Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, XPN’midday host Helen Leicht shares her favorite records of the year.
How can I possibly pick only five favorite albums of 2014?? But I must, so if you or your friends are looking to explore some new music from this past year, here is what I would suggest…. Continue reading →
The 6th Annual Philly Local Home for the Holidays show was recorded at Morning Star Studios in Montgomery County PA. It was a return visit to this studio and once again Glenn Barratt recorded the session. It’s always a wonderful day of music. A time for getting together with friends and making new friendships in the music community. I love hearing the artists warming up and working on arrangements. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, Philly Local artist Cole Redding joined us for our Musicians on Call afternoon of music. He’s been in the studio recording and shared with me his cover of The Beach Boys’ song “God Only Knows.” This Beach Boys song came in at #22 in our 885 Greatest Songs Countdown that was voted on by our listeners, so I thought I’d talk with Cole about his cover of the song and his forthcoming album. Cole will also be one of the Philly Local artists joining me for the 6th Annual Philly Local Home for the Holidays show to be aired on XPN in December.
As we begin to celebrate our 10 year anniversary of our new home at 3025 Walnut Street I wanted to talk with a few of the local artists that performed around here. I remember like it was yesterday – I heard their voices echo throughout the building, thinking to myself this is really happening! We built a building and they have come! This week I spoke with Andrew Lipke about the ten years we’ve spent in this XPN home. Continue reading →
On Monday, Viv and the Revival stopped by my midday show to celebrate the release of their new album on Republic Records. You can listen to the in studio performance and interview below. Continue reading →
Liz Longley will return to her native Philadelphia next month for a pair of shows in support of her upcoming self-titled release. I spoke with Liz recently about her new record, her move to Nashville and her experience working with the musicians on the album. You can see her perform at Tellus 360 in Lancaster on August 29th and at Burlap and Bean on September 4th.
Helen Leicht: You grew up in the Philadelphia area – where are you from?
Liz Longley: I’m originally from West Chester, PA but grew up in Downingtown, PA.
HL: And you are now living in Nashville. Why did you decide to move and how long have you been living there?
LL: In 2011, I moved from my college town of Boston to Nashville, TN. While I’m far from home, I feel part of an incredible music community. The focus on the craft of songwriting here is inspiring and the caliber of musicians here is unbelievable. There’s nothing like it.
HL: Tell me about the making of your new album and who you worked with on this new music?
LL: The upcoming album, Liz Longley, is a collection of songs I have written about experiences I’ve had over the past couple of years. Good and bad! The exceptions are “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” a cover of one of my favorite Queen songs, and “This Is Not the End” which I cowrote with three great songwriters for the season 6 finale of Army Wives.
I’m extremely lucky to have a supportive and enthusiastic fan base who funded the making of this record through Kickstarter. Continue reading →
Jacob Snider is a singer songwriter from suburban Philadelphia. I saw Jacob when he performed his first show at World Cafe Live in Philly when he was 17 years old – I was really impressed by his performance and stage presence. He recently graduated from college and has been working on his new music. He has a show this Thursday, July 10th, at World Cafe Live along with Elizabeth & The Catapult. I thought it was a good time to meet Jacob and find out what he’s been up to.
Helen Leicht: I know last May you graduated from college …where did you go to school and what was your major?
Jacob Snider: I went to Columbia University for college. I studied Music and American Studies there. I also played a lot of music in the city with a bunch of different people. Columbia is where I met Armand Hirsch, one of my best friends and collaborators.
HL: How long have you been writing and performing? JS: I’ve been writing and recording…my whole life! My brother Cary and I have a band not many people know of called The Piggies. We’re a studio band.
HL: You have been in California working and recording your debut album. Why did you head to California and who have you been working with on your new music?
JS: I left for California on somewhat of a whim. I had one or two meetings scheduled, and at one of them, I learned about a producer named Tony Berg. I met with Tony and he had many instruments in his home studio, was welcoming, and we hit it off. His brother is a biographer, and had just finished a biography of Woodrow Wilson – we talked about that. We talked about what I was listening to. I played him some songs. He told me the trick is finding a “unique sonic palette” to make the music with, and we started putting things together.
HL: Tell me about your songwriting process?
JS: Songwriting process is always hard to talk about. I’m wary about “telling a story” too much, as the stories we tell tend to simplify and make coherent the things of life that are anything but simple or coherent. But I can say that the lyrics of these songs are more clear – at least in my mind – than anything I’ve written up to now. That’s something Tony pushed me on. I would bring a sketch to Tony and he would give helpful feedback.
HL: When will you be releasing your new music?
JS: Almost all of these songs were written over the period of a few months. And they came out of a turbulent stretch of time in my life. I don’t think turbulence ever stops. And I don’t think to “get over it,” whatever it is, is the goal. I think you carry it- many things – with you, and it changes with you as you trudge along.
I’m not sure when the whole record will be released but I hope soon! I have one song from it up on my Soundcloud and I will be posting more soon.
HL: Any cool fact about the new album that you can share with me?
JS: Cool facts… The record features prominently Armand Hirsch, who is playing 70% of the instruments. It wouldn’t have been what it is without him. Drums, bass, guitar, banjo, marxophone, among others. It also features Rob Moose on violin and viola, who was the musical director for Bon Iver, and has recorded strings for Dirty Projectors and Sufjan Stevens. Rob also has his own group called yMusic. Jesca Hoop is an amazing Manchester, England based songwriter who is singing on the final song, “Get It Off My Chest.”
HL: You have a show coming up this Thursday July 10th. Are you solo or with a band?
JS: On Thursday I will most likely be playing solo, but it’s a co-bill. Elizabeth and the Catapult is a very interesting artist based in New York. She also made a record with Tony Berg and he put us in touch. I’m excited to share the stage with her.
Tickets and information for Jacob Snider’s show at World Cafe Live can be found here.
Philadelphia four-piece HighKick just performed at The Porch for XPN Local’s First Wednesday Busking Series this week, and will continue the celebration at Jack McShea’s in Ardmore on Saturday, July 5th. To catch up with the hardworking quartet, I sent the band some questions about their new EP and what they’ve been working on. Read the Q&A below and get information on their free Ardmore show here.
Helen Leicht: Who are the members of HighKick and how long have you been together?
HighKick: We are Matt Miceli on vocals and guitar; Kevin Mairs on vocals, guitar and keyboards; Mike Iannece on bass guitar and vocals; and Robb Matthews on drums. We have been together 6 years now.
HL: You recently released a new EP. Can you tell me about the new music and what’s been going on with HighKick?
Highkick: Our new EP was compiled from songs that we have written over the past 3 years. Songs that we never got around to recording but we thought had a common thread. We produced the album ourselves and the process felt new this time around with the addition of our current drummer Robb. He brought a fresh look at these songs that we had been kicking around and playing at our live shows.
The process of creating and releasing this EP really inspired us to hit the road and take our music to other markets. We just got back from our first multi-state tour and it was a great experience. Currently we are converting our diesel bus to run on veggie oil and we are booking another tour for the fall.
We are playing a show this Saturday, July 5th, at Jack McShea’s in Ardmore and then you can catch us in the campgrounds at Philly Folk Fest, where we all volunteer for the performer parking committee every year.
Wilmington singer-songwriter John Flynn will release a new record this week, and he will celebrate the effort in conjunction with a benefit for an organization that he has worked closely with for over a decade. I caught up with Flynn to get some background information about the new album, his experience recording it, and why he chose to make his release show about more than just his music. Read our interview below, and listen to John on the air with me on last night’s Philly Local show.
Helen Leicht: You have a new CD called Poor Man’s Diamonds. How long did it take for you to write these songs? Do you journal?
John Flynn: Most of the songs came in the past two years… I actually think of songwriting as a form of journaling, so I guess I DO journal!
HL: I know you went back into the studio with Harvey, who we know as Harvey in the Morning. I know Harvey as an on-air host – what is Harvey like as a producer?
JF: He’s great to work with! Generous and truly passionate about music! We have a lot of shared aesthetics, but he has an absolutely encyclopedic musical mind, and a much richer sonic pallet to draw from. He’s also a hell of a musician and plays like half of the instruments on the CD! It’s also really comfortable because he really believes in my writing! Of course none of this mutual respect is apparent in the studio… we both take great delight in ceaselessly mocking each other!
HL: You have your CD release concert happening this Friday June 27th. It’s not only a celebration of your new music but it’s a benefit concert for New Beginnings – Next Step. You have been involved with this program for a few years. How and why did you get involved with this program?
JF: When I’m not on the road, I volunteer running an offender support group called New Beginnings at Gander Hill State Prison in Delaware. I’ve been doing it for about ten years. A friend of mine recruited me (against what I initially thought was my better judgement)! The group attempts to create a safe space a couple times a week within the prison population for offenders to really tell the truth. It’s very humbling work and took a long time to establish the trust necessary for anything real to happen. But it DOES happen! Each week I hear tough, intimidating looking men speak from places of real fear, pain or regret, and in doing so help each other begin the incredibly difficult and courageous internal work of changing their own lives.
About eighteen months ago a couple of my guys were being released and asked me to find a way to continue the work outside the prison. That’s how New Beginnings-Next Step got going.
NB-NS tries to provide ex-offenders with some vital provisions like bus passes and food vouchers, even short-term emergency shelter, and specific items of need, like clothing, bedding, or (in one case recently) even something like a used computer.
The need right now is absolutely dire, and the recidivism rate is obscene. If we’re going to give these men any real sense of possibility, we’ve got to kick in some hope. That’s why I decided to do the benefit this Friday.
John Flynn brings his benefit concert and CD release show to Wilmington Friends’ Meeting House in Wilmington, DE this Friday, June 27th. More information can be found here.
This Sunday afternoon June 1st, Philly Local artist Kwesi K will be singing “God Bless America” during the 7th Inning stretch at the Phillies game. (Thanks to the Phillies organization for this opportunity.) He will also be part of the annual XPN Philly Local Showcase at the Philly Folk Festival, performing on Saturday August 16th on the Camp Stage. I will begin hosting at 11 am and other artists performing Ryan Tennis, Mutlu and Irene Molloy.
Here’s some info on Kwesi K!
Helen Leicht: How long have you lived in Philly? Kwesi K: I’ve been in Philly for 2 years and have lived all over. South Philly, North Philly, the suburbs, currently in Conshohocken.
HL: When did you decide you wanted to go into the studio to record your songs? Who produced “Fold” and “By My Side” KK: Once the songs were strong enough, I met Charlie Patierno (the producer) early on when I moved to Philly and we spent a lot of time working with the songs before hopping into the studio.
HL: You have a new song “Great Goodbye” it sounds great. Where did you record the new music? Who did you work with on this new song? Guest musicians? Vocals? KK: Thanks! Charlie Patierno produced the song (he produced “Fold” as well) and it was recorded at Turtle Studio in South Philly (Also where Aaron Brown & The Spell recorded his LP). I worked with a bunch of Philly heads..Ross Bellenoit played guitar, Elliot Garland (keys, bass), and Charlie Patierno also played drums on it. Our newest video is an acoustic rendition of “Great Goodbye” featuring Ginger Coyle and Chelsea Sue Allen (Vilebread) shot by Out of Town Films.