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Orchestras, busking and Led Zeppelin: Andrew Lipke reflects on ten years at World Cafe Live and beyond

Andrew Lipke
Andrew Lipke | Photo by Chris Sikich

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 →

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Liz Longley preps for new album, returns to Philadelphia next month

Liz Longley | Photo by Shervin Lainez | courtesy of the artist
Liz Longley | Photo by Shervin Lainez | courtesy of the artist

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 →

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Get to know local musician Jacob Snider

Jacob Snider | photo by Doug Seymour
Jacob Snider | photo by Doug Seymour

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.

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Q&A: XPN Local’s Busking Series alums HighKick talk new EPs and touring

HighKick live at The Porch | photo by Elizabeth Scott
HighKick live at The Porch | photo by Marc Wentzel

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.

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Interview: Celebrate good music and a good cause with John Flynn in Wilmington on 6/27

John Flynn | photo courtesy of the artist
John Flynn | photo courtesy of the artist

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.

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Get to know Kwesi K before he sings “God Bless America” at the Phillies Game on Sunday

Kwesi K | photo courtesy of the artist
Kwesi K | photo courtesy of the artist

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.

Continue reading →

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City Rain will perform at World Cafe Live for the CW Henry Elementary School benefit concert on 5/24

City Rain's Ben Runyan performs with CW Henry music teacher Nikki Trisdorfer at Underground Arts
City Rain’s Ben Runyan performs with CW Henry music teacher Nikki Trisdorfer at Underground Arts

Recently CW Henry Elementary School in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia was broken into and computers, iPads and music room equipment were stolen.

As the school begins the recovery and replacement process, parents and local musicians are stepping up to “pay it forward” on Saturday, May 24th from 4pm – 6pm at World Cafe Live upstairs.

I spoke with Paula Hanson, a parent of CW Henry first-grader Phoebe and an audio engineer who has worked with Rob Zombie, Stevie Nicks, kd lang and Korn.  Along with her husband Ringo, Paula is trying to raise funds to buy new equipment for the school.

Helen Leicht: I’m sorry to hear that there was a burglary at C W Henry Elementary school.

Paula Hanson: Yes, we had several iMacs the kids use, as well as a teacher’s MacBook and the flat screen TV in the music room the kids use to watch performances and whatnot on.  Probably the most crushing was the theft of the iPads the autistic kids use as part of their immersion into the classroom.  They really loved those and they were a great help.

HL: You have organized a fund raiser concert for CW Henry Elementary School.  Can you tell me about the school and what grades and children have been affected by this theft?

PH: CW Henry is a neighborhood public K-8 in West Mt Airy.  It’s a wonderful neighborhood.  There’s a bit of a misconception that because we’re located in an affluent hood that we do better than other Philly schools.  However we’re subject to the same budget as everyone else, and nearly half our kids come in from other parts of Philly.  The parents and teachers work really hard to supplement all the budget woes.

Some of the gear that was stolen was donated in the first place.  The whole school is taught music by Ms Paulino Trisdorfer, who runs an astoundingly good music program, so the theft of her computers affects everyone.  The two first grade classrooms had everything electronic taken, so we had to drag up an eMac from the basement so they had at least one for their centers.  And the iPads that the two classes use, but especially the four kids in each room in our Autistic Support Program were really left hanging.

#CWHenryOptimist from Paula Hanson on Vimeo.

Continue reading →

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Listen to “Low Road,” a new single from Philly-bred songwriter Jason Karaban

Jason Caraban | photo courtesy of the artist
Jason Caraban | photo courtesy of the artist

Jason Karaban is originally from Philadelphia.  For the past ten years he has been living and working as a songwriter in California. His parents and brother still live in Philly. I just received a new song, “Low Road,” from Jason and we traded emails about it.

Helen Leicht: Tell me about the new song.

Jason Karaban: I performed this on your show, Helen. It was pretty fresh back then. I recently recorded this version with Sara Watkins, Garrison Starr, Benmont Tench and Pete Thomas. .

HL: How did you get connected with those musicians?

JK: I’ve been doing a lot of writing with various artists such as Lucy Schwartz, Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket and others. Craig Elkins from Huffamoose actually helped with some of the lyrics on “Low Road,” along with Garrison Starr. I connected with sara watkins through Glen Phillips. I also work with Sara’s brother, Sean. I’ve been recording and playing with Pete Thomas for about eight years or so. I hooked up with him through David Immergluck and Charlie Gillingham from Counting Crows who I’ve also worked with on off for the same amount of time. He’s played on most of my solo records. I met benmont tench at a place out here in Los Angeles called Largo where I’ve played with Sara and Sean as part of a residency they’ve been doing for about 10 years called the Watkins Family Hour.

HL: When will the song be available and do you want to share this new music?

JK: “Low Road” will probably be available on an EP at some point in the future but I’d love to offer the song as a free download to WXPN listeners.

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Q&A: Matt Duke on his new record Singer/Songwriter, lyrical moods and opening up for Ani DiFranco (plus get a free download of “Susannah”)

Matt Duke | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

Last Friday, XPN members and listeners were treated to a special opening set by local musician Matt Duke at the Free at Noon, which also featured a performance by Ani DiFranco and took place in Wilmington at World Cafe Live at The Queen.  Duke released his latest full-length record Singer/Songwriter in March so I asked him a few questions about pulling together the new LP and who he looks to for musical inspiration.  Following the Q&A, get a free download of Duke’s song “Susannah” and listen back to his Free at Noon performance.

Helen Leicht: Matt you just released a new album Singer/Songwriter.  Your fans helped you with this music with your Kickstarter campaign, what was that like?

Matt Duke: The Kickstarter experience was both humbling and empowering and I’m really glad that I decided to give it a shot.  For so long, I was at the mercy of record labels and the music industry when I wrote and recorded anything.  Through that experience, there’s certainly a chunk of yourself that can get lost, while even the trivial aspects of your songwriting get scrutinized to the point where the song (or even the whole album) feels like it’s exhausted and a bit soulless.

Regardless, I found that it was always important to remind myself that the songs I wrote were really meant for myself and for the fans of my music (and, hopefully, future fans) – much like the way I hope St. Vincent gets as much pleasure out of writing and recording her music as I do listening to her new records when they’re released.  I’m not St. Vincent, but you get the idea.

Kickstarter linked the two most important pieces to the artistic equation – the artist and the fans – and I was moved by the support I received during my campaign.  With that said, the pressure was on to create something that I was not only proud of (by my own expectations), but something that was absolutely authentic and that would require a lot of hard work.  I think Marshall Altman and I were able to do that and I’m proudest that this album derived from the love and support of people that have stood beside me for many, many years.

HL: You have a definite edge to your songs, a darker side.  What music do you listen to?  And what artists have influenced your songwriting?

MD: There’s a bit of a dark side to my songwriting, but I try my best to level it out with either some upbeat, pop hooks or an entire song where I call out my own morose lyricism (“Anything Will Do”). I suppose my writing could be described as introspective and that would give me the benefit of the doubt when I start using words like “self-immolation”, etc.

My songwriting and guitar playing blossomed near the end of the grunge-era, so I was steeped in Soundgarden and Nirvana and Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins and so on, as well as Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Sunny Day Real Estate, Nine Inch Nails.  But the influences that stuck with me when I really started to dig into songwriting were artists like Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate), Jeff Buckley, Ani DiFranco, Peter Gabriel, Conor Oberst, Tori Amos, Dave Matthews, and bands that my Dad had me listening to like The Band, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Supertramp, and Bruce Springsteen.  Depending on my mood, I could be listening to Dillinger Escape Plan or Sigur Ros or Béla Fleck…who knows.  Also, my daughter has a say, so these days it’s a lot of Fleetwood Mac.

HL: Last Friday you opened for Ani DiFranco at World Café live at the Queen, who you just said was an early songwriting influence.   What was that experience like?

MD: The experience of opening for Ani DiFranco at the Free at Noon can best be summed up by imagining butterflies in someone’s stomach, but instead of butterflies, they’re miniature atom bombs and they don’t stop through your entire opening set and you simultaneously feel like you could faint from pure, unmitigated elation and vomit from nerves that make you shake worse than sub-zero temperatures.  That was my experience in a nutshell.  Once in a lifetime; a dream come true.