On The Road With NPR Music: Sean MacLean At KING, Seattle, Washington

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling; largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

You might know Seattle for its grunge, alternative and indie scenes – this is after all the home of the Experience Music Project – but as Sean MacLean tells us, if you haven’t been paying attention to the classical music of the region, you’re missing out.

Name: Sean MacLean

Member station: Classical King FM 98.1

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Northwest Focus, weeknights 8-10 p.m., with live musicians Friday nights at 8. Afternoon/evening host Monday – Friday 4-10 p.m.

1. When people think of music in Seattle, what do they think of?

Options! The Early Music, jazz, rock, and film scoring cutting edge, but also Benaroya Hall, home of Seattle Symphony, where you can sip outstanding Washington State Syrahs while enjoying the view from the giant windows that give out onto beautiful Elliott Bay, then go into the splendid acoustics of the floating hall and have your heart blown wide by timeless music.

2. How do you help curate that musical scene?

Through “Northwest Focus“: since living in Seattle means figuring out what NOT to see that night, we pick the most engaging events to link at our website, and give our listeners a chance to meet local classical musicians on “Northwest Focus LIVE” on Friday nights at 8. The shows are archived and YouTube videos are shared. The groups get exposure, and our audience is enriched. We get a lot of feedback about the quality of the music scene here.

3. How has that scene evolved over the last few decades?

Early Music Mecca! Increase in choral groups! More performances of classical music in crossover venues.

4. What would you say is the most unique thing about the Seattle music scene?

People move here for the healthy lifestyle and surrounding natural beauty. I think you can hear the “health” in their playing. Neither sincerity of interpretation, nor cooperation between musical presenters is not considered naïve. Ironic detachment is not cool here, as it is in many cities. Generosity of spirit is the vibe.

5. What are three new up and coming bands on your local scene right now and what makes them distinct?

In the early music scene, Stephen Stubbs is doing amazing productions with Pacific Musicworks. Then there is Whim Whim who dance to choral music. Amazing. Which brings up The Esoterics, led by Eric Banks, who wrote the music. I don’t know how he ever gets any sleep, with the composing, research, and performance.

6. For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

“Assez Vif” – Seattle Marimba Quartet
“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (arr. J. Sandstrom)” – Dale Warland Singers
“F. Couperin: Les baricades Mystérieuses” – Les baricades Mystérieuses – arranged by Göran Söllscher
“Gloria: IX. Cum Sancto Spiritu” – Couperin, Francois, Göran Söllscher
“Jardim Abandonado” – Sergio and Odair Assad
“The Great “O” Antiphons – O Radix Jesse (“O Root of Jesse”)” – Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble
“Toward the Sea: III. Cape Cod” – Paul Taub, alto Flute; Michael Partington, guitar

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify.

On The Road With NPR Music: Matt Fleeger At KMHD, Portland, Oregon

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling, largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Portland, Oregon might be known for its indie scene, but as Matt Fleeger shows us, it’s also home to a burgeoning jazz scene. As Fleeger points out, when most people think of jazz, they think of a scene that ended in the late 60s. On the contrary, it’s a genre that’s alive and well, full of fusion acts and creative ensembles. Check out Fleeger’s playlist for a good feel of what this city has to offer.

Name: Matt Fleeger

Member station: KMHD Jazz Radio

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Program Director/Host of “New Jazz For Lunch” M-Thurs 12 (noon) to 1 PM, M-Thurs.

When people think of music in Portland, what do they think of?

A DIY, underground approach to music, independent music. In terms of Jazz, highly creative ensembles and players – people who aren’t afraid to think outside the box a bit.

How do you help curate that musical scene?

At KMHD, we try to “hold up” the really creative, interesting, different sounds that are coming out of our city. We partner with the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, which is an organization is concerned with fostering new Jazz compositions and releases a different CD featuring a Portland band each month. We bring local musicians into the studio every Friday afternoon for live performances direct to air, and we film local bands playing in various spaces throughout the city. My show in particular features all new releases in an attempt to expose our audience to new sounds. Often times, the Jazz audience gets caught up in the thinking that Jazz ended in 1969, but there are many very interesting sounds and directions happening within the scene today.

How has the Portland jazz scene evolved over the last few decades?

Portland has always had a certain forward-thinking aesthetic when it comes to music, but on the other hand there’s a very laid-back sensibility at work here, too. The Jazz scene has changed a lot over the past few decades, but it’s always been inventive. In the 70’s – Portland (and Eugene, to the south) gave birth to a sort of world-jazz fusion through bands like Oregon, or saxophonist Jim Pepper. Music education factors heavily into the equation as well, whether it’s from Thara Memory (Esperanza Spalding’s mentor) or Portland State University’s Darrell Grant, who is a world-renowned Jazz musician in his own right.


What would you say is the most unique thing about your music scene?

Really it’s the people. And by people, I mean the audience, the people who consume the music. Portland is very (VERY) supportive of its homegrown talent. For example, during the Portland Jazz Festival at least two of the 12 headlining shows are always local acts, and these shows always sell out before the national or international acts that are visiting. That’s something you don’t find in most cities.

What are three new up and coming bands on the Portland scene right now and what makes them distinct?

Nowadays, it’s bands like the Blue Cranes or Grammies that are fusing the improvisational ideas of this music with other bands or genres that influenced them (think Fugazi or tUnE yArDs).

For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

“Everything is Going to Be Okay” – Blue Cranes
“Echolalia” – Kin Trio
“Strong Fire” – Andrew Oliver Sextet
“XSABCESS” – Grammies
“Give Thanks” – Darren Klein
“Rainy Day, Sunny Heart” – Gunga Galunga
“Blossom Bell” – 1939 Ensemble

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify.

On The Road With NPR Music: Chris Campbell At WDET, Detroit, Michigan

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling; largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Today we’re checking out the scene in Detroit, and local host Chris Campbell has his finger on the pulse of all that’s progressive and underground. His playlist that he made exclusively for Gadling is full of tracks you’ve probably never heard, but certainly won’t be able to stop listening to. If you think Detroit is just a rap scene as depicted in “8 Mile,” think again.

Name: Chris Campbell

Member station: 101.9 FM WDET

Regular Show/Contribution BeatThe Progressive Underground w/Chris Campbell


1. When people think of music in Detroit, what do they think of?

Generally speaking, people think of Motown Records, but Detroit also has a vibrant techno/electronic music scene (it’s the birthplace of techno music) in addition to a burgeoning progressive hip hop and R&B scene as well. The electronic, future soul and progressive hip hop genres are the scenes that we tend to focus on during our show broadcasts.

2. How do you help curate the Detroit musical scene?

I curate the electronic music scene through artist/DJ spotlights, atmospheric mix segments and artist interviews, which are also posted through various media networks (WDET website, Sound Cloud, etc).

3. How has that scene evolved over the last few decades?

The electronic scene has had a curious evolution. It started out very strong back in the 1980s locally, but became a genre that was more cherished overseas – especially in the UK and Japan. Many artists who are looking to become even more established still focus on touring overseas, but there has been a concerted effort made to play/tour the home market and build up the scene locally.

4. What would you say is the most unique thing about your music scene?

The most unique thing – in my mind – is that the electronic scene is full of diversity, variance and a myriad number of styles. Stylistically, electronic encompasses subgenres such as deep house, chill, chill wave, down tempo, and future soul. It is a genre that is seeing a “boon” in the number of artists who are embracing it.

5. What are three new up and coming bands on the Detroit scene right now and what makes them distinct?

Tall Black Guy – Terrell Wallace aka Tall Black Guy is a Detroit artist/producer whose music spans a wide spectrum of electronic. We have currently been playing his album “The Brazilian Chronicles,” which is electronic music that is inspired by the history and music of Brazil. His uniqueness is displayed in his production work – groovy orchestral flourishes set on top of multi-layered rhythm patterns. He is truly a producer that approaches his electronic music with a sense of musical virtuosity.

Inohs Sivad – Inohs Sivad is singer/songwriter/producer/composer, who exemplifies the emerging future soul genre. Her music combines some of the foundational elements of classic soul (strong lyricism/writing) with some of the staples of progressive and future soul arrangements (organic and elemental sound textures).

Leaf Erikson – Artist/wordsmith Vernon Greenleaf aka Leaf Erikson is an artist who is on Detroit’s famed underground Butter Made record label. He has shared the stage with many regional and national figures and what makes his music exceptional is the merger of the melodic production with his sense of communal awareness and lyrical substance.

6. For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

The last four are not Detroit artists, but they are artists that we have broken in the Detroit market and ones that we play heavily.

“O Fim De Viagem” – Tall Black Guy

“Brown Suga” – Swiftus Funkellwerk

“Moving On” – Rick Wade

“Somewhere Else” – Inohs Sivad feat. Diamondancer

“Artificial” – Leaf Erikson

“Midnight” – Candace Nicole

“So Blue & Green” – Cecilia Stalin

“Listeriosis” – BadBadNotGood

“See With Me” – Jesse Boykins III

“Play With Me” – Princess Freesia

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify.

On The Road With NPR Music: Gwen Thompkins At WWNO, New Orleans, Louisiana

We love music here at Gadling, and this month is Public Radio Music Month, which is why we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Today we’re headed to the birthplace of jazz: New Orleans. But New Orleans offers a whole lot more than jazz, and the local scene is one that’s well known outside of Louisiana. Thanks to local music host Gwen Thompkins we get the insider scoop on the music of this exciting city, from singer-songwriters to high school brass bands.

Name: Gwen Thompkins

Member station: WWNO, New Orleans

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Host, Music Inside Out with Gwen Thompkins. NPR contributor.

When people think of music in New Orleans, what do they think of?

When people think of New Orleans, they think of music and vice versa. The city and its music are synonymous – traditional jazz, modern jazz, bounce, blues, R&B, brass bands, gospel, boogie woogie, swamp pop, hip hop, funk, cabaret. If your tastes run to opera, New Orleans has that too. In fact, the first opera house in North America was built right here in the French Quarter, which back then wasn’t just a neighborhood. It was New Orleans. Jelly Roll Morton talked about what he heard and saw at the opera house all the time. But what most people forget is that the legendary Boswell Sisters also grew up in New Orleans. In the 1920s and 1930s, their vocal jazz harmonies dominated the national charts and sold tens of millions of records. Ella Fitzgerald credited Connee Boswell as the only singer she ever tried to emulate.

New Orleans later topped the national charts with early rhythm and blues. Nearly everything Fats Domino touched turned to gold. But there’s no use skipping over Shirley and Lee of “Let the Good Times Roll,” or Ruth “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” Brown or Lee “Working in a Coal Mine” Dorsey. And the whole nation heard about Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law.”

These homegrown songs and many, many others are still part of our daily lives in New Orleans. We hear them every day on radio and at a growing number of music festivals around town.

More often than not, today’s visitors to New Orleans want to fit into the groove right along with us. So they’re looking to absorb the whole musical experience – from trumpeter Buddy Bolden to the Meters, from Mahalia Jackson to Mystikal and from Louis Prima to Trombone Shorty to L’il Wayne. They also want to know about the great producers – Allen Toussaint, Dave Bartholomew, Wardell Quezergue and Cosimo Matassa – who helped shape, shift and funkify modern American music. And they want to hear from some of our piano royalty – Professor Longhair, James Booker, Dr. John, Huey Smith, Ellis Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., David Torkanowsky, Jon Cleary.

And then there’s Louis Armstrong. He’s the immortal one, the reason we all want to be from New Orleans.

How do you help curate that musical scene?

I look to my left and I look to my right and chances are – wherever I am in New Orleans – there’s someone or something great nearby. Just a few doors down from my house lives Lionel Ferbos who, at 101, is the oldest performing jazz musician in town. I see soul queen Irma Thomas at the dry cleaners and Dr. John at the grocery store. Talent is ubiquitous down here, which makes us a little spoiled. So I’m creating an archive of hour-long discussions with some of the most seminal artists of our time. We talk about the experiences and influences that helped create their sound and, by extension, music that is treasured around the world. We broadcast the interviews each week on radio and allow folks to stream them on the web.

How has the New Orleans scene evolved over the past few decades?

We’ve said goodbye to way too many wonderful artists in recent decades. Some, like James “Sugar Boy” Crawford or “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, died. Others, like the great pianist Henry Butler, moved away because they had to start over again after Hurricane Katrina. But those who can come back eventually do.

Since the 1950s, New Orleans has had its share of traditional jazz revivals and currently traditional jazz is in full bloom, with a crowd of established and up and coming artists. Try visiting Preservation Hall or the Palm Court Cafe or walking Frenchman Street in the Marigny (neighborhood). There’s nothing like seeing kids with dreadlocks and tattoos slow dancing to an old classic like, “Careless Love.”

That said, bounce has grabbed a lot of music lovers by the ears. Big Freedia and Katie Red are the divas to beat and when they team up with funksters like Galactic, they’re unstoppable.

Brass bands have gotten funkier too, which has set off an aesthetic debate down here about the meaning of tradition. What a trumpeter like Shamarr Allen teaches young brass band players is a world apart from what a drummer like Shannon Powell learned from the celebrated jazz greats of Treme.

What would you say is the most unique thing about the New Orleans music scene?

New Orleans has open arms. There’s room in the city for homegrown talent and for musicians who were born far, far away. It’s rare to find a place in the world where so many different people can play so many disparate styles and still feel at home artistically.

What are three new up and coming bands on the local scene right now and what makes them distinct?

The first lesson a music lover learns here is, “Ain’t nothing new.”

But if you’re coming to New Orleans don’t miss:

Alex McMurray: one of the finest songwriters working today in New Orleans or anyplace else. McMurray was born in New Jersey, came down here for college, took in a Neville Brothers/Marva Wright show at Tipitina’s and decided he was home. His songs are fully realized narratives about protagonists who drift through blues melodies, ditties, lounge music or flat out rock ‘n roll. McMurray writes about old boxers and sea faring lads, barflies, soldiers, at least one courtesan and a nutty guy named, “Otis.” Through a strange set of circumstances involving Disney and Japan, McMurray also knows an unusual number of sea shanties by heart. Filthy? Yes. But they’re awfully fun. He plays solo and with a band called the Tin Men. Check out: “The Get Go” “Me and My Bad Luck,” “It’s Not the Years, It’s the Miles,” “As Long as You Let Me.”

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Great singer-songwriters, not afraid of a guitar and a violin and a yodel or two. Alynda Lee Segarra, originally of the Bronx, New York, writes most of the songs. The melodies are mostly folk rock, but take on a Cajun quality at times. Hurray for the Riff Raff has been reported to admire The Band, which makes them A-OK by me. Check out: “Look Out Mama,” “Junebug Waltz,” “Little Black Star.”

KIPP McDonough 15 Middle School Brass Band. Director: Kelvin Harrison, Sr.: One of the many young brass bands coming out of the schools of New Orleans. Others include: O. Perry Walker High School Brass Band and Joseph S. Clark Prep Brass Band. Each school won a top prize at the 2013 Class Got Brass competition held by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. This is how the city’s second line tradition is reaching the stars of tomorrow.

Each year, the foundation uses some of the money earned at the city’s annual jazz and heritage festival to help continue local music traditions. The bands win prize money to buy and maintain their instruments. If you wanna know who’s gonna be the next Trombone Shorty, Shamarr Allen or Dr. Michael White, start seeking out these and other young brass bands.

For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

“We Made it Through That Water” – Free Agents Brass Band

“Heart of Steel” – Galactic featuring Irma Thomas

“Blessed Quietness” – Zion Harmonizers & Olympia Brass Band

“Petite Fleur” – Dr. Michael White

“Tou’ Les Jours C’est Pas La Meme – Carol Fran

“Careless Love -Don Vappie

“Atrapado” – Tom McDermott

“How Come My Dog Don’t Bark (When You Come Around)” – Dr. John

“Cry to Me” – Professor Longhair

“Tipitina and Me” – Allen Toussaint

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify.

On The Road With NPR Music: Andrea Swensson At KCMP, Twin Cities, Minnesota

We love music here at Gadling, and this month is Public Radio Music Month, which is why we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Name: Andrea Swensson

Member station: 89.3 The Current

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Music Reporter

When people think of music in the Twin Cities, what do they think of?

The first thing that seems to come to mind for most people is either Prince or the underground punk scene of the ’80s, which spawned the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum. In more recent years our hip hop community – led by Rhymesayers artists like Atmosphere and Brother Ali and independent crew Doomtree – has become world-renowned, and we have big variety of other genres of artists finding success, from bluegrass to electro-pop to jazz. In general, people think of the Twin Cities with a vibrant, collaborative and supportive place to make music. We like to joke that we are living in the Land of 10,000 Bands.

How do you help curate that musical scene?

The Current has several different ways it supports the Minnesota music community. My role at the station is to report exclusively on local music and post my findings on the blog – which contains everything from show reviews and interviews to news stories and in-depth profiles – and share them with the host of the Current’s weekly Local Show. We also have a 24/7 all-Minnesota music stream called Local Current, and have just launched a pair of specialty shows about the Duluth scene (home of Trampled by Turtles, Low, and Charlie Parr) and our ever-expanding hip-hop scene.

How has that scene evolved over the last few decades?

We have experienced a boom in both the number of active bands and the number of bands breaking out nationally over the past few years. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing this upswing, but at times it can be difficult to keep up with all of the high-quality new music coming out. It’s not just one genre or niche that’s expanding, either; there is an energy and excitement that is palpable throughout the Twin Cities.

What would you say is the most unique thing about the Twin Cities music scene?

There is a collaborative spirit that binds our community together. The Twin Cities are large enough to support a couple dozen venues and spawn hundreds of bands, yet small enough that musicians can develop meaningful relationships with one another. It’s not uncommon for bands to share members or work together on projects; the 27-member Gayngs recording project is a good example of this, as are compilations like “Absolutely Cuckoo: Minnesota Covers 69 Love Songs,” which featured Magnetic Fields songs covered by 69 different local artists.

What are three new up and coming bands on your local scene right now and what makes them distinct?

The Chalice: An explosive hip-hop trio that has caught the attention of our entire scene this year. They are natural performers and their charisma is off the charts.

Meme: Crystalline pop from a young duo who are just beginning to play out live. Singer Lizzie Brown’s voice is mesmerizing, and her partner Danny Burke creates cool high-concept, animated music videos to accompany their tracks.

Southwire: This Duluth quartet combines gospel, folk and spoken word to create a unique, alluring sound.

For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

  • Aby Wolf, “Permission”
  • Meme, “Young”
  • Crankshaft, “Boomtown”
  • Trampled by Turtles, “Alone”
  • Van Stee, “We Are”
  • P.O.S., “Get Down”
  • The Chalice, “Push It”
  • Southwire, “Gone Astray”
  • Dessa, “Dixon’s Girl”
  • Har Mar Superstar, “Lady, You Shot Me”

Listen to the playlist on Spotify.

[Photo Credit: Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR]