care of my family and spread the good news about this blues thing. And maybe, just maybe, some young man, black or white will come up and say, "Hey, I'm going to pattern myself after Bobby Rush." I'm hoping that some day I do something right enough for them to follow me and that leads them to something that'll do good for them and their family.
MR: That's wonderful. So you're eighty years old now, right?
BR: I didn't say, I didn't say! [laughs]
MR: So we already know what you did for the first part of your life, what are you going to do for the next eighty years?
BR: [laughs] Oh, for the next eighty, I'm just going to play music and sit more down on the stoop so I can relax. I won't have to jump as high, I won't have to pat as hard, so I won't go so hard on my heart. And I'm going to try to keep makin' love. Because when you make love, love will come back to you.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
KRISTIN ANDREASSEN'S "LOOKOUT" PREMIERE
According to Kristin Andreassen...
"Hurricane Sandy hit New York hard. My apartment was left high and dry, so when the storm cleared, I went to offer help at a friend's house in the shoreline neighborhood of Red Hook. Their basement apartment had filled up with enough water to float their upright piano, but they as much help as they could use that day, so instead I spent the day clearing muddy furniture and mementos from the basement of a total stranger. 'Lookout' is about friendship and community in the face of tough times. It's also about the inevitability of hardship as time and age makes everybody's journey more challenging."
A Conversation with Dylan Gardner
Mike Ragogna: Dylan, last time we spoke, you were releasing Adventures In Real Time yourself, going the indie route. Now you're signed to Warner Bros. and it's coming out on that label. What the heck happened?
Dylan Gardner: Well we put the record up on Spotify and about two weeks later I was sitting at Panda Express and I opened Spotify to check the numbers--not thinking anyone would know it came out since guerilla marketing takes so long--but "Let's Get Started" had eighty three thousand plays. I was just wondering what happened. It turns out a lot of people clicked on the record when it came up under "New Releases" on Spotify and it got added to all of these different playlists. People shared it and shared it and it got on a lot of big Spotify playlists and suddenly the record started getting played over and over again and before I knew it "Let's Get Started" had a million plays, and then it had two millions plays and the rest of the album was racking up a hundred thousand plays, it was quite insane. Warner Bros. took notice and contacted me which was great because I personally think Warner Bros. is the greatest American label and it feels amazing to be in a company of legend.
MR: Yeah, it's awesome that they got what was going on with you as an artist.
DG: They completely got what was going on. They're an artists first label.
MR: There must have been someone who championed you at Warner Bros. and said, "We've got to sign this kid." What's the signing story?
DG: Just going through the ringer. I've been doing this since I was fourteen, shopping my songs around and showcasing them. You meet more people and you meet people who know people and you go to all these things. I went to Capitol Records in about 2012 and met some people there and showcased for them and it turned out that the demo got around the office and the people from Capitol ended up going over to Warner Bros. and kind of took me with them on their departure. As soon as they got there I already knew some people at Warner Bros. just from playing around and before you knew it there was this giant family there of people that enjoyed my music. Once I went in there and talked to them, they all just had this look on their faces and the legendary Lenny Waronker was in the room too and I was just like, "This is the best place on Earth." I feel like I'm going to be able to express myself artistically and be in the company of amazing people and I'm going to become a better songwriter, a better person and a better performer.
MR: Warner Bros. has a history of sticking with artists for a while, too. I think you're in a really good place.
DG: I'm definitely in the right place.
MR: Were there any tracks that they suggested to make changes to?
DG: No, it's solid re-release. They heard the record, they said, "It's your vision, it's perfect, let's not change it, let's not do the big corporate machine thing; this is your baby and we're going to put it out exactly how it is and we're going to pour gasoline on the fire." That's what we're doing. They trust the vision and I trust them and all the rest.
MR: How did the album itself come together?
DG: I started writing the songs about two years ago and I was demoing all the songs in my room. I must have demoed about a hundred songs, I took everything out of my room, got rid of all the stuff in my closet because I needed a vocal booth, I got all these instruments, went Goodwill shopping for some, and just recorded all night. We had all these demos and my manager and I looked at this and thought, "Well there's a record in here somewhere." So we tried to find someone to help realize this because my producing in Pro Tools as far as getting a record-ready sound was not up to par yet, so we went around looking for people that we knew and my manager who worked at A&M in the nineties signed Jack Drag, which is John Dragonetti's band. He was one of the people that we contacted. The first track that we tried out I think was "I Think I'm Falling For Something," he tracked a little bit of the record and I got to his house and listened to it and I was like, "Whoa, he's a producer. He's the one that will help me make the record."
MR: "I Think I'm Falling For Something" is probably my favorite track on the album.
DG: Oh thanks, it was definitely one of my favorite songs to record. The part that I have the most fun with while record making is getting to experiment and try new things. On that track specifically I wanted something to lift the chorus so I was listening to Pete Drake records, he's this slide guitar player from Nashville who plays with a talk box. He actually introduced Peter Frampton to the talk box. I wanted a lap steel through a talk box for the middle of each chorus and we were able to replicate that and it was awesome.
MR: "I Think I'm Falling For Something" is such a terrific recording that I predict it's goes Top Ten record if Warners releases it as a single. There. Said it, can't take it back.
DG: [laughs] Really? Wow, I hope you're right!
MR: Hey Dylan, this album just sounds so fresh. But when you finished recording and mixing the project, did you ever listen to an online station or the radio and feel like you needed to change things up?
DG: No, when I finished the record, my first thought was, "This is the record I wanted to make." It was the vision that I had in my head since in the first song that I wrote for the record. I was really proud of it. I try not to pay attention to the mood swings of the music world. There's always something that's there for five minutes and then it's gone. It's the "Harlem Shake" or something like that. I try not to pay attention to that because you fall under the same spell and try to make that and it might work if you put it out in that five minutes but then you yourself become a product of yesterday. I'm not in music to become a product of yesterday. I try to transcend all of the influences I have. There's definitely things that make those "five minute" songs special, don't get me wrong, but the vision I have is always what comes to me, it's never inspired by cashing in.
MR: Sweet. You've often said you were inspired by The Beatles, and I think one can tell from your music and the way you dressed in your video for Adventures' first track, "Let's Get Started," that they were quite a big influence on you.
DG: Oh, there hasn't been a bigger influence on my music, my life, and the way I behave than that band. Those four people, just the way they inspired everyone, let alone me, everyone who had a television set back in 1964 saw them playing became a fan. Some of the first memories I have are of listening to Beatles records. I had A Hard Day's Night cassette tape that I played until the magnetic tape was all around my room...I wish I still had that! There's just a magic in learning to play the songs, and there's never enough to learn about the band. They're just that kind of band.
MR: I think it's true that whenever one listens to music at different times in one's life, he or she hears it very differently.
DG: Oh yeah, I think you're always a different person every day. If you listen to the same song every day you're going to hear something different. I hear something different in my own songs every time I listen to them. If you put music down for a while and come back to the same piece of music you're going to feel slightly different about it. It's like listening to songs you used to listen to as a child, they've got a completely different meaning.
MR: Do you think you can see all these different layers because you're recording your feelings?
DG: Oh yeah, I go back all the time and see songs that were about one thing are actually about another and I didn't even realize it. The song "Feeling Of Love" I wrote as the euphoric feeling of love that hits you when you're in love, but I'm singing the song live and I realize the lyrics are shifted and that it's about my dog. [laughs]
MR: There are ten songs on here, did you arrange them with a Side A and Side B in mind?
DG: I didn't think of it in terms of Side A and Side B in quality, but in terms of a record listening journey and when it's appropriate to flip the record. I wanted the first song on the second side to be "The Actor" because when you listen to big stars' records Side A is rocking, "Boom, boom, boom," and then you flip it over and it calms down. I did think of it in terms of that, but as far as record making I thought of it as a collection of ten songs. I had song tracks but it wasn't until I had the final order that I thought about people who flip the record over, for vinyl buyers. It's a selfish thought, but to me, if it didn't come out on vinyl it didn't come out at all. That's just the only way I listen to music.
MR: There's a diversity on this album that is unusual. I think beyond Side A / Side B format, each song fits with the next in certain ways.
DG: Right, like I said, you're a different person every day and you're constantly going through different records that you pick up at the record store, or something happens to you in your life that you get interested in. If you look back at a collection of a lot of songs you wrote you have some diversity there. Change, for me, is always a great thing. I plan to have a wide scale in my discography. One person I look to for that is Elvis Costello. After Armed Forces he's never in the same place twice.
MR: That's a good point. And I think it's illegal to repeat the genius that is Armed Forces.
MR: Rumor has it that as you recorded this album, you also had a few more albums' worth of songs in the can?
DG: I do. I could put out two records tomorrow.
MR: Is it the same team that approached the current record or have you got everything recorded on your end?
DG: This is all me. This is just me working in the backroom the entire time we've been making all of this stuff. That's all I do all day, I don't go outside or party or play with my friends, I just sit on my computer or at my piano and I write and record.
MR: And these tracks haven't been worked over by Dragonetti yet?
DG: Actually, he just heard the collection of songs I've got and we're super psyched on it. We're always thinking down the road. In terms of football, Russell Wilson said when he held the Lombardi trophy the moment he put it down he just thought about the next one. That's an artist's job. The moment you put the record out you've got to start thinking about the next one, whether or not anyone cares or even knows about it. I plan to make a lot of records in my lifetime and this is the start of the journey.
MR: So Dragonetti gets the tracks you've recorded and then he works on them from his end?
DG: Yes. But that process has not started yet because I'm still just writing and writing and writing. I want to have as many songs as possible for the official moment when we look at the record and go, "Let's make it."
MR: You must be champing at the bit to get to the next one...or are you kind of savoring what you did at this point?
DG: To be honest, I'm kind of in the middle of both. I'm constantly working on the future. Going back to football again, one of the wide receivers in the Super Bowl said he got to the Super Bowl early and was just catching balls for three hours beforehand and he was ready to keep it up when the game started. I'm constantly just working at it for the future. If someone comes to me and says, "Put the record out tomorrow," we'll start making it. I'm definitely on the bandwagon of supporting this album and getting this album out there. I wanted as many people as possible to hear it. That's why I'm going on tour for a month. We're touring the United States, we're going to put the record in front of all of these people, play high schools and do interviews--I want to be in front of the people, man. I want them to hear it and I want to give a great show.
MR: So touring is going to be extensive?
DG: Oh yeah, just going and playing a bunch of venues. I just added all the tour dates two weeks ago to the website, dylangardnermusic.com/tour. I'm so poorly traveled, I get to go to all of these places for the first time, I'm just going to play my heart out. I want to give people a sweet show. Full on electric. Just me, my brother [drummer], and my bass player, we have so much energy. Just wait 'til you see it, man!
MR: Looking forward to it! Dylan, what is your advice for new artists?
DG: My advice for new artists is work hard and practice at your craft every day. Never put something in front of what you want to do for the rest of your life. The day that you do what you love you never have to work again. It's really honest but you have to work at what you love. Follow your dreams, not in the sense of just saying those three words; You have to actually act on it. If you think you're an amazing songwriter or you think you're an amazing performer, practice every single day because you're only going to get better. If you want to be the best in the world at something you'd better start now.
MR: Now that you're associated with a major label, what do you still have to pay attention to in the same way you did as an indie artist?
DG: I still get to have all of the creative input, it's still always my input, "Hey guys, why don't we do this?" I'm still running all my Twitter and Facebook and stuff because I don't want someone who's not me to take that over and post boringly all the time, I want to interact with all of my fans. My artistic integrity is three thousand percent. Just a couple of months ago we wanted to put out another music video, so we said, "What are we going to do?" and I said, "How about 'Too Afraid To Love You?' We'll do a music video like this and we'll film it in this place," and everyone was like, "Cool." So that's the music video that's coming out pretty soon. They really helped me have all creative control of that because they're an artist-friendly label. So we've got this cool, exciting music video for "Too Afraid To Love You" coming and that's going to be really awesome.
MR: How do you think it's going to affect you and your music when you turn the corner and become a huge act?
DG: Success to me only means more people being able to hear the music. I still want to be in the same bedroom making the same music, I'm not in it to be on the front of People magazine. To be a songwriter and for people to hear my music, its success means more people hearing and sharing my music and collecting vinyl or listening to any of the artists I'm inspired by. That's a beautiful, wonderful thing. It really means just making more friends and making more music than ever.
MR: So this is your social connection?
DG: I put music first and word of mouth will hopefully get the music out there.
MR: FYI, your album is still in heavy rotation with both me and my son. That's really good stuff to come out of someone's bedroom.
DG: Thank you, man. Just wait for the future.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
My first interview with Dylan Gardner can be found at this address: http://www.mikeragogna.com/introducing-popster-dylan-gardner-huffpost-5-1-14/
MAN OVERBOARD'S "ONE FIXED POINT" PREMIERE
According to Man Overboard's Justin Collier...
"'One Fixed Point' is a really old Man Overboard song that we always liked but never had a place for. When Buddy from Senses Fail approached us about doing this split we were going through our trove of unused songs and came back to this... It actually didn't even have a name. We gave it an overhaul, gave it name and here it is."
The MO camp further explains...
"This Man Overboard track will appear on Man Overboard's upcoming split with Senses Fail (www.facebook.com/sensesfail) out March 3rd and includes an original song from each band as well as each of them doing a cover of one of the other band's songs. It's a co-release from Rise Records and Pure Noise Records. Both bands are going to be touring with Bayside and those tour dates can be found here: http://manoverboardnj.com/tour/"