Dan Wilson - Dan Wilson is a singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and occasional cartoonist. He is best known as the lead singer of the band Semisonic, for which he wrote the Grammy-nominated smash “Closing Time” as well as other international hits including “Secret Smile” and “Chemistry.” Prior to that, he was a member of the band Trip Shakespeare, whose long-haired psychedelia influenced a generation of Midwestern bands long after their breakup in the early 90s. Since Semisonic, Dan has released two solo albums: Free Life (produced with Rick Rubin) and Live at the Pantages. He has also become a highly sought-after songwriting collaborator, perhaps due to his slow-drip brew of philosophic and artistic seriousness, dry Midwestern humor (well-known to his live audiences and evident in his online sketchbook,) and songwriting, performing and production skills. As a songwriter and producer, he has worked with a diverse group of artists including Adele, Dixie Chicks, John Legend, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Taylor Swift, Jim James, Pink, Dierks Bentley, Nas, Josh Groban, Weezer, Carole King, and many others. “I’ve heard people describe my list of collaborators as ‘eclectic,’” he says. “But there’s a lot of consistency there, too. I’m interested in writing only with great musical artists, people who have a fascinating vision and want to push themselves to their limits.” Dan contributed three songs to Adele’s album, 21, including the hit “Someone Like You,” which he also produced, thus earning himself a Grammy for Album of the Year. A few years earlier, Wilson took home a Song of the Year Grammy for “Not Ready to Make Nice,” one of six songs he co-wrote for the Dixie Chicks’ award-winning album Taking the Long Way.
Martin Sexton Trio - Remember that mix tape your friend made you way back when - the one that's etched in your soul? Martin Sexton's new album Mixtape of the Open Road is that musical cross-country trip, blazing through all territories of style, as you cruise through time and place. This record is a charm bracelet of twelve gems all strung together with the golden thread of what Rolling Stone calls a "soul marinated voice." A native of Syracuse, N.Y., and the tenth of 12 children, Martin Sexton grew up in the ’80s. Uninterested in the music of the day, he fueled his dreams with the timeless sounds of classic rock ’n’ roll. As he discovered the dusty old vinyl left in the basement by one his big brothers, his musical fire was lit. Sexton eventually migrated to Boston, where he began to build a following singing on the streets of Harvard Square, gradually working his way through the scene. His 1992 collection of self-produced demo recordings, In the Journey, was recorded on an old 8-track in a friend’s attic. He managed to sell 20,000 copies out of his guitar case. From 1996 to 2002 Sexton released Black Sheep, The American, Wonder Bar and Live Wide Open. The activity and worldwide touring behind these records laid the foundation for the career he enjoys today with an uncommonly loyal fan base; he sells out venues from New York’s Nokia Theatre to L.A.’s House of Blues, and tours regularly across Canada and Europe. Happily and fiercely independent, Martin Sexton launched his own label, KTR, in 2002. Since then he has infiltrated many musical worlds, performing at concerts ranging from pop (collaborating with John Mayer) to the Jam scene to classic rock (collaborating with Peter Frampton); from the Newport Folk Fest to Bonnaroo to New Orleans Jazz Fest to a performance at Carnegie Hall. Regardless of his reputation as a musician’s musician, Sexton can’t keep Hollywood away. His songs can be heard in many feature films and television including NBC’s Scrubs, Parenthood and Showtime’s hit series Brotherhood. Stage, film and television aside, when Sexton isn’t touring he often mixes entertainment with his sense of social responsibility, performing at benefits for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camp, the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Japan earthquake/tsunami relief (The John Lennon Tribute), and Hurricane Irene relief efforts in Vermont, to name some. In 2007 Sexton began his most successful years to date with the release of his studio offering Seeds. The album debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, and the Los Angeles Times said, “Call him a soul shouter, a road poet, a folkie or a rocker and you wouldn’t be wrong.” The live CD/DVD set Solo, which includes a DVD of his performance at Denver’s Mile High Festival, followed in 2008. In 2010 the album Sugarcoating found this one-of-a-kind-troubadour doing what he does best: locating larger truths. After hearing it, NBC anchor Brian Williams sought Martin out to sit down for an interview backstage at New York’s Beacon Theatre. It’s now featured on MSNBC’s BriTunes. The accolades continue. Billboard called Sexton’s version of “Working Class Hero” for the Lennon tribute/benefit in 2010 “chill-inspiring.” Released this November as part of The 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute album, the track is available on iTunes.
Son Little - PLAYING HIS SONGS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES AND IN EUROPE OVER THE PAST YEAR, WITH A WIDE RANGE OF ARTISTS AND TO VARYING AUDIENCES, SON LITTLE HAS NOTICED SOMETHING PARTICULAR ABOUT HIS OWN MUSIC. “As I’ve been going around to different places with this very eclectic mix of other acts, one thing that’s struck me about my music is just how American it is,” he says. And while he’s not wearing a stars-and-stripes polo while shooting fireworks and holding a sousaphone, his sentiment rings true. Here in this proud, brave land of blurred lines and regional dishes is a musical melting pot that sizzles and smokes, from sea to shining sea. Son Little is stirring that broth. “Part of what’s unique about this country is its intense mixture of things. People in different regions don’t always understand each other that well, but music can go places that people won’t always go. That’s part of who I am and definitely part of the music I’m making, so now more than ever I feel very American.” The artist formerly known as Aaron Livingston knows his nation well. He was born to a preacher and a teacher in Los Angeles, where he learned how to listen and how to play before moving east to New York and New Jersey. He dropped in and out of schools in Manhattan then Philadelphia, and there he collaborated with acts like The Roots and RJD2. He first planted his flag as Son Little with last year’s highly praised EP, Things I Forgot, a small collection of big songs that showcased his ability to hop across genres as well as he does state lines. The pastiche and reach of his music is all over the map, literally. And he can hear a map in his music. In it, he can recognize the places he’s lived, traveled, and played to, places explored and discovered. “I hear places in the songs without trying to evoke them while writing. I can trace where a lot of my music came from, as my life and my family touch so many different places. I can hear the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in my voice, the way I say some of the words; I hear New York, definitely in my lyrics. Detroit is a place I haven’t spent a ton of time in, but if I explore the music of Detroit, I can hear myself in there, too.” The bins of Son Little’s record store are divided into sections called “Tuesday 3 a.m.” or “Fluorescent Blues” or “Saying Goodbye” rather than “Rock” or “Soul” or “Pop.” It’s a space where people can discover fresh sounds they might not have been expecting based on feelings, emotions, and truth rather than imaginary lines drawn in the sand. “I never thought that genres matter, I just mixed them all up and put them next to each other,” he says. “Making a mix growing up, I’d put Nirvana next to Nas next to Coltrane; Hendrix next to Naughty By Nature, whatever. I always thought of it that way. I actually feel like it’s maybe the norm that people don’t even think about it anymore, except in the industry, where there’s more pressure to conform. Maybe the landscape is so blurry it makes people nervous, they just want to categorize something. Using band names as adjectives, that’s kinda cool but I look at it from my own thing and it’s gonna need more band names.” In truth, Son Little’s music is devoid of genre, as it blends sounds together into a bright white hotness, like all the colors in the spectrum do when finding focus as one. As the saturation of light increases, color appears more pure. His new full-length album, Son Little, does the same. The sonic elements create visuals and vice versa. The album’s cover image is a saturated snapshot of a whirring, suited Son, worked over with long exposures and leaky ink, revealing a brilliant portrait of the blurry artist: the pure man with the pure music. “There’s a lot of different colors there and they kinda fade into each other, but the constant for me is the dream, the smudge, the saturation,” he says. “Every color there is very deep, very rich; you put them all together and it’s the bright light of the sun.” The songs inside follow suit. They teem with small moments creating a bigger picture, a pointillist art piece made from junkyards and viewed from space. Pulling inspiration from the color wheel diaspora of American music, Son Little draws from a deep well, using different buckets to visit and revisit, finding flourishes to add to the core of his songs. There, at the end of “Doctor’s In,” is a roving banjo; there, at the start of “Go Blue Blood Red,” is a keyboard riff culled from a kid’s Blue Man Group keyboard; there, in “Carbon,” is an electric Howlin’ Wolf stomp and start. For Son Little, studio time is a joy, where every good idea leads to four more, so it’s back to the buckets. And all this weaving and digging is in his DNA. It comes easily and honestly, since he is the person he claims to be and has lived the life he sings about. It’s all there in his lyrics, the tales of struggle and joy, of fear and fortitude. His words, chosen with care and delivered with skill, address relationships with class and race as well as with people and projects. Vulnerability and virility are sung in equal parts, showing us the actual measure of a man rather than the imaginary bulletproof titan that pervades today’s airwaves. In this world so concerned with the “realness” of its artists, in this industry of hyper-categorizing and compartmentalizing every last detail, it’s easy to forget what “being true” is all about. Somewhere along the path it became cool to clam up, to stay icy, to keep in line and collect your check. It takes courage to be real, and to Son Little, the only way to be real is to simply be yourself. “The easy way to describe my audience would be to say it’s pretty broad, but the more accurate way of saying it is that my audience is the brave,” he says. “It’s the people who move amongst different crowds easily, who are open to new things and not waiting for other people to tell them what to like, who are very certain and know what they want to hear. That feeling has been strengthened by all these shows I’ve played in different markets, with artists who are so different from each other. I meet these people, and the thing they have most in common is that they don’t care what the trend is, or what other people think about it, what’s it’s called. They don’t care about any of that shit, they just like what they like and that’s that. It’s not about gender, age, race, nationality, or any of those things; it’s just about how you feel inside, about the world. It’s more of an attitude, a sense, than it is a genre or trend. It’s not a shirt at Urban Outfitters. It’s a lot deeper than that.” To call Son Little, both the artist and the album, brave would be perhaps the most apt compliment you could pay. Like his fearless heroes—Hendrix, Dylan, Prince, Nas—what he is doing takes guts, but in truth, it’s the only way he knows how. “That’s what it’s about, be brave, do the thing you’re afraid to do. When I look at it now, the whole album is that, every song is that. There’s nothing but that. There’s some aspects of it that I probably wanted to hold back or edit and just didn’t. I think I’ve learned not to censor the things that make me uncomfortable. On ‘About A Flood’ I sing, ‘What if every tear in me comes out?’ That’s an as-not-hard a fucking thing as you can say. At the end of the day I have to say to myself, ‘I don’t care, I said it.’ I’m gonna say it. Every single song has an element of that, in the lyrics and also musically. Let it be what it is.”