I spent about 30 years interviewing musicians the old-fashioned way: Talking on the telephone, transcribing the tape (or digital recording) and turning it all into a story or Q&A. Then Zoom came along. Now I can actually see the people I’m talking to — and I can just slap the video up on YouTube and be done with it. Yeah, I know I have a face made for radio, a voice made for mime, and no broadcasting skills whatsoever. Thankfully, many of you were willing to put up with all that to see and hear these artists. Of the nearly 50 interviews I did in 2022, here are the ones that got the most attention (based on the total number of page hits and YouTube views):
1 | Ambrose Kenny-Smith of The Murlocs / King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
Most musicians never get to be in one great band. Ambrose Kenny-Smith is in two at the same time. Along with what he calls his main gig in Australian psychedelic-rock gods King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist also fronts the more rock and R&B-oriented Murlocs. Between the bands, he released six albums in 2022 — five titles from the endlessly prolific Gizz, and the incredible new Murlocs LP Rapscallion, a coming-of-age concept album about a teenage vagabond, inspired by Cormac McCarthy and Kenny-Smith’s own troubled adolescence. Before heading out on tour with both bands, Kenny-Smith talked to me about writing Rapscallion, memorizing all that music, and where The Murlocs go from here.
2 | Derek Trucks
Derek Trucks has been married to singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi for more than two decades. But he’s been in love with Layla for pretty much his whole life. Of course, that’s Layla as in Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, the legendary 1970 double album by the Eric Clapton-led supergroup Derek And The Dominos. Trucks says his dad named him after the band, and used to play the LP for him and his brother as they went to sleep. When the slide guitar master toured with Clapton, he worked many of the songs into his set. And in 2019, the Tedeschi Trucks Band covered the album live in its entirety, releasing the recordings in 2021 as Layla Revisited. But if you think he’s done with Layla, think again. The TTB’s latest album I Am The Moon might be his ultimate Layla tribute — a four-album, 24-song concept piece loosely inspired by the same 12th-century Persian poem about star-crossed lovers that Clapton read decades ago. As the first volume Crescent arrived, Trucks — who also happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever interviewed — talked about the project, his relationship with Layla, becoming a baseball card and more.
3 | Larkin Poe
Music has always been a family affair for Rebecca and Megan Lovell — first with their older sibling Jessica in the sweet Americana trio The Lovell Sisters, and now on their own as the leaders of the harder-hitting roots-rock outfit Larkin Poe. But with their latest album Blood Harmony, they’re welcoming some new members into the fold. Unlike previous records that took a decidedly DIY approach, with the sisters playing, producing and programming nearly everything themselves, Blood Harmony features production from Rebecca’s singer-guitarist husband Tyler Bryant, along with backing from their touring band. The result is their biggest, boldest and most fully realized album to date. A few weeks before Blood Harmony arrived, the Lovells got on the blower from their Nashville homes to talk about songwriting, sister acts, cover tunes and plenty more.
4 | Ivan Doroschuk of Men Without Hats
When you hear the words Men Without Hats, I bet you immediately think of one thing: The Safety Dance. And fair enough. It’s been 40 years since Ivan Doroschuk and his Montreal synth-pop band released the worldwide hit — and in all those years, it’s never left the airwaves. You can’t say the same for Doroschuk. While he has continued to tour, he only releases a new album every decade or so. The good news: Men Without Hats are finally back from hibernation. Last year they broke the silence with the covers EP Again Pt. 1. Now they’ve followed up with Again, Pt. 2, their first full album of original material since 2012. The better news: Their new stuff sounds like their old stuff. Instead of chasing trends, jumping on bandwagons or trying to fix what wasn’t broken, Doroschuk sticks to his musical guns and delivers an album that could have been written 30 years ago. In fact, some of it was — Again, Pt. 2 includes both new songs and unreleased fare that Doroschuk pulled out of the archives and re-recorded. The day before the album dropped, Ivan Zoomed in from his B.C. home to talk about his slow pace, Safety Dance’s place in pop culture, how long we have to wait for his next album and more.
5 | Steve Earle
Some people say good things come in threes. Others say it’s bad things. For Steve Earle, it works both ways. The Texas roots-rocker’s latest album Jerry Jeff is a posthumous tribute to singer-songwriter, mentor and longtime friend Jerry Jeff Walker. It follows similar albums devoted to the work of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, the two other artists who were a major influence on the young Earle (for better and worse). Despite being inspired by loss, these albums — along with the devastating J.T., his 2021 tribute to his late son Justin Townes Earle — have been rightly praised as some of the finest and most moving work of Earle’s career. Which says a lot about the man behind Copperhead Road, Guitar Town, The Revolution Starts Now and other musical landmarks. The dependably forthright Earle — who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing multiple times over the decades — talked about Walker, making a musical of Tender Mercies, what he has in common with Marianne Faithfull (it’s not what you think) and which Texas troubadour he just might honour next.
6 | Urge Overkill
For a minute there in the mid-’90s, it looked like Urge Overkill were going to be huge. Maybe not Nirvana huge, but certainly Smashing Pumpkins huge. Indeed, for the Chicago trio — singer-guitarists Nash Kato and Eddie ‘King’ Roeser, along with drummer Blackie Onassis — the stars had truly aligned. Their fourth album Saturation was one of the best releases of 1993. Their single Sister Havana hit the top 10. Their faithful yet ironic cover of Neil Diamond’s problematic Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon was on the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. They had it all. Until they didn’t. Like countless bands, they couldn’t hold on to the brass ring and imploded due to the usual rock-biz cocktail of drugs, ego, excess, bad decisions, bad luck and bad timing. Nash and Eddie spent nearly a decade nursing their wounds before they buried the hatchet, and released the excellent 2011 comeback Rock & Roll Submarine. A decade later, they’re back again with Oui, which features more songs from the same sessions (and the best cover of Wham’s Freedom! I’ve heard). Watch as Nash and Eddie talk about the new album, the old days, their approach to covers and more.
7 | Russell Simins & Jilly Weiss Of Service
Russell Simins used to be the drummer in the New York blues-garage power trio Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Jilly Weiss used to front the Indiana goth-punk band We Are Hex. Then her band opened for his on tour in 2015. They hit it off. And here we are. Now they’re married. They live in Indianapolis. They lead their own band Service. And they recently released their excellent debut album Drag Me. It’s a monstrously great set of darkly intense post-punk propelled by Russell’s groovy beats, laced with his multi-layered production, and topped with Jilly’s otherworldly vocals. I highly recommend. But first, watch them chat with me about living and working together, their double-entendre band name, carrying the torch for rock, what’s on their turntable and plenty more.
8 | Art Bergmann & Jason Schneider
Art Bergmann might be the most underappreciated artist in Canadian rock. At least, that seems to be how he feel sometimes. And not without good reason. After all, the singer-guitarist helped usher in the Vancouver punk scene with his trio The Young Canadians. He went on to release a series of excellent solo albums — working with artists like John Cale and Chris Spedding — and earned a couple of Juno nominations. He was the inspiration for the reclusive rocker Bucky Haight in Bruce McDonald’s classic Can-punk mockumentary Hard Core Logo (and even did a cameo in film). But thanks to the usual combination of bad luck, bad decisions, bad habits — and, in Art’s case, a notoriously bad attitude and a run of bad health due to degenerative arthritis — his career stalled in the early 2000s. And although he’s made something of a comeback lately, releasing four albums in the last eight years, he’s never enjoyed the acclaim he deserves. Until recently, that is. In 2020, Bergmann was made a member of the Order of Canada. This fall, veteran music journalist Jason Schneider wrote The Longest Suicide, the first biography of Bergmann, and certainly the last word on his tumultuous life and career. And just this month, Art went to Ottawa for the Order Of Canada ceremony, delayed two years by you-know-what. A few weeks earlier, Bergmann and Schneider talk about that book title, regrets, why Valdy is Art’s fault, and his next release Shadowwalk: Legacy of Love — his first album since the death of his wife Sherri earlier this year.
9 | Kevn Kinney Of Drivin N Cryin
Sometimes you want to hang out with friends. Sometimes you want to be by yourself. Kevn Kinney — the frontman and founder of Southern rock mainstays Drivin N Cryin — manages to do both on his latest album. Think About It, the singer-songwriter and guitarist’s 10th non-Drivin album, is his first solo release in more than a decade. And fittingly enough, it’s an introspective, personal affair laced with songs about solitude and loneliness. But he didn’t do it totally alone. On these 11 songs, he’s joined by a guest list of longtime friends, including producer David Barbe, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Bill Berry, and members of Drive-By Truckers, Drivin N Cryin and more. He’s also joined in spirit by late friends and collaborators like Col. Bruce Hampton and drummer-producer Anton Fier, who both inspired and influenced some of these songs. A couple of days before Think About It dropped, the talkative Kinney Zoomed in from his Atlanta home to discuss going it alone, the K-Tel rock record in his future, why there’s no I in Kevn — in more ways than one — and pretty much anything else on his mind.
10 (TIE) | Yelawolf & Shooter Jennings Of Sometimes Y
Sometimes things happen when they’re supposed to. Case in point: Yelawolf and Shooter Jennings’ band and album Sometimes Y. The roots-rocker (who is the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter) and the southern rapper (whose mother’s partners toured with Randy Travis and Alabama) have known each other for 15 years — and have moved in the same Nashville circles since childhood — but it took them until 2020 to finally get into the studio together. The results are more than worth the wait: Sometimes Y is a blast of classic ’80s-inspired arena-rock — a long-lost artifact from a world where Night Ranger, Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Funkadelic and Ram Jam made an album together. And if you talk to Yela and Shooter — as I did — it was apparently meant to be. And just as exciting to make as it is to hear. The dynamic duo joined me to chat about collaborations, taking their act on the road and how long they’re going to make us wait for a sequel.
10 (TIE) | Christopher Ward
Life is coming full circle for Christopher Ward. Earlier this fall, the singer-songwriter, pioneering Canadian VJ, author and podcaster reissued his 1978 debut album Spark Of Desire, which includes the CanCon classics Once In A Longtime and Maybe Your Heart. It comes on the heels of his 2021 comeback album Same River Twice, a warm, mature and mellow offering that featured a smoky new take on his most-famous song Black Velvet, Alannah Myles’ chart-topping, award-winning hit from the ’90s. On top of that, Ward’s book Is This Live? Inside The Wild Early Years Of MuchMusic The Nation’s Music Station has just been optioned for a potential TV sitcom. Despite all this activity, the personable Ward made some time to talk about his storage space, hearing his music on the car radio during dates, who should play him on TV and much, much more.