Advice From Musicians

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger was a legendary folk singer with quite a colorful history. In the early 1940’s he performed with the Almanac Singers, whose ranks also included Woody Guthrie. In 1948 he co-founded The Weavers, which had a number one hit with their cover of “Goodnight, Irene” by Leadbelly. In 1953, The Weavers were dropped by their record label and their songs were denied airplay because of suspected communist activities. When Seeger was called to testify before McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, he refused to name his personal and political associations, which led to him being found in contempt of Congress and blacklisted. Seeger was a key figure in the 1960’s folk revival, and wrote or co-wrote the folk classics “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “If I Had a Hammer”, and “Turn, Turn, Turn!”. He also helped to popularize “We Shall Overcome”, which became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement. Seeger also recorded multiple albums for children. In January 2009, at age 89, Seeger led the crowd in singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at President Obama’s inauguration.

Pete Seeger died on January 27, 2014, at age 94.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter?

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Sir George Martin

Sir George Martin, commonly referred to as the “fifth Beatle,” is recognized as one of the top producers in the history of recorded sound. His musical arrangements and use of studio experimentation elevated many of The Beatles’ songs, with notable examples including “Yesterday”, “Strawberry Fields”, “I Am The Walrus”, and “Eleanor Rigby”. Martin also produced albums by Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, America, Cheap Trick, and others.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Sir George Martin: So much depends on the talent and abilities of the individual. If one is suited to perform or compose music and has a genuine talent, then the age old adages apply: the advice is consistent hard work in training and practice to develop the talent and then persistence in finding the opportunity to perform.

Many thanks to Brooks Firestone for passing this question on to Sir George Martin while he was in the Santa Barbara area, and for sending his reply.

Steve Reich

Steve Reich is a pioneering composer, who along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass is viewed as one of the most important figures in minimal music.

Reich’s early compositions “It’s Gonna Rain” (1965) and “Come Out” (1966) made use of tape loops which went out of phase with each other, an idea which he extended to live instrumentation with “Piano Phase” (1967) and “Violin Phase” (1967). He also explored the concept of “music as a gradual process” in pieces such as “Pendulum Music” (1968), in which microphones as pendula swing over a speaker, causing feedback.

His music took a new turn with “Drumming” (1971), inspired by a trip to Ghana. Steady pulse and rhythm became a dominant element of his compositions, including in the acclaimed “Music For 18 Musicians” (1976), widely viewed as one of his most important pieces.

Reich’s pieces began to incorporate themes from history and from his Jewish heritage with “Tehillim” (1981), which is the original Hebrew word for Psalms. Such themes continued with “Different Trains” (1988) which uses voices including those of Holocaust survivors, “The Cave” (1993) based on The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron which uses videos developed by his wife Beryl Korot, the opera “Three Tales” (1998-2002) about The Hindenberg, the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and cloning, which also uses visuals by Korot, and “WTC 9/11” (2011) which uses voices related to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Reich’s compositions have been highly influential in the world of classical music, and he has been called “America’s greatest living composer.” In the rock music world, his influence has been cited for artists including Brian Eno, King Crimson, The Residents, and Tortoise. Reich is currently working on a piece based on the music of Radiohead.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring composer or musician?

Steve Reich: To the aspiring composer, the advice that I would give you is be around a community of players. Don’t be sitting around a classroom talking about music, analyzing music. Go where there are lots of players and where you can write a piece and get it played, and write another piece and get it played, and learn what works and what doesn’t work.

And also, if you can, get involved in performance. I had an ensemble for forty years – we’re now on hold because I really can’t take the responsibilities of being a bandleader – so when I travel around now I coach, and I sometimes sit in for certain pieces that can be done easily, like “Clapping Music” or something like that. But, you know, my ensemble was a very active presence, and lots and lots and lots of recordings were made, and we still occasionally play together, I mean with individuals. I just played with Russell Hartenberger at Ohio State about a month ago.

So get involved, I would say to them. Get involved in the performance of your own music. If you play an instrument, play an instrument. If you conduct, conduct. If you program a drum machine, program a drum machine. But get involved on a practical level.

Another thing, if you write a piece, make sure that it gets played. And hopefully it gets played more than once, because if you write something that’s not worth playing more than once, then you better write another piece fast.

For full interview with Steve Reich, click here.

Jeff Barry

Jeff Barry is one of rock and roll’s most accomplished songwriters, and was recently selected for a 2010 Ahmet Ertegun Award by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Barry and his songwriting partner Ellie Greenwich co-wrote such early rock and roll classics as “Be My Baby”, “Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Chapel of Love”, “River Deep, Mountain High” (all co-written with Phil Spector), “Leader of the Pack” (co-written with George “Shadow” Morton), “Hanky Panky,” and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” Later, Barry co-wrote the bubblegum smash “Sugar, Sugar” with Andy Kim, and theme songs for the TV shows “The Jeffersons,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Family Ties.” Barry also was the producer for many well-known songs, including “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees, and early Neil Diamond songs such as “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” and “Kentucky Woman.”

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter?

Jeff Barry: [long pause] Have a clear vision of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. All show-biz, all entertainment has one thing in common, whether it’s film, TV, writing a novel, a song, or a script, painting, anything. Almost all creativity that is even commercial design, cars, you know, designing…, what do you call that, when you’re designing products? That’s what I was studying to be, too, before I quit. It’s all about creating emotion. There’s an old adage that if you leave them like you found them, you blew it. So it’s all about creating emotion, and a songwriter needs to understand that as well. That’s why people want to buy, and own I should say, the thing that you’re presenting, because it creates an emotion. Otherwise why would they want it? I think that’s fact #1.

You’re communicating. You could even say songs to some degree are a little like greeting cards. People buy them to express something to someone else that they can’t make up themselves. So it’s all about communication and creating emotion. If you’re writing strictly for yourself, and the lyrics are obtuse and unavailable and people don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, then you sure are limiting your ability to create emotion. So write those songs, get that stuff out, that’s fine.

But if you want to make a living at it, you need to write songs that are commercial. Commercial is a good word. There is nobody in show business that is not trying to be commercial. I don’t care how obscure and weird they are, they want to sell, which is commercial. Pop is short for popular, and that’s the idea. If you’re not looking to make a career of it, it doesn’t matter. Write songs, that’s great. Play them for family and friends, and whatever, that’s beautiful, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But your question, I think, is aimed at people that want to make a living at it, which is tough these days. I’m very thankful that when I came into the industry the songs were more valued than they are today. Today record companies are interested in things other than the songs, a lot of the time. And the artists who are writing their own songs, they’re having hits, maybe not based on the song all the time, [instead] on the rhythm and the haircut and the tattoo and the weirdness and the publicity. Which is different from what it was back then. In my heyday, it was certainly more based on radio play, what it sounded like. The E Channel didn’t exist, and TV wasn’t such a source of entertainment as it is today. The visual, let’s put it that way. It was more about the audio than it is today, which is a lot to do with the visual.

So the advice would be to basically create emotion, keep it simple, keep it clear. When you’re trying to get to somebody in the industry, take the three to five best songs, most commercial songs, most valuable songs, and put them on a disk. Don’t present 25 songs. You don’t have 25 hits, you just don’t. Take the best five, even if you have 25 smashes. Take the best five. Get that to whoever you can. And the emotion you want to bring out in anyone that you’re pitching to is greed. No one is going to do you any favors. Greed is a healthy word, whether it’s a music publisher, or a recording artist, or an A&R person at a label, or a record producer. You want them to want the material. No one is going to do you any favors, record it just because. If it’s a relative, perhaps. But otherwise, as it should be, they have to hear something that is going to make them look good, make them a success. So keep that in mind.

The other hint would be, sometimes you start a song and you write the first verse and you write the chorus, and then you get to the second verse and you can’t come up with the second verse. It could be that you’ve already written it. You take the first verse, make it the second verse, and then write the first verse [as] pre-story, set-up. That will free you up. So in other words, the beginning, middle, and end, I mean you might have already written the middle. And if you have, and you put it at the beginning, you’re messed up. Because then you’re going to write the ending for the middle, and you’ll have no ending. So I find that, for myself, that works. Because basically if you have an idea for a song you’ll write the core idea instantly, and the core, which is represented in the chorus usually too, but story-wise many times it’s overrepresented in the first verse. So you can take a look at that. That might be a good hint for songwriters in general.

For full interview with Jeff Barry, click here.

David Crosby

David Crosby was a founding member of The Byrds, and contributed to hits including “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, and “Eight Miles High”. He then co-founded Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young), writing or co-writing “Guinnevere”, “Almost Cut My Hair”, “Long Time Gone”, and “Wooden Ships”, and contributing vocals on such well-known songs as “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, “Teach Your Children”, and “Our House”. He also released the acclaimed 1971 solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Crosby: [laughs] Get a real job. Nowadays.

Graham Nash

Graham Nash is an English singer and songwriter best known for his contributions to British Invasion band The Hollies (he co-wrote “Carrie Anne”, “King Midas in Reverse”, “On a Carousel”, and “Dear Eloise”, and sang on many others including “Bus Stop”), to Crosby, Stills, & Nash & sometimes Young (he wrote “Teach Your Children”, “Our House”, “Wasted on the Way”, and “Marrakesh Express”, and sang on nearly all of their output) and as a solo artist (he wrote “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”). In 2010 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his service to music and to charity.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Graham Nash: Gotta mean it. Gotta believe it. You gotta have a passion for it. ‘Cause if you don’t you’re fucking wasting your time.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino is one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, bringing New Orleans rhythm & blues into the fledgling genre. His first hit, “The Fat Man”, was released in 1950 and sold over a million copies; it is sometimes argued to be the first rock ‘n’ roll song. His 1955 song “Ain’t That A Shame” become a #1 pop hit for Pat Boone. The next year, his version of “Blueberry Hill” reached #2 in the pop charts, and spent eleven weeks at #1 on the R&B charts; it sold more than 5 million copies. Another notable song was “I’m Walkin”, which hit #4 on the pop charts in 1957. All told, between 1956 and 1960 Domino sold 65 million records, second only to Elvis Presley.

From the 1980’s onward, Domino rarely left New Orleans, not even for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or an invitation to perform at the White House. He was feared to have been killed when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, but he survived; his home is being restored, and he hopes to return there someday.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Fats Domino:


Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is an American icon, a country music legend who has written and/or recorded hit versions of classics including “Crazy” (a hit for Patsy Cline), “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”, “Georgia on My Mind”, “Blue Skies”, “All of Me”, “On the Road Again”, “Always on My Mind”, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”, “Good Hearted Woman”, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, and “Pancho and Lefty”. His #1 country albums include the outlaw country classic Red Headed Stranger, Stardust, and Always on My Mind. He has also lent his talent to a number of fundraisers, including the 1985 Farm Aid concert which he set up along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp. He continues to tour extensively.

Willie’s response was transmitted by his granddaughter Raelyn Nelson, herself an aspiring songwriter/musician. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

Willie Nelson: Don’t stop writing and keep playing.

George Clinton

George Clinton is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the development of funk music, along with James Brown and Sly Stone. Clinton was the mastermind of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, whose notable 1970’s albums include Mothership Connection, The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, Maggot Brain, and One Nation Under a Groove, and whose songs include “Flash Light” and “One Nation Under A Groove” (both of which reached No. 1 in the US R&B charts), “Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)”, “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)”, and “Dr. Funkenstein”. Clinton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and continues to tour.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

George Clinton: Hang the fuck in there.

Alice Cooper

In one of the more memorable scenes from the 1992 movie Wayne’s World, Wayne and Garth get to hang out backstage with Alice Cooper, to which they respond by bowing down and telling him, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

Cooper commands such respect, fictional or otherwise, both for his music and pioneering dark theatrics involving guillotines, snakes, twisted makeup, and much more. His efforts have earned him the honorary (or is it dishonorary?) title of the “Godfather of Shock Rock”, plus well-deserved election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Alice Cooper saga began in the late 1960’s when the band, at that time itself called Alice Cooper, released the psychedelic-tinged album Pretties For You, which Frank Zappa reportedly agreed to produce to get the band to leave his house. Early notoriety came when Alice Cooper, the singer, threw a live chicken from the stage which was subsequently attacked and killed by the audience, an incident exaggerated by the press. The classic Alice Cooper sound was born when producer Bob Ezrin came on board, and the band’s profile grew with hits like “I’m Eighteen”, “School’s Out”, and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.

Alice Cooper, the singer, launched a successful solo career with his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare, and since that time he has released multiple albums and played countless concerts which push the boundaries of what a rock and roll show can be.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Alice Cooper: Well, at this point it’s all about songwriting. You know, to me, I think anybody make noise, anybody can make a great record, because everything is so doable now technology-wise. The only thing that’s not automatic is writing a great melody line, and writing a great lyric that goes with it.

I would tell any young band that’s 17, 18 years old to listen to nothing but The Beatles. Because the further that the generations go from The Beatles, the worse the songwriting gets. When you watch the cycles of bands that were getting further and further away from the Sixties Beatles thing… and I’m not just talking about The Beatles, but that era of songwriting, really, really good songwriting. Now it’s just a matter of: here’s a beat, lyrics really don’t matter, melody line – OK, as long as you can dance to it. To me, that’s not songwriting. I mean, you can just do that. You could just manufacture that on a computer, you know?

I want to hear people that actually write songs, where I can see that that lyric is married to that chord, the way The Beatles did it, the way Burt Bacharach did it, the way The Rolling Stones did it. You know, people don’t really think of The Rolling Stones as great songwriters, but they wrote some really good songs. The Who, Pete Townshend. If I were a young band right now, I would be listening much, much more to stylistic Sixties type of rock.

It’s a funny thing though, when I talk about that. When I talk to Steven Tyler, and I talk to Ozzy Osbourne, and I talk to everybody from that era, our era, we all talk about The Beatles. We talk about how we were influenced by The Beatles, and then sort of let The Who and The Yardbirds influence us more on a progressive level. We all went more in that direction, but still, the melody lines always kept coming back to that.

For full interview with Alice Cooper, click here

Jackson Browne

Given the mellow SoCal sound that he is known for, it is somewhat surprising to know that Jackson Browne wrote and played several songs on the magical 1967 debut album Chelsea Girl from ex-Velvet Underground femme fatale/chanteuse Nico. Yes, that’s right, Browne once hung out with the Warhol crowd and was romantically involved with Nico, as a teenager no less.

The Jackson Browne that we’re all more familiar with hatched five years later in 1972 with his self-titled debut album, more commonly known as Saturate Before Using, and the Browne-co-written single “Take It Easy” which launched the career of the Eagles. This was followed by the classic albums For Everyman, Late for the Sky, The Pretender, and the 1977’s mega-hit album Running on Empty. Songs from this period include “Running on Empty”, “Fountain of Sorrow”, “Doctor My Eyes”, “The Pretender”, and a live cover of “Stay”.

Browne continued to release new music in the 1980’s and beyond, with a highlight being his hit “Somebody’s Baby”. He has also been involved with various politcal activities, including the anti-nukes movement.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jackson Browne: Play with as many people as you can, you know? Hear your music played in different groups of people, in different ways. There’s no perfect way. That’s the elixir, that’s the tonic… playing it in different ways.


Slash first rocked the musical universe as lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, whose 1987 album Appetite For Destruction is widely regarded as one of the greatest debut albums of all time. The band’s notable songs include “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Paradise City”, “Patience”, and “November Rain”. Slash officially left Guns N’ Roses in 1996, having almost single-handedly brought the Gibson Les Paul guitar back into vogue. Slash went on to play guitar with Velvet Revolver and Slash’s Snakepit, and he is currently pursuing a solo career. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Slash: It takes a lot of work. I can’t tell you which path to go down, because it’s all fucked up. You just have to focus and pick what you want to do, and work really hard at it.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson is often referred to as the “Queen of Rockabilly”, and for good reason. After some success as a country singer, Elvis Presley himself encouraged her to try singing rockabilly, resulting in a string of hot tracks including “Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad”, “Mean, Mean Man”, “Fujiyama Mama” (which hit No. 1 in Japan), “Funnel of Love”, and “Let’s Have a Party” (which was a Top 40 hit in the U.S.) She blazed the trail for women in rock ‘n’ roll, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Not content to rest on her laurels, earlier this year she released an album of smoking covers called The Party Ain’t Over, which was produced by and featured the guitar of Jack White.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Wanda Jackson: Well, things have changed so much in the industry. So I really don’t know much about the workings of it. Even country music is big business these days. It’s a big thing. So everything’s different.

But I would say I think it’s a good time. People are loving music, and they’re accepting people who are different, and want to do it their own way.

So, golly, I would say, you have to get a record contract, that’s your first step. And I don’t know how to tell anybody how to do that. They’d have to ask someone… People come to me now to record, so I really don’t know how to go about going out.

But you just knock on doors and talk to people, and sing everywhere that you have the opportunity. And hold on to your dream, and don’t be swayed. You might get detoured, but that’s OK. If something happens in your life, that you can’t sing or something for a while, it’s OK. Go ahead and do what you have to do. But hang onto that dream, and continue to be determined.

For full interview with Wanda Jackson, click here.

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono is best known as the wife and artistic muse of the late John Lennon, who she was married to from 1969 until Lennon’s death in 1980. She is also a notable artist in collaboration with Lennon and in her own right, having for decades brought an avant-garde (and not universally loved) approach to performance art, film, and music.

Early collaborations between Ono and Lennon tended to be on the experimental end of the musical spectrum. In 1968, they released the album Two Virgins, which consisted of tape loops, various instruments, vocalizations by Ono, and conversations; the cover was a picture of the couple standing together naked. Ono also assisted Lennon with the sound collage “Revolution 9”, the most bizarre song on The White Album by The Beatles.

Other notable early collaborations with Lennon included the Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace In Toronto 1969 album, the 1970 album Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band which was a companion to the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, and Ono’s underrated album Fly released in 1971. The couple was also active in political causes, including holding “Bed-Ins For Peace” in Amsterdam and Montreal.

Other, more accessible collaborations between Ono and Lennon were the 1971 single “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”, the protest-heavy album Some Time in New York City, and the 1980 comeback album Double Fantasy which was released just weeks before Lennon was killed and won the 1981 Grammy for Record of the Year. Ono also participated in the recording of Lennon’s single “Give Peace a Chance”.

In the year after Lennon’s death, Ono released the acclaimed album Season of Glass, and has since released various other albums, most recently a collaboration with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore.

Before her association with Lennon, Ono took part in performances with John Cage, La Monte Young, and the Fluxus group.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Yoko Ono: Give us something that will make our lives heal and shine.

Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson is the frontman / singer / songwriter / flautist / acoustic guitarist for the band Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull’s first album, the bluesy This Was, came out in 1968, and their music rapidly developed with 1969’s Stand Up incorporating elements of English folk music and 1970’s Benefit embracing hard rock.

Next up was Jethro Tull’s classic album Aqualung, released in 1971 and regarded by many to be the band’s best. This included such Jethro Tull mainstays as the title track, “Locomotive Breath”, and “Crosseyed Mary”.

Jethro Tull followed with two concept albums, both of which reached No. 1 in the U.S. concert charts: 1972’s Thick as a Brick, and 1973’s A Passion Play, the latter including the not-universally-loved Winnie-the-Pooh-on-acid piece “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles”.

Jethro Tull released many more albums, notable ones including the compilation Living in the Past (1972), War Child (1974), Minstrel in the Gallery (1975), Songs from the Wood (1977), and Crest of a Knave (1987) which somewhat controversially beat out Metallica for the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance. Also well worth checking out is Nightcap (1994), which has a different take on the material that ended up in A Passion Play.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ian Anderson: Well, the same advice probably as my parents would have given me. Don’t give up your day job. If you want to do it for fun, that’s great, and there’s nothing wrong with being an amateur musician. In fact, it’s a much purer way of making music because you’re not seduced by the culture and money, the greed and avarice approach to music as a means of becoming a star, either for financial or egotistical reasons. For some individuals it proves to be a curse, or even a cause of death, in the case of Jimi Hendrix or Amy Winehouse. People who can’t handle it shouldn’t really go there. It’s just too dangerous.

In reality, I think being an amateur musician, as from the Latin root “to love”, you do it because you have fun with it. I think you can enjoy your amateur status and be constructive within that. Should you get lucky and find yourself with a professional opportunity, well that’s a bonus. But start off by doing it because you love doing it, and you love doing it for fun. Playing for yourself, or to family and friends, or a small audience somewhere is just as reward bringing as selling a million records, or standing on a big stage getting screamed and shouted at. Arguably, the amateur status might prove up to be more enjoyable.

For the full interview with Ian Anderson, click here.

Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is, quite literally, the voice of Yes, the band whose albums The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close To The Edge are amongst the most beloved of the progressive rock genre. Songs from this era co-written by Anderson include “Roundabout”, “Yours Is No Disgrace”, “I’ve Seen All Good People”, “Heart Of The Sunrise”, and many others. His first solo album was 1976′s Olias of Sunhillow, and he sang on Yes’ 1983 runaway hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. Anderson also had a long-running collaboration with Vangelis of Chariots of Fire fame. (Robin Kauffman photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter / musician?

Jon Anderson: Never give up…. keep practising, music will always give you a life… a special life.. be true to your dreams…

For full interview with Jon Anderson, click here.

Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie is a beloved folk singer best known for his talking blues epic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and his Top 40 hit “The City of New Orleans”. But this is just the cream of the crop from dozens of albums that he has released and songs he has performed over decades of touring since the late 1960′s. He also starred in the 1969 movie Alice’s Restaurant, and made a “far out” appearance in the Woodstock movie, which used his song “Coming Into Los Angeles” as accompaniment to footage of some serious reefer gladness.

Guthrie is also the son of folk music legend Woody Guthrie, who wrote hundreds of notable songs including “This Land Is Your Land”. The family’s musical legacy continues with Arlo’s children.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Arlo Guthrie: You won’t have a better friend than the music you make, so make it good.

For full interview with Arlo Guthrie, click here.

Mike Love


Mike Love has been a Beach Boy since the band began way back in 1961, and wrote the lyrics to some of their best-known songs including “Fun, Fun, Fun”, “California Girls”, “I Get Around”, and “Good Vibrations”. And that’s him singing lead vocals on the recordings of the first three of these, plus “Surfin’ U.S.A”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”, and more. Overall, The Beach Boys have had three dozen Top 40 hits, and they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mike Love: To become educated about the business of music, because we were not. I was not, and got seriously taken advantage of, unfortunately, by my Uncle Murry, who administered the publishing for our band. I didn’t even know what publishing was when we started. So I think education is a real vital thing if you’re going to be serious about going into the music business.

The other thing is, if you’re a good instrumentalist but maybe not a great vocalist, align yourself with somebody who’s a great singer. Just practical things like that. If you’re better at writing lyrics than you are at music, then if you align yourself with someone… That was my relationship with Brian. My cousin Brian was brilliant at structuring harmonies and coming up with melodies. I was the lyricist who complemented his musical abilities. I also have some musical abilities as well, but my strongest contribution in terms of The Beach Boys was the hooks and the lyrics that I came up with.

And of course, last but not least, is research all the things that came before you, all the various types of great musicianship and great artists that might resonate with you and strike a chord that means something to you, that stimulates some kind of creativity of your own doing.

For the full interview with Mike Love, click here.

Booker T. Jones

Booker T. Jones has had an astounding career in music, as part of Booker T. & the M.G.’s and beyond.

With the M.G.’s, he had hits in the 1960’s with instrumentals including the timeless “Green Onions”, “Hang ‘Em High”, and “Time Is Tight”. The band also backed an amazing collection of artists on the legendary Stax Records, such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Albert King.

Jones also co-wrote notable songs for other artists including “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “I Love You More Than Words Can Say”, and “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)”. Moreover, he produced records by Willie Nelson, Bill Withers, and Rita Coolidge, and he played with musicians including Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan. Booker T. & the M.G.’s were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and Jones received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2007.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Booker T. Jones: Well, I can only advise what I do. And what I do is I try to be consistent with the practice. I still practice the same scales that I practiced when I was maybe twelve years old. I still practice them every day.

And to have belief and faith in yourself. That’s the hard part, to try to believe that what you’re doing is OK and good, even though maybe it’s not successful at some point. But believe in yourself. That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

For full interview with Booker T. Jones, click here

Eric Burdon


The Beatles invaded America fifty years ago, and The Animals weren’t far behind, with their definitive version of “House of the Rising Sun” spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1964. Other hits followed for The Animals, including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, with the only constant bandmember during their 1960’s run being singer Eric Burdon.

After The Animals disbanded, Burdon continued to make great music, with War (“Spill the Wine”) and in a notable solo career. His latest album, 2013’s ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, shows that he’s still got it as a seventy-something.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Eric Burdon: Do what’s in your heart and not what’s on the charts. Listen to the older music for inspiration and read some music business law.

For the full interview with Eric Burdon, click here.

Dick Dale

Dick Dale is known as the King of the Surf Guitar, and for good reason. He basically invented the surf music genre with his reverb-drenched distorted-Fender-Strat-through-Fender-amps gloriously-glissandoing staccato-picked guitar instrumentals.

Dale had his first heyday in the early 1960’s in Southern California, and roared back into popular consciousness when his signature song “Miserlou” was used to great effect in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. Now in his seventies, Dale still has the fire that he showed in his early recordings, and continues to give awe-inspiring concerts.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dick Dale: Well, the first advice would be to walk your own path. And your body follows your mind. Do not destroy yourself with people who have a band and want you to be a part of a band, and if they’re drinking and if they’re doing drugs of any sort, smoking a joint or taking anything like that, run as fast as you can away. Just because you’re getting this offer to play in a band that is already doing a big deal, riding in the big, fancy buses and everything, but they’re doing drugs and booze… it’s not worth it. And so, what I would suggest is, play your instrument, figure out what kind of music you want to play, and I would suggest learn to play every style of music that the people are going to enjoy, like an all-age range. Because you might have to play it for nothing one day, and so you’d better enjoy what you’re doing. So you’d better enjoy playing for the people. Don’t play for yourself.

For instance, I remember when I was asked to play in a club that I’d never been to. So what did I do? I went and got the top ten played songs on the radio, and I learned them. And I learned them good. And I even put a little bit of my style to them. But I learned them good so that people could relate to them and say, “Wow, that’s cool!” Now, when I owned my nightclub, when I was hiring bands, I’d say, “What kind of music can you play?” And when they used to tell me, “Oh, we do our own thing, man”, I don’t use them, I don’t hire them. Because there’s a way, psychologically, that you introduce what you do.

I tell this to these young kids. I say, “Learn songs that the audience that you’re going to be playing for can recognize. And then start off with about four of those songs, one after another, and let them see that you can really play them. Then say, ‘Here’s a song that we just wrote. I hope you like it.'” Well now, you have already gotten them to accept you, by doing something that they like. Now, you’re going to ask them to listen to something that you wrote. And then you introduce your song. And then go back to another song that they can recognize, about two of them, then introduce another one of your songs. And if your songs are really good, and you can play them as good as you did the songs that the recognized, you’re on your way. Because you can keep on introducing, introducing, introducing.

But if you were to get up on that stage, and I learned this in Las Vegas, Reno, and Tahoe, when I performed for like seventeen years, I learned that you’re only as good as your first song and your last song. And you can crap in the middle. Because it’s how you introduce yourself, with the song that you’re playing, that make people say, “Wow!” And then you can go up and down through your show, and if you think you’re starting to lose a little bit, then you pull out your big guns for the ending. And you build it up for that ending. That’s what they’re going to walk away talking about.

So, you get a kid who plays an instrument, to answer your question, and have him start playing and find somebody else who’s clean like he is, or she, and you start building the entourage around you on the stage. So you find a drummer, find a bass player, and if you play the guitar then you need a singer. And that’s what you need. So you don’t need a whole bunch of other stuff. Everybody’s playing the same way, like I explained in the first place about the rhythm, you’re going to sound so full.

Then there is your appearance on stage. How you present yourself, and your musicians present themselves, and how they all coincide with you. When you make a move in a certain thing have them be right there and have them doing the same movement, things like that. Don’t be a fiddlestick and just stand there and pick.

For full interview with Dick Dale, click here.

Pat Metheny


Pat Metheny brings brilliant technique, versatility, innovation, and overall musicality to his playing and his compositions, making him one of the most accomplished jazz guitarists out there. Up to this point, he has received an astounding twenty Grammy awards, most recently 2013’s Best Jazz Instrumental Album award for the album United Band, which also features the talents of Chris Potter (saxophone), Ben Williams (bass), and Antonio Sanchez (drums). Just a few weeks ago, the Pat Metheny Unity Group (the United Band members plus multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi) released the album Kin (←→), which debuted at Number One on the Billboard Jazz Chart.

Metheny has also collaborated with a diverse set of artists, including Jim Hall, Chick Corea, John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Joni Mitchell, and Derek Bailey.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Pat Metheny: Always do everything you can to be around musicians who are better than you are.

For the full interview with Pat Metheny, click here.

John Mayall

John Mayall has been called “The Father of British Blues”, with good reason. As bandleader and songwriter for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, he was instrumental in launching the British blues boom in the 1960′s.

Mayall is probably best known for the landmark 1966 album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (the “Beano” album), which brought Clapton to “Clapton is God” status. Mayall’s Bluesbreakers band was also an early incubator for other notable talent including guitarists Peter Green (who along with other Bluesbreakers alums John McVie and Mick Fleetwood formed the early Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (who went on to join the Rolling Stones).

Mayall has recorded dozens of albums over the decades, and at 79 years old continues to tour extensively.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John Mayall: Always follow your instincts and your ideas and just hope that people will respect that and want to hear your original ideas.

For full interview with John Mayall, click here.

Dave Mason

Dave Mason was a co-founder of the English psychedelic/folk rock band Traffic, playing on their first two albums. The band’s second album, the self-titled Traffic, is particularly recommended to fans of Sixties rock and includes the original version of “Feelin’ Alright”, which became a huge hit for Joe Cocker. Mason also contributed to the recording of Jimi Hendrix’s masterful cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, and appeared on Harrison’s first album All Things Must Pass. Amazingly, all this happened before he even turned twenty-five.

Mason also had a notable solo career, with albums including 1970’s masterwork debut Alone Together and 1974’s Let It Flow. Songs from Mason’s solo career include “Only You Know and I Know”, “We Just Disagree”, and “Let It Go, Let It Flow”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dave Mason: Get a job [laughs]. I don’t know. Being a musician is an absolute leap of faith.

Jello Biafra

Jello Biafra was the lead singer and songwriter for The Dead Kennedys, arguably the greatest California punk rock band. Their first album, 1980’s Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, is regularly ranked as one of the top punk rock albums of all time, and features biting songs such as “Kill The Poor”, “Let’s Lynch the Landlord”, “Chemical Warfare”, “Holiday in Cambodia”, and “California Uber Alles”. Later Dead Kennedys’ classics include “MTV – Get Off the Air”, “Stars and Stripes of Corruption”, “Too Druck to Fuck”, and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. The Dead Kennedys were charged with obsenity for the artwork by H.R. Giger which came with their album Frankenchrist, and although they were not convicted, the legal battle wore them down and the band broke up in 1986.

Biafra’s next band was Lard, which included Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker from the band Ministry. Lard’s 1989 debut EP features the hilarious song “The Power of Lard”, and their 1990 album The Last Temptation of Reid is an industrial metal classic. Lard’s last release was 2000’s EP “70’s Rock Must Die”. Biafra’s current band is Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine, whose 2013 album White People and the Damage Done captures the subversive spirit of the early Dead Kennedys.

Biafra has also done many spoken word albums and performances, and has recorded music with notable artists including The Melvins, D.O.A. and Mojo Nixon. He also ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979, finishing fourth out of ten candidates; in 2000, he ran for the Green Party presidential nomination. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jello Biafra: God, I can’t think of anything good off the top of my head, except just keep doing what you’re doing. And do not expect ever to become wealthy by it. You just do it because you love it, and that’s it.

Jeff Mangum

Jeff Mangum is the singer, songwriter and main force behind Neutral Milk Hotel, whose 1998 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is often hailed as one of the best albums of that decade thanks to its highly evocative lyrics (inspired in part by the story of Anne Frank), impassioned singing, quirky instrumentation, and fuzzy production. Neutral Milk Hotel, which was part of the Elephant 6 Collective of musically talented friends from Ruston, Louisiana, also released a fine album in 1996 called Over Avery Island.

After a short tour was undertaken for the Aeroplane album, Mangum grew disillusioned with his burgeoning fame, and not much was heard from him, literally, for about a decade. During this time Neutral Milk Hotel’s music became better and better known.

Mangum slowly returned to live performance starting in the late 2000’s, including some shows with the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour. In Fall 2011 he did a short acoustic tour of the East Coast, and in 2012 he played at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He has continued touring in the U.S. and abroad during 2012 and 2013, and his shows regularly receive rave reviews.  (Cory Greenwell photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jeff Mangum: Just stay true to yourself.

Dr. John

Dr. John, aka The Night Tripper, has released over thirty albums which draw from the music of his native New Orleans and beyond, bookended by his 1968 voodoo psychedelic masterpiece debut Gris-Gris and last year’s wonderful Locked Down, produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.

Although not the sort of artist who had big hits – his only ones were the funky “Right Place Wrong Time” and a cover of “Iko Iko” – Dr. John has been hugely respected in the music world for decades. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, not just for his solo career, but also for his contributions to recordings as a member of the group of Los Angeles session musicians now known as The Wrecking Crew, and later contributions to recordings by an incredible set of musicians including The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Rickie Lee Jones, Carly Simon, Joe Cocker, and many more.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dr. John: I would say, first off you’ve gotta learn how to get paid. Second off, you’ve got to learn from all music. That’s what I would say to someone coming up.

For full interview with Dr. John, click here

Ann Wilson

Ann Wilson is the lead singer for the band Heart, which was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ann and sister/guitarist Nancy Wilson have formed the core of Heart since the 1970’s, when they recorded hits including “Magic Man”, “Crazy on You”, and “Barracuda”. They struck gold again in the 1980’s with help from MTV and songs like “What About Love”, “Never”, “These Dreams”, and “Alone”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ann Wilson: Aspiring to what?

JM: Say someone who’s trying to figure out if they want to make music their life’s pursuit, or do I want to play it safe and do something different.

AW: If they’re aspiring to be an artist and be a musician, and make a living, that’s one thing. But it they’re aspiring to superstardom, that something completely different. And I would say if you’re aspiring to superstardom you should turn around and run the other way as fast as you can [laughs]. Because only the top one percent of the whole pile ever gets there.

The best thing, I would say, is to be true to your music and to yourself, and just enjoy it. Because the enjoyment is what’s cool about it. You’re never going to catch that uncatchable big stardom thing. You’re just not going to catch it. So enjoy the ride.

For the full interview with Ann Wilson, click here.

Jimmy Webb


Jimmy Webb’s songwriting credits are quite remarkable. He is most closely associated with Glen Campbell, who sang the definitive versions of Webb’s songs “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and more. (A lesser known gem and Music Illuminati favorite is “You Might As Well Smile” from Campbell’s 1974 album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb.) Other songwriting credits include “Up, Up and Away” (The Fifth Dimension), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings, Donna Summer), “All I Know” (Art Garfunkel), and “Highwayman” (The Highwaymen). Other artists who have recorded and/or performed his songs include Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. Webb has also released his own wonderful albums over the years, most recently 2013’s Still Within the Sound of My Voice. (Jessica Walker photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter or aspiring musician?

Jimmy Webb: Give up the idea and go back to the farm [laughs]. No, that’s a joke. It’s a joke based on having survived the school of hard knocks.

I’m chairman of The Songwriters Hall of Fame, and I also sit on the Board of Directors at ASCAP. I’m actually Vice Chair at ASCAP, and we’ve been going through a heck of a time here in the last fifteen years or so trying to defend a small bit of turf, a safe ground where songwriters can create and get paid for what they do. Because nobody will do anything for nothing. So songwriters have definitely been threatened by digital interests, by companies like Pandora that want to pay next-to-dirt for using music. We have somebody like Adele who has six million plays and gets a check for $20,000. I mean, it’s outrageously ridiculous. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that over time, people are going to become less interested in being recording artists and songwriters. Most songwriters don’t make a lot of money, and never have made a lot of money. In the heyday of Elvis Presley, for instance, we made a penny on one side of a record that sold for 99 cents or a dollar. The songwriter would make a penny. So if a song was a hit and sold a million records, the songwriter would make $10,000. The record company would make a million, which they would split 8% probably to the artist, but the rest they would keep. Even in the heyday of records, of mechanicals – which really now when you say mechanicals it’s a synonym for downloads – what we’re paid for downloads now is so much less than a penny, it’s not even worth talking about. You’re into the mils, you’re into counting mils.

So it’s been very, very tough to sustain a community, and also a tradition of songwriting, when fewer and fewer people are really capable of making a living doing it. It’s ironic that more people than ever want to be in the music business, but at the same time the economics, as configured by the digital interests online, which is where the business is slowly but surely moving… The CD has stuck around at least ten years longer than it was expected to, because a lot of people still like to own things. They love their records with the big covers and the artwork and everything. You see a resurgence in the vinyl market, the 33 1/3 market. I just found out that my last two records are going to be pressed on vinyl, because they did pretty well on CD, largely because I had a largess of talent on those records. I had Billy Joel, I had Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, I had Joe Cocker, on the last record I got The Jordanaires back together. I had people like Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Keith Urban, Michael McDonald. I really don’t want to leave anybody out, but I had superstars all over those records, so now they’re going to be pressed on acrylic. It’s a sign that just because some mucky-muck at a digital radio station says, “People aren’t interested in CDs anymore”, well, that’s not necessarily true. It sounds good, and it’s good for them because they don’t want people to be interested in CDs, and they don’t really want people to be interested in vinyl records. But people like to own things, they like to be able to stick things up on the wall, and decorate their dorm room with posters. That’s just the way people are.

I’m not a Luddite. I have a Mac Air, and I use a computer constantly. In fact, I’m writing a book on my Mac Air. You can’t dismiss me and thousands of others like me as being anti-technology, and old farts who want the world to go back to the way it was. That’s not true. We merely recognize the fact that all the formats that are now “obsolete”, they’re not obsolete. People still like to have their records in their bookcase, and they always will like to do that. Like the caveman used to like to collect their spears and put them in a certain place in the cave. It’s so deeply embedded in human nature that it’s going to take more than a pronouncement from someone that such and such is true.

In the meantime, we were almost pirated out of existence. Billions and billions and billions of dollars worth of music was traded illegally, and people thought it was funny. It was a cool thing to do. But it actually affected real, live human beings in a really negative way. And it hasn’t been good for the music business, because the music isn’t any better. If anything it’s worse. That’s my little speech.

For the full interview with Jimmy Webb, click here.

Greg Lake

Greg Lake first made his mark as a founding member of King Crimson, for which he was lead singer and bass player. During Lake’s tenure, King Crimson released their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King, which is regularly hailed as one of the pioneering works of progressive rock, and included “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the title track. When this original line-up broke up, Lake joined with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer to form the prog rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer (often abbreviated ELP), which became one of top bands in the genre. ELP’s albums included Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery, and their best known songs include “Lucky Man”, “From The Beginning”, and “Karn Evil 9”, all of which were written or co-written by Lake. ELP broke up in 1978, but reunited in the 1990’s and beyond, most recently for a one-off 40th anniversary concert in London in 2010.

Photo: Lee Millward

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Greg Lake: Make music for yourself. When you’re making music for other people it becomes complicated. Making music that you like is simpler, and chances are someone else will like it as well.

For the full interview with Greg Lake, click here.

Michael McDonald


Michael McDonald is a 5-time Grammy winner who sang for a time with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, and has also had a notable and successful solo career. Highlights of his catalog include “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”, “You Belong To Me”, “It Keeps You Runnin'”, “Minute By Minute”, “What A Fool Believes”, “Takin’ It To The Streets”, “Yah Mo B There”, “Sweet Freedom”, and his cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Michael McDonald: I would say to stay intimate with that part of this that really makes you happy. Because you can lose sight of what that is. This job, like any other job, will become tedious at times. And those are the times when you most need to kind of take yourself back to what it was that initially spoke to you about it, what initially made it your passion. This career, or any career, it’s like a marriage, you know. You have to sometimes sit down and look back and remember what it felt like the first time you played at the VFW Hall in your small town, and thought, “Wow, I could do this for a living”, and how exciting that was. How that made you feel for the first time, like you had a purpose. Basically it’s on that level that we find a real happiness in anything. I don’t think it’s ever the amount of money we make at it, or the amount of celebrity we might get from it. It really lies in much simpler things.

I think that most musicians, we’re passionate people, but we’re also impressionable people. We come to see things through other people’s eyes. Sometimes more than we should, and we have to kind of hang onto what it is that is ours in the bargain. I think there was a period of time when I just really got tired of chasing the whole thing, trying to stay working and trying to keep my slot whether it was studio singing or as a recording artist, or whatever it was. And I had to really go back and go, “You know, I’m forgetting what I really always enjoyed about this.” And that’s really something I don’t have to worry about anybody taking that away from me, but me. So if I’m willing to concentrate on that, and not worry about all the rest of it so much, I’ll be OK. I think that’s an important thing for any young musician who wants to make this a career for life.

Some of the best musicians I’ve ever known, literally, and some of the happiest musicians I’ve ever known are guys that taught music in music stores, or taught music at school. They weren’t looking to become a rock star, or get the band on the charts. They were just happy to be a musician and have the privilege of making a living at it.

For the full interview with Michael McDonald, click here.

Harry “KC” Wayne Casey


Harry Wayne Casey is better known is as “KC” from KC and the Sunshine Band, which he founded in 1973. KC co-wrote and sang the band’s smash hits “That’s the Way (I Like It)”, “Shake Your Booty”, and “Get Down Tonight”, plus “Boogie Shoes” which appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Enjoying immense popularity in the 1970’s and beyond, the band has sold over 100 million records and won three Grammy Awards.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

KC: I don’t know, just follow your heart. You’ve got to follow your heart and believe in what you’re doing. Try not to ask too many opinions because those can just confuse your head, or whatever. You can listen to somebody, but really follow your own… If what they’re saying is what you’ve already been thinking, then that’s the right thing. Buy maybe if it’s not, you need to think about it and see, is what they’re saying the truth in what I should change, or what they’re saying doesn’t make sense. You have to apply it to whatever your own situation is. I just believe you follow your heart and your dreams.

It’s a lot of sacrifice, and you have to decide do I want to party or do I want to have a career, you know what I mean? I think anybody that’s successful gives up life for their success. You have to be ready to do that, and sometimes it includes family, friends, partying, and everything. You’ve got to set your goals. Some people are just happy being part of the machine, and just being whatever, and they don’t want to give up things. I think sometimes that’s the difference in someone who’s really successful and sometimes someone who’s not.

Then again, you’re successful in whatever decision you’ve made in life, wherever you are. That’s success. I think you’re successful when you’re doing something you’ve always dreamed of doing. I don’t care what it is, whether it’s a journalist or a singer or not-the-big player on the football team but the people behind the scenes. Everybody’s important in the scheme of things, and I think if you’re happy just doing that, then you’re successful.

For the full interview with KC, click here.

Richard Thompson


There aren’t many musicians who, from the 1960’s to the present day, have consistently released first-rate material that’s always worth a listen. One of the few who belongs in this category is guitarist/singer/songwriter Richard Thompson.

Thompson got his start with the British folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention, playing on their early albums including the 1969 landmarks What We Did on Our Holidays for which he wrote “Meet on the Ledge”, Unhalfbricking for which he wrote the lead track “Genesis Hall”, and Liege & Lief for which he wrote “Fairwell, Fairwell” and co-wrote “Crazy Man Michael”.

Thompson went on to record a series of albums with his then-wife Linda, with notable releases including 1974’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights. After the latter, he has primarily pursued a solo career, with releases including 1991’s Rumor and Sigh with fan favorite “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and, most recently, 2013’s Electric. And coming soon is an album Acoustic Classics, which revisits songs spanning his entire career in an acoustic format.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Richard Thompson: This is a tough time to be getting into music. Your intellectal property isn’t worth shit. Your only source of income is live shows and T-shirt sales. If you have to do it, you have to do it, but you’re better off having a day job.

For the full interview with Richard Thompson, click here.

Tony Levin

Tony Levin has played bass guitar and/or Chapman stick for an incredible collection of artists, including the 80’s and 90’s incarnations of King Crimson (Discipline, Beat, Three of a Perfect Pair, Thrak, etc), and Peter Gabriel’s solo albums (1-4, So, Us, etc). Other notable appearances were with John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Double Fantasy), Pink Floyd (A Momentary Lapse of Reason), Paul Simon (One Trick Pony), Lou Reed (Berlin), Tom Waits (Rain Dogs), David Bowie (Heathen), Dire Straits (Brothers In Arms), Robert Fripp (Exposure), and Alice Cooper (Welcome To My Nightmare, Goes To Hell). It has been estimated that Levin has played on over 500 different records.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Tony Levin: There are a lot of great rewards from playing music, especially if you’re lucky enough to play the music you’re passionate about. But probably more useful for me to pass on is the fact that there are often discouraging times in any musician’s life. Maybe not getting the job after an audition, or a band moving on from you to another player – or your doing a recording and then being replaced, or bands breaking up… this stuff happens to all of us, no matter how good the player, and it happens at all stages of our careers – not just at the start. My advice is to try to keep it in perspective, quite often it’s not about your playing badly (and if there is improving to do in your playing, then buckle down and do it) – to not take it personally, and to keep trying to get out there and play with different musicians, especially good ones, so you can keep improving as a player. Nobody is great from the start. Everyone faces setbacks. The music will still be there for you, and music’s what got you involved in the beginning.

Boz Scaggs

Although Boz Scaggs is best known for the slick R&B hits “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle” from his breakthrough 1976 album Silk Degrees, his career in music has spanned much, much more.

Scaggs first made a mark as a member of the Steve Miller Band during their early psychedelic rock phase, playing guitar plus writing and singing a few songs on the band’s first two albums.

His first solo album after leaving Miller’s orbit was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and featured a young Duane Allman on guitar shortly before Allman reached guitar god status. This has been ranked in the Top 500 albums of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Subsequent solo releases were also well regarded, hitting a peak with the aforementioned Silk Degrees which sold millions of copies and won Scaggs a Grammy for Best R&B Song for “Lowdown”. Scaggs has continued to release acclaimed albums over the years, most recently the covers-heavy Memphis.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Boz Scaggs: Play live, as much as possible. That’s how it happens. That’s what happened to Bob Dylan, that’s what happened to The Beatles, that’s what happened to The Rolling Stones. That’s what happens to the best jazz musicians. The musicians who love music play music. Take any opportunity to play live. Play for free, do whatever you’ve got to do. But play for people.

For full interview with Boz Scaggs, click here

Geoff Emerick

Geoff Emerick was the recording engineer on a number of The Beatles’ most noteworthy recordings, including the albums Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, part of The White Album, and Abbey Road, plus the Magical Mystery Tour EP and a number of singles. He was often tasked with getting new sounds, which he achieved by “abusing the equipment”. His handiwork can be heard on songs such as “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Paperback Writer”, “Strawberry Fields”, and “A Day In The Life”. He also worked on Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run album, Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs album, and on recordings by many others including Elvis Costello, Badfinger, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Chris Bell.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in music, as a musician or perhaps an engineer or producer like yourself?

Geoff Emerick: Don’t do it. [laughter]

I don’t know what to say really. I mean, I come from a different era. You know, we’re missing a huge piece of what I came up through, which is the creation of something spectacular, for want of a better word, on the studio floor. Everything sounds the same now. With the internet, there’s tons and tons and tons of stuff that comes out, and it all sounds the same. I guess, it’s like making a great film again. Just forget all the plug-ins and everything else, and try to create something from the basic instruments yourself.

I happened to work with good artists as well. I can’t manufacture – it’s against my way, really – I wouldn’t manufacture like a Justin Bieber out of the control room, with a tuner or whatever. I mean, I was listening the other day to Art Garfunkel’s vocal on “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, and that vocal, if you listen to it, and there’s no tuning device involved, is the most amazing vocal you ever heard in your life. If you can go back to that sort of time, where people are professional, and are really, really, incredibly good. You can’t really get into it just for the sake of the music, it’s got to be something special, and there’s something that you can personally add to it. That’s all I can really say on that subject. That’s a hard one to answer.

Bonnie Bramlett

Bonnie Bramlett’s soulful voice has graced an amazing number of recordings and concert stages over the years, making her a true American treasure. As a teenager, she was the first white Ikette to back Ike and Tina Turner. Later, with her then-husband Delaney Bramlett they formed the band Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, which struck a chord in the late-60’s and early-70’s with its mix of rock, Gospel, soul, and blues music. The “Friends” in this band included such notables as Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Leon Russell, Duane and Gregg Allman, and others.

Bramlett has also performed and/or recorded with the likes of John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Little Feat, Stephen Stills, The Allman Brother Band (earning her the title of “Allman Sister”), Emmylou Harris, and many others. She released several solo albums in the 1970’s, and then more in the 2000’s, with her latest release being the 2008 album Beautiful.

Plus, Bramlett is a noted songwriter, having co-written “Superstar” which was a mega-hit for The Carpenters, and Eric Clapton’s single “Let It Rain”. A recent composition, “Ain’t Gonna Let You Go”, appeared on Bonnie Raitt’s latest album Slipstream.

And if that’s not enough, Bramlett is also an actress, most notably in her recurring role on the TV show Roseanne.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bonnie Bramlett: School! Education, education, education. Simply because this is no longer show business. It is an industry, and they’ll eat you alive out here. So if you don’t know how to count your money, you won’t ever see any.

You know, you are a product, and they are there to sell you. They can tell you they love you, and kiss you all day long. But they don’t. So get your education so you can count your own money.

Because you don’t have to be an old black guy to get ripped off. I’m an old white woman, and I got hammered, OK? It’s just because if you don’t know how to do it, you have to give it to somebody that does. And people that know, they know that you don’t know, and they take your money. And if they’re honest people, you probably put them in a precarious situation anyway, and put them to be tempted when they shouldn’t have. So you really need to do it yourself.

For the full interview with Bonnie Bramlett, click here.

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford was the drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose songbook includes classics such as “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Down on the Corner”, “My Back Door”, “Fortunate Son”, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, “Travelin’ Band”, and “Up Around the Bend”. Creedence also did smokin’ covers of “Susie Q” and “I Heard It Through the Gravevine”. The band broke up acrimoniously in 1972, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

In 1995, Clifford and Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the name change reflecting the absence of singer/songwriter John Fogerty and his late brother Tom. This band, which not coincidentally also abbreviates to CCR, plays the hits we know and love from their days with Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Doug Clifford: First of all, don’t sign anything without a lawyer. And that’s with a lawyer who’s knowledgeable in the music business, and a lawyer that you trust. So that kind of narrows the equation, doesn’t it? Definitely do that.

And just play for yourself, you know. Be true to what it is that you truly love and want to play. That’s what we did, and it worked out.

Also, it’s not a bad idea to have a Plan B. Maybe going to college isn’t a bad idea. Have something there to fall back on should things not happen exactly the way that you want them to. That’s about it.

For full interview with Doug Clifford, click here.

Stu Cook


Stu Cook was the bassist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose songbook includes classics such as “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Down on the Corner”, “My Back Door”, “Fortunate Son”, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, “Travelin’ Band”, and “Up Around the Bend”. Creedence also did smokin’ covers of “Susie Q” and “I Heard It Through the Gravevine”. The band broke up acrimoniously in 1972, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

In 1995, Cook and Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the name change reflecting the absence of singer/songwriter John Fogerty and his late brother Tom. This band, which not coincidentally also abbreviates to CCR, plays the hits we know and love from their days with Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Stu Cook: [laughs] Stay in school! No, look, an aspiring musician is different from someone who wants to make a career in the music business. It’s really interesting how many people are intimidated by a musical instrument. I mean, you could always find one that you can figure out how to play, get someone to show you how, that you can put in your pocket like a harmonica and take with you. You don’t have to have a guitar tech or anything. It’s really easy to get a grip on the language of music. I always encourage people to give it a try, whether it’s singing or keyboards or any instrument. It can give you a lot of satisfaction, and it’s always great to get a bunch of strangers together and make music.

But it’s a tough business. It requires a tremendous amount of hard work, and, even more, luck. You can’t just do it as a hobby and expect anything real exciting to happen, except for self-satisfaction. If you try to have a career in the music business you have to be prepared to be disappointed a lot. Those are things you learn from, and again your commitment will bring you back with lessons learned.

It’s the only business in the world where the longer you’re in it, the better your odds. Because most people, they give up. People, while they may not be ready to give you a break, they’re always paying attention to who’s still there trying. And so, the longer you’re in the business I think the better your odds become. Not by much [laughs]. Most people give up early, so the people still standing have a better chance.

If you were in retail you’d be out of business in three or four years, right? You’re out of money and that would be it. Your restaurant fails, or whatever your business idea was. It couldn’t stand the amount of time and commitment that it takes to become successful. That’s why you see so many people that have long careers. They’ve figured out how to do their thing, how to be unique and profession, and maximize their talent, and always be open to opportunity. It takes a long time to learn how to keep all those balls in the air. While I say, “Go for it,” I also say, “Be prepared to have a backup plan.”

For the full interview with Stu Cook, click here.

Mark Lindsay

Mark Lindsay was the lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders, one of the most popular bands of the 1960’s. Their songs include “Kicks”, “Steppin’ Out”, “Hungry”, “Good Thing”, “Him or Me, What’s It Gonna Be”, and “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” which was a Number One hit in 1971. Their early songs, in particular, have a raw sound that was influential on punk rock a decade later.

Paul Revere & The Raiders appeared regularly on television, including being the house band for Dick Clark’s show Where The Action Is. They typically played in American Revolutionary War costumes, giving a visual gimmick to go along with their rockin’ music. It has been reported that Lindsay is the most televised American lead singer in history.

Lindsay also had success as a solo artist, with “Arizona” selling over one million copies.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mark Lindsay: The first thing I would do is say to get some good legal advice before you do anything. Everybody that’s a musician wants to play so bad. I remember my first record deal, there were five members of the band and we were splitting a nickel a record. That was a penny apiece. I would’ve given them a nickel of my money to make that record. We wanted to do it so badly. But you get into contracts that are so unfair, one-sided, that you’ll never make your money back. So get some legal advice, and do your homework.

And realize that if you get lucky enough to get a hit record that’s wonderful, but have another career to fall back on. It’s a fine line. You have to dedicate every ounce of your energy to make it happen, but yet you have to hold something back in case it doesn’t.

I don’t know where that line was drawn. With me it never was. I was always all-the-way. So maybe I’m not the greatest guy to give advice.

For full interview with Mark Lindsay, click here.

Chuck Negron

Chuck Negron was one of three lead singers for Three Dog Night, which had a whopping twenty-one Top Forty songs between 1969 and 1975. Three of these hit Number One – “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”, “Black and White”, and “Joy to the World”, the latter featuring Negron’s vocals and the familiar opening line “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”. He also sang lead vocals on “One”, “Eli’s Coming”, “An Old-Fashioned Love Song”, and “Easy to be Hard”. These, like most of Three Dog Night’s songs, were covers, often in very different arrangements from the originals.

Negron went through a period of serious drug addiction, which he finally overcame in the early 1990’s. His book Three Dog Nightmare is a harrowing account of his rock and roll excess, and starts with the line, “I should be dead.” (Mac O’Brien photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chuck Negron: Keep a day job [laughs]. No. Work hard, be resilient. You must be resilient. But always be able to take care of yourself, you know, to earn a living, to be productive. You can’t just say you’re going to be a musician and then not do anything to be a productive member of society. You have to do something that makes yourself feel good when the times are bad in music.

For full interview with Chuck Negron, click here.

Chuck D

Chuck D is one of the most important figures in the history of hip-hop music. He is the founder and lead rapper for the hugely influential (and controversial) band Public Enemy, which created a powerful mix of politically-charged lyrics and layered, aggressive sounds. Their second album, 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, and is considered to be hugely important for making rap music popular with white audiences. Other notable Public Enemy albums include Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), and How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? (2007).

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chuck D:

1. Truly do what you do from your training and belief.

2. TRY NOT TO ASK other people opinions of your art.

3. Give music away like an advertisement for your performance as an act.

4. Make a video for 33% of your music, we live in a visual audio age, not audio visual.

For full interview with Chuck D, click here.

Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard is widely regarded as one of the top stand-up comedians of his generation, with a surreal, stream-of-consciousness style that’s a hit in Britain, America, and pretty much everywhere else in the world.

Izzard started doing comedy during his only year at the University of Sheffield in north-central England. He spent a decade in relative obscurity until a performance at a 1991 AIDS benefit lifted his profile. He went on to win a British Comedy Award for “Top Stand Up Comedian” for his 1993 show Live at the Ambassadors. His U.S. breakthrough came from his show Dress To Kill, which was shown on HBO in 1999 and for which he won two Emmy Awards. He recently became the first solo stand-up comedian to perform at the famed Hollywood Bowl.

Izzard has also acted in many movies (including Velvet Golmine, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, and Across the Universe), starred in in the television show The Riches with Minnie Driver, and provided his voice to the animated films Igor and Cars 2.

Other notable things about Eddie Izzard are that he ran 43 marathons in 51 days for charity, he appeared briefly onstage with his heroes on Monty Python Live at Aspen (and has been referred to by John Cleese as “the lost Python”), he was a huge supporter of the London Olympics, and he is a heterosexual cross-dresser.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring comedian?

Eddie Izzard: My advice is to do a hundred gigs. It’s as simple as that. It sounds a bit brutal. “That’s not much help”. But it’s a bit like “What advice would you give to a car driver?” Well, drive a hundred hours. Drive a hundred hours in a car and then you’ll get the hang of it. There’s not much else you can do. You can’t say, “Read this book on car driving and you’ll be there.”

Literally, do a hundred hours, do a hundred gigs. That’s the thing. The more you do it the more you get acclimatized to it. It’s tough, because it’s like learning to drive without a driving instructor. You go onstage, and there is no one standing next to you or whispering lines into your ear. You’re just doing it live, and you can’t stop. Television shows you can stop. Films you can stop. In live shows, you just have to keep going. So that’s it. If you want it enough, you can go and get it. But if you don’t fight for it, it won’t happen.

For the full interview with Eddie Izzard, click here.


Rickie Lee Jones

Rickie Lee Jones is an acclaimed singer-songwriter who released her first album in 1979 and won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1980. Her song “Chuck E.’s In Love” was a huge hit, as were her first two albums, both of which reached the Top 5 in the U.S. She went on to release a dozen more albums in various styles, and her 1989 duet with Dr. John, “Makin’ Whoopee!”, won her another Grammy Award.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter / musician?

Rickie Lee Jones: Remember the Music. Concentrate on how you feel when you sing it. If there’s a place you don’t like, fix it. That’s the place that’s not true. Have fun always. Even sad songs, have fun. Go there to the place the song Is. And remember, it’s your job to make Them cry, not to cry yourself.

For full interview with Rickie Lee Jones, click here.

Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren has worn many musical hats, from principal songwriter and guitarist for the 1960’s Anglophile band The Nazz, to the pop meister who wrote the 1972 hit “Hello, It’s Me” and co-wrote the 1983 anti-work anthem “Bang the Drum All Day,” to a member of the prog-rock ensemble Utopia, to the lead singer of The New Cars after Ric Ocasek decided not to join a reunion of The Cars, to the producer of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, The New York Dolls’ debut album, and albums by many other artists including Patti Smith, Grand Funk Railroad, and XTC.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Todd Rundgren: Well, as you will recall, I gave you this whole dissertation about the difference between being a musician, and a performer, and an entertainer. The first thing to do is to have a clear distinction of what you’re trying to accomplish in that regard.

So if you want to be a musician, the first thing you need to do is get a day job [laughs]. You need to find something to do to feed yourself because music is one of these things where there aren’t success guarantees. It’s not like going to business school, getting an MBA, and then finding a job in a company somewhere. You’re going to go through this period of mystery regarding whether or not you are going to be able to ever make a living at making music. At some point you will have to make a decision that, yes, this is the life that I want to live, and that this is enough success for me to at least make a commitment to that lifestyle. Or you’re going to give up and find something else to do.

The question that you’ll have to answer for yourself at that point is, “am I really any good at it?” If I’m good at it, then regardless of what I have to do otherwise, I’m going to continue to do it. Because I’m good at it, you know? Because it means something to me to do it. And being good at it means that people respond to you.

I mean, you could say that there are egg-headed measures that only a musician would understand, in order to determine if something’s good. But really, the bottom line is, do other people enjoy listening to what you do? If they enjoy it enough to eventually go out of pocket to hear it.

But if you really just believe that you’re doing something musically important, and other people don’t understand it yet or whatever, and you’ll be lauded after you die for your incredible musicality that nobody was yet ready to listen to, then I don’t have any advice, you know [laughs]. You already have the level of self-assurance that makes you keep going regardless of what kind of success you have.

If the kind of advice is, how can I succeed as a musician, in other words, to get paid to do it… you know, I’m having enough trouble myself and I don’t need the competition. So if I knew how, I wouldn’t reveal it [laughs]. And I wouldn’t be telling you how to do it.

For full interview with Todd Rundgren, click here.

Alan Parsons

Alan Parsons has had a truly amazing career in music. His start was as an assistant engineer on the Abbey Road and Let It Be albums by The Beatles. He went on to engineer Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and their sonic masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon. He also engineered and/or produced works by Paul McCartney (Red Rose Speedway, Wildlife), The Hollies (“The Air That I Breathe”), Pilot (“Magic”), Al Stewart (“The Year of the Cat”), and Ambrosia. He then focused his attention on The Alan Parsons Project, with classic albums including Tales of Mystery and Imagination, I Robot, Pyramid, Eve, The Turn of a Friendly Card, and Eye in the Sky, and songs including “Eye in the Sky”, “Games People Play”, “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”, and “Sirius”, the latter of which is particularly beloved by fans of the Chicago Bulls.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Alan Parsons: Never give up. It’s tough, but never give up.

[different day, asked same question]

Alan Parsons: I think the basis of successful rock music is collaboration. I think too many people try to do it on their own, and sit in front of their laptop and try to be creative, and think that they can do the whole thing themselves. All the best records have come from successful collaborations, co-writing, co-performing. I would encourage musicians to work with others.

For full interview with Alan Parsons, click here.

Don Felder


Don Felder joined the Eagles as the band’s lead guitarist in 1974, and helped to push them from their country rock roots to a harder rock ‘n’ roll sound. He remained with the Eagles until the band broke up acrimoniously in 1980, and along the way he wrote the music for the Eagles megahit “Hotel California”, which is regularly ranked as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs ever written. This song was on the 1976 album Hotel California, which has sold over 32 million copies, a number bested by only a dozen other albums including the Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which includes some songs on which Felder played guitar. Felder also co-wrote the Eagles song “Victim of Love”.

After the break up, Felder did session work, recorded a couple of songs for the movie Heavy Metal, and released a solo album in 1983 which included the minor hit “Never Surrender”.

In a shock to pretty much everyone, the Eagles, including Felder, re-formed in 1994, touring and releasing a live album called Hell Freezes Over, a reference to Don Henley’s statement that the band would get back together when hell freezes over. The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the first year they were nominated.

The Eagles had many disputes over the years, and Felder was fired from the Eagles in early 2001. In 2008, he released a book called Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001), which became a New York Times bestseller. Both his termination and the book led to lawsuits. In fact, since he was fired, Felder’s interactions with some of his former bandmates have reportedly only been through lawyers.

In 2012, Felder released his second solo album Road to Forever, which was written in response to his termination from the Eagles and the break up of his marriage. The album included contributions from some notable guests, and has received a positive response from fans and critics.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give an aspiring musician?

Don Felder: You know, I would have to say to anyone aspiring not only in music but aspiring to do anything in life, you have to find something that you’re absolutely obsessed with, that you love more than doing anything else in the world and that you can’t stop yourself from doing. If you have that kind of passion about whatever it is that you’re trying to do, whether it’s music or art or business or whatever it is, your success will be maximized on a really great scale. If you don’t have that kind of passion, whatever you do will seem like work. If you have that kind of passion it’s a labor of love. You’re doing something you love, and you’ll spend the 10,000 hours or more that you love doing it, and you’ll become really great at it. That, to me, makes life worth doing. If you’re doing something you really like, then you’re enjoying your life. If you’re not doing something you like or love in this world, your life will be a long series of work. Find something you like, you love, and make your life a labor of love.

For the full interview with Don Felder, click here.

Peter Hook

Bassist Peter Hook is the co-founder of the seminal post-punk band Joy Division and the dance rock powerhouse New Order. He currently leads the band Peter Hook and The Light.

Joy Division’s music is stark and haunting, a dark fountain of bleak themes and pulsing rhythms that was hugely influential on the emerging goth rock genre and beyond. Tragically, they only recorded two albums (1979’s Unknown Pleasures and 1980’s Closer) and a couple of singles (most notably “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Atmosphere”) before singer Ian Curtis hanged himself on the eve of a tour of the United States. Hook’s upper-register basslines were a key component of Joy Division’s sound.

After Curtis’ death, Joy Division’s surviving members re-formed as New Order. Their first album, 1982’s Movement, was somewhat tentative, but the 1983 follow-up Corruption & Lies established a new musical identity, with keyboards and a drum machine becoming key components to their sound. They have continued in this vein over the years, scoring a number of hit singles and albums. Hook left New Order in 2007.

Hook was also a co-owner of The Hacienda, a legendary nightclub in Manchester, England. His book about this experience, How Not To Run A Club, was published in 2009.

Many thanks to L. Paul Mann for asking the following question as part of his interview with Peter Hook. (Photo also by L. Paul Mann)

L. Paul Mann: Do you have any advice for aspiring young musicians who might want to follow your lead?

Peter Hook: I would just advise them to follow their dreams, anything is possible!

For Paul’s full interview with Peter Hook, click here.

Jim Messina

Jim Messina is best known for the duo Loggins & Messina, which gave us songs like “Danny’s Song”, “House at Pooh Corner”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. But by the time he and Kenny Loggins got together, he had already acquired quite an impressive musical resume, including the following highlights. He was the recording engineer for the album Buffalo Springfield Again, which ultimately led to him joining the band and producing their final album Last Time Around. Then, with Richie Furay from Buffalo Springfield, he co-founded the seminal country-rock band Poco, whose classic first albums he also produced. Next up was Loggins & Messina, which has been described as the most successful pop/rock duo in the first half of the 1970’s.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jim Messina: Well, I know this probably sounds more like a parent’s advice. Having been through the psychedelic days, drugs, the alcohol and everything else that’s involved in that, I think the most important thing an aspiring artist can do is to hang onto their roots, where they came from. And try to avoid getting involved in any of the social banalities, like getting involved with drugs or drinking, any of that kind of social behavior. Because many times it’s social. “One of the guys”, “part of the crowd”, you know, and so you get involved in doing things. I think it is so counterproductive and self-sabotaging when it comes to what I think we were all there to do, and that is to focus on your music, focus on your playing skills, focus on developing good musical relationships, and work together to support one another rather than trying to pull yourself out of the crowd and become the most important one. I don’t think any career that I’ve ever watched happen happened by one person doing it all by themselves. It takes a team. It takes a group. It takes everybody working together, focused intensely on the goal, which is to get out there and perform, to get an audience, and create a product that they all want to buy.

For the full interview with Jim Messina, click here.

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson has been an intriguing and captivating performance artist since the 1970s, mixing voice, visuals, violin and synth-textures into artistic events that are thought-provoking, entertaining and often highly amusing.

Anderson first became widely known for her 1981 left-field single “O Superman,” which was a surprise No. 2 hit on the United Kingdom pop music charts. This song was included on her 1982 album Big Science, which remains essential listening for fans of experimental music. Those with more stamina might want to check out United States Live, a four-hour-plus recording from which Big Science only gives highlights.

Anderson’s musical endeavors have included several more albums, and she has collaborated with an impressive collection of experimental musicians such as Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Jean Michel Jarre (check out his criminally underappreciated album Zoolook) and Lou Reed, who she married in 2008. She has also toured multiple major performance art pieces, at times featuring instruments and devices that she invented. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Laurie Anderson: Play with other musicians that you really like. You know, expand your style a little a little. And don’t be shy about asking. They might say “yes”. They might say “no”, but don’t take it seriously. I’ve been learning to do that a lot lately, and that’s really been fun. You know, jump out of your style a little bit.

Dan Hicks

Dan Hicks has been a part of musical history in at least two big ways.

First, he was the drummer for The Charlatans, which is widely credited
as the first psychedelic rock band. The Charlatans formed in San
Francisco in 1964, and Hicks joined in time for their summer 1965
residency at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. When they
returned to San Francisco, The Charlatans were important players in
the city’s burgeoning music scene, helping to pave the way for the
emerging San Francisco Sound.

Second, in 1968 he founded Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, which went in
a more eclectic acoustic direction colored by jazz, country, and swing
influences. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks released several well-regarded
albums before disbanding in the mid-1970′s. A little over a decade
ago, Hicks put together a new incarnation of the Hot Licks to record
new material and to tour.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dan Hicks: You know, I used to say to do one thing real well. I mean, do one thing and sort of stick with it, get that down. I don’t know exactly what that means now. Like, maybe play an instrument.

When I think about it, it’s the people that sound good and other people think they sound good, those are the successful people. They’re making a good sound, and people like it, and the person likes it themselves. Some people, though, continue to keep going and they’re not that good [laughs].

So I don’t know… You know, realize whether you’ve got it or not, and don’t waste time otherwise.

For full interview with Dan Hicks, click here.

Glen Matlock

Glen Matlock was the original bass player for the seminal and hugely influential punk rock back the Sex Pistols. Their album Never Mind the Bollocks is widely viewed as one of the most important in the history of rock music, punk or otherwise. Matlock co-wrote nearly all of the songs on this album, including “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen”, but he didn’t play on it because he had left the group. He later played in Rich Kids, and with Iggy Pop and the re-formed Faces. He recently has been performing with The International Swingers. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Glen Matlock: Try it like you mean it. Or don’t [laughs]. Even though I’ve had reasonable success, there’s a lot of frustration involved in the in-between periods. It’s not a smooth career path, but that’s kind of life.

For full interview with Glen Matlock, click here.

Alan Bergman


Husband-and-wife songwriting team Alan and Marilyn Bergman have been nominated for an incredible 16 Academy Awards, winning twice for Best Song (“The Windmills of Your Mind” and “The Way We Were”) and once for Best Original Score (“Yentl”).

Other notable songs that they co-wrote include more for the big screen (“In the Heat of the Night”, “How Do you Keep the Music Playing”, and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”), some for the small screen (the theme songs to the TV shows “Good Times” and “Maude”), and other musical gems (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “Nice ‘n’ Easy”).

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter or musician?

Alan Bergman: Two things. One, to read two books of Sondheim’s [Finishing the Hat; Look, I Made a Hat]. They’re fantastic books on writing, especially writing for the theater. They’re wonderful books.

And then I suggest that young songwriters listen to the great writers. Listen to Cole Porter, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Johnny Mercer, and Yip Harburg, and Lerner and Loewe, and Rodgers and Hart. I mean, those people, you can go to school on them. Learn why Irving Berlin’s songs are still sung, why they appeal to people no matter what generation you are. Because they appeal to both the mind and the heart. What we lack today in a lot of the songs are melodies. There’s great melodies there. Marilyn and I were very lucky because we were brought up in that golden age of the Great American Songbook and Broadway. We learned from them, and luckily I had Johnny Mercer as a mentor for two or three years, and Marilyn had a wonderful lyric writer by the name of Bob Russell. So that’s how you learn.

Richard Brooks – a director, a writer for whom we wrote “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” – told us a wonderful story. When he was a kid he ran away from home and went on the rails. He was in a typical hobo camp, and one night they were drinking soup around the fire, and a hobo came up to him and said, “What do you do, kid?” And Richard said, “I’m a writer.” He said, “Oh, you’re a writer, huh? Have you read Dostoyevsky, have you read Tolstoy?” Richard said, “Yes, I’ve read them.” And he said, “Let me give you some advice kid. If you want to be a writer, for every word you write you should read a thousand.” And I tell that to young songwriters. I say, for every song you write listen to hundreds of great songs in the Great American Songbook, and you’ll learn.

For the full interview with Alan Bergman, click here.

David Grisman

David Grisman is a mandolin virtuoso who developed “dawg music”, a high-energy mixture of bluegrass and gypsy jazz. He has released a number of albums over the years, with a fan favorite being 1979’s Hot Dawg. A longtime friend of Jerry Garcia, Grisman played on The Grateful Dead’s album American Beauty (“Friend of the Devil” and “Ripple”) and various other projects with Garcia.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Grisman: Don’t give up your day job.

JM: Is that what you did?

DG: I have a day job [laughs]. I didn’t give it up. No, I’ve worn different hats, all music related pretty much. And practice.

Danny Seraphine

Drummer Danny Seraphine was a founding member of Chicago, which is rated by Billboard as the second all-time most successful American rock band based on chart success, behind only The Beach Boys. He was with Chicago from 1967 through 1990, a span which includes their jazz rock classics (“25 or 6 to 4”, “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is”, “Saturday in the Park”) and 1980’s pop successes (“Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, “Hard Habit to Break”, “You’re the Inspiration”). A few years ago, Pitbull sampled the Chicago song “Street Player”, co-written by Seraphine, for “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)”. Seraphine currently plays drums in the band California Transit Authority.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Danny Seraphine: First of all, really do it for the right reasons, because you love music, you love the art form. Be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices. Don’t leave that second job, so that you can subsidize yourself unless you’re really lucky. And you’re going to need a lot of perseverence. It’s a very tough environment. It’s a lot tougher than it used to be. When I was coming up, I had all kinds of night clubs to play. It’s a different world now. If you love music, you just want to devote your life to it, be prepared for something that’s very tough. Be prepared for that.

Clem Burke

Clem Burke is the drummer for Blondie, arguably the most successful of the original punk / New Wave bands. Blondie’s hits include “Heart of Glass”, “Call Me”, “The Tide is High”, and “Rapture”, and their 1978 album Parallel Lines is regularly ranked as one of the best albums of all time. Burke has also played with The Romantics, The Eurythmics, Bob Dylan, and The Ramones (as “Elvis Ramone”). He recently has been performing with The International Swingers. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Clem Burke: Just keep your business together. Get a good lawyer, although they’re expensive. Things like that. And try to write some good songs.

Stephen Perkins

Stephen Perkins is the drummer for the hugely influential alt-rock band Jane’s Addiction, which formed in Los Angeles in 1985.

The band’s first studio album, Nothing’s Shocking, was released in 1988, and consists of songs ranging from the hard rocking “Ocean Size” and “Mountain Song”, to the funk rock “Standing in the Shower… Thinking”, to the dreamy, psychedelic “Summertime Rolls”, to the disturbing “Ted, Just Admit It…” about serial killer Ted Bundy, to the delicate junkie tale “Jane Says”.

In 1990, Jane’s Addiction released the follow-up album Ritual de lo Habitual, with songs including “Stop!”, “No One’s Leaving”, “Ain’t No Right”, “Three Days”, and their biggest hit “Been Caught Stealing”. Unfortunately, tensions between band members led to their break up, but not before the first Lollapalooza, which was created by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for the band.

After the break up, Perkins worked with Farrell in Porno for Pyros, and did guest appearances on Rage Against the Machine’s debut album and Nine Inch Nails’ album The Downward Spiral. Jane’s Addiction has reunited several times, and in 2011 released the album The Great Escape Artist.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Stephen Perkins: Just like any artist if you sit there and sketch, you sit there and paint or sculpt, at first you want to replicate the greats. That’s all you know. There has to be a time when you get you technique together, and you have your arsenal, your fingers on the fretboard, or your hands on sticks.

Once you get to that point when you can play, you’ve got to throw the book out the window, and you’ve got to find yourself. A lot of people consider my playing a personality. That’s what it is. You have to find your personality. My favorite players are not the technique guys. They may have it, or they may not. But it’s their personality. Mike Watt. Stewart Copeland. I don’t know the guy, but I feel like he’s got an attention problem, just by listening to his drumming – he’s everywhere! So I think that anybody who picks up an instrument, make sure your personality comes first, and bring that to the surface. Because it’s art. And that’s what you’re there for. You’re out there obviously to pay the bills, you’re out there to show off. All of that goes into your playing at first. I can make money, I can meet girls, whatever it is. But it’s really about the art, and being alone with the drum, or guitar, or piano, and trying to find what turns you on.

For the full interview with Stephen Perkins, click here.

Jack DeJohnette

Those of us who like to read the liner notes to musical releases often see the same names popping up over and over. Such is the case with the legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, whose credits include seminal albums with Charles Lloyd (Forest Flower) and Miles Davis (Bitches Brew), and who has also worked with the likes of Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea in addition to leading his own bands over the years.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jack DeJohnette: Today it’s much more complicated to do that, to get yourself recognized on a broad scale. Because, shall we say, there’s more practitioners of music. I think a lot of it has to do with the music schools. There’s a limited amount of working situations for the players. The other thing, through iPhones and downloads and YouTube, it’s harder to make your living through the music, except through performances. Downloads don’t pay that much, so you have to be an entrepreneur and a musician, either by working with groups that have a bigger exposure or creating a grassroots kind of thing on your own, or networking with other people to create environments to perform the music.

JM: It’s a different time now, isn’t it?

JDJ: Very, very, very. You know, we are a part of a whole galactic intelligence here that has the ability to adapt to change. That’s what’s going to happen. That’s what’s happening now. It’s like improvisation. Life is improvisation. Species adapt, you know, adapt to the necessary enhancements to help them survive. That’s ongoing, all the time.

For the full interview with Jack DeJohnette, click here.

Holly Near

Singer-songwriter Holly Near has been combining music and activism for over four decades, dating back to the turbulent early-70’s when as a cast member of the Broadway musical Hair she was part of a silent vigil for the victims of the Kent State shootings, and as a member of the FTA (Free The Army) Tour she traveled with Jane Fonda and others to protest the Vietnam War.

Over the years Near has also lent her talents to feminist and LGBTQ causes, and she has worked with other socially conscious musicians including Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Joan Baez.

Near is also notable for being one of the first women to found her own record label, Redwood Records, which released her own recordings and those by “politically conscious artists from around the world”.

Near’s honors include being named Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine, and being nominated as one of the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize” in 2005.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Holly Near: There are lots of ways to be a musician. A musician has to find her/his way. Sometimes that is clear from the start. Other times, it is trial and error and full of surprises. I thought I was going to be a star on Broadway. Instead, I became fascinated with music associated with social change movements. The main thing is to be good at one’s craft. And that takes practice. Artists are like heart surgeons. I wouldn’t want my heart cut open by someone who had not studied medicine.

For the full interview with Holly Near, click here.

Amy Ray


Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been together as the Indigo Girls for nearly three decades. Their career took off with their 1989 self-titled second album, with key songs like “Closer to Fine” and “Kid Fears” reminding us that music can be simultaneously beautiful and thought-provoking. Both Ray and Saliers are amazing songwriters, with some additional song highlights being “Strange Fire”, “Secure Yourself”, “Prince of Darkness”, “Galileo”, “Least Complicated”, “Power of Two”, and “Shame on You”. Over the years their music has evolved – perhaps most notably they started plugging in their guitars more often – but their wonderful lyrics and harmonies have always continued to shine. Their most recent album is 2011’s Beauty Queen Sister. The Indigo Girls are also politically active, and have long supported environmental, Native American, and gay rights causes.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Amy Ray: I mean, it depends on what kind of music you want to play. That’s the context of everything. If you’re a singer-songwriter and you want to make records and go out and play, or if you’re playing rock or punk or country or folk or whatever or jazz, the thing that’s going to distinguish you from everyone else is going to be how good your songwriting is. So I think you need to spend as much time as possible on that.

But if you’re a performance artist and you’re doing something completely different, and you’re involving multimedia or something, I think you need to come up with something that differentiates you from everybody else, and you need to get in front of as many people as you can get in front of and do your art.

I don’t know much about the world of produced/sculpted pop music, so I don’t really know what the key to that is. I just know the key for people who want to do what we do, whether they’re playing rock or hip hop or whatever, that write songs and want to get out there and play live, and they want to have a long career. The most important things to our career have been attention to songwriting and never thinking that you’ve got it beat. You’ve got to keep getting better and better and better.

And then you’ve got to tour all the time. You have to play live. You cannot get away with not ever building your base and your community, and to do that you’ve got to get out there and play. Basically, you have to create things out of nothing sometimes. You’ve just got to play in front of people and keep your chops up and create community around you. And then, always be looking out for the other person, too, and helping out and building allies and camaraderie. You don’t do it just to help you get further, but if you do it in the right way it will help you get further.

For the full interview with Amy Ray, click here.

Will Jennings

Will Jennings is a hugely successful songwriter. Songs that he co-wrote include “My Heart Will Go On” (from the movie Titanic and sung by Celine Dion, this single sold 15 million copies and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Song of the Year), “Up Where We Belong” (from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman and sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, this won an Academy Award for Best Original Song), and “Tears in Heaven” (from the movie Rush and performed by Eric Clapton, this won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year). He also co-wrote Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”, Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It”, Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me”, and songs for B.B. King, Jimmy Buffett, Roy Orbison, and Peter Wolf.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter?

Will Jennings: I don’t know. I’ve gone so many places working with so many people. But I don’t have a clue. I just come in and try to get to the next thing, and my beautiful wife is right there behind me. You’re looking at a statue of ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, everybody.’

Kinky Friedman

Before Kinky Friedman became a best-selling author of mystery novels, or ran for the Governor of Texas as an Independent in 2006 (coming in fourth out of six candidates), he recorded some of the funniest country music ever committed to tape. His best known songs include “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore”, “Ride ‘Em Jewboy”, and “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed”, which aren’t exactly hymns to political correctness, but they probably will make you laugh, and might even make you think. (Larry Pullen photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician, or an aspiring author, or in your case, an aspiring politician?

Kinky Friedman: The advice is easy – stop before it’s too late. I remember the story of Johnny Gimble, one of the greatest fiddle players who ever lived. When he was about five years old he told his mother, “Mama, when I grow up I’m gonna be a musician.” His mother said, “Well make up your mind son, because you can’t do both.” And that’s about right. In spite of what Johnny Gimble’s mother said, it’s still true that that being a musician is a much higher calling than being a politician.

For full interview with Kinky Friedman, click here.

Nels Cline


When I interviewed punk rock bass guitar hero Mike Watt a couple years ago, he referred to guitarist Nels Cline’s musicianship by saying, “He has no fear”. And when you consider Cline’s diverse discography, that seems like an apt description.

Cline is best known for being the lead guitarist for Wilco, a position he has held for the past ten years. He has also performed and/or recorded with a variety of other artists including Watt, Thurston Moore, Charlie Haden, and his wife Yuka Honda, in styles including jazz, free improvisation, and avant rock.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Nels Cline: Sorry to sound trite, but in my case I think that there’s a confluence, if you will, of persistence or perseverance, and deep denial [laughs]. If you can manage to not give up what you love doing, if you really love doing it, then I think that’s my main advice.

The other advice I have is, if you want to do something that’s not normal with music, it’s going to be a tough road, but do it and don’t take any shit. Because you might change the way we think about music forever. But it’s a very tough road. In spite of the fact that you have to learn a lot of stuff, it’s easier to play other people’s music, and sort of fit in. That certainly has its own skill set, which is a language that one must learn. But to walk on the road less hoed, or one unhoed, is certainly a much more difficult endeavor just in terms of staying on that road, because people will want to deter you, they’ll want to tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing, or they’ll want to tell you that you can’t do that, or whatever it is. And I say, do it, and don’t take any shit if you really are committed to that idea.

But the perseverance thing is the number one thing, because, God, there were times when I just thought that I was delusional, that I should not be pursuing music anymore. Because it was basically kind of ruining my life [laughs]. Struggling and driving myself insane in the head, you know? But I didn’t give up, and things got really, really lovely, eventually. It did take a long time, but then again, number one, I’m not that fucking talented and I just kind of gradually got better, I think. The other thing is I can’t do anything else [laughs]. But if I had not thought, “Ah, yeah, this year’s so much better than last year,” like every year’s a little better than the last one, I would’ve certainly seen my life as a big long delusional kind of sad story and given up. But I was convinced that every year was better, and because I enjoy what I do so much, it wasn’t that hard to keep going.

But I think it is hard for some people, especially if they start really thinking about it, and they realize that the rewards are few other than the doing. At least for a very long time. I mean, I was never out there to make money or be a star, or anything like that. I wanted to survive playing music so I could keep playing. But it’s much easier said than done.

For the full interview with Nels Cline, click here.


Raffi has been called “the most popular children’s singer in the English-speaking world”. It all started with his 1976 album Singable Songs for the Very Young, which includes songs “The More We Get Together”, “Down By The Bay”, “Willoughby Wallaby Woo”, and “Going to the Zoo”, and which was notable for bringing the highest quality in recording and production to children’s music. He went on to release many other hugely popular children’s albums, and along the way wrote classics including “Baby Beluga” and “Bananaphone”.

Raffi is also a passionate advocate for children, and co-founded the Centre for Child Honouring which works to restore communities and ecosystems by addressing the universal needs of children. He has been honored as a recipient of the Order of Canada and the United Nations’ Earth Achievement Award.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Raffi: [laughs] Well, always in the arts it’s “follow your heart”. Do what you must. Do it with love and joy, and if you love what you do you’ll work hard at it, as I did. And I still do [laughs]. But follow your heart.

JM: And I assume that’s the case if you’re a children’s musician or a musician for adults?

R: Yeah. You need to have a sense of who your audience is. If your audience is the very young, then you’ve got an extra responsibility to know what the young are like as people. I mean, they’re varied of course. They’re individuals. But young children share common traits, so you need to know what that time of life is like, and what it’s not like. Because children are not little adults. They’re unique citizens of a certain time in the life continuum. I certainly did a lot of learning when I was younger about how kids are and what they enjoy, and how to reach them, how to communicate with them. I think every aspiring children’s entertainer can do the same.

For full interview with Raffi, click here.


Not many living people have their name appear regularly as the answer to crossword puzzle clues. But if you’re looking for a five letter answer to “One-named New Age musician” or “Greek New Age keyboardist”, it doesn’t take long to come up with “Yanni”.

Of course, Yanni’s mark extends far beyond crossword puzzles. He has released fourteen studio albums, the latest of which is 2011’s Truth or Touch and two of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards, plus seven live albums including Live at the Acropolis which along with its companion video has sold over seven million copies.

His music, which he prefers to call “Contemporary Instrumental” rather than “New Age”, has also been used in television shows, televised sporting events, and commercials. Yanni was even the first Westerner to perform at the Taj Mahal and Beijing’s Forbidden City.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Yanni: For me, I was able to always follow my passion for music by listening to what I felt was right for me. There are many times when you cannot see the path ahead clearly but you have to keep moving in the direction that inspires you. I could have never imagined when I first started my career some 30 plus years ago that I would be where I am today. Throughout both the good and bad times, I never gave up on following my dreams and that is perhaps the best lesson could share.

For full interview with Yanni, click here.

Mark Volman

Mark Volman and long-time collaborator Howard Kaylan were founding members of The Turtles, whose 1960’s hits include “Happy Together” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. When The Turtles disbanded, Volman and Kaylan joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, and due to contractual reasons adopted the names Flo & Eddie. Flo & Eddie performed on the Zappa albums Chunga’s Revenge, Fillmore East June 1971, and Just Another Band from L.A., and in the movie 200 Motels. Flo & Eddie also sang background vocals for T. Rex, including on the worldwide hit “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” and the albums Electric Warrior and The Slider.

And that’s just scratching the surface. They also sang on records by notable artists including Bruce Springsteen (“Hungry Heart”), The Psychedelic Furs (“Love My Way”), Stephen Stills, Alice Cooper, Ray Manzarek, Keith Moon, The Ramones, and Blondie. Volman is also the Chair of the Entertainment Industry Studies program at Belmont University in Nashville.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mark Volman: Well, learn the business. In this day and age, any young musician who is trying to have any kind of success at all should strengthen themselves emotionally, spiritually and creatively. And one of the ways you do that is by becoming much more aware of the business of music, because it will allow you to become more valuable in all of the areas of your career. And it will help you to be able to look at what’s going on management-wise, and creatively that is very important to understand ownership, and understand publishing, and understand what record companies are about.

If you’re really moving towards the music in a business way, then you definitely have to take the time to take yourself more seriously, and the way you do that is to become much more in tune with the elements that come into the music business in terms of ownership and what makes a good manager, and what makes a good record company. So that you can protect yourself. The saddest thing is for a musician to have a great record lost in the shuffle because he didn’t know what needed to be done. Just because you make the record doesn’t allow you the ability to ignore the necessities of marketing, and public relations, and advertising, and understanding what needs to be done in the most important things.

For full interview with Mark Volman, click here.

Howard Kaylan

Howard Kaylan and long-time collaborator Mark Volman were founding members of The Turtles, whose 1960′s hits include “Happy Together” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. When The Turtles disbanded, Volman and Kaylan joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, and due to contractual reasons adopted the names Flo & Eddie. Flo & Eddie performed on the Zappa albums Chunga’s Revenge, Fillmore East June 1971, and Just Another Band from L.A., and in the movie 200 Motels. Flo & Eddie also sang background vocals for T. Rex, including on the worldwide hit “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” and the albums Electric Warrior and The Slider. And that’s just scratching the surface. They also sang on records by notable artists including Bruce Springsteen (“Hungry Heart”), The Psychedelic Furs (“Love My Way”), Stephen Stills, Alice Cooper, Ray Manzarek, Keith Moon, The Ramones, and Blondie.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Howard Kaylan: Don’t give yourself a fallback plan. Never give yourself a fallback plan. Because the minute things go wrong, you’ll fall back. Go straight ahead with your career, and pretend that it’s the only important thing in your life, because it is. If you give yourself something to fall back on, like another career, you’ll be selling shoes.

Chris Hillman

Chris Hillman has been a professional musician for nearly fifty years, starting on bluegrass mandolin before he joined The Byrds, for which he played bass guitar and contributed vocals. You can hear him on hits including “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, “Eight Miles High”, and “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, which he co-wrote.

Hillman left The Byrds after their landmark album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, joining up with Gram Parson (who also played on that album) to form The Flying Burrito Brothers, whose classic debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin featured many songs that he wrote or co-wrote with Parsons. Hillman was also a key member of the band Manassas with Steven Stills, and had multiple country hits with the Desert Rose Band.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chris Hillman: OK, I would give this advice to an aspiring musician. I would say, follow your dream. But, have a backup plan. Most of the young kids who ask my advice are in their late teens, or maybe their early twenties, and I say, listen, you’re not going to like what I’m going to say to you, but get a college degree. In something you really enjoy. Get a four-year degree if not a Master’s degree.

Don’t stop playing music. Play wherever you can. Don’t even worry about getting paid. In a college environment, campus environment, there’s a million places you can play. Have a band, meet other guys, da da da da da. You’ve got to have a backup plan. Because even if you had a hit record, and a hit album, and all that, like I just said, I don’t know how long one can maintain that over a period of time anymore. It may be the greatest thing in the world for a year. There’s exceptions, but…

There’s also things, where I see a lot of these very popular groups, and a lot of the members have, like, degrees in physics and things. It’s an amazing thing.

But I’m dead serious with these kids nowadays. Get a four-year degree, which isn’t much. Try and get a four-year degree, if not a Master’s degree. Don’t stop playing the music, but don’t put all your eggs in that one basket. Do not put everything into it. Don’t give up the band, but don’t rely on that to be your ticket. If it falls part, and all of a sudden you’ve put three years into it, you’re twenty-three, twenty-four years old, going back to college then is a little tougher. And it’s tough enough to even have a job when you do get a degree these days. It’s really hard out there. If you don’t have a degree, forget it.

That’s my advice. It’s hard advice, but I stand by it.

For the full interview with Chris Hillman, click here.

Richie Furay

Richie Furay is best known for co-founding two notable bands: Buffalo Springfield, which is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and for which Furay was one of the primary songwriters along with Neil Young and Stephen Stills, and Poco, which is regarded as one of the pioneering bands of the country-rock genre. After leaving Poco in the early 1970’s, Furay was in the short-lived supergroup Souther-Hillman-Furay, and has since released several solo records. His song credits include “Kind Woman”, “A Child’s Claim To Fame”, “Hurry Up”, “Keep On Believin'”, “You Are The One”, and “Let’s Dance Tonight”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Richie Furay: Enjoy the gift; be serious about it but don’t take yourself too seriously.

For full interview with Richie Furay, click here.

Bill Champlin

Bill Champlin first made his mark in The Sons of Champlin, a San Francisco band which created a heady, horn-driven mix of R&B and psychedelia. Their 1969 album Loosen Up Naturally is considered by many to be a lost classic. The band continued into the 1970’s, reunited in the late 1990’s as a live band, and released a couple of albums of in the 2000’s.

Champlin also did session work with a number of artists during the 1970’s and 1980’s, including Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Donna Summer, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Jimmy Smith, Amy Grant, Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers. He co-wrote “After the Love Has Gone”, a hit for Earth, Wind & Fire, and “Turn Your Love Around”, a hit for George Benson, and sang the theme song for the TV Show “In the Heat of the Night”.

Finally, for nearly three decades Champlin was a member of the band Chicago, joining in time for the album Chicago 16. He shared lead vocals on the hit “Hard Habit to Break”, and sang the vocals on “Look Away”, Chicago’s first Number One song after Peter Cetera left the band. He left Chicago in 2008 to focus on his solo career.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bill Champlin: Any advice I have is going to be at a time when my advice is going to be meaningless. The main thing it seems to me that everybody needs to do is find a new model. Do you see any retail anywhere? It seems like the people that really access the net and social sites and all the other crap that goes on have a better shot than the people who are just trying to do it the old way. It seems to me that’s what’s in the cards, for just about everybody.

Like my kid [Will], who’s unbelievably great. He’s a Berklee [College of Music] grad, he’s a full-tailed screamer. He’s doing The Voice, which is in a way kind of humiliating for somebody as good as him. He plays Bill Evans shit, just a ridiculous musician. He’s like, “I’m just being a singer now.” Fuck, you don’t know about what else you can do? He says, “I don’t want to.” So, sometimes it seems that you need to compress yourself a little bit so they can say, “I can find you, I can sell you, because you’re this big.” Or you have this thing. [Will ended up coming in a very respectable third-place on The Voice, and especially wowed with his cover of “At Last”.]

Make yourself into a brand. Those people seem to be the ones that are winning. People that are rampant musical guys are having a rough time. Jazz seems like it’s doing kind of well right now, but it’s always been here [motions down low with his hand]. The rest of the business is coming down here. So it seems like it’s doing better… “Hey, I’m Number 1 on Smooth Jazz. Can I borrow some money for the rent?” It’s not exactly helping a lot of people here.

It seems to me that everyone who’s doing well has figured out how to latch onto a new model.

Tom Johnston


Singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Johnston is a founding member of The Doobie Brothers, and wrote a number of their best-known songs including “Listen to the Music”, “China Grove”, “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, and “Long Train Runnin'”. He also sang the band’s hit cover song “Take Me in Your Arms”.

Johnston’s role in the band was reduced in the mid-70’s while he recovered from a stomach ulcer, and he eventually left the band. However, when they re-formed in 1987 he was back in the game, and he has stayed with The Doobie Brothers ever since.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Tom Johnston: I get asked that all the time, and because the times have changed so much the advice doesn’t… I would always tell anybody, at any given time, to practice. Get as developed as you can be at your craft, if it’s singing or if it’s playing, or if it’s both. If you’re a songwriter, write every day. If you’re a lead guitarist, practice diligently. If you’re a rhythm player and all those other players, just keep practicing. The same with vocals. Work on things like vocal exercises, which is something I never heard of back in those days. I wish I had, because they really do help, and they help you develop your voice.

Then you’ve got to face the business end of it, which nowadays is harder than it’s ever been. It’s more diverse because of the internet, and with streaming and downloading and all that sort of thing.

Getting your music out there, you could make an album… It’s a double-edged sword here, with the advent of all of the software that you can use now to record with, and I use myself to write with, not to record albums but just to write songs. It really allows you to fill out a song a great deal more. You can play the bass, you can play the drums, you can play strings, you can play horn parts, you can sing vocals into the computer, you can play guitar into the computer, you can do all that. That part of it’s great, and it’s really been a boon as far as writing and everything goes.

But because of it, a lot of the great studios that have always been the hallmark of a lot of really incredible albums have gone away, because the demand for studio time has lessened, with the ability to do that kind of recording on ProTools and what have you in your house or wherever, or in small studios around the area. You can record that, and if you’ve got enough of the modern software and plug-ins and all that sort of thing, it allows you to do a lot of stuff that used to require a studio to do. Now, I personally still love working in a real studio. There’s nothing like it. To me it’s where the best work gets done. But a lot of studios have closed as a result of the advent of a lot of these types of technical advances.

But back to your original question. Just keep at it. The business end of it, because of the internet, now you can make your own album with all of the software and things I was just describing, and you could sell on the internet. You can sell it on iTunes, you can market it on the internet. You can do everything, but you’re still going to have to find a booking agent, you’re still going to have to find a manager, you’re still going to have to do all the things that have always been the cornerstone of making a profession of this. And the competition is insane [laughs]. Way, way, way more people doing it now than it used to be.

For the full interview with Tom Johnston, click here.

Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent is known as the Motor City Madman for his gonzo persona, music, guitar playing, and right-wing punditry. He was in the Detroit band The Amboy Dukes best known for the 1968 acid-rock song “Journey to the Center of the Mind”. After going solo in the 1970’s, he recorded the multi-platinum classic hard rock albums Ted Nugent, Free-for-All, and Cat Scratch Fever, plus the live album Double Live Gonzo!

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ted Nugent: Stay clean and sober and treat your mind, body and soul as a sacred temple. Eat smart, remain athletic. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Be early, stay late. Carry yourself with confidence and pride. Demand accountability from yourself and everyone around you. Put your heart and soul into everything you do and demand the same from everyone around you. Avoid losers. Get a bow and arrow, discover the spirit within. Aim small, miss small. Listen to every black soul artist, R&B and blues artist you can. Listen closely. Be one with the groove. Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.

For full interview with Ted Nugent, click here.

Billy Corgan

Billy Corgan is the lead guitarist and singer for Smashing Pumpkins, one of the best known alternative rock bands which broke through in the 1990’s. Their 1993 album Siamese Dream is widely recognized as one of the best and most influential albums of the decade.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Billy Corgan: I don’t know, because in the old days it was just, get your shit together and tour, and now I think that’s a complete waste of time. I think if you go recording first, you know, you end up being sort of a victim to the pitchfork[.com] culture, of “you know, that’s really precious.” I think the lack of bands of great width and power says something about the ground level. When we came in at the ground level, we had to be able to play. And I don’t think that exists anymore, so I don’t know.

I mean, your first album could be hailed as a masterpiece, you can play, and there’s forty guys with beards [in the audience], but it’s not going to translate to Iowa.

JM: I’m from Iowa, by the way [laughs].

BC: That was always the Pumpkins’ thing. Yeah, things like The Strokes and bands like that, that might work in New York, but it doesn’t work in fucking Iowa. That’s the thing. You can’t really truly succeed in America. You see a lot of English bands that come and play New York, Philly, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, LA, they play like eight cities and then they get the fuck out. Because they can’t go through the heartland.

I think it’s really difficult. Honestly, I don’t know. I think, sometimes, well, if I was eighteen, what would I do?

I think at the end of the day, talent is always the great arbiter. Every system is different. But at the end of the day, it should be that the talented win. Right now the mediocre seem to be winning. You know, the ones that… if everything’s niche, then you have to be somebody who kind of basically attracts four niches to add your thing up. Or be really non-offensive. And I don’t know how you do rock and roll and be non-offensive. Coldplay mastered that [everyone laughs]. I think they’re really good, but I’m saying, they mastered the art of feeling a little dangerous without being dangerous at all.

For the full chat with Billy Corgan, click here.

Peter Buck

Peter Buck is guitarist and co-founder of the long-running alternative rock band R.E.M., whose songs include “Radio Free Europe”, “It’s The End of the World As We Know It”, “Stand”, “The One I Love”, “Everybody Hurts”, “Man on the Moon”, “Losing My Religion”, “Shiny Happy People”, and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”. In 2007, R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Buck has also produced records by The Feelies, Uncle Tupelo, and others.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Peter Buck: Only do it if you have to. It’s a great life, but if you’re doubting that you want to be a musician for life then you shouldn’t be, because it’s tough work. And don’t ever sign anything. I’m one of the only people I know who didn’t get ripped off.

JM: Because you didn’t sign anything?

PB: I’ve been careful.

Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams is the all-time best-selling male Canadian artist, having co-written and performed some of the best known songs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, including rockers like “Cuts Like a Knife”, “Run to You”, “Summer of 69”, and “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”, plus the ballads “Straight from the Heart”, and “Heaven”. He has also brought us mega-hit songs from movies, most notably the theme song “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” from the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which spent a record sixteen straight weeks as the No. 1 song in the United Kingdom. He has also hit No. 1 with “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” from Don Juan DeMarco, and “All For Love”, performed with Rod Stewart and Sting from The Three Musketeers. He even did the soundtrack for the 2002 DreamWorks animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

Bryan Adams: Well, as long as you are OK with the fact that you’ll probably never get paid for your work, thanks to internet and free downloading, then at least don’t sign your songs away. Hang on to everything you can.

For full interview with Bryan Adams, click here.

Maceo Parker

Saxophonist Maceo Parker played on many of James Brown’s most popular songs, including “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “I Got The Feelin'”, and “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”. He also played with George Clinton on Parliament’s albums such as The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein and Mothership Connection. More recently, he has made guest appearances on recordings with the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Brian Ferry, Living Colour, Deee-Lite, 10,000 Maniacs, and Prince. He has been described as the funkiest saxophonist on the planet, and Music Illuminati would have to agree. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Maceo Parker: Play. You don’t necessarily have to be in a group. If you’re in a group, that’s alright, but just try and find situations where you can play, play, play, play, play. Because the more you play the better you get at it.

“Weird Al” Yankovic

When “Weird Al” Yankovic was sixteen years old, he gave a home-recorded tape of original and parody songs to Dr. Demento, who broadcast them on his radio show. This was the beginning of Yankovic’s career in comedic music, which really took off in 1984 with his hit song with “Eat It”, a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” with a hilarious video which spoofed Jackson’s own. He has released many other popular parodies, including another song by Jackson (“Fat”) and songs by Madonna (“Like A Surgeon”), Queen (“Another One Rides The Bus”), Nirvana (“Smells Like Nirvana”), Coolio (“Amish Paradise”), and Chamillionaire (“White & Nerdy”). He also has written a number of original comedy songs.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter or musician?

“Weird Al” Yankovic: I would say give up, because all of the slots are filled. There’s really no openings left. So thanks for your interest, but they’re not taking applications anymore.


Jeremy Spencer


Guitarist Jeremy Spencer was one of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, bringing a style heavily influenced by Elmore James that complemented the fretwork by the band’s other guitarists Peter Green and, later, Danny Kirwan. Spencer’s recorded contributions to Fleetwood Mac albums included their self-titled debut, Mr. Wonderful, Kiln House, and various compilations from that period. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for his role in Fleetwood Mac.

While on tour in Los Angeles with Fleetwood Mac in 1971, Spencer disappeared before a gig, and several days later it was discovered that he had joined the religious group Children of God. Since then, he has remained devoted to this organization, which is now known as The Family International.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jeremy Spencer: In today’s overstressed climate of ‘be original, non-derivative, find your own voice etc.’, don’t be afraid to unabashedly copy from an artist who inspires you. If you look back at all the guitar ‘greats’ from B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix to SRV, you will see that they never failed to credit their mentors. It seems to me that only sub-standard, insecure players boast ‘originality’ in their formative years.

For the full interview with Jeremy Spencer click here.

Karla Bonoff


Karla Bonoff is arguably best known for having several of her songs covered by Linda Ronstadt, including “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” “Lose Again” and “If He’s Ever Near” from Ronstadt’s 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind. But to call Bonoff a “songwriter” doesn’t do justice to the fact that she has also released her own wonderful albums over the years, including her 1977 self-titled debut that included the aforementioned songs and had quite a cast of supporting musicians, plus the hit song “Personally”. Before her solo career, she was a member of the folk-rock group Bryndle.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter, or an aspiring musician?

Karla Bonoff: You know, that’s such a hard question for me, because I think that the business is so completely different than it was then. But if you take the whole business part of it out… The art of songwriting? I would say to write something every day, and to get in the habit of being a writer. That was one of things I didn’t do, which I think would have made a huge difference, if I’d been more disciplined as a writer. I was not, and so I would let long periods of time go where I wouldn’t write. And I think that you just end up writing a lot less. So that would be my advice, to develop that habit of writing lyrics or music or something, even if it’s just a chord change, everyday.

The business part, I just have no idea anymore. I don’t know how you do that. I came up in a time with big record labels and promotion departments and publicity departments, and tours that were supported. It’s just such a different animal today, I wouldn’t even know how to advise anybody.

JM: That’s a common theme that I hear. It’s just so different now.

KB: I think the the other thing is to get out and play. There really does seem to be more opportunity to do that than when I first started out. There really weren’t house concerts and little coffee houses and all those things that have sprung up, I think, kind of because of how the industry has changed. Unless you’re on these gigantic tours, there’s also this whole other element that has started. I think that’s cool, because people get a lot more opportunity to hone their performing skills.

That was harder for us, because we had to do these Open Mic nights, and there were very few of those. You know, you weren’t likely to get hired anywhere in those days until you really had a record out. So I first learned to be a good performer being in front of 10,000 people opening for Jackson Browne. And that was scary. I think that part’s good. People can get out and play and network, and they can make their own CDs and sell them at their shows. We weren’t really able to do that. You had to get a record deal to record anything. So that’s the good side of that. You know, there’s good and bad.

For the full interview with Karla Bonoff, click here.

Billy Duffy

Billy Duffy is the guitarist for The Cult, a renowned British hard rock band with psychedelic and punk rock influences formed in 1983. The Cult’s notable albums include Love (1985), Electric (1987), and Sonic Temple (1989), and in 2012 they released a new album called Choice of Weapon. Their songs include “She Sells Sanctuary”, “Love Removal Machine”, “Fire Woman”, and “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, all co-written by Duffy and singer Ian Astbury. Before The Cult, Duffy played in The Nosebleeds (with a pre-Smiths Morrissey, who Duffy reportedly introduced to Johnny Marr), Slaughter & The Dogs for a short time, and Theatre of Hate.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Billy Duffy: Have two great girlfriends, an excellent haircut, and a fantastic pair of sunglasses. That’s the answer I always give.

For the full interview with Billy Duffy, click here

Chris Shiflett

Chris Shiflett is best known as the lead guitarist for the last ten or so years for the alt-rock powerhouse Foo Fighters, which was founded by Dave Grohl after Kurt Cobain’s suicide effectively ended the band Nirvana. Foo Fighters have won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album a record four times – three during Shiflett’s tenure – including for their latest album Wasting Light. Before Foo Fighters, Shiflett played with the punk band No Use for a Name, and he continues to be a member of the “punk rock supergroup” Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. He also has a country music project called Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chris Shiflett: When I was a kid and wanted to be a musician, and was trying to be a musician, I just loved music. Just love music.

JM: And it’ll work out?

CS: Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t, but at least you’re doing it for the right reason.

Nick Oliveri

Nick Oliveri played bass and co-wrote songs for some of the most acclaimed hard rock / stoner metal of the last few decades, including Kyuss’ 1992 album Blues for the Red Sun, and Queens of the Stone Age’s 2000 album Rated R and 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. Under the name Rex Everything, he has also played bass off and on for punk rockers/shockers The Dwarves, including on their most recent album, 2010’s The Dwarves Are Born Again. Oliveri also leads the band Mondo Generator, whose releases include 2000’s Cocaine Rodeo and 2012’s Hell Comes To Your Heart.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Nick Oliveri: I would say, find a stripper that can pay for everything while you (live the rock n’ roll dream). And keep at playing, writing, and playing shows. There are more downs than ups in the music biz. It is more of a cost to do what you love. Making money playing music is very hard, so don’t think that you will make a million and you won’t be let down later. I’m drinking a beer for all you, up and coming bands now! GOOD LUCK! and always remember, “Don’t let your Meatloaf”.

Kronos Quartet: David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt

David Harrington is the founder and plays violin in the acclaimed Kronos Quartet, which has been called the foremost ambassador of contemporary chamber music. John Sherba (violin) and Hank Dutt (viola) are longtime members. The quartet has released more than 45 recordings, has commissioned more than 750 pieces and arrangements, and has worked with many of today’s top composers including Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. In 2004 the quartet won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance, and in 2011 they received the prestigious Polar Music Prize and Avery Fisher Prize. They continue to tour and record extensively.

(L-R): David Harrington, John Sherba, and Hank Dutt (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Harrington: I’ve never been able to follow advice, so I don’t really give it very much. But if I did have to give it, in fact what I say to a lot of composers that I’m mentoring or talking to, is to try to learn to hear the sound that your own spirit, your own soul, your own body is making. That’s the hardest thing, I think, for any musician, to actually hear the inner sound. You have to turn your ears around, and in our life, with all the noise and confusion and complexity, that’s a really tough thing to do. And it’s not very often talked about. But I would say that’s the most important thing for any musician to do.

John Sherba: Always be curious. Keep your ears open and curious. And follow your own instinct – that’s really important. Everybody’s going to give you advice, listen to some of it, and learn how to discard other advice you get. Be very careful what you decide to take.

Hank Dutt: There’s many things one can say. For a performer, I would say find a mentor, a teacher that you respect and who inspires you. Work hard, practice, and perform. And enjoy what you do.

David Cassidy

There have been teen idols throughout the history of rock and roll, dating back to the young Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson, and continuing up through Miley Cyrus (in her pre-twerking days, at least) and One Direction.

One of the most popular teen idols of all time is David Cassidy, who played Keith Partridge on the 1970’s TV show The Partridge Family, and at the same time also enjoyed a successful pop music career including the smash No. 1 hit “I Think I Love You”. Since that time, he has continued to record music and act on television and in musical theater.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Cassidy: Practice, practice, practice and be prepared to work very hard and get a lot of rejection. You have to learn to take it if you want to succeed. Perseverance and integrity are king but talent will pay off ultimately.

For full interview with David Cassidy, click here.

Morris Day

Morris Day is the frontman for The Time, a band which is known for funky songs like “Jungle Love”, “The Bird”, “Jerk Out”, and “777-9311″.

From the beginning, The Time enjoyed a close association with Day’s childhood friend Prince, who contributed significantly to their early albums – 1981′s The Time, 1982′s What Time Is It?, and 1984′s Ice Cream Castle. The combination of Day’s spirited vocals and Prince’s funky grooves led to some of the finest R&B of the decade. The band’s early association with Prince culminated in an appearance as the rival band in the film Purple Rain.

The Time returned in 1990 with the well-regarded album Pandemonium, recorded with less input from Prince. The original band also released the album Condensate in 2011, where the band was called The Original 7ven because Prince owns the recording rights for the name The Time.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Morris Day: The first advice I would give them is to be a musician [laughs]. We don’t have a lot of them anymore. I come from an era where there were bands on every block, and these guys were good. So I think, first of all, just to be a musician, and that’s different from being in the music industry or being a computer genius.

I’d say to any young person, be prepared. If you think you’re at the top of your game, at the point where you can be out there and your music can sell records and stuff like that, I say be prepared. Have a nice production, if you’re a songwriter or a singer, always with you, because you never know when Morris Day or whoever might be coming down the escalator at the mall or something. You might meet somebody who can get your music to the next step. So do your homework first, be good at what you do, and then be prepared.

For full interview with Morris Day, click here.

Abdul “Duke” Fakir

The Four Tops, one of Motown’s premiere music groups, performed the timeless classics “Baby I Need Your Loving”, “Bernadette”, “Reach Out I’ll Be There”, and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”, the latter two of which reached #1 in the US charts. The original group members Levi Stubbs, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Lawrence Payton, and Abdul “Duke” Fakir stayed together from 1953 until 1997, and The Four Tops continue to perform today with Fakir as the only surviving member.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Abdul “Duke” Fakir: Learn everything you can about being a musician. And just be totally committed. Don’t let nothing stop you. If you really know you’re good enough, and you really feel it in your bones, just follow that. Because you’ll push the doors open. Those doors will come open if you do it and you’re really committed. It just might take a while. Don’t get discouraged.

Annie Haslam

Annie Haslam is the vocalist extraordinaire (with a five-octave range!) for the progressive / classical rock band Renaissance. The band’s classic albums include 1974’s Turn of the Cards and 1975’s Scheherazade and Other Stories, both of which they recently covered in full on tour. Renaissance’s songs include “Mother Russia”, “Carpet of the Sun”, “Song of Scheherazade”, and “Northern Lights” which was a Top 10 single in the UK in 1978. Renaissance will soon be releasing a new album called Grandine il Vento.

Annie Haslam has also released several solo albums, starting with 1977’s aptly named Annie in Wonderland. And she is an accomplished painter!

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Annie Haslam: Stay true to your dreams, never falter, keep that desire burning. If your intentions are for your highest good you will achieve your goal. Personally : Please take care of your mind as well as your body, and ‘other’ people, friends and strangers.

For full interview with Annie Haslam, click here.


David “Honeyboy” Edwards

David “Honeyboy” Edwards is a Delta bluesman who was with legendary fellow-bluesman Robert Johnson on the night in 1938 that Johnson drank the poisoned whiskey that led to his premature death. Edwards was first recorded in 1942 by folklorist Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. Edwards was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1996, won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, and in 2010 received a Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy. Edwards died on August 29, 2011 at age 96.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David “Honeyboy” Edwards: If you’re playing, and you like to play, keep on playin’. Don’t care what anybody tells you, you do what you want to do. Keep on playin’. That’s the way I do it. Keep on playin’. And finally it’ll pay off.

JM: By the time you’re 95?

DHE: Yeah.

Jody Williams

Jody Williams worked as a session guitarist in Chicago in the mid 1950’s, and appeared on recordings by Bo Diddley (including “Diddy Wah Diddy” and “Who Do You Love?”), Howlin’ Wolf (including “Evil Is Going On” and “Forty Four”), Sonny Boy Williamson, Otis Spann, Floyd Dixon, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Jimmy Witherspoon, and others. After a long break from playing, Williams returned with the aptly named album Return of a Legend in 2002. In 2013, Williams was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jody Williams: It takes practice. It takes practice. You can’t just go up there. You’ve got to practice.

Jimmy Carter

The Blind Boys of Alabama started singing together in 1939, at a school for the blind in a little town in Alabama called Talladega. They had their first professional performance in 1944, and have been going strong with their heavenly Gospel music ever since, although only one original member, Jimmy Carter, still regularly tours with the group. They have received many accolades, including Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Grammys and the National Endowment for the Arts, and have performed for three Presidents. (Erika Goldring photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jimmy Carter: When people ask me that, I tell them that there are three things that a musician has to have, or anybody that has a goal in mind. Three things that they have to have. You first have to be dedicated. Then perseverance and persistence. Those are the three things that you need if you have anything in mind that you’re trying to do. You have to be focused on those three things – dedication, perseverance, and persistence. And one more – patience, too.

For the full interview with Jimmy Carter, click here.

Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek is best known for being the co-founder and keyboard player for The Doors. Since The Doors didn’t have a bassist, he also usually covered the bass parts on the keyboard as well. The Doors recorded six acclaimed studio albums before Jim Morrison died. Manzarek has also recorded several solo albums, including The Golden Scarab and The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll Now It’s Out of Control, both from 1974. His production credits include the debut album by Los Angeles punk band X.

Manzarek died on May 20, 2013, at the age of 74.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ray Manzarek: Practice, practice, practice.

JM: That’s how you get to Carnegie Hall, right?

RM: That’s how you get to Carnegie Hall, exactly. And if you’re a guitar player, learn your fucking scales. A, E, G, D, C, then when you get good, E flat and B flat. Learn your scales. I want to hear you go [sings] da da da da da da da da. Major and minor. And practice, practice, practice.

John Densmore

John Densmore is best known for being the co-founder and drummer for The Doors, who recorded six acclaimed studio albums before singer Jim Morrison died. Densmore’s jazz-influenced drumming is often credited as an important component of the band’s unique sound. After The Doors’ demise, Densmore and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger founded The Butts Band, which released two mid-Seventies albums.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John Densmore: That if you’re completely obsessed, go for it. Otherwise, it’s a big roll of the dice. So keep your day job, but if you have to do it, just do it.

Robby Krieger

Robby Krieger is best known for being the co-founder and guitarist for The Doors, who recorded six acclaimed studio albums before singer Jim Morrison died. Krieger’s eclectic guitar playing is often credited as an important component of the band’s unique sound. After The Doors’ demise, Krieger and Doors drummer founded The Butts Band, which released two mid-Seventies albums. Krieger also released several solo recordings, including the 1977’s underrated Robbie Krieger & Friends. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Robby Krieger: Go into acting. [Both laugh]

JM: I’ve heard that before.

Paul Kantner

Paul Kantner was a co-founder, singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for the Sixties psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, which is best known for the hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit”. His songwriting credits include “Crown of Creation”, “We Can Be Together”, “Volunteers” (co-written with bandmate Marty Balin) and “Wooden Ships” (co-written with David Crosby and Stephen Stills). Kantner stayed onboard when Jefferson Airplane morphed into Jefferson Starship. Photo taken by L. Paul Mann

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Paul Kantner: Just keep playing. Play your guitar as many places as you can. If you want to work with other musicians, go to places where other musicians are. And learn from them.

Hopefully you’ll have some favorite musicians and music. The way I started out was copying and learning things from people that I liked, like Fred Neil and the Weavers, and stuff like that. Eventually I started writing a song or two. The first song I ever wrote actually became part of the lyrics of “Wooden Ships”. Part of the lyrics of the first song I ever wrote.

Go places that music exists, and immerse yourself in it in as many ways you can find enjoyable and possible. And be around people who play music, and give you new ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of. Just sitting in your back room making up music and putting it on a tape recorder is fine for a certain element of things. But for me I love the interaction between musicians, which for me produces usually a “one and one equals three” kind of situation. And things occur that you never would have thought of by yourself, and other people’s influences touch you and move you. So, yeah, other people.

For full interview with Paul Kantner, click here.

Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma Kaukonen was the lead guitarist for the Sixties psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, which is best known for the hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” from the album Surrealistic Pillow. His signature song is the instrumental “Embryonic Journey” from the same album. Other acclaimed Jefferson Airplane albums include After Bathing At Baxter’s, Crown of Creation, and Volunteers. As the Sixties wound down, Kaukonen and Airplane bassist Jack Casady’s attention shifted to their new band Hot Tuna, which focused on acoustic and electric folk- and blues-based music. Kaukonen has also released multiple solo albums, including 1974’s masterpiece Quah. Kaukonen continues to tour in Hot Tuna, and with his wife owns and operates the Fur Peace Ranch which runs a yearly music and guitar camp.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jorma Kaukonen: I guess the most important thing is, first and foremost, to love whatever it is that you do. Whatever your muse, whatever kind of music, whatever instrument that you play, you love that first. Every now and then you meet people that are chasing stardom. If that works for you, then that’s great. If you’re lucky it might happen. It probably won’t. But if you love to play music you’ll have a great companion for your whole life.

For full interview with Jorma Kaukonen, click here.

Jack Casady

Jack Casady played bass guitar for the Sixties band Jefferson Airplane, which is best known for the hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit”. Their albums Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing At Baxter’s, Crown of Creation, and Volunteers are amongst the best of the psychedelic rock genre. Casady also played on “Voodoo Chile” with Jimi Hendrix, and “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)” from David Crosby’s first solo album. As the Sixties wound down, Casady and Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s attention shifted to their new band Hot Tuna, which focused on acoustic and electric folk- and blues-based music. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jack Casady: Well, I think nowadays there’s so much opportunity to investigate music. When I was a kid, I would get on a bus in Washington D.C., and go down to the Library of Congress. You’d get signed in, and you’d get to pull out records and take them into booths, and listen to world music – that it’s called now. Music from all over the world. Later on, in the early Sixties they started to be put out in collections on albums. But nowadays you have the Internet, you can do so much exploration of music from all over the world, and I think that’s really fascinating for any young musician, and to hear music from all different time periods. I mean, you’ve got recorded music for a hundred years now, so I think that offers a tremendous opportunity to expand your horizons, and hear different approaches, and to be intrigued and inspired to work on the music yourself.

There’s that aspect, and then there’s the good old know your instrument, know the theory. It always pays to take lessons and explore the harmonic aspect of your instrument as well as music in general. I tell my bass players, you should play another instrument that has chords. You should at least play a guitar, and learn piano. It would expand your horizons terrifically. Particularly in songwriting, and writing music in general.

For full interview with Jack Casady, click here.

Martin Gore

Martin Gore is a multi-instrumentalist, sometimes singer, and principal songwriter for electro-pop band Depeche Mode, whose hits have included “People Are People”, “Personal Jesus”, and “Enjoy the Silence”. Depeche Mode has sold over 100 million albums and singles worldwide, and has been called “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known”. Photo: 805Live.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Martin Gore: I would advise any aspiring musicians to just try to be original, and do something that’s unique. Obviously you take influences from something you like, but you have to somehow put a twist on it and do something that comes from the heart that is different from everybody else.


Mike Campbell


Mike Campbell is the lead guitarist for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, and is known for tastefully playing exactly what the songs call for – no more, no less. You’ve no doubt heard him on a number of Tom Petty songs, some of which he co-wrote including “Refugee”, “Here Comes My Girl”, “You Got Lucky”, and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ latest album, Hypnotic Eye, will be released in summer 2014.

On the side, Campbell is the frontman for The Dirty Knobs, which plays lots of cool cover songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and JJ Cale, plus plenty of amusing obscurities and original songs.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mike Campbell: That’s a deep question. I look at myself when I was learning. I would just say practice real hard, but also practice what you want to practice. Follow what inspires you. Don’t let anybody tell you you shouldn’t. Just learn what you want to learn. Chase after the stuff that you like. And if you can’t learn it on your own, get somebody to help you with it. My attitude toward that, like I tell my children – I have three kids – if you want to play music, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because you want to be a rock star, you want to get rich. Do it because you just love the process of creating music, because if you’re happy doing that then you’re a success already. I guess my best advice would be: if you love it, commit to it and give it everything you’ve got.

For the full interview with Mike Campbell, click here.

John McEuen

Multi-instrumentalist John McEuen has been playing music professionally for over forty-five years. A key member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for much of that time, he was the driving force behind their classic 1972 album Will The Circle Be Unbroken, which had the band collaborating with bluegrass and country-western legends like Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Merle Travis. McEuen has also recorded or performed with a staggering array of other artists over the years, and his production credits include the Grammy-winning Steve Martin album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-string Banjo.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John McEuen: Let me qualify your question to a young musician wanting to be in the music business.

Pay attention to the fact that if you’re going to be in the music business, remember it’s two words. Each word is equally important. You’re getting into to a business that’s you, and you will be the only one that cares the most about you. Others may sound like they do, just remember it’s your business. Learn everything about it. If you’re a songwriter, read The Songwriter’s Guide to Music Publishing by Randy Poe. Or quit pretending to be a songwriter. It’s that simple. People tell me, “I’m writing songs, and I want to know if I can get them out there.” Well, if you’re writing songs, I’ll talk to you after you read this book. Songwriting is a profession.

The other thing I usually say is to be as smart as a farmer. A farmer knows what crop to plant, he grows it, he has to harvest it, he goes through a lot of problems making it happen. But when he’s done, he knows how to distribute it. He knows how to market it. He knows what his market might be. A lot of musicians say, “Oh, yeah, we have a band, and we just finished the album and recorded it in the garage,” and they open the garage door and say, “Our album’s ready!” and nobody’s out there.

The time goes so fast. Don’t put an album out in September. You won’t get any notice. Everybody’s already got their editorial calendar committed through October and November. And Christmas and Halloween… there’s no space. And before you know it you’re going to be saying, “We put out an album last year.”

For the full interview with John McEuen, click here.

Kim Wilson

Kim Wilson (who Santa Barbarans might know as “Goleta Slim”) is the lead vocalist and harmonica player for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, whose blues rock has thrilled audiences for decades. The band’s commercial peak came in the 1980′s with the hit songs “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up”, which helped to launch a blues revival. The latest release by The Fabulous Thunderbirds is called On The Verge. Wilson has also recorded with other artists including Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and James Cotton.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Kim Wilson: Well, I would say this. Learn how to have your own voice. Learn how to sing, for one thing. Learn how to have your own voice in music. Other than that, just keep plugging away at it and having a good time doing it. It’s one of those things where you aren’t ever really sure you’re going to have decent success with it. So you’re better off just having fun with it. And if you do that, you’re able to please yourself. And if you can please yourself, you’re bound to please a few other people.

It’s a different world these days, obviously. It’s a lot more difficult than it was when I was a kid. In fact, I didn’t even really make any kind of hit records until I was in my 30’s. I think that it’s just very important to have a good time with it.

I wouldn’t really dwell on having a lot of success. People try and have success with it as opposed to having fun with it. And sometimes they do have some success. But in the end, I can’t see it working out for you, you know what I mean, doing it that way. The longevity part of it, being the player, that’s the thing. And you’re not going to be able to get far with it legitimately if you’re going for nothing but money. That’s my opinion anyway. Some people, they think that money, that’s it. But I think that there’s no way you’re going to have the kind of longevity, let’s say, that I’ve had, if you’re going to think only about money. I just don’t think it’s going to happen for you. You may make some money, but you’re not going to be, like, the player that you should be. It’s a funny deal. It’s hard to talk about it in this day and age. I’ve always dwelled on prestige, and then money, then a living. But if can’t have prestige, you really can’t have a legitimate lifestyle in music. You’ve got to have the prestige.

For full interview with Kim Wilson, click here.

Paul Barrere

Guitarist/vocalist Paul Barrere joined the legendary band Little Feat in time for their classic 1973 album Dixie Chicken. Other acclaimed Little Feat albums followed, including Feats Don’t Fail Me Now and Waiting for Columbus, but things came to a halt when bandleader Lowell George passed away in 1979. Little Feat, including Barrere, returned with 1988’s album Let It Roll, and most recently released the album Rooster Rag.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Paul Barrere: Tough these days really, but I do like that there are more and more real players again, folks that have a distinctive style to their music. But as for a venue to sell that product it’s getting harder and harder, fewer retail outlets, most sales are online now and that’s problematic for keeping control of the cash flow. My best advice is if you love doing it, do it and you’ll find a way to make it pay.

For the full interview with Paul Barrere, click here.

Fred Tackett

Multi-instrumentalist Fred Tackett officially became a member of Little Feat in 1988, but he had worked as a session player on earlier albums by the band including the classic album Dixie Chicken. Tackett has also recorded with an amazing collection of artists including Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, Jackson Browne, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt, Lionel Richie, Joan Baez, The Allman Brothers Band, The Carpenters, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Kenny Loggins, The 5th Dimension, Johnny Rivers, Van Dyke Parks, Bob Seger, Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson, and more. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Fred Tackett: I always repeat George Burns’ advice, which is “Take your wallet onstage.” It is the number one advice, man. I remember going out on the road with Bob Dylan, and all the background singers got their stuff stolen. What do you do? Keep your wallet with you onstage [laughs].

Steve Hillage

Steve Hillage is best-known for his amazing guitar playing with Gong during its classic Radio Gnome Trilogy phase (1973-75), and for his subsequent solo career which included the albums Fish Rising (1975), L (1976), Motivation Radio (1977), Green (1978), and Rainbow Dome Musick (1979). He also played with the prog rock band Khan which released their only album Space Shanty in 1972, with Kevin Ayers on the album Bananamour (1973), and on the live performances of Tubular Bells at Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1973 and for the BBC in 1974.

In the 1980’s, Hillage worked as a producer for artists including Simple Minds, Cock Robin, and Robyn Hitchcock. Then, after meeting Dr. Alex Paterson, he co-wrote, co-produced, and recorded songs with The Orb, including the British hit song “Blue Room”. Hillage and Miquette Giraudy also formed the still-active ambient dance band System 7, which has collaborated with Paterson, Derrick May, and others.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Steve Hillage: There’s the great advice that actually Jimi Hendrix told Daevid Allen in the toilet of a club once in 1967. And he said, “Stay with your thing, man!” Basically, you’ve just got to stay with your thing. You’ve got to find a way of manifesting your individuality and your personality in what you do. Stick with it, and just develop your skills. That’s the essence of the whole thing. “Stay with your thing, man!” [laughs]

For full interview with Steve Hillage, click here

Robben Ford

Robben Ford has been playing guitar professionally for over four decades, and was ranked one of the Greatest 100 Guitarists of the 20th Century by Musician magazine. He has released multiple solo albums, helped launch the jazz fusion band Yellowjackets, and has worked with artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to Jimmy Witherspoon to Kiss to George Harrison to Miles Davis.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Robben Ford: If it was a guitar player, I would tell them to learn chords, and chord voicings. And learn how to play songs. A lot of musicians, and particularly jazz musicians, they want to learn how to solo. How to play a lot of notes. What will always make that an easier road is if you understand harmony, if you understand chords, and how to use chords. If you know chords, you can play songs. If you can play songs, you’re making music. You’re not asking yourself to come up with something out of thin air. That’s a big problem for musicians, too. It’s like they just don’t know what to do. They don’t where to begin, they don’t know where to go. Again, if you know how to play chords on your instrument, and you learn some songs so that you can use these chords, you’re making music right there. And that can be done in a matter of, if not weeks, months. You can be making music. So that would be my advice.

For full interview with Robben Ford, click here.

Bill Frisell


Bill Frisell is an acclaimed, eclectic jazz guitarist whose playing has graced a number of solo recordings including the Grammy Award winning album Unspeakable, plus many recordings for the jazz label ECM Records where he served as “house guitarist”, and with the band Naked City with John Zorn.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bill Frisell: I’m asked that a lot. The music always tells you what to do. It always tells me what to do. And as long as I follow that, there’s never a question of what to do next. You play one note and it automatically suggests the next note. It’s an amazing thing. You just follow it along.

I think the only thing I can say is if you love it, it won’t turn on you [laughs]. That’s not the right way to put it… You shouldn’t have to ask what to do, because the music itself tells you what to do. I think where we get in trouble is with all the outside… I know we have to think about money and all that stuff, but that’s where it gets dangerous sometimes. If you’re thinking of things other than the music itself, it can take you out of it. That’s what I’ve always tried to avoid. Just loving it, for me from the first moment I just can’t imaging doing anything else. So there’s never been a question of what to do.

For the full interview with Bill Frisell, click here.

Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd is an acclaimed tenor saxophonist and flautist.

As a teenager, Lloyd played as a sideman for the likes of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Ace, and Bobby Blue Bland, and later he was a member of the Cannonball Adderley Sextet. In 1965 he formed his own jazz quartet which included pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Their album Forest Flower: Live at Monterey became a huge hit, and led to shared bills with some of the biggest rock bands of the Sixties at Fillmore West in San Francisco and elsewhere. The quartet became the first American jazz bands to perform in the Soviet Union by invitation of the people rather than the government, and it has been reported that the uproar from these concerts led the country to ban the saxophone.

Lloyd vanished from the music world in the early 1970’s, only returning in the early 1980’s to tour with pianist Michel Petrucciani. Since the late 1980’s he has been recording and touring regularly.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Charles Lloyd: Do it because you love it. Don’t look for the gold-plated watch. That might not come to your way. Just do it because you love it. All those guys said it, Jim Keltner said, you can do it but you also have to have an opportunity to do it. That’s a hard one, and as I said in the film [the documentary Arrows Into Infinity about Charles Lloyd] to be able to live in your lifetime with your creativity is not so easy. But something strange happens. If you do something that you love, you will be met.

We’re spiritual on the human journey. I’m not evading your question, I’m just trying to say that we pass through here, we sing our song, nobody knows us and we’re gone. You have to be prepared for that. You do it because you love it.

For a young musician, you practice your long tones, and you learn your craft and your art. And if you have talent and you’re sincere, you’ll be met. It’s like, each night when we play I’m always nervous before I go on the stage. And then something happens where there’s this chasm. The next thing I know, [my wife/manager] Dorothy’s trying to get us off the stage. That works.

It’s a blessing, it’s a great blessing. We get another day to try to tell the truth again.

Garry Peterson

The Guess Who had a truly impressive number of hit songs during the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, including “These Eyes”, “Laughing”, “Undun”, “No Time”, “American Woman”, “No Sugar Tonight”, “Share the Land”, and “Clap for the Wolfman”, many of which are on regular rotation on today’s classic rock radio.

Drummer Garry Peterson was a founding member of The Guess Who, and was part of their classic late 1960′s and early 1970′s line-up. He and founding bassist Jim Kale are in the current incarnation of the band.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Garry Peterson: Oh, I can’t answer that question [laughs]. What advice would I give to an aspiring musician? Maybe they could give us some advice now, because it’s a whole totally new world out there.

Maybe some old advice is that we played every kind of show you can imagine, from the roof of an A&W to a barn where there were cows underneath us to a flatbed truck in a football stadium when it was 20 degrees outside. All of the experience you gain from that, and keeping yourself working and going and creating and playing, you never know what journey that’s going to take you on, where it’s going to take you, and who you’ll meet along the way, but you must keep getting better at your craft. And that means working and playing – we call it playing. I never say, “I’m going to work.” I always say, “I’m going to play.” That’s a key word in the whole thing.

So you have to not sit around thinking about how you want it to happen. And in fact, you may have to adopt the attitude that I love to play music so much, and sing, and perform, that I would do it for nothing. And then one day you won’t be doing it for nothing, you’ll be getting paid well for it.

I would never plan to be a star [laughs], you know? If I reached a level where I was playing Holiday Inns, but I was playing all the time just to be playing, I’d be happy. If you love music, you have to be happy at whatever level you reach. If you reach the top, then, boy, that’s great.

For full interview with Garry Peterson, click here.

Jim Kale

Bass guitarist Jim Kale was a founding member of The Guess Who, and was part of their classic late 1960′s and early 1970′s line-up which recorded hit songs including “These Eyes”, “Laughing”, “Undun”, “No Time”, “American Woman”, “No Sugar Tonight”, “Share the Land”, and “Clap for the Wolfman”.

Kale and founding drummer Garry Peterson are in the current incarnation of the band.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jim Kale: Don’t take any shortcuts. Don’t take any shortcuts. Learn theory, learn about your craft. I didn’t, and I paid for it. I’m still paying for it. Take lessons, learn theory. And don’t take any shortcuts, because there aren’t any.

Emilio Castillo, Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka, Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia, David Garibaldi

Tower of Power has been funkifizing music with their horn-driven rhythm and blues since Emilio Castillo (tenor sax) and Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka (baritone sax) first got together in 1968. The band has had many members over the years, always anchored by Castillo and Kupka, and with Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia (bass) and David Garibaldi (drums) in the early years and their present line-up. The band’s debut album East Bay Grease was released in 1970, and notable follow-ups were 1972’s Bump City, 1973’s Tower of Power, and 1974’s Back to Oakland. The band’s best known songs include “What Is Hip?”, “So Very Hard to Go”, and “You’re Still a Young Man”.

Tower of Power’s horn section has also appeared on recordings by numerous artists such as The Monkees, Elton John, Jefferson Starship, Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, and many others.

Jeff Moehlis What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Emilio Castillo: Practice, practice, practice. Stay clean, get a relationship with God, and even then it’s gonna be hard.

Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka: Play with other people, and keep at it. Don’t be discouraged by deadbeat advice and stuff. Don’t let people temper your dream.

Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia: Have something to fall back on. And play with others.

David Garibaldi: Well, you’ve just got to persevere, you know. Kind of know what you want to do, and then go for it. Be yourself. What we’ve done, you know, we’re just ourselves. We just got inspired and stay together, enjoy playing together.

Richard Williams


In the 1970’s, Kansas arguably achieved a level of popularity that was unmatched by any other American progressive rock band, thanks to radio-friendly songs like “Dust in the Wind”, “Carry On Wayward Son”, and “Point of Know Return”, songs that still regularly show up on the playlists of classic rock radio. Their notable albums include their 1974 self-titled debut, 1976’s Leftoverture, and 1977’s Point of Know Return.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Richard Williams: There’s a lot of advice. First, don’t quit your day job. Have some backup plan, like in anything. Let’s say you’re a great football player. You know, the chances of you going from a high school team to getting to be a college player are very slim. The chances of a really good college player getting to the pros are so slim, one in thousands. The same thing holds for musicians. There’s a lot more luck involved than talent. Music is not all about ability. There’s many other factors in it. But still, your chances are just incredibly slim of making a living at it. So have a backup plan.

So now, keeping that in mind, now you’re just going to lunge forward. It’s a lot more important to be around people that you can work with than the best players in town. Because usually the best players in town are a bunch of assholes with big heads, and they’re bouncing from project to project because you can’t work with them. You want to be in a unit that enjoys each other’s company. Take five, six guys, girls, whatever, that enjoy what they’re doing and put them in a room, and they will create something that’s good. You get a bunch of jerks that can’t stand to be around other people and can’t work together, it’s just a recipe for disaster.

For the full interview with Richard Williams, click here.

Hale Milgrim

Hale Milgrim is a lifelong music fan whose jobs have ranged from working at Discount Records in Isla Vista, California to being president of Capitol Records from 1989-93. During his time at the helm, Capitol released notable albums by the likes of Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, Blind Melon, Garth Brooks, Crowded House, MC Hammer, Megadeth, and Radiohead. He currently hosts a Sunday morning program from 8:55 to 10:05 a.m. called “Go to Hale” on 99.9 KTYD.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Hale Milgrim: The same thing I’ve told artists since I was really young. The same thing. If you really love what you’re doing, then do it for that focus and that purpose in your life. There is no easy way, in my opinion. It’s all about performing, working hard, honing your skills, going out in front of people, whether it’s four people you’re playing in front of, or it’s thousands. You go out there and you do it over… and not the same thing over and over again, but the process over and over again until you’re comfortable enough that if all the monitors go out, your strings all break, you figure out some way to improvise, some way to get through those moments, so when you get your opportunity you’re prepared in all possible ways. Whether you’re one of the back-up musicians, or you’re the lead vocalist, or the singer-songwriter.

I really believe it’s all about that work ethic, just like it is for you or it is for me. It’s all about how I’m going to get up everyday, how I’m going to be motivated to do what it is that I love doing, and how it is that you’re going to go out there and communicate. Communicate. And whether that’s a sullen artist that doesn’t want to really share much with the audience, but is so powerful because they’ve got the real deal in them, they’re great writers, they’re great at being able to get their concepts across. And they don’t really care about…

Sort of Jim Morrison, from The Doors, that was just a great poet. Was he the guy to sit and talk to, like, Garland [Jeffreys] or Peter [Case, both also at the afterparty where this conversation took place]? No, not generally speaking. But, boy, when you saw him live, you were transfixed. Just hypnotically taken to another planet. With the rest of his bandmates, I might add, with Densmore, and Manzarek, and Krieger.

I used to be able to say “Go to a record company”, or “Go to this”. But in my opinion, at the end of the day, if you’d have had a tape that you gave me to listen to, I’d listen to it, hopefully, or I’d give it to one of the A&R guys to listen to it, and then eventually I hopefully listen to it, sometimes sooner than others. But at the end of the day, before I would sign any group or be excited about any group, you see them live. If they can’t do it live, if they can’t have seven people out there the first time they play, twelve or fifteen the second, twenty-five the third, then obviously the synergistic situation is not working.

At the end of the day, it’s about the charisma or depth of artist. If you’re really creative, and you can write really well, or you can sing or you can play really well, you have a possibility. But in my opinion, it’s one of the toughest businesses to break into. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t rewards from it. There’s people like Richard Thompson, one of the finest singer-songwriters in the world in my opinion, and guitarists. He doesn’t sell millions of records, but he’s unbelievable. And if you go and give it an opportunity, or a chance to listen to it, and then if you see him live, you will be taken to another planet. Because he is that talented.

Most of the artists that I’ve loved in my life, in a lot of cases they never had hits, or they had a hit or a few hits. As old as I am, with 55 years of listening – I was ten then – that’s what got me. I never knew where anything would lead, and I never cared about that. As long as I could still enjoy listening to music, and working in a record store and turning you on.

For the artist, I don’t know what to tell you other than hard work. It’s sort of a thankless job. Allow your horizons to continue to expand. Force yourself to hear and see and meet different people. That’s very tough to do sometimes when you’re in the art world. Anybody that gets focused on one or two things, to try to get to their creative point, sometimes one becomes so focused on themselves and on what they’re doing, that you sort of forget about everything else that’s going on around you. That’s a very difficult thing to do sometimes, to allow yourself to be open enough to other possibilities. That’s something that needs to be celebrated, allowing yourself to be open to different things.

John Batdorf

John Batdorf has worn many musical hats over his career. In the 1970’s, he was part of the acoustic rock duo Batdorf & Rodney, which released three albums and toured with some of the era’s biggest names. He went on to write commercials and music for television shows, and has in the last few years has returned to releasing material under his own name, most recently the album Soundtrax 2 Recovery with Michael McLean.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John Batdorf: Believe in yourself and stay true to yourself. Don’t chase trends. Be the best you possible. Listen to great musicians you admire and try to develop the passion in your music like you feel from the great ones. Passion can’t be faked. Get lost and don’t be afraid to go far beyond your comfort zone. That is where is where greatness can be found.

For the full interview with John Batdorf, click here.

Bones Howe

Dayton “Bones” Howe was the producer for a number of sunshine pop hits by The 5th Dimension (including the Grammy-winning “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” and “Wedding Bell Blues”), The Association (including “Windy” and “Never My Love”), and The Turtles (“It Ain’t Me Babe”). He also produced several songs for Elvis Presley (“If I Can Dream” and “Memories”; he was also chief engineer for the 1968 NBC Elvis Christmas Special) and The Monkees, and several albums by Tom Waits. He later supervised the music for movies such as La Bamba and Back to the Future.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bones Howe: It’s about attitude. People used to ask me about the studio, and I would say to them, “Look, you never say no until you’re too busy to say yes.” Because you just never know what’s going to be there. You walk through those doors, and you just never know what’s going to be on the other side. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know who you’re going to meet. You don’t know who you’re going to play with, maybe somebody you’ve never met before. And one thing leads to another. That’s how the Wrecking Crew became the Wrecking Crew. It was just guys together, and these guys together, and producers saying “I really like it”. When Hal [Blaine] plays with Larry Knechtel… you know, those feelings that they got in the studio. So it ended up with the same gang of guys playing on everybody’s records, but in different combinations. My combination was Hal, Joe [Osborn], and Larry, but everybody had different combinations out of the same bunch of guys. Of course, with Brian [Wilson], he used everybody. Because he’d like to fill the studio up to make that huge sound.

Don Randi

Don Randi was a member of The Wrecking Crew, the informal collection of Los Angeles-based studio musicians who played on a staggering number of hit recordings during the 1960’s. Randi’s credits include playing piano or doing arrangements for The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Carole King, Diana Ross, Dusty Springfield, The Electric Prunes, The Association, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Ike & Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, The Righteous Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, and many more. He is also the proprietor of the club The Baked Potato in Studio City, California, and is a noted jazz pianist on his own and with the band Quest.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Don Randi: Get a job. How serious are you? Because it’s 24 hours a day. You have to have parents that are really very loving and appreciative, and giving you a lot of support. It’s a very, very hard way to go. Especially in the beginning. Even at the end it’s a hard way to go.

A piece of advice, if you know somebody that really is serious about it, and they want to be in the studio, they have to have a character that doesn’t mind if somebody asks them to play a certain style, that they will be willing to do it. Most of the time there’s not any music at all. They might give you numbers and a certain key, and you have to understand what those numbers are. They might give you some strange thing that you’ve never done before, but they want it in this style. So what I usually tell a student in school is that you can’t listen to one radio station. You’ve got to keep turning that dial. Learn what’s on a country station, learn what’s on a classical music station. Listen to a bebop station. So that if somebody comes in and says, “We’re doing a country record. Give me some of Floyd Cramer today.” Or, “I want it to be more like Ray Charles.” You can’t be embarrassed about that, but you have to know what they wanted and to be able to give it to them. That’s what we had to do, and that’s what you don’t see a lot of times. Everybody wants to be a specialist. They want to be a rock star.

Bob Cowsill

Bob Cowsill played guitar and sang in The Cowsills, a band of siblings and their mother who recorded some of the most beautiful sunshine pop in the 1960’s, including the hits “Hair” and “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” (think “I love the flower girl”). The Cowsills played on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and The Johnny Cash Show, and were the inspiration for the TV series The Partridge Family. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bob Cowsill: Well first, get good at what you do. Then once you have something that you’re good at, and you want people to hear it, get on the internet and take advantage of all the free ways of marketing yourself, that cost you nothing. You get a YouTube presence, you play, you put it on YouTube. That’s number one. I only say that because you can do that immediately, without a record deal, without any help. That gets you out there. And when you go looking for bigger stuff, you’re gonna have to be tough, you’re gonna hear “no” a lot, you’ve gotta hang in.

John Cowsill

John Cowsill played drums and sang in The Cowsills, a band of siblings and their mother who recorded some of the most beautiful sunshine pop in the 1960’s, including the hits “Hair” and “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” (think “I love the flower girl”). The Cowsills played on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and The Johnny Cash Show, and were the inspiration for the TV series The Partridge Family. Later, John played drums and sang background vocals on “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone. He is currently the touring drummer for The Beach Boys. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John Cowsill: [laughs] I don’t have any advice. I mean, you either do it or you don’t do it. You either like it or you don’t. I guess, do it for the right reason – because you have to. I could say “practice”, but an aspiring musician’s going to be doing that anyway.

It’s a weird business. I know so many guys better than me, and so many guys better than the other guy, and certain guys who are shitty have got gigs, guys who are great don’t. I don’t understand the math, actually.

David Pack

David Pack was the lead singer and guitarist for the prog-rock/soft-rock band Ambrosia, whose hits included “Holdin’ On To Yesterday”, “How Much I Feel”, “Biggest Part of Me”, and “You’re the Only Woman (You & I)”, all of which he wrote or co-wrote. He also co-wrote “All I Need”, which was a No. 1 hit for soap opera star Jack Wagner. He has performed on albums by other artists, including The Alan Parsons Projects’ Tales of Mystery and Imagination and Kansas’ Vinyl Confessions. Pack is also an acclaimed producer for artists including producer for Phil Collins, Aretha Franklin, Kenny Loggins, Wynonna Judd, and many others.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician or songwriter?

David Pack: I would just say to follow your heart, and try to hone in on what it is that makes you truly authentic, as opposed to any other artist in the world. Find your own voice, try to be authentic, and don’t give up.

David Lindley

David Lindley was a key member of 1960s eclectic psychedelic band Kaleidoscope, which was described by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page as “my favorite band of all time — my ideal band.” He is best known for his fretwork for Jackson Browne — for example, on the classic albums Late for the Sky and Running on Empty, and he also contributed to music by David Crosby and Graham Nash as part of The Mighty Jitters band, Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt and many, many others. Somehow he also found time for his own project, El Rayo-X, in the 1980s.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Lindley: Play all the time. The right way. Practice makes permanent, not perfect. So practice stuff the right way. I mean do it all the time, like all the people who I really like, whose playing I enjoy. Jascha Heifetz said, “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days of practice, my audience notices it.” [Actual quote: “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”]

Ricky Phillips

For the last decade, Ricky Phillips has played bass guitar with arena rock favorites Styx, whose extensive touring continues to bring the band’s hard-rocking, FM-radio-friendly prog, and power ballads to the masses.

Phillips has also been a member of other notable bands, including The Babys, supergroup Bad English (best known for their No. 1 hit “When I See You Smile”), and Coverdale/Page. He has also played with Ronnie Montrose and Jeff Beck.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ricky Phillips: Well, there’s two ways to answer that. One of them is I’d give them no advice. They’ve got to fuck up just like we all did. And that’s probably the best advice.

But, before you waste a lot of time, yours and everyone elses, go deep and decide, would I be doing this if I was living out of the back of a station wagon selling freshly burned CDs out of the back of it as I travel around the country? Because, really, that’s probably where the odds lie. If you’re happy doing that, go for it, man. Do whatever it takes. Enjoy it. But enjoy that part of it. Because I think some of my favorite memories are actually playing, you know, six guys, seven guys in a hotel room or motel room with cockroaches and whatever. Seriously, the most fun that I can remember is really kind of getting there. That’s what people say, and that’s really true. There’s been a lot of fun since, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a tough way to go, it’s a tough business. I think that if you feel like you’d never be happy unless that’s what you did, then do it.

For full interview with Ricky Phillips, click here.

Rosemary Butler

When Jackson Browne assembled the band for his 1977 landmark live album Running on Empty, he chose some of the best musicians in the business. For backing vocals he chose Rosemary Butler. The rest, as they say, is history.

By that point, Butler already had a notable career in music. She was in the all-female band the Ladybirds, which opened for The Rolling Stones in 1964. She later joined the all-female hard rock band Birtha, which released two albums in the early 1970′s. And she had sung backing vocals for Bonnie Raitt and Warren Zevon. She went on to sing backing vocals for many other notable artists including Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, Little Feat, and many more.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Rosemary Butler: Follow your heart, and practice. And get a community of like-minded people around you. I think that music is about sharing with other people. That’s why you have to have to have so many different instruments and singers and stuff together. It’s very important to surround yourself by other people that are doing their music that inspires you, and you inspire them.

For full interview with Rosemary Butler, click here

Tata Vega

Tata Vega was in the groups Pollution and Earthquire before embarking on a solo career, with four albums released in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. She has also sung backing vocals with many artists including Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, and Leon Russell. She was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Soul female Gospel Performance in 1985, and sang on four songs for the soundtrack of The Color Purple, including one which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Song category. Tata is one of the featured artists in the documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Tata Vega: Don’t give up. Do what you love. Always be above the money. Study. It’s hard. I mean, for a young person I would say probably learn to do other things, so when the hard times come you’re OK. Have faith.

T-Bone Burnett

T-Bone Burnett is a musician, songwriter, and noted producer of albums by the likes of Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Los Lobos, Leo Kottke, Spinal Tap (!), Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Elton John and Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, B.B. King and many others. Burnett also has produced movie soundtracks such as O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Crazy Heart. Burnett shared the Academy Award with Ryan Bingham for Best Original Song for “The Weary Kind” from the latter film.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

T-Bone Burnett: Learn how to paint [laughs].

Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers was the leader of the house band when the Whisky a Go Go opened in 1964 on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. His long residency helped the club to be the place to be. Between Rivers’ sets, go-go dancing was invented. Rivers had many hit songs in the 1960’s; probably the best known is “Secret Agent Man”, originally used in opening of the TV show “Secret Agent”.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Johnny Rivers: Always take your wallet onstage.

Gary Brooker

Gary Brooker is the singer, pianist, and principal songwriter (with lyricist Keith Reid) for Procol Harum, whose 1967 debut single “A Whiter Shade of Pale” melds Bach-inspired Hammond organ with Percy Sledge-like vocals and evocative, cryptic lyrics to give an enduring classic. With Brooker being the constant member through multiple personnel changes, Procol Harum released many acclaimed albums in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The band reformed in the 1990’s, and continues to tour.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Gary Brooker: Have you got about seven hours? I haven’t.

JM: Do you have quick advice?

Matt Pegg (bassist for Procol Harum): Yeah, buy as many lottery tickets as you can.

GB: Find a rich wife…

MP: Yes!

GB: …to support you.

MP: A wife with a real job.

GB: Practice every day, and pick the right muse. Pick the right muse.

Robin Trower

Robin Trower first gained fame as the guitarist for Procol Harum, playing on their classic late ‘60s and early ‘70s prog-tinged albums. When he left after 1971’s Broken Barricades, he followed the direction hinted at on that album’s “Song for a Dreamer” and his earlier Procol Harum song “Whisky Train,” namely Jimi Hendrix-inspired blues-based rock. He went on to release more than 20 albums in this vein, including 1974’s acclaimed Bridge of Sighs.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Robin Trower: Become a barber.

Garland Jeffreys

Garland Jeffreys is an acclaimed singer and songwriter whose songs cover a variety of styles including rock, reggae, and soul. His best-known songs are his 1973 single “Wild in the Streets” and his 1979 U.K. and European hit “Matador”. Notably, Jeffreys was named Best New Artist by Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. Jeffreys’ most recent album, The King of In Between, was released in 2011 and is one of the strongest of his career.

Velvet Underground afficionados will also be interested to know that Jeffreys is a long-time friend of Lou Reed and John Cale, and he played on John Cale’s first solo album Vintage Violence, which included Jeffreys’ song “Fairweather Friend”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Garland Jeffreys: What do you want to do with your music, say you want to write songs?

JM: Yeah, say write songs.

GJ: Songs are the most important thing you can have. Great songs. So you’ve got to work your ass off on becoming a very good songwriter. If you’re not a good songwriter it’s difficult, because, say if it’s guitar, you have to rely on your guitar skills to be very, very good. And it’s so competitive. But songwriting is individual. So if you have an idea or a thing that you’re writing about that’s your view of things, you just have to become very good at it.

For an interview with Garland Jeffreys, click here.

Airto Moreira

Airto Moreira is a Brazilian drummer and percussionist who has released many solo albums, and also appeared on Miles Davis’ seminal jazz fusion album Bitches Brew, plus Davis’ Live/Evil. He also played on the first album by Weather Report, and the first two albums by Return To Forever. He has been named the top percussionist of the year multiple times by publications such as Downbeat, Jazz Times, and Modern Drummer.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Airto Moreira: How old is this person?

JM: Say a twenty year old.

AM: Make sure that you choose the right instrument, that you really love to play it. Then, you just keep playing. And the more you play with other people, the better. Of course, if you want to practice technique, then you practice by yourself. But the best thing is to play all kinds of music, and to play with other people. Also, nevermind your ups and downs, because life is like that.

Phil Chen

Phil Chen played bass guitar on Jeff Beck’s landmark 1975 jazz-rock fusion album Blow by Blow, and has performed and/or recorded with other top artists including “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” Rod Stewart, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bob Marley. He has also worked in various configurations with former Doors bandmembers Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Phil Chen: Practice. Yeah, practice, practice. It’s not enough to buy a ’58 Strat. That’s a load of bullshit. You just need to practice and practice. The more you practice, the more you find out that you’re not good, and then you practice more. But you have to practice what you love, the music that you love. Like the heavy metal thing, I can’t play that. I don’t try, that’s not my forte. Maybe rock or reggae. You have to play what inspires you. If you don’t feel it, don’t play.

Seun Kuti

Seun (pronounced Shay-oon) Kuti is a Nigerian singer/saxophonist who, like his late father Fela Kuti, makes music in the Afrobeat style – a rhythm-heavy, hypnotic mix of James Brown-style funk, jazz, Cuban and traditional West African music, featuring call-and-response vocals which are often about political topics. He has been performing with Fela’s last band Egypt 80 for sixteen years, and recently releases his second album From Africa With Fury: Rise, which was co-produced by Brian Eno.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Seun Kuti: Your music has to be a part of the solution. Your music has to stand for the majority of the people. Music should be used for the people. If in your country everyone is living the good life, like you’re in Switzerland, you can sing about champagne, and fast cars, and wristwatches, and all that. But if you feel that your people need change, and your people need to develop in some area, then dedicate your music to the people, because that is what music is for, truly. Music is not selfish, you know? In one word, I’ll tell the musician, music is not selfish. That is what I would say to an aspiring musician.

For the full interview with Seun Kuti, click here.

June Millington

June Millington sang and played guitar for Fanny, the first all-female rock band to record a full-length album (the self-titled Fanny in 1970) for a major label. Her sister Jean Millington played bass guitar for Fanny. Fanny released a total of five stellar albums in the 1970’s (the last without June), and toured with many of the era’s biggest artists. Both June and Jean played on albums by Ringo Starr and Barbra Streisand. June also played guitar on Cris Williamson’s classic Women’s Music album Changer And The Changed, and co-founded the Institute for the Musical Arts.

Jeff M: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

June M: I’d say, number one, practice. Eat well and get enough sleep. And learn how to schedule, learn how to prioritize. This is a business, it’s not all just glamour. It’s not a hologram. It’s a lot of work. So if you can get your head behind the work part, then all the exciting stuff happens. And if you can not blast yourself out of the universe through bad eating and sleeping habits – it can’t be that forever, it can be that for a bit but it can’t be that forever. So you just kind of have to fit all that in, because, you know, it’s so much fun [laughs]. But the fun isn’t the thing. You get to the fun through hard work. I bet that’s kind of dull and boring, but that really would be my advice.

Jeff M: Well, you’re speaking from experience.

For full interview with June Millington (and her sister Jean), click here.

Jean Millington

Jean Millington played bass guitar for Fanny, the first all-female rock band to record a full-length album (the self-titled Fanny in 1970) for a major label. Her sister June Millington sang and played guitar for Fanny. Fanny released a total of five stellar albums in the 1970’s (the last without June), and toured with many of the era’s biggest artists. Both June and Jean played on albums by Ringo Starr and Barbra Streisand. Jean also appears on albums by David Bowie and Keith Moon.

Jeff M: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jean M: It’s so funny that June said what she said, because I haven’t heard that. But the first thing that I would say is make the decision that nothing’s going to stop you. And practice your butt off. Because that’s the only thing. When I first started learning how to play slap bass, I literally sat in my room for three months, and that’s all I did day in day out. I got tunes, I played along with them, I learned how this thing went. What they call woodshedding. I’m sure they don’t use that term anymore, it’s so ancient.

And one of the most important things is also to keep your mind and your health together. It’s so easy to get caught up with all the addictive behavior, because it’s so darn inviting and seductive. So, I mean, when you’re young, of course you’re going to do that. But the thing is, it’s about trying to keep a balance, to stay in the middle ground. And moderation is the key. The most important thing is you have to take care of yourself.

Jeff M: Do you have any specific advice for females, or pretty much the same?

Jean M: Pretty much the same.

We really thought it would’ve changed so much by now, the attitude toward girls. It hasn’t really changed, and as a matter of fact, with all the single performers, it’s become more sexist than ever. It’s just unbelievable to me, what even say Beyonce has to go through or Rihanna. I mean, the kind of images that they try to live up to. But that’s with the pop music.

KT Tunstall, I just so admire her. She plays like a dream, her compositions are great, it’s very original. And she retains her sense of rock and roll looking sexual, but not being that overt horrible thing. And I very much respect that.

But there still aren’t any girl bands out there. You have all of the individual performers that you admire. You have women as musicians who are recognized just for being a musician, but it’s not an all-girl band.

For full interview with Jean Millington (and her sister June), click here.

Cherie Currie

When Cherie Currie joined the all-girl jailbait rock band The Runaways, whose classic line-up also included Joan Jett and Lita Ford and whose manager was the legendary Kim Fowley, it was 1975 and she was a teenage David Bowie fanatic.

Over the next few years, the white-corsetted Currie and the rest of the band made a mark in the burgeoning punk rock scene with infectious songs like “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise”, ultimately becoming an important influence on all-female bands like The Go-Gos, The Bangles, and The Donnas, and various male rockers as well.

A well-publicized 2010 biopic brought The Runaways back into the popular consciousness, and Currie now has a new album in the works.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Cherie Currie: Be true to yourself. That’s a tall order, the hardest part. People can tell if you’re faking it. You have something special, be it. That alone will interest people. Be yourself and don’t listen to the negative. People who don’t have the guts to do what you are doing are the ones that will say something negative. Give it your best.

For full interview with Cherie Currie, click here

Penelope Houston

Penelope Houston fronted the San Francisco punk band Avengers, whose “Pink Album”, consisting of recordings made in 1977-8 but not released until 1983, is often hailed as one of the best punk rock albums of all time. Avengers opened for the Sex Pistols at their final show. Houston re-emerged years later as a folk singer-songwriter, still retaining much of her punk attitude. Houston just released a new solo album called On Market Street, and a new Avengers compilation is coming out soon. (Photo: Ethan Hill)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

Penelope Houston: Keep your publishing and your masters as much as possible!

For full interview with Penelope Houston, click here

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele virtuoso who gained international prominence from his viral YouTube cover of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. He has performed with Jimmy Buffett, Bela Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma, Ziggy Marley, and others, and has released multiple albums that include ukulele instrumentals in a multitude of styles. His latest album is called Peace Love Ukulele.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jake Shimabukuro: I usually tell people this. When I first started playing I just played songs that I liked, because that made me always want to pick up my instrument, you know, because I liked playing the songs. I’ve had friends that were more classically trained, and they were always forced to learn the usual songs that you have to know, and for them it was like pulling teeth, you know, they didn’t want to practice. It was like, “I don’t want to play these silly songs.” So for me it was always important to play songs that I love playing, because even if they were difficult I would just be driven to practice. Every time you get through a passage, you’re like, “Well, I know that much more of the song.” So, yeah, I would definitely say play songs that you love.

Country Joe McDonald

Country Joe McDonald was a co-founder of the 1960’s psychedelic band Country Joe & the Fish, whose acid-soaked album Electric Music for Mind and Body is one of the classics of the genre. The band’s best known song, off their next album, is “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag”. McDonald performed solo and with the Fish at Woodstock, and led the massive crowd in the “Fish Cheer” which starts with “Gimme an ‘F’…” Since the band broke up, McDonald has released many solo albums. McDonald is a strong supporter of causes related to Vietnam Veterans. Photo taken by L. Paul Mann.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Country Joe McDonald: Get an audience and make them happy. It’s as simple as that.

Jonathan Richman

Jonathan’s Richman’s place in rock and roll history is assured by the debut album by The Modern Lovers, produced by ex-Velvet Underground multi-instrumentalist John Cale and belatedly released in 1976. This album features the classic Richman songs “Roadrunner” and “Pablo Picasso”, and influenced the emerging punk rock sound. Richman’s later albums moved away from the Velvets-inspired minimalist proto-punk of The Modern Lovers’ debut, as he developed into a quirky singer-with-an-acoustic-guitar. He is featured several times in the movie
There’s Something About Mary.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jonathan Richman: Sing what you feel. But do not sing what you do not feel.

Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke Parks wrote the lyrics for the lost-Beach Boys-masterpiece Smile, which was resurrected a few years ago by Brian Wilson. Parks also played keyboards on many albums and songs including The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension album, Tim Buckley’s self-titled debut album, and the should-have-been-a-hit “Magic Hollow” by The Beau Brummels. His production credits include the first albums by Ry Cooder and Randy Newman, both with Lenny Waronker, and he has also done arrangements for U2, Laurie Anderson, Joanna Newsom, and the song “Bare Necessities” from the Disney movie The Jungle Book. His solo albums include the eclectic Song Cycle from 1968, and the Caribbean-tinged Discover America from 1972.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Van Dyke Parks: I am in no position to advise anyone. Ask my CPA.

John McFee

Multi-instrumentalist John McFee has played on a number of notable recordings, including Elvis Costello’s debut album My Aim is True (that’s McFee playing guitar on “Alison”), Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview, Steve Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle, and The Grateful Dead’s From the Mars Hotel. Other artists he has recorded with include Emmylou Harris, Rick James, Wanda Jackson, and Boz Scaggs. He joined The Doobie Brothers in 1979.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John McFee: One word – practice. I don’t know anything else to say, because that’s the only way really to learn and get better. You’ve just got to follow your instincts and practice.

Pete Thomas

Pete Thomas is best known for his longtime gig as a drummer with Elvis Costello. His first album with Costello was 1978’s This Year’s Model, and he continued for other classic albums including Armed Forces, Get Happy!!, Trust, and Imperial Bedroom. As a session drummer, he has played with artists including Graham Parker, Suzanne Vega, Neil Finn, Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos, and the Arctic Monkeys.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Pete Thomas: Well, I can only give you the advice that Mitch Mitchell gave to me. And that is, basically, you’re as good as the people you play with. So you have to try, you have to do your best to play with the best people you can find. It’s no good if you’re playing with people that aren’t any good, you know? So you sort of aim yourself… If there’s a guitarist that you think is great, go to their gigs, get to know them, and then maybe somehow… You just have to aim yourself at it. And do everything, because you never know where the opportunity’s going to come from, who’s going to see you.

Kenny Aronoff

Kenny Aronoff was a longtime drummer with John Cougar / John Mellencamp, beginning with his breakthrough album American Fool with the songs “Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane”, and on later songs including “Crumblin’ Down”, “Pink Houses”, “Small Town”, “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”, “Paper in Fire”, and “Cherry Bomb”. He has also played with artists including Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, The Smashing Pumpkins, Elton John, and many more.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Kenny Aronoff: To survive this music business, you’d better love playing music. Because you’re gonna need that to get through when it’s tough. That’s advice for anybody: find something you love. You’re gonna have to work your ass off to be good. Being a musician doesn’t come easy, so you’d better love it so you can handle the down times.

R. Stevie Moore

R. Stevie Moore has been called a “low-fi legend” in honor of his prolific home-recorded output of over 400 albums of quirky, left-field experimental pop music. His first release, Phonography, came out in 1975, but later releases included songs recorded going back to the 1960’s. He has also collaborated with artists such as Mike Watt, Ariel Pink, Jad Fair, and MGMT.

Moore shows no signs of slowing down.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

R. Stevie Moore: That’s the worst question in the world. You know what I’m gonna say. I mean, BIY not DIY. Be yourself.

For an aspiring musician, it’s hard to say. I love amateur music, people that don’t have any kind of theory in their head, not only complex jazz and classical. I can’t read music. I used to.

You know the answer to that. Go with how you roll. That’s all I keep doing, regardless of my style, or my ability, or skills. It’s the independent spirit, the independent spirit.

Steve Wynn

Steve Wynn was the vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter for The Dream Syndicate, a key band in the guitar-driven neo-psychedelic Paisley Underground style which emerged in early 1980’s Los Angeles. Their first album, the Velvet Underground-influenced The Days of Wine and Roses, is considered an early classic of the alternative rock genre. The Dream Syndicate recorded several more albums, including 1984’s Sandy Pearlman-produced Medicine Show. After The Dream Syndicate broke up, Wynn continued his prolific career, with acclaimed albums as a solo artist and with Gutterball, The Miracle 3, and The Baseball Project.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

Steve Wynn: Remember: you are always right. No matter what people tell you or what came before, you are always right. If you hear it and you feel it and it rings true to you, then that’s what you’ve got to do.

For full interview with Steve Wynn, click here.

Peter Case

Peter Case was a member of the short-lived power pop band The Nerves, which is best known for the original version of “Hanging on the Telephone”, later recorded by Blondie. He then formed The Plimsouls, whose best-known song “A Million Miles Away” was on the soundtrack to Valley Girl. The Plimsouls broke up in 1983, but have reunited several times over the years. Case has also released a number of well-regarded solo albums, most recently 2010’s Wig!

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Peter Case: If you want to be a musician, you have to get in touch with your feelings. That’s it. You’ve got to get in touch with the way you really feel. That means everything you’re putting in between yourself and the way you feel, you’ve got to get rid of, so you can just sit there and be with yourself and feel the way you feel. Then translate that into music. Most people don’t want to hear that, but that’s the truth, if you want to be good.

And then, the second thing would be don’t care about what anyone says about you. Get in touch with those feelings and express them. Forget what everybody says, because everybody’s full of shit. Work hard.

Steve Diggle

Steve Diggle plays guitar, writes songs, and sometimes sings for The Buzzcocks, the hugely influential band from Manchester which produced the blueprint for pop punk. The Buzzcocks also jump-started the punk do-it-yourself ethos with their 1977 self-released Spiral Scratch EP, on which Diggle played bass guitar. The Buzzcocks’ notable songs include “Orgasm Addict”, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”, “I Don’t Mind”, “Promises”, and “Harmony In The Head”, the latter two of which he wrote or co-wrote. The Buzzcocks compilation Singles Going Steady is regularly ranked as one of the best punk rock albums of all time. The Buzzcocks broke up in 1981, but re-united in the late 80’s and have been going strong ever since. Diggle also released a solo album called Air Conditioning last year. (Photo: Ian Rook)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Steve Diggle: You’ve got to have some kind of self-belief. Because with music you’re dabbling in the darkness and the spirits, and you’ve got to have some solid self-belief to give you a guiding light through the darkness, the heaven and the fucking hell of it all. Because, as you know, many highs and as many lows… it’s like going through a fucking swamp. You’ve got to be real strong, that’s the first thing.

It’s one thing to learn to play. Anybody can learn to play a few chords, but you’ve got to have that strength not to lose yourself. And you’ve got to believe you can get through the forest, or from one end of the tunnel to the other, and still keep something of who you are. Because people lose themselves so much in music, where it can really fuck you up. As we know from casualties.

But having that self-belief, and the love of or some kind of commitment to it, that can see you through to the other side of the river. That’s the main thing. To the land of milk and honey, almost [laughs].

You know, it’s not all bad. But that’s the main advice. The playing is the easy bit in a way. It’s hard to learn to play and write songs, but you can get that down. But, it’s that other stuff that breaks people. You’ve have to have that fucking will of iron to keep going, because you’re in a ring with fucking Muhammad Ali getting fucking punched to pieces in the music business. You’ve got to fucking take the punches, you know, a fucking Joe Frazier is punching the fucking lights out of you, and you’ve got to come back with some fucking hit records or some kind of music that fucking gives it back a bit.

I know that’s weird advice, but I’ve come through to the other side myself. Through the drugs, I’m pretty clean now and all that stuff. I’ve been through the fucking mill like a lot of people of my age that are still around surviving. I’ve done all the fucking drugs on the tours, and all the things, and no sleep, and everything else. But you’ve still got to get up and write the songs, and that’s the excitement of it. That’s the reward, or whatever it is.

Because a lot of musicians don’t know what’s going to come to them. I’ve seen people crack up on tour buses because they can’t handle it, they kind of change, you know? It’s like one of those TV reality shows, when they do those two month tours of America on the bus. They start off thinking this is going to be great. We’re going to St. Louis, Los Angeles, we’re going to Seattle, we’re going to Kansas, all the rest of it. But after a few fucking weeks some of them just fucking crack up. I’ve seen tour managers and crew members go to pieces [laughs]. But I’m not one of those. I’m made of fucking steel, so I got through it [laughs].

For the full interview with Steve Diggle, click here.

Pete Shelley

Pete Shelley is the primary singer and songwriter for The Buzzcocks, the hugely influential band from Manchester which produced the blueprint for pop punk. The Buzzcocks also jump-started the punk do-it-yourself ethos with their 1977 self-released Spiral Scratch EP. The Buzzcocks’ notable songs include “Orgasm Addict”, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”, “I Don’t Mind”, “Promises”, and “Harmony In The Head”, first four of which he wrote or co-wrote. The Buzzcocks compilation Singles Going Steady is regularly ranked as one of the best punk rock albums of all time. The Buzzcocks broke up in 1981, but re-united in the late 80’s and have been going strong ever since. Shelley also had a hit single with 1981’s “Homosapien”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Pete Shelley: If you want to do it, you might as well just do it. I mean, nobody’s gonna tell you anything different.

Andy Shernoff

Andy Shernoff was the primary songwriter for The Dictators, a seminal New York City proto-punk rock band whose huge influence was sadly never matched by huge record sales. Shernoff also played bass, keyboards, and sang many of the songs. The band’s first album The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, released in 1975, is a brilliant mix of irreverent lyrics and youthful energy. Two more albums followed – 1977’s Manifest Destiny and 1978’s Bloodbrothers. Their last studio album was 2001’s D.F.F.D. (“Dictators Forever Forever Dictators”), which is arguably their strongest album after their debut. Shernoff also played bass on Joey Ramone’s 2002 solo album Don’t Worry About Me, and has produced and/or played with various other bands/artists.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

Andy Shernoff: It takes 10,000 hours to excel in your craft so enjoy the journey.

For full interview with Andy Shernoff, click here.

Blag Dahlia

The punk rock band The Dwarves has taken the “Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” mantra to heart, with nearly three decades of decadence under their belts.

Formed in Chicago and now based in San Francisco, The Dwarves gained early notoriety for ferocious 15-minute shows that often degraded into violent brawls, and at times included onstage sex-acts. They also raised eyebrows with controversial song and album titles and artwork, including the 1990 album Blood Guts & Pussy which shows nude women (and a midget) drenched in animal blood.

The core of the band is singer Blag Dahlia and guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed, the latter the subject of a death hoax which got the band dropped from their record label Sub Pop. Dahlia was himself in the news when he was assaulted in 2004 by Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Blag Dahlia: Don’t do interviews.

For full interview with Blag Dahlia, click here.

James Stevenson

James Stevenson was the guitarist for the U.K. punk band Chelsea. Later, for a short time he joined Generation X with Billy Idol. He spent a longer time with goth rockers Gene Loves Jezebel, and has also played in The Alarm and The Cult. He recently has been performing with The International Swingers. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

James Stevenson: It’s really difficult. My son started playing, and I even didn’t even want to encourage him to start playing professionally [laughs]. The thing to do, if you’re serious, is just to keep active. Keep playing. Always play for fun. It’s fine to try to make some money, but don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love playing. Sooner or later you’ll end up in a band you love. Even if you never make money at it, or you’re never really successful, just playing a musical instrument can be an antidote for so many experiences in life. If you’re depressed or lonely, you can pick up your instrument and play it, and it makes you feel better.

For full interview with James Stevenson, click here.

Gary Twinn

Gary Twinn was the singer for the glam/punk band Supernaut, which had a huge hit in Australia in 1976 with the song “I Like It Both Ways”. He later was in the bands Twenty Flight Rockers, Speedtwinn, and The Honeydippers. He recently has been performing with The International Swingers. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Gary Twinn: Don’t give up. Just keep doing it. Don’t expect to get rich quick, or don’t expect to get rich.

I can tell you a quick joke.

Three guys die and go to heaven, and they walk up to the gates and St. Peter is standing there. And he goes, “Before I let you in, you know in the Bible it says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to walk into heaven. So, how much did you make in your last year on Earth?”

The first guy says, “I was an industrialist. Millions.” And St. Peter says, “You’re gonna have to have a couple of months in purgatory, and then you can come in.”

The next guy comes up, and he goes, “I was a doctor. I made a quarter of a million dollars.” St. Peter says, “You know, these days that’s OK. In you go.”

The next guy comes up, and St. Peter goes, “How much did you make on Earth this last year?” And he says, “About four thousand dollars.” And St. Peter goes, “Cool! What instrument did you play?”

Tony Kaye

Tony Kaye was the keyboard player in the original line-up of Yes, and played on the albums Yes, Time And A Word, and The Yes Album. After touring with the band in support of the latter, he left Yes and played in Badger, which released two albums. He rejoined Yes for the 90125 and Big Generator albums. He also toured with David Bowie for the Station To Station tour. Kaye is currently playing keyboards in CIRCA:, which recently released the album And So On.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Tony Kaye: It’s a hard road, and you have to love what you’re doing, without thinking of success. You just have to love what you’re doing, and you have to have a love of your instrument. And you have to practice, and you have to become a good band. There’s no real room for mediocrity. You’ve just got to keep on plugging away. We tend to live in an age where things just go by extremely quickly, and even if you’re signed with a record company you kind of have one album to prove yourself. It’s certainly a lot more difficult than it was when we started, you know where record companies kind of kept with you and three albums later you’re still trying. Obviously the thought of and the need for success is a very important aspect of it, but I don’t think that it can be the only inspiration.

For full interview with Tony Kaye, click here.

Glen Phillips

Glen Phillips is best known as the singer and songwriter of the 1990’s alternative rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket, whose songs include “All I Want”, “Walk on the Ocean”, and “Fall Down”. He has released several solo albums, and is a member of the band Works Progress Administration.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Glen Phillips: These days? Diversify. [laughs] That’s a nicer way of saying ‘Don’t quit your day job’. But regardless, yeah, diversify. And work very hard. Learn to write, learn to compose, learn to record, learn to arrange, learn to do website design.

JM: There’s a lot to it nowadays.

GP: There’s a fuck of a lot of jobs involved. [laughs]

Larry Ramos

The Association was one of the most nobable sunshine pop bands, and was the first band on the bill at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Their catalog includes the #1 songs “Cherish” and “Windy”, plus “Never My Love”, which is the second most played song on the radio ever, and “Along Comes Mary”. Larry Ramos joined The Association in 1967, and was the lead singer on “Never My Love”.

Ramos died on April 30, 2014.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Larry Ramos: Don’t give up. When things look the bleakest, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. For a lot of people, the reason they never succeed is that they give up too easily. I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that I’ve never really given up [laughs]. Actually, I started when I was so young that I didn’t know what it was like to give up. It was just a part of my life. Another thing, too. There’s a saying, “talent will out”. If you’ve got talent, eventually people will recognize it. But you’ve got to keep at it. You can’t give it up.

Jim Yester

The Association was one of the most nobable sunshine pop bands, and was the first band on the bill at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Their catalog includes the #1 songs “Cherish” and “Windy”, plus “Never My Love”, which is the second most played song on the radio ever, and “Along Comes Mary”. Jim Yester was the original lead singer for The Association.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jim Yester: Practice, practice, practice.

No, the main thing is just keep doing it. Talent will out. Talent will win in the long run. Just keep doing it, don’t give up. That, and desire. If you have that and the desire to do it, you’ll do it. Desire is the key.

And no man can serve two masters. When we started, nobody did anything else. It was the group 24/7. For the first six months we were together we worked six days a week, eight hours a day, writing, rehearsing, working on choreography. You finish a song, one guy’s stepping back, another guy’s moving a microphone, somebody’s handing a guitar.

And you’ve got to have fun. The audience is not going to have fun unless you’re having fun. So if you have fun, 90% chance they’re going to have fun.

And don’t take yourself too seriously.

Gary Lucas

Gary Lucas has been described as “The Thinking Man’s Guitar Hero” by The New Yorker, a “Guitarist of 1000 Ideas” by The New York Times, and a “legendary leftfield guitarist” by The Guardian (UK). He first gained acclaim for his work with Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet), appearing on Beefheart’s 1980 album Doc at the Radar Station and 1982’s Ice Cream for Crow. Lucas was also Van Vliet’s manager during this time. He has since released solo albums – the first being 1990’s Skeleton at the Feast featuring effect-heavy interstellar guitar instrumentals – and albums with his band Gods and Monsters, whose ranks once included Jeff Buckley. He has worked with many other artists, and was nominated for a Grammy for co-writing Joan Osborne’s song “Spider Web”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Gary Lucas: If you really want to make music for a living, go for it! And don’t give up as difficult as it gets, you have to pay your dues to succeed in it like everything else that’s worth doing or attaining.

For full interview with Gary Lucas, click here.

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie Musselwhite is a blues-harp player who got his start in Chicago before moving to San Francisco and being embraced by the counterculture scene. His 1967 debut album Stand Back! is considered a classic, and he has released over twenty more albums. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Charlie Musselwhite: Follow your heart. Play what you want to play. Play what resonates with you. Just ’cause somebody else is playing something, don’t feel like, “I’d better play what they’re playing, ’cause people like that”. Play what you like.

That’s what happened to me. I never even thought about being a professional musician. I just love blues and wanted to play it, and the blues overtook me. It took me where I wanted to go.

Lester Sterling

Lester Sterling is a founding member of The Skatalites, who are credited with creating the ska musical style. The band officially formed in 1964, but had already been playing together as a studio band for years. In a very short time they recorded a large number of songs under their own name (including “Guns of Navarone”), and also backed artists such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff. The Skatalites were influential to many bands including The Specials, Madness, The English Beat, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and No Doubt.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Lester Sterling: How old is this person?

JM: Say, 20 years old.

LS: Go to someone with experience of playing their instrument, and then get some lessons. Get somebody who plays the instrument to teach them. After lessons, then maybe he can go on his own.

Lynval Golding

Lynval Golding is a founding member of The Specials, a band which formed in England in 1977. The Specials fused the Jamaican ska musical form with the energy of punk rock, striking a chord with England’s disaffected youth then facing a future of high inflation, high unemployment, and racial tension. In the process they created an influential body of work that was quite popular in their home country and was inspirational to bands across the pond like Rancid, Sublime, and No Doubt. Golding wrote the hit song “Do Nothing”, and co-wrote other songs by The Specials. He was also part of The Special AKA, and has played with Robert Wyatt and The Pogues.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Lynval Golding: We were successful because we were the voice of the working people. Be the voice of the working people.

Carl Giammarese

Carl Giammarese was the guitarist, and is currently the lead vocalist, for The Buckinghams, whose songs include the hit single “Kind Of A Drag” which was #1 for two weeks in February 1967, the Top Ten hits “Don’t You Care” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, plus “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” and “Susan”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Carl Giammarese: One of the main things is that you have to stay focused. You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot. Otherwise you don’t stand a chance, especially nowadays. But it was always that way. Decide what you want, stick with it, and be willing to sacrifice a lot. I missed so many things in my life because of being a musician. But it was worth it to me. As long as it’s worth it to you…

And just stay true to yourself, and your music, too. You can only do what you do. Nobody can do everything. Just do what you do best, and hope there’s an audience there for you. That’s all you can do.

James Alexander

Bassist James Alexander is an original member of the band The Bar-Kays, which backed many artists on Stax/Volt and also released its own records. The Bar-Kays’ first album Soul Finger is a soul/funk classic, and the title track became a cross-over hit. Tragically, four of the six original Bar-Kays died in the plane crash that also killed Otis Redding, but with new members the band had success in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Alexander also played bass on the soundtrack to the movie Shaft.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

James Alexander: Get yourself a good manager, and try to get yourself a good band. Just somebody who’s real passionate about what they do. You know, a lot of guys start out worrying about the money, but if you’re passionate about it money will come.

William Bell

William Bell is a soul singer who recorded songs for Stax Records including “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, the duet “Private Number” with Judy Clay, and “Tryin’ To Love Two”. He also co-wrote “Born Under A Bad Sign” which was recorded by Albert King and Cream.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

William Bell: I would just say believe in what you’re doing, and keep at it. It will happen sooner or later. You have to be dedicated to it.

Carl Graves

Carl Graves was a member of the Canadian band Skylark, who had a hit single “Wildflower”. He reached the R&B charts as a solo artist in 1974 with the song “Baby Pick Up the Phone”. His lone solo album, featuring smooth soul music, came out in 1975. He later joined Oingo Boingo, touring and recording three albums with the band.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Carl Graves: It really depends on how long they’ve been in it, and what they’re doing. If they’re singers, you can spend forever singing and getting it together. If you’re a player, you have to start kind of young, because you want to be great at your craft. And that’s what you’re gonna run up against.

Things have completely changed. If you’re fortunate enough to get a following… It’s funny, I said this years ago. It’s going to be about the smaller pieces of the pie. No more of the Triple Platinums, and all that kind of stuff. That’s kind of gone. There are still some artists that are kind of up in there. But they’re the older mega-stars. That’s what’s funny. Like, Michael [Jackson] could still do all that, but he’s dead now. If you get a following, and you could sell 5-10,000 pieces, but it’s more direct now. You’re direct to the fans. And that could sustain you, if you’re doing concerts and stuff. You’ve gotta play all the different places. Play as much as you can. Hone your craft.

Martha High

Martha High was a singer in The Jewels, which had a minor hit with the song “Opportunity” in 1964. The Jewels became the opening act for James Brown, and when they disbanded High became a singer with Brown’s live band – this lasted for over thirty years. She also sang on various James Brown studio tracks including the 1977 duet “Summertime”. She has also been in Maceo Parker’s live band. She released a self-titled disco album in 1979, and a solo album It’s High Time in 2009.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Martha High: As far as singers are concerned, if it is their dream, don’t give up the dream, to stick with it. And make sure that you have someone to take care of your business, you know what the older singers went through in the past, getting ripped off and everything. It takes a lot of practice and wanting to really stick with it. You have to stick with it. Because I’ve been doing it all my life [laughs]. The things that you go through are lessons learned. You just try not to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Steve Vai

Although the word “virtuoso” gets used a bit too generously at times, it truly applies to guitarist Steve Vai. But don’t just take my word for it: he was called the “little Italian virtuoso” by no less an authority than Frank Zappa, who hired the young Steve Vai to transcribe his guitar solos and play in his band.

After his time with Zappa, Vai played with David Lee Roth at the dawn of Roth’s solo career – that’s him doing the talking guitar at the beginning of “Yankee Rose” – and with Whitesnake. He also released various solo albums including 1990’s Passion and Warfare and 2012’s Story of Light, has been a guest artist on recordings by many artists, and has toured with fellow guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and others as part of the G3 concert series. You might also remember him as the Devil’s guitarist Jack Butler in the movie Crossroads.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Steve Vai: Same advice Frank Zappa gave me: keep your publishing.

Something else Frank said. “There are only two things to remember. Number one, don’t stop, and number two, keep going.”

For interview with Steve Vai, click here.

Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore is a singer and guitarist for Sonic Youth, the alt-rock band formed in New York City in 1981 which pioneered the use of dissonance, noise, and alternative guitar tunings in the post-punk musical landscape. Sonic Youth’s mid- to late-1980’s albums EVOL, Sister, and Daydream Nation were hugely influential on the emerging alt-rock movement, and they maintained their integrity and credibility with their move to a major label for 1990’s Goo and and 1992’s Dirty. Sonic Youth continues to release albums 30 years after their formation. Moore has also released several solo albums and has worked with artists including Glenn Branca and Lydia Lunch.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Thurston Moore: Make cassettes. Cassettes rule, they always rule. They’re the great balancing leveller of recorded music. To me they’re the best sounding, they’re the most economical. They make sense. If people don’t have a cassette player, then just get one.

Bob Mould

Bob Mould was the guitarist and one of the singers and principal songwriters for the influential indie-rock band Husker Du, which was together from 1979 until early 1988. They released various acclaimed albums, including Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, and Warehouse: Songs and Stories. He later founded the band Sugar, whose 1992 album Copper Blue was hailed as one of the year’s best. Mould has also released multiple solo albums. In 2011 he released his memoir See A Little Light.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bob Mould: Just make the music that you really care about. Don’t worry about being successful. If you love what you do and you do it well, it’ll happen. So don’t go chasing somebody else’s idea of what success is.

Michael Gira

Michael Gira is the founder and only constant member of the band Swans, which has its roots in the New York City No Wave movement and is known for its uncompromising, pounding, abrasive, slow and loud music, although quieter songs eventually came into their repertoire. Swans was active from 1982-1997, and reformed in 2010; their latest release is 2014’s To Be Kind. In the interim, Gira focused on the band Angels of Light, which had a more acoustic sound. Gira also founded and runs Young God Records.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Michael Gira: Quit.

Lou Barlow

Lou Barlow was a founding member and the bass player for Dinosaur Jr., including on their classic album You’re Living All Over Me. When he was dismissed from that band, he focused on his side project Sebadoh, which helped to define the 1990’s lo-fi style of rock music. Another Barlow project, The Folk Implosion, had a Top 40 hit “Natural One” from the movie soundtrack to Kids.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Lou Barlow: Do something weird, and keep doing it over and over again.

JM: And record it, right?

LB: [laughs] Record it. But do something weird.

Cris Kirkwood

Cris Kirkwood is the bassist for the Meat Puppets, which released the indie rock classic albums Meat Puppets II in 1984 and Up on the Sun in 1985. They hit their commercial peak with 1994’s album Too High to Die, which featured the minor hit “Backwater.” Their visibility was helped immensely around this time by Kurt Cobain proclaiming the Meat Puppets to be one of his biggest influences, and by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood joining Nirvana onstage at their MTV Unplugged performance of three songs from Meat Puppets II. But things crumbled shortly thereafter, in large part because of Cris’ escalating substance abuse problems.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Cris Kirkwood: Yeah… stop. Go back to school. Become a dentist.

God, I don’t know. I’m no one to ask for advice. You know, read about me and don’t do what I’ve done.

[discussion about music]

So I would say to an aspiring musician, do what feels good to you. Then beyond that, I would say sell out when you’re young and make a lot of money.

For full interview with Cris Kirkwood, click here.

Curt Kirkwood

Curt Kirkwood is the guitarist and singer for the Meat Puppets, which released the indie rock classic albums Meat Puppets II in 1984 and Up on the Sun in 1985. They hit their commercial peak with 1994’s album Too High to Die, which featured the minor hit “Backwater.” Their visibility was helped immensely around this time by Kurt Cobain proclaiming the Meat Puppets to be one of his biggest influences, and by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood joining Nirvana onstage at their MTV Unplugged performance of three songs from Meat Puppets II. But things crumbled shortly thereafter, in large part because of Cris’ escalating substance abuse problems.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Curt Kirkwood: Dump the “aspiration”. Quit your job, live off your friends.

JM: Is that what you did?

CK: Yeah, pretty much. That was part of the scene, though. I figured all you hair-brained, nihilist punk rockers, you owe me something, you know? I gave up my life for this shit, so I lived on people’s couches all the fucking time.

Mike Watt

Mike Watt’s musical resume is about as cool as they come. He co-founded the influential San Pedro-based indie-punk band The Minutemen, playing bass and composing many of their songs. After Minutemen guitarist D. Boon tragically died in a car accident, guitarist Ed “fROMOHIO” Crawford joined up with Watt and Minutemen drummer George Hurley to form the somewhat underappreciated late-80’s and early-90’s band fIREHOSE. And since 2003, he has been playing bass with re-formed (but perhaps not reformed) punk rock godfathers The Stooges, fronted by Iggy Pop.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mike Watt: You’ve gotta find the inside voice. The best analogy I can give for it is writing a novel. You don’t have to invent new words, but there’s ways of using the words that everybody knows, where you can get a very personal work. And I think that’s what you’ve gotta do with music. It’s not like you have to invent new kinds of notes, or instruments, or styles. Though that might be kind of neat [laughs]. I still think you can do it with the stuff that’s there, you know that you learn from other people and stuff. I’m not talking about copying them. I’m saying – you know what I mean – like writing a novel. You might not invent one new word, but you can still write an original novel.

And also, it’s not bigger words. You read “Old Man and the Sea” that Hemingway did, you know, there are no big words. It’s just over a hundred pages. It ain’t that long. It’s still a very good story. And I think the same thing with music. It’s not about incredible technique. It’s finding your voice, finding your expression. Which is probably very difficult. But you know what, maybe it should always be kind of difficult. If there was some system to make that easy, maybe it wouldn’t be as genuine.

For full interview with Mike Watt, click here.

Josh Tillman

Josh Tillman has worn several musical hats over the last decade. As J. Tillman, he has released various indie folk solo recordings, beginning with 2006’s Minor Works. He also was the drummer for indie folk rock band Fleet Foxes, contributing to their brilliant harmony-rich 2008 self-titled debut album and 2011 follow-up Helplessness Blues. Most recently, as Father John Misty he released the acclaimed 2012 album Fear Fun.

Tillman shares a birthday with Pete Seeger, James Brown, and Music Illuminati’s Prof J-Mo.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Josh Tillman: That there’s no formula. Yeah, to fuck advice.

JM: You’re not the first to say that.

JT: I’m sure I’m not. What are you gonna say, you know? “Keep just plugging away!” That’s a tough one to field.

Will Oldham

Will Oldham has been steadily releasing records for nearly two decades now, under different names including (rarely) his own, Palace Brothers, and, for most of the last decade, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. His music receives much (well-deserved) critical acclaim: for example, his 1999 album I See A Darkness – the title track of which was covered by the late Johnny Cash – was ranked as the 9th best album of the 1990’s by the influential indie-arbiters, who say that it “confirm[s] that Oldham is indie’s detached and brilliant DeNiro.”

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter or musician?

Will Oldham: [laughs, long pause] I don’t think that there’s any broad or sweeping advice that I would have to offer to anybody. If someone said, how can I finish this song, then maybe I could say something.

I’m not sure that I have the same motivation as someone else who writes songs or plays music. In my experience, I’ve found that my advice, in terms of making records and making music, doesn’t really get communicated, or doesn’t really apply to folks.

I don’t know. It would depend on the individual – man, woman, young, or old, and what their motivations were, and what their practices were. I think that there’s very few people that I would have advice that would be valuable to them. [laughs] I have a particular way of doing things, and most people think it’s retarded. They’ll ask me, what would you do about this – they’re writing songs – and I’ll say, and they’ll look at me like I’m from Mars.

JM: Well, this of course begs the question. You say that you have a different motivation, and a different way of doing things. What is your motivation for doing music?

For full interview with Will Oldham, click here.



Bill Callahan

Singer-songwriter Bill Callahan first started releasing his recordings under the alias Smog in 1988. His earliest releases were lo-fi home recordings, but as the years passed his recordings gained more polish, albeit without completely losing their grittiness. Fittingly, his song “Cold Blooded Old Times” appeared on the excellent soundtrack to the 2000 movie High Fidelity, being the type of song that the movie’s music-obsessed characters would put on a mix tape. Starting in 2007, Callahan started releasing his music under his own name, his latest album being 2011’s Apocalypse.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter / musician?

Bill Callahan: All you can do is write more songs, play more music. Share it somehow when you think it’s good.

For full interview with Bill Callahan, click here.

Buzz Osborne

“Buzz” Osborne, also known as King Buzzo, is the guitarist and vocalist for The Melvins, purveyors of sludgy, heavier-than-Black-Sabbath metal. Although never really rising above cult band status, The Melvins are assured at least a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history because of their connections to Nirvana and that band’s frontman Kurt Cobain, who counted them amongst his favorites. Cobain, Osborne, and Melvins drummer Dale Crover were friends from high school. In 1984, Cobain auditioned to play bass with The Melvins, but he was not chosen. The next year, Osborne and Crover played in Cobain’s first band Fecal Matter (with Osborne on bass). Later, in 1988, Crover played on Nirvana’s 10-song demo, most of which was released on their albums Bleach and Incesticide. After Nirvana went supernova with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the album Nevermind, Cobain championed The Melvins, even co-producing and playing on a few tracks for the band’s 1993 major-label debut Houdini. Obsborne and The Melvins have steadily and uncompromisingly kept at it, having by now released 20-plus albums.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Buzz Osborne: Be as peculiar as you can. There’s all kinds of ways you can be peculiar. That’s the best, I would say. And there’s enough bands playing in tune. Nobody should expect you to.

Dale Crover

Dale Crover is the drummer for The Melvins, purveyors of sludgy, heavier-than-Black-Sabbath metal. Although never really rising above cult band status, The Melvins are assured at least a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history because of their connections to Nirvana and that band’s frontman Kurt Cobain, who counted them amongst his favorites. Cobain, Crover, and Melvins guitarist/vocalist “Buzz” Osborne were friends from high school. In 1984, Cobain auditioned to play bass with The Melvins, but he was not chosen. The next year, Osborne and Crover played in Cobain’s first band Fecal Matter (with Osborne on bass). Later, in 1988, Crover played on Nirvana’s 10-song demo, most of which was released on their albums Bleach and Incesticide. After Nirvana went supernova with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the album Nevermind, Cobain championed The Melvins, even co-producing and playing on a few tracks for the band’s 1993 major-label debut Houdini. Crover and The Melvins have steadily and uncompromisingly kept at it, having by now released 20-plus albums.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dale Crover: Practice a lot. Get in a band. It’s great to play with other people because that’ll help you. And it’s a lot more fun than playing by yourself. Or playing with yourself.

Jim Heath

Jim Heath is the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Reverend Horton Heat, a band which updated the sound and energy of rockabilly for the alt-rock era and beyond.

Reverend Horton Heat hit the ground running with their first album, 1992’s Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em, which has gems like “Bad Reputation”, “Marijuana”, and “Psychobilly Freakout”. They’re still going strong ten albums and countless live shows into their career, with Heath’s twisted humor taking a front seat on songs such as “Please Don’t Take the Baby to the Liquor Store” and “Death Metal Guys” from their latest album, 2009’s Laughin’ and Crying’.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jim Heath: Figure out some way to get a really good running van. That’s it.

JM: You must speak from experience on that.

JH: Yeah, that’s it. You know, there’s two ways to do it. If you really make great music, and you can make demos and release your own local music, if your music is really great there’s still probably a 90% chance that you will never make it in the music business. Now, if your music is pretty good, and you can go and play gigs and make a little bit of money in your home area, in your region, get a really good running van and start playing all over America. As far as you can play. Take the money that you make, whatever gig you make the most money off of, take a good chunk of that portion of money and save it so that you can go and play Tucson, Arizona, where you’re gonna not make more that $100. Save it so that you can go play San Francisco. Save it so that you try to make it up to Seattle, and drive all the way to Seattle only to get paid $100. You’re gonna lose money. So you have to save the money from your local gig. Anyway, you get the picture. If you do that, you will make it in the music business, I guarantee.

Problem is, nobody wants to do that. They want, well, let’s just be a great band and we’ll get signed. To me, you’re a pussy if that’s the way you’d want to do it. Because eventually you’re gonna have to get in that van, even if you get signed. Why not make it on your own terms?

For full interview with Jim Heath, click here.

Neil Hagerty

Neil Hagerty is a guitarist and songwriter who got his start in the uncompromising underground band Pussy Galore, which released albums including Groovy Hate F*ck and Dial ‘M’ For Motherf*cker. When that band broke up, Hagerty and girlfriend Jennifer Herrema turned their attention to Royal Trux, which recorded multiple albums during the 1990’s including Cats & Dogs and Thank You. Royal Trux’s best-known song is “The Inside Game”, which is on the soundtrack for the movie High Fidelity. After Royal Trux broke up, Hagerty released a couple of solo albums, and also recorded with The Howling Hex.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter / musician?

Neil Hagerty: You just better know what it is you really want.

For full interview with Neil Hagerty, click here.

Bob Bert

Bob Bert was the drummer for two of the most notable bands from the American Underground: Sonic Youth (playing on the albums Confusion Is Sex, Sonic Death, and Bad Moon Rising) and Pussy Galore (playing on their recordings from Exile on Main St onwards). He has also drummed with Bewitched, Knoxville Girls, and The Chrome Cranks, the latter of which just released a cool new swamp/noise/punk/blues album called Ain’t No Lies In Blood. (Carlos Van Hijfte photo, 1982)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bob Bert: Keep your day job and be original. Don’t be a dick.

For full interview with Bob Bert, click here

Ken Stringfellow

Ken Stringfellow formed the acclaimed power pop revivalist band The Posies with Jon Auer in the late 1980’s. The Posies had an early hit “Golden Blunders”, but really broke through with their 1993 album Frosting on the Beater, with songs including “Dream All Day”, “Solar Sister”, and “Flavor of the Month”. The latest album by The Posies is 2010’s Blood/Candy.

Stringfellow has also toured and/or recorded with many other notable bands including R.E.M., The Minus 5, Lagwagon, The Disciples, and the re-formed power pop pioneers Big Star. And that’s not all – Stringfellow has also released five solo albums, most recently 2012’s Danzig in the Moonlight.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ken Stringfellow: My usual advice is don’t listen to advice. I mean, everybody will tell you what they think is good for you, but most people will tell it to you in a way that… you know, like most people think small. The downside of thinking big is hubris, but I think hubris is kind of harmless if you have the right attitude. What we would call hubris, thinking way too big… It’s one thing to say “The ship is not sinking” when the ship is actually sinking. I mean, you’ve got to read the writing on the wall sometimes.

But sometimes you’ve got to think about the exceptions to the rules. You’ve got to live for those exceptions, because sometimes great stuff slips through and the logic of the marketplace and all that kind of thing is sort of irrelevant. Sometimes you get a patron that really likes you, or your fortunes can change on a dime, you know, you get in a movie soundtrack that’s big, or whatever. I mean, you just never know. It can come from so many directions. And so, therefore, it’s not really up to you to decide how to play it safe. That’s just not going to get anybody anywhere. And I guess there’s just nothing wrong with thinking big and failing. At least you tried. The upside is that if it doesn’t fail, then it’s great.

And then also, I think another thing is defining success or failure, I think that’s an important groundwork to lay. There’s the obvious, right, like a big massive artist playing at some big giant stadium. You see that, and you go, well, that guy’s successful. But you could be fooled into thinking that everything less is not. But that’s hardly the case. There’s such a big range of things to do in between total obscurity and that. There’s like a big world.

Today is a case in point. If you came to this show [which was poorly attended] and saw me play, you’d be like, I don’t know, this guy must be absolutely not even off the radar. He never was on the radar. But actually I’m a full-time musician. I make a living at it. I have a great time. Yeah, occasionally there’s a show where people don’t show up. It’s not the end of the world. The definition of success, I think, is to be living life on terms that you can live with. I mean, really, it’s as simple as that.

Don Fleming

Don Fleming is a musician and producer who has had his hands in an amazing number of projects, mostly in the alt rock universe. As a musician, he was a member of the Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L., Gumball, and Half Japanese. As a producer, he has worked with Sonic Youth, Hole, Teenage Fanclub, Alice Cooper, The Dictators, The Posies, Screaming Trees, and more. Don recently released a cool EP called Don Fleming 4 which includes contributions from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Don Fleming: Get an MBA. Too many musicians think that if they know too much about the business they are sell-outs, but in reality “the man” wants them to think that way so they can be endlessly taken advantage of. That’s why most musicians barely make a living, have no health care, no retirement plans, no salaries. So my advice is to get a real job and play music because you like to, put the stuff out yourself and avoid “the man.”

For full interview with Don Fleming, click here.

Jason Lytle

The Grandaddy album Sophtware Slump masterfully explored the relationship between technology and alienation, and it is only fitting that it came out in the year of Y2K. This album, one of the best of the 2000’s decade in my humble opinion, was the work of Jason Lytle, a sonic architect who creates lush, vintage synthesizer-driven futuristic pop music.

Grandaddy released three other stellar studio albums and various EPs in addition to Sophtware Slump, and broke up in the mid-2000’s, although they recently reunited for a short tour. Lytle (the first syllable is pronounced “light” not “lit”) went on to release the Grandaddy-esque solo album Yours Truly, The Commuter in 2009, and just released his second solo album called Dept. of Disappearance. (Jeff Hawe photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jason Lytle: [long pause] Make sure that you love it. Make sure that the love for the music and the creativity is driving everything else. And then if you pass that test, then you’ve got to think really long and hard if that love exists enough to get you through all of the tough times that are going to come if you actually decide to try to do that for a living. And, I don’t know, if you work really hard then there’s a good chance that stuff will fall into place. I think if you don’t go into it with some pretty noble reasons to begin with, then you’re going to be kind of screwed in the long run.

For the full interview with Jason Lytle, click here.

Cedric Bixler-Zavala

Cedric Bixler-Zavala was the singer for the acclaimed post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, which was formed in 1993 in El Paso, Texas and whose last album, Relationship of Command, was released in 2000. Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez went on to form the prog metal band The Mars Volta, whose albums include 2003’s De-Loused in the Comatorium, 2005’s Frances the Mute, and 2008’s The Bedlam in Goliath. In 2009, The Mars Volta won the “Best Hard Rock Performance” Grammy Award for the song “Wax Simulacra”. The Mars Volta went on hiatus in 2012.

Bixler-Zavala’s current project is called Zavalaz – his mother’s maiden name with an extra “z” at the end.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Cedric Bixler-Zavala: To get into a band and hit it. Hit it hard. Hit it hard. Make sure your name is in everyone’s mouth because they saw you, not because of the internet.

Josh Klinghoffer

Josh Klinghoffer is the guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, first appearing on their 2011 album I’m with You, which includes the song “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and “Monarchy of Roses”. Klinghoffer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band in 2012, making him the youngest-ever living inductee. He has also recorded and/or performed with Beck, PJ Harvey, The Butthole Surfers, Sparks, and Gnarles Barkley, and fronts the band Dot Hacker.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Josh Klinghoffer: Just play as much as you can, all of the time. Keep playing, and playing, and playing, and playing, and playing. And listening, and listening, and listening, and listening. And read, not music, just read everything.

Mike Muir

Singer Mike Muir has been the only constant member of the band Suicidal Tendencies during its three decade existence. The band started out as a SoCal hardcore punk rock band featuring an aggressive sound and Muir’s raging lyrics that resonated with the era’s disaffected youth. Along the way, the band gained notoriety from frequent violence at their shows and alleged gang affiliations, later denied by Muir.

Suicidal Tendencies’ first, self-titled album came out in 1983, and the song “Institutionalized” received significant airplay on MTV, the first hardcore punk rock song to do so. Over time, Suicidal Tendencies evolved in a thrash metal direction, but they always retained a connection with their hardcore roots. Their latest album, 13, was released in March.

Muir is also the singer for the funk metal band Infectious Grooves, and has released solo albums as Cyco Miko.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mike Muir: Go to Plan B. I have three kids, and I would not want them to be musicians, in this day and age. I think there’s nothing wrong with loving music. I think music is great. But I think when people ask the question they’re saying, “How do you make money in music?” And you really don’t. If you’re trying to make money in music, then what you’re saying is, “How do I kiss ass? How do I get to be liked?” It’s like the American Idol thing. Whereas I think that there was generally was some validity in the past doing music, just because you didn’t like anything else, you know? And that was part of the motivation of doing Suicidal. We didn’t like what other people were doing.

I’ve said many times, before we did our record one of my best friends came in and he said, “Mike, you know what, you have a chance to do a record. People don’t get that chance. Listen to the radio. You can play that stuff. You can be like the bands on the radio.” And I go, “But I don’t like what’s on the radio.” He’s saying, “What you’re doing isn’t music.” And I go, “I don’t care if you don’t think it’s music. It’s what I like.” I don’t care if other people like it.

Whereas I think people now, when they’re asking “How do you get to be liked?”, that’s totally kind of sad in way. Don’t worry about it. And people all the time will go, “We’re doing this and that”, and I go, “Do you like what you’re doing?” “Yeah”, and they go, “But, but, not this. And we want to do this.” And I go, “Oh, so you want to be liked rather than liking what you’re doing. If you’re not happy liking what you’re doing, you’re talking to the wrong person.” If you like what you’re doing, then whatever happens happens. But people are more into, you know, how you get that American Idol, whether it’s rock or whatever it is, and be popular rather than make great music. A lot of great music people will never hear.

For full interview with Mike Muir, click here.

Mike Palm

Mike Palm is the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Agent Orange, a skate punk band from Orange County which plays a potent combination of punk and surf rock. The band first gained attention for the 1979 recording of the song “Bloodstains”, which was included on DJ Rodney Bingenheimer compilation album Rodney On The Roq. Their brilliant first album, Living In Darkness, came out in 1981 and features punk originals and smokin’ covers of surf rock classics. The band has released several more albums and EP’s over the years.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mike Palm: Don’t let anyone rip you off, and don’t forget to have fun.

For full interview with Mike Palm, click here

Parry Gripp

Parry Gripp is the singer and guitarist for the “nerd rock” pop punk band Nerf Herder, whose self-titled debut album was released in 1996. Their best known song is “Van Halen”, which is a tribute to the David Lee Roth era of that band. Nerf Herder also recorded the theme song for the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gripp has released several solo albums, and has many catchy/hilarious songs on YouTube including “Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom”, “Boogie Boogie Hedgehog”, and “This Is The Best Burrito I’ve Ever Eaten”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Parry Gripp: My advice is always the same. Don’t follow anyone’s advice. People give you advice of what they think you should do, but it’s not usually what they actually did.

Devendra Banhart

Devendra Banhart is an acclaimed singer-songwriter who was born in Texas, raised in Venezuela, and moved to California as a teenager. His early recordings are often classified as “freak folk” or “psych folk”, but whatever you call it, it has an undeniable charm along the lines of Vashti Bunyan or early (i.e., pre- T. Rex) Tyrannosaurus Rex. Banhart started exploring a fuller, more diverse sound with 2005’s Cripple Crow, and this continued with 2007’s Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, arguably his most popular album. In 2013 Banhart released the album Mala, which has been hailed as something of a return to his roots.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Devendra Banhart: Well… [long pause] I would probably get rid of the word “aspiring”.

Neal Casal


Neal Casal is the lead guitarist for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, fronted by singer Chris Robinson of Black Crowes fame. The CRB has played over two hundred live shows since forming a few years ago, and has three studio albums out, including 2014’s Phosphorescent Harvest.

Before joining the CRB, Casal played with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, including on the albums Easy Tiger and Cardinology, plus Willie Nelson’s 2006 album Songbird. Casal has also released a number of solo albums, most recently 2012’s Sweeten the Distance.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Neal Casal: [laughs] I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that at all.

JM: Anything? You can sometimes see where a musician’s mind is at based on their answer to that question. Sometimes it’s like, “Get a lawyer”, or “Don’t do it”.

NC: My answer is not a stock answer. I don’t have a pat answer for that question. I hate to make this complicated, but really, giving one generic answer to all musicians could be really a terrible mistake. Because telling one person one thing can send them down the wrong road, while that same advice can send another person in the right direction. So I would never, in any form, give one stock answer for all people, because that’s not how things work. It all works on an individual basis.

My advice for an aspiring musician would come after speaking with him or her for a while, and finding out a little bit about who they are, what they want, where they want to go with it, and what they want to do with their life. If someone wants to ask me advice, personally, we’ll talk for a while, and maybe then I’ll have something to contribute.

What worked for me, or what I did, would definitely not work for everybody. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend my path to everyone, at all. I don’t think people would have to go through everything that I did to do this. That’s just not how things work. I’m a totally self-taught musician, I don’t know how to read music, I never went to college, I barely graduated high school. You know, I lived in a barn for a year to do this for a living, with a band. I struggled massively financially for years. I went though all kinds of disappointments and frustrations and humiliations, trying to get record deals and all that. I wouldn’t recommend all of those things for people.

I think some people feel like people should have to go through what they did, you know, in order to be successful. Or in order to have properly paid your dues, or something. I really don’t feel that way. If I had any advice for people I would give them the advice to try to cut off a lot of the wasted time that I spent trying to figure things out. I would try to shorten their path, so they didn’t have to go through what I did. Because I went through so many unnecessary motions because there was no one there to tell me what was going on, or to give me the correct advice. That’s actually an important question to me, and I would caution pat answers and I would caution generic answers to that question.

There’s a very long-winded answer to your question. But I’m actually quite passionate about it, now that we bring it up.

For the full interview with Neal Casal, click here.

Stephen Pope

Stephen Pope plays bass guitar for Wavves, a noise pop / sunshine punk band whose profile has been on the rise over the past few years with their awesome 2010 album King of the Beach, 2011′s Life Sux EP featuring the song “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”, and now their new album Afraid of Heights. Before Wavves, Pope played with the late Jay Reatard, including on his last album Watch Me Fall.

It must be mentioned that Wavves has also made headlines for frontman Nathan William’s chemical-induced onstage breakdown at the 2009 Barcelona Primavera Sound Festival, and for Pope getting kicked out of the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards for pot possession.

Jef Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Stephen Pope: Don’t let anything or anybody hold you back. And don’t be a dick, too. Even though being a dick, I guess, can help you. But don’t be a dick [laughs].

And if you want to be a musician at the time, you should go for it right then, and not worry about, like, school and stuff. Because a lot of people’s most creative points in their lives are when they’re in high school, a teenager, and they aren’t jaded by anything yet. So don’t let that thought get in your mind that you have to finish school in order to do what you want. You might lose ambition by then. I’m very glad I dropped out of school. That’s good advice, right? [both laugh]

For full interview with Stephen Pope, click here.

Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan Wilson’s producer and musician credits include work with Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and young country-folk rockers Dawes. Wilson was also host to a number of all-night jam sessions at his place in Laurel Canyon, which attracted musicians such as Costello, Conor Oberst, and members of Wilco and The Black Crowes, and drew favorable comparisons to the canyon’s musical glory days. His album Gentle Spirit was rated the fourth-best album of 2011 by MOJO magazine, and UNCUT magazine named him the New Artist of the Year.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jonathan Wilson: Definitely to play some other instruments that they don’t play. That’s what I did, and that was really the best thing that I ever did.

JM: So what did you start out on?

JW: I started out on guitar, then moved to drums, and to piano, played some banjo, things like that.

JM: So just get out of your element?

JW: Yeah, exactly.

George Pendergast


Dishwalla is best known for their alt-rock hit “Counting Blue Cars” – you might remember it from the lyrics “Tell me all your thoughts on God / ‘Cause I would really like to meet her”. This was off their 1995 debut album Pet Your Friends, which sold over a million copies. They released several more albums over the next decade.

Dishwalla’s drummer, George Pendergast, is also the co-founder of the Rockshop Academy, which has been fostering Santa Barbara’s next generation of aspiring musicians since 2009 through afterschool sessions, summer camps, and more.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

George Pendergast: Advice for aspiring musicians is always the same. I grew up in a drum shop. I worked there from the time I was 13 to record deals, and then came back to buy it in my 30’s. Living in Santa Barbara I met people who had great financial wealth and they still had a sadness in their eyes. They would say to me, “Whatever you do give this everything you’ve got”. I learned from them that if you have a passion and don’t go after it, even if you fail, then no money in the world can fill that void of not pursuing your passion. It’s not an easy life but if you have a true desire to go for it make sure it’s with 110% of everything you’ve got. That way, make it or not, you know you did your best.

For the full interview with George Pendergast, click here.

Dana Janssen

For those of you who like your music a bit “out there”, check out the eclectic sounds of Akron/Family, who serve up a tasty mix of indie folk, prog rock, spacey jams, and noise freak-outs.

The band’s first album was 2005′s self-titled release on Michael Gira’s Young God label, which also released their next three albums. They switched to the Dead Oceans label for 2009′s Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free and 2011′s Akron/Family II (The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT). Their seventh album Sub Verses came out on the Dead Oceans label.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dana Janssen: Keep at it. Just try everything and anything until you find your voice. But try to find your own voice.

For full interview with Dana Janssen, click here.

Zac Holtzman

For a short time before Pol Pot and his totalitarian Khmer Rouge regime came to power in the mid-1970’s, Cambodia produced groovy psych pop music in the spirit of The Searchers’ “Love Potion No. 9” and Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man”.

About a decade ago, brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman, who play guitar and Farfisa organ, respectively, became aware of such music. They recruited the elegant and talented Khmer-singing Chhom Nimol from Long Beach and, joined by like-minded sonic travelers, started playing covers of Cambodian songs as the band Dengue Fever. Dengue Fever has gone on to write and record several albums worth of similarly groovy original songs, with their latest album being 2011’s Cannibal Courtship.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Zac Holtzman: Leave your guitar out of its case. Hang it in the kitchen and pick it up every time you’re waiting for water to boil.

For full interview with Zac Holtzman, click here.

Ritzy Bryan

Ritzy Bryan is the singer and guitarist for the Welsh rock band The Joy Formidable, who is making waves with their 2011 debut album The Big Roar, and to Music Illuminati’s knowledge is the best Welsh rock trio since Budgie. In 2011 they have played at the Reading and Leeds Festivals and Lollapalooza, and their hit song “Whirring” has become a staple on modern rock radio.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ritzy Bryan: I honestly refuse to give advice because I think every band should just carve their own fucking way. If you do your own thing there’s no rules, because everybody has a different journey.

Kim Manning

Kim Manning is an electrifying, red-hot performer who has been singing vocals with George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic / The P-Funk All Stars for ten years. She has also worked with artists including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, and Sly Stone, and was “Peaches” on the first season of the reality TV show Flavor of Love. Manning just released a new album called Good People.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Kim Manning: Okay, if you really feel the calling, and you have a gift, then you don’t really have a choice do you, you have to share your gift. If it’s your destiny, you will be miserable doing anything else so surrender to it and practice, a lot, now, before you’re on tour 350 days a year. But you really have to assess if it’s your ego that wants it, like could you be poor and happy and working for 10 years away from your loved ones, playing bar after coffee shop to 50 people at a time, if so then it’s for you. Otherwise, if you want to be a musician, and you don’t pass those tests, you better have lots and lots of money to make yourself a star like Taylor Swift or Paris Hilton did. “Paris is a Porn Star” is one of my songs from “Space Queen”! She understands the power of doing what it takes to be a star, and she’s hot!

For full interview with Kim Manning, click here.

Linnea Vedder

Linnea Vedder is the drummer and one of the singers and principal songwriters for Cliffie Swan, whose new Drag City album Memories Came True is a delightful blend of pop, psychedelia, and sweet harmonies. Cliffie Swan was formerly called Lights, with two albums released under this name including the wonderful 2009 album Rites.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Linnea Vedder: I slept and dreamt that life was Joy./ I woke and saw that life was Duty./ I acted, and behold, Duty was Joy. -Rabindranath Tagore

Click here for the full interview.

Robert Randolph

Robert Randolph is a pedal steel guitar virtuoso, bringing elements of funk, blues, R&B, and Gospel into his playing. Randolph got his start in the House of God Church, playing in the “sacred steel” tradition. Robert Randolph & the Family Band has toured extensively throughout the 21st century, and their shows have received rave reviews for their high energy and joyful music. The band has collaborated with Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, and, like those guitarists, Randolph is included on the Rolling Stone Magazine “David Fricke’s Picks”, a list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Robert Randolph: Just keep playing. Just keep doing what you do. It’s all you can do.

Jim Coleman

Jim Coleman was part of the seminal New York City alt/noise/experimental/industrial rock band Cop Shoot Cop, contributing on sampler, keyboards, and mixing. The band released several albums in the 1990′s, including Ask Questions Later and Release on Interscope Records, the former with the minor alt-radio hit “$10 Bill”. They also were a well-regarded live act, and did shows with Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many others before breaking up in 1996.

Coleman’s musical journey has continued with scoring of films and TV shows, and recordings released as Phylr. In 2012, under his own name he released the album Trees, an organic, sonically rich set of movements that should appeal to fans of ambient electro-acoustic music.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jim Coleman: Don’t do it for the money. Being a musician, or just a creative person, can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve made a decent living at it from time to time in my life. Sometimes on my own terms and sometimes on other’s terms. Doing music as a work for hire can potentially twist this thing that you love. But it can also be truly rewarding, even as a craft or skill.

I’ve always wanted to make music and mess with sound, even as a little kid. At times I have wished that I could just be content being a working stiff and watching television shows at night. But I can’t. I love making music. So I guess I’d say that you’ve got to do it for the love of it, either it’s something inside you or it won’t work.

Something I’ve never been that good at is the art of self promotion and creating a hype. I was always very idealistic, thinking that if I made good interesting music, it would organically find it’s way out in to the world to eagerly waiting ears. Not the case. Even if it goes against your grain, you have to push yourself out in to the world, be social. Also, it really helps to have a team on your side. For the release of Trees, I hired publicists to help bring it out in to the world.

For full interview with Jim Coleman, click here.


Scott McCaughey

Scott McCaughey is a singer and songwriter, and is the leader of the bands The Young Fresh Fellows and The Minus 5. Since 1994 he has made contributions to R.E.M. both live and in the studio. He is also in and writes songs for The Baseball Project with Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Scott McCaughey: Put out your own record. Don’t wait for anybody to tell you whether it’s good or bad or not. Just record your music and release it on whatever level you want to release it, either digitally, make your own CD. It doesn’t cost that much. Anybody can do it these days. So my advice is to do it.

James Jackson Toth

James Jackson Toth is an insanely prolific indie folk songwriter and musician who has recorded most frequently under the name Wooden Wand. His latest album, Death Seat, was produced by The Swans’ Michael Gira, and has been receiving a lot of great press from the likes of The New York Times, Interview Magazine, and Crawdaddy. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter and/or musician?

James Jackson Toth: “Be great or be gone.” – David Briggs. Also, learn a trade.

For full interview with James Jackson Toth, click here

John Doe

John Doe was one of the primary songwriters and singers for the band X, along with Exene Cervenka. X’s 1980 debut album Los Angeles, produced by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, ranks as one of the best punk albums of all time. This was followed by other acclaimed X albums, membership in The Knitters, and a solo career that explored more of a roots music direction. Doe is also an actor who has appeared in a variety of films and television shows.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John Doe: Don’t do it.

JM: You’re not the only one to say that.

JD: Because if they’re meant to do it, they will anyway. My second advice would be just to be true to yourself. It’s like Sonic Youth, everybody hated them, or didn’t like them, or they went, “ah, whatever”. But they just kept doing what they did, and eventually it worked out.

JM: And they’re still doing it, too.

JD: That’s right.

For full interview with John Doe, click here.

Exene Cervenka

Exene Cervenka was one of the primary songwriters and singers for the band X, along with John Doe. X’s 1980 debut album Los Angeles, produced by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, ranks as one of the best punk albums of all time, and was followed by other acclaimed X albums. Cervenka was also a member of The Knitters and Auntie Christ, and has released several solo albums.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Exene Cervenka: Male or female?

JM: Either one.

EC: Female – don’t get married. Male – don’t be an asshole.

Billy Zoom

Billy Zoom brings an exciting mix of rockabilly and punk rock guitar to the band X, whose 1980 debut album Los Angeles was produced by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and ranks as one of the best punk albums of all time. This was followed by other acclaimed X albums. Zoom has also worked with artists including Gene Vincent, Etta James, Big Joe Turner, and The Blasters. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Billy Zoom: Get a job. Go to school, get a job. I don’t know. Learn a trade. There’s no money in music anymore.

DJ Bonebrake

DJ Bonebrake is the drummer for the band X, whose 1980 debut album Los Angeles was produced by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and ranks as one of the best punk albums of all time. This was followed by other acclaimed X albums. He was also a member of The Knitters, Auntie Christ, and The Flesheaters, and currently drums for a number of other bands.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

DJ Bonebrake: Oh… [laughs] Well, I would give a couple of answers. One is the cynical answer – don’t do it.

JM: John Doe said that also.

DJB: I’ve had drum teachers who told me that. I had this famous teacher, Murray Spivack, who taught everyone in L.A., and he goes, “It’s the worst business in the world. You shouldn’t get into it. The only good job is a symphony job because you’ll get benefits and you’ll have security.”

But I know that’s not going to stop anyone. I have a daughter, she’s nineteen now, and she’s had friends who want to be rock stars. I give them the reality, and they don’t listen. OK, so if you’re at that point, where you’re not going to listen to anyone who tells you not to get into it, then I guess the best advice is to not get discouraged. Really work hard, if you’re going to work on an instrument. It’s easy to get discouraged, but just be obsessed.

Another thing is to network. You think someone’s going to just take care of you. You’re going to reach a certain point, and everything’s going to be taken care of, and you don’t have to worry about a thing. Going back to my daughter’s friend. “I can’t wait until I get to the point where all I do is play music, and I’m a big star.” And I said, look, if you’re lucky enough to get to that point, you’re going to be dealing with so many things that don’t have to do with music, like business, doing interviews, organizing things, traveling, you know? It’s not what you think it is. It’s good stuff, you just have to learn how to do it.

So, yeah, networking, work on your craft, and remember you’re an entrepreneur, because nobody’s going to do it for you. Even if you’re on a major label, you have to make things happen. I’ve learned that as a sideman. Especially when the economy started to tank. There isn’t anyone who’s going to save you, there’s no one that’s just going to offer you a gig. You have to get together with other people, either organize something yourself or with other people, and make something happen. So that’s all the advice I can give.

It’s a tough business. I’m one of the lucky ones. I never made it rich, but I’ve made a living. I know I can’t retire, but it keeps me on my toes. People are envious of what I do, and I’m thankful for what I’ve had.

Tell those kids [who might be reading this], they just have to be stupid. They just have to be stubborn and stupid. And they’ll probably do OK.

JM: If I recall correctly, John [Doe] said the same thing.

DJB: I stole it from him. Steal things from the greats [laughs].

JM: That’s another good bit of advice…

For full interview with DJ Bonebrake, click here.

Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin first received acclaim in L.A. roots rockers The Blasters, for which has was the primary songwriter, and whose revved up take on rhythm and blues won favor in the early-80’s punk rock scene and beyond. After a short stint with country-punkers The Knitters and punk-rockers X, Alvin launched his highly-regarded solo career which continues to this day. Alvin’s latest album, Eleven Eleven, came out in 2011.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dave Alvin: Quit. [laughs]

JM: But you just told me how great it is to be on the road…

DA: My answer was partially humorous, and partially serious out of a business side of things. The music industry has changed so much. It was always tough, and it’s only gotten tougher. I’m a very lucky guy. I’m a very fortunate exception to the rules, in that so many of my peers and friends of mine can no longer tour. They won’t make records. The fact that after thirty years I’m still making records and touring never ceases to astound me. Not to sound religious, but I’m very blessed. I’m very lucky because of that. And partially that’s because of who my heroes were growing up, the guys we were talking about earlier, Big Joe and T-Bone and Lightnin’ and whoever, who didn’t quit. It wasn’t even a lifestyle, it was just life. You just played music.

Which brings me to my actual answer to your question. Whatever you’re doing musically, do it out of love. As cornball as that sounds, it’s true. That’s the only thing that will get you through playing on a Sunday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in a snowstorm. That love of music is the only thing that gets you through. Beer will help. A pretty girl in the crowd will help. But it’s really love.

I love playing music, this is what I do. I’m playing music, I’m lucky to be playing music. If you do it for love, that’ll inform the choices you make, whether you’re going to make that change, you know, stop playing Chicago blues and start playing Euro-techno music [laughs]. Well, I love playing Chicago blues – I think I’ll stick to that. You may find out that you have a longer career following your heart’s desire than the desires of the marketplace.

For the full interview with Dave Alvin, click here.

Phil Alvin, John Bazz

The first album by The Blasters came out way back in 1980, and their revved up take on rhythm and blues won favor in that era’s Los Angeles punk rock scene and beyond. Their follow-up albums came out on the legendary Slash Records label, and they shared the bill with bands including X, Black Flag, Fear, The Go-Go’s, The Cramps, and, curiously, Queen.

Lead singer Phil Alvin, bassist John Bazz, and drummer Bill Bateman continued to carry the Blasters torch after Phil’s brother – and the band’s primary songwriter and lead guitarist – Dave left the band in 1986 for a solo career.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Phil Alvin: [long pause] Learn to do well. That’s good advice in any field.

John Bazz: Don’t give up. You know, follow your heart, but don’t give up. Because it’s really easy to get discouraged, I think.

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins was the frontman for seminal hardcore punk band Black Flag from 1981 to 1986 – a period which included their acclaimed album Damaged. After that band broke up, he formed the Rollins Band. He also tours as a spoken word artist, and has acted in various movies and television shows including FX’s Sons of Anarchy.

Jeff Moehlis What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Henry Rollins: My advice isn’t all that much to write home about. All I know is what I went through. I don’t know if it’s of any use. I say one must work really hard, harder than they have worked on anything in their lives. Total commitment, that’s the only way. To the point of obsession and losing all your friends. This, to me is the way to do it, all the way or not at all. I never had any talent, just determination.

Victor Krummenacher

Victor Krummenacher is a founding member and bass player for the eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven. Their first album Telephone Free Landslide Victory came out in 1985, and includes such classic songs as “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon”, “Where the Hell is Bill?”, the Black Flag cover “Wasted”, and “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. They released four more acclaimed albums before burning out: the independently-released II & III and self-titled Camper Van Beethoven, and the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. The band re-formed at the end of the end of the 1990’s, and has released several more albums, with a new one coming out in January 2013. Krummenacher has also been in the bands Monks of Doom and Cracker. (Jason Thrasher photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Victor Krummenacher: One, make sure you’ve got something else that you can do that you can make money doing, at all times. Two, be realistic about what music is to people these days, and understand it’s a hard game, and that you might not get in fact what you want. Protect your music and your muse at all costs. Don’t give it away. The only way you’re going to make anything unique and soulful is to be completely true to what your vision is. Maybe it’ll translate, and maybe it won’t, but if you don’t do that then I think you don’t have a chance. Don’t do it just to do something else. Do it because you need to do it.

For the full interview with Victor Krummenacher, click here

David Lowery

David Lowery is a founding and continous member of the eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven, to which he contributes vocals and guitar. Camper Van Beethoven’s first album Telephone Free Landslide Victory came out in 1985, and includes such classic songs as “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon”, “Where the Hell is Bill?”, the Black Flag cover “Wasted”, and “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. They released four more acclaimed albums before burning out, the independently-released II & III and self-titled Camper Van Beethoven, and the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. The band reformed at the end of the end of the 1990’s, and has released several more albums, with a new one coming out in January 2013.

Lowery also co-founded the popular alt-rock band Cracker, whose songs include “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, “Low” and “Euro-Trash Girl”. (Jason Thrasher photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Lowery: Play what you want, rather than what other people want.

Jonathan Segel

Multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Segel is a member of the eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven. He was in the band for their first album Telephone Free Landslide Victory, which came out in 1985 and includes such classic songs as “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon”, “Where the Hell is Bill?”, the Black Flag cover “Wasted”, and “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. He also appeared on the independently-released II & III and self-titled Camper Van Beethoven, but not for the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. Segel has been back with the band since they reformed at the end of the end of the 1990’s. He has also played with Sparklehorse and Eugene Chadbourne. (Jason Thrasher photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jonathan Segel: Don’t quit your day job. Shit, I don’t know man.

JM: You aren’t the first to say that.

JS: It depends on what kind of music they’re into, and what they do. I’d say just make sure that you are making the music that you want to make, not somebody else’s idea of what’s good.

Greg Lisher

Greg Lisher is the lead guitarist for the eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven. He has been with the band since their second album II & III, including for the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. Lisher is also the lead guitarist for Monks of Doom. (Jason Thrasher photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Greg Lisher: What is it they do?

JM: Say an eighteen year old kid who plays guitar.

GL: Take lessons. Go to school. Practice like four hours a day. That’s what I did. And train your ear.

Davey Faragher

Bassist Davey Faragher was a co-founder of the band Cracker, whose songs include “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, “Low”, and “Euro-Trash Girl”, the last two of which he co-wrote. He went on to join John Hiatt’s band, and since 2001 has been in Elvis Costello’s backing band The Imposters. As a session musician, he has recorded with David Crosby, The Monkees (on their 1986 reunion album Pool It!), Wanda Jackson, Dusty Springfield, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, and many more.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Davey Faragher: [dramatic whistle] You better love it. If you love it, you’ll figure out a way. There’s no tried and true, you know? Just get good! Get good and hope for the best!

Sam Coomes

Sam Coomes sings, plays guitar, keyboards, and whatever else might be laying around for Portland-based indie rock veterans Quasi, who have been cranking out remarkable music, that has unjustly flown under the radar, for two decades. Back to their roots as a two-piece – Coomes with ex-wife Janet Weiss on drums – they recently released an adventurous double album called Mole City which straddles the pop, indie, and avant rock universes.

While Quasi has been active, both principals have also made marks on other projects, Weiss as drummer for riot grrrl notables Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and Coomes as a guest with Built to Spill and with the late, great Elliott Smith both in the alt rock band Heatmiser and in his solo career. Along the way, Quasi backed Smith on some of his tours.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Sam Coomes: I don’t think musicians need musical advice typically. But I will say that the biggest trap nowadays is the pressure to sell out your music & ideals to commercial concerns. In the pre-internet era, it was possible for non-mainstream bands to tour & tour & even make a little money from album sales & scratch out a living, but it’s more difficult to do these days. So many bands feel like licensing their songs to ad agencies & corporate commercials is the way make a few bucks. This to me just ruins the music – there is such an excess of commercialism & boring professionalism, & such a lack of character & subversion in rock & roll these days… my advice would be to formulate some real ideals & stick to them, then your work as a musician can have real value, beyond just dollars & cents.

For full interview with Sam Coomes, click here.

Janet Weiss

Janet Weiss played drums for riot grrrl notables Sleater-Kinney, beginning with their acclaimed 1997 album Dig Me Out. The band is currently on hiatus, with their last release being 2005’s The Woods. Weiss has also been the drummer for Wild Flag and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and continues to be the drummer for Portland-based indie rock veterans Quasi, which has been cranking out remarkable music for two decades. Back to their roots as a two-piece with Weiss and Sam Coomes, Quasi recently released an adventurous double album called Mole City which straddles the pop, indie, and avant rock universes.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Janet Weiss: Don’t take no shit. Grow a thick skin. You’ll need it.

Jack Grisham

Jack Grisham is the lead singer for T.S.O.L., which stands for True Sounds of Liberty and along with Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Social Distortion was at the forefront of the L.A. hard-core punk movement in the early 1980’s. Their early sound evolved from anti-government hardcore punk, to goth punk, to art punk. Grisham left T.S.O.L. in 1983, but returned in 1999. In 2003, he ran for governor of California in the recall election. Grisham lost the election, and still tours with T.S.O.L.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jack Grisham: Shit man, I mean I ruined my life doing this.

No, I mean, I do it for fun. The minute it becomes work then it’s a drag, you know what I’m saying? Because if this was a real job, it sucks. And we’re successful. You know what I’m saying? Most people aren’t successful. We’re always broke, you never know where the money’s coming from. Totally unstable, you’re away from your family all the time.

It’s rough. If we’re going on tour, we only tour ten days in a row, or two weeks in a row. Because I was in Germany, and my kid called me crying, and she’s like, “Dad, I need you.” And I thought, I’m fucking three days from even getting home to you. That was the last straw. The minute she said she needs me, and I couldn’t get home, I said I’ll never be where I can’t get to my kid within a day. So that’s it.

And all the rest is bullshit, you know?

Ron Emory

Ron Emory is the guitarist for T.S.O.L., which stands for True Sounds of Liberty and along with Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Social Distortion was at the forefront of the L.A. hard-core punk movement in the early 1980’s. Their early sound evolved from anti-government hardcore punk, to goth punk, to art punk. Emory stayed on for a while as the band transitioned to glam metal, and he and the band have since returned to their punk rock roots.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ron Emory: Just learn everything you can about it. Have fun with it.

Rick Wilder

Rick Wilder is the frontman for The Mau Maus, a legendary late-1970′s / early 1980′s L.A. punk rock band that recently reformed and released the album Scorched Earth Policies: Then and Now, which includes songs recorded in 1983 with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and new recordings from 2011. Before The Mau Maus, Wilder fronted the proto-punk band Berlin Brats. (L. Paul Mann photo)

For interview with Rick Wilder, click here.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Rick Wilder: Get out there! Stop fucking with your machine [computer] and get out there!

Scott “Chopper” Franklin

Scott “Chopper” Franklin plays bass guitar for the legendary L.A. punk rock band The Mau Maus, and has also recorded and toured with The Joneses, The Cramps, and Charley Horse. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Scott “Chopper” Franklin: I would just say, make sure you love to do it. I mean, it’s cliche, but it’s important to make sure you love to do it.

Michael Livingston

Michael Livingston plays guitar for the legendary L.A. punk rock band The Mau Maus, and has also recorded and toured with The Livingstons. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Michael Livingston: Keep playing. I find that I’m happy when I play music, and I’m not happy when I don’t play music. You’ve gotta worry about the money, but if you have to play and not make any money, you still have to play.

Paul “Black” Mars

Paul “Black” Mars plays drums for the legendary L.A. punk rock band The Mau Maus. He also was lead vocalist for an early version of L.A. Guns, co-writing many of the songs on that band’s first album; however, he left the band before the album was recorded. Mars also played with The Joneses and Black Cherry. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Paul “Black” Mars: Practice. Practice, practice, practice.

You just need to have an intolerance to repetition. Listen to all of the bands that you like, and imitate, and keep playing along with them. And then eventually try to branch out and develop your own style.

Merle Allin

Merle Allin is the bass player for the Murder Junkies, a punk rock band best known as the last group to back Merle’s younger brother GG Allin, who died of a heroin overdose in 1993. With GG, they recorded the album Brutality and Bloodshed for All, and toured whenever GG wasn’t in prison. A snapshot of the feces- and violence-filled chaos brought on by GG Allin & the Murder Junkies is captured in the acclaimed documentary Hated, which isn’t for the light hearted.

In the post-GG era, the Murder Junkies have continued their punk rock mayhem with 1995’s Feed My Sleaze, 2011’s Road Killer, and 2013’s A Killing Tradition.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Merle Allin: [after a rant] I would tell a band today, if you really want to be in a band, find some fucking dedicated people and work your ass off, and promote yourself and get out there and do whatever you’ve got to fucking do to play shows. Do your own thing. Don’t fucking listen to what everybody else is doing, or what you think you should do. Do your own fucking thing. That’s the problem, there aren’t enough original bands out there anymore. Everybody sounds the same.

For the full interview with Merle Allin, including his rant, click here.

Donald “Dino Sex” Sachs

Dino Sex is the drummer for the Murder Junkies, a punk rock band best known as the last group to back GG Allin, who died of a heroin overdose in 1993. With GG, they recorded the album Brutality and Bloodshed for All, and toured whenever GG wasn’t in prison. A snapshot of the feces- and violence-filled chaos brought on by GG Allin & the Murder Junkies is captured in the acclaimed documentary Hated, which isn’t for the light hearted.

In the post-GG era, the Murder Junkies have continued their punk rock mayhem with 1995’s Feed My Sleaze, 2011’s Road Killer, and 2013’s A Killing Tradition.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Donald “Dino Sex” Sachs: Always practice hard and study your instrument, and never quit playing. It’ll pay off in the long run. At nine years old, when I chose to play drums, I knew what I was going to do with my life. As long as I’m physically able, I’ll always keep drumming.

Dannis and Bobby Hackney, from Death

Death was a proto-punk band from Detroit which released only one single while they were together, but has since gained acclaim thanks to the 2009 Drag City album called …For the Whole World to See consisting of their 1975 demos, and a 2012 documentary titled A Band Called Death. Drag City released more demos in 2011 on an album called Spiritual • Mental • Physical. The original band was made up of brothers Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney. David died in 2000, and the band later reformed with Bobbie Duncan on guitar. (Photo L-R: David, Bobby, and Dannis)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dannis Hackney: If you write anything, never throw it away. And keep the faith.

Bobby Hackney: Yeah, never give up.

DH: ‘Cause no matter how long it takes, it’ll happen.

BH: I would just say never give up. Wow! Just hold onto your dreams, man. Hold onto them. And hold onto your tapes.

Bruce Kulick

Bruce Kulick played guitar for Kiss from 1984 to 1996, and is on the albums Asylum, Crazy Nights, Hot in the Shade, Revenge, and Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions. He holds the distinction of being the only longtime Kiss bandmember who never wore makeup. Since 2001, he has been the lead guitarist for Grank Funk Railroad. He has also played with Meat Loaf, Billy Squire, and Michael Bolton.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bruce Kulick: Follow your heart, and try to learn from the people you love. But do it your way.

Chris Geddes

Belle and Sebastian’s early days are legendary. The Scottish indie pop band quickly recorded their first album Tigermilk in Glasgow in 1996 as part of the yearly project for a music business course at Stow College, pressing 1000 vinyl copies which they could barely give away.

But the law of supply and demand kicked in as interest in the band grew, thanks to the popularity of their follow-up If You’re Feeling Sinister which had a much wider release, and copies of Tigermilk started commanding prices in the hundreds of pounds. Meanwhile, the band laid low, with singer and main songwriter Stuart Murdoch refusing to do interviews for years. But the buzz continued to build, and the band cracked into the American market.

Fast-forwarding to the present, Belle and Sebastian has by now released eight albums and loads of EPs and singles, with their music drawing favorable comparisons to notables such as The Smiths, The Velvet Underground, and Nick Drake.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chris Geddes: If it was to be something that was directly applicable to my own career, it would be to hook up with the best songwriter in your city, and persuade them that you can bring something to their band.

I guess it feels for me in the band’s career that there’s just been so much luck involved. All you can really do is do your own thing, and try and do something that you think is good. And you kind of hope that if you’re doing something that you think is good, then your taste is not so way out that there won’t be other people that like it as well.

For me, I feel like I’ve gotten a fantastically lucky break by meeting Stuart at the time I did, when he had these songs ready to go, and was looking to have a band. I was just kind of lucky that I could play a bit and have the right sort of flexibility to be in his band. I liked enough of the same kind of music as he did to have a rough idea what he was trying to do, and I was able to make a contribution to that.

For full interview with Chris Geddes, click here

Michael Andrews

Multi-instrumentalist/singer/composer Michael Andrews recently released the wonderful album Spilling A Rainbow, which was inspired by him becoming a first-time father and features lush sounds, creative arrangements, and thoughtful lyrics. Andrews is best known for his work on movie soundtracks, most famously that for Donnie Darko which included a cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” that became the Christmas Number One single in Britain in 2003. He has also contributed to the soundtracks for movies including Bridesmaids, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and Paris, je t’aime, and the television show Freaks and Geeks. Andrews has also released albums with The Greyboy Allstars, and has produced albums for Inara George and Metric. (Laura Heffington photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Michael Andrews: Don’t expect things to happen the way you expect.

For the full interview with Michael Andrews, click here.

Joey Burns

Joey Burns is the co-founder, singer, guitarist, and one of the principal songwriters for Calexico, a Tuscon, Arizona-based band which blends Americana and Mexican influences. Notable albums by Calexico include 1998’s The Black Light, 2003’s Feast of Wire, and 2008’s Carried to Dust, and they recently toured in support of Arcade Fire.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Joey Burns: Patience. Patience for your inner critic, and patience on all those around you who are encouraging and inspiring you to be a musician. And I guess just be kind of open and travel as much as you can.

Dallas Good

Dallas Good is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for The Sadies, a Toronto-based psychedelic/surf/country rock/garage band that he leads along with his brother Travis, who plays lead guitar and adds exquisite harmonies. They have released multiple acclaimed albums since their 1998 debut, and have worked with notable artists including Neko Case, Jon Langford, and John Doe.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Dallas Good: Only play music you like. That seems like a really stupid, obvious answer, but it’s really easy to get into a situation where you’re playing songs that are like, “I know that he likes this one, but…”

Another answer: we have a song that we wrote with Jon Langford [from The Mekons] that sums it up pretty well: “Get the money and don’t leave anything behind” [laughs].

Chris Lynch

The Santa Barbara-based band Gardens & Villa has taken off in the American Riviera and beyond with their intelligent synth-driven indie pop. Career highlights so far include their acclaimed 2011 self-titled album and a coveted spot at the Mojave Tent at Coachella in 2012. Their second album, Dunes, will be released on February 4, 2014.

Jeff Moehlis:What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chris Lynch: Take the plunge. You have to jump out of the nest to see if you can really fly. Take a risk and go for it if you really think music is what you want to do.

By this I mean put songs up and play some gigs! If you really want to give it a try go on tour! We booked our first two tours. They were complete shit and we lost money, but they made us hungry and lit the fires that are still burning.

For the full interview with Chris Lynch, click here.

Connor Martin


Con Bro Chill‘s publicist describes the band as “LMFAO meets Cobra Starship”, and even if that doesn’t mean anything to you, you owe it to yourself to check out their infectious music and hilarious videos. Start with their latest, “Partied Out” or “We Should Hang Out”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Connor Martin: It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll. We always joke about that on the road when we play shows for 20 people, but it’s not a lie. It’s a hard industry so make sure you’re doing it because you love it and it’s fun. Chances are it will not pay off financially. So get over that and start living!!!

For the full interview with Connor Martin, click here.

Michael Chapman

Michael Chapman is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist who has recorded over thirty albums, including 1970’s Fully Qualified Survivor which is considered to be a British folk-rock classic. His guitar playing has been compared favorably to that of John Fahey and Roy Harper.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Michael Chapman: Stick at it. Don’t the bastards grind you down. Nil carborundum bastardum. It you want to do it, do it. Don’t let them put you off. Sometimes are better than other. You’ve got to take the thick with the thin. I’ve been on the road 45 years, some are great and some are not so great. You just keep on going.

Russell Ferrante

Russell Ferrante is best known as the pianist and co-founder of the fusion band Yellowjackets. Before that, he toured with Jimmy Witherspoon and Joni Mitchell. He has also written with and produced records for Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, and Rita Coolidge.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Russell Ferrante: Play with musicians that are better than you are. I think that’s how you learn and grow. Get a great teacher, too.

Jimmy Haslip

Jimmy Haslip is best known as the bass guitarist and co-founder of the fusion band Yellowjackets. He has also worked with other artists including Bruce Hornsby, Rita Coolidge, Tommy Bolin, Alan Holdsworth, Donald Fagen, and Kiss.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jimmy Haslip: First of all, find something that really inspires you – whether it’s music, art, sculpture – something that will inspire you to go and practice. And study as much as you can about as many different kinds of music as you possibly can. Just make sure you find some way to self-motivate yourself, so that you’re not staring at the walls someday thinking, “What am I gonna do next?” There has to be some inner fire that all of us have. You’ve got to find that inner fire. Once you find that, I think then the self-motivation just comes along with it. So finding that, and being motivated, practicing as much as you can, and trying to learn all that you can about all kinds of music – that’s my advice. And when you do that, then that will prepare you for any kind of gig or situation, experience, whatever, you’ll be prepared to jump in there and do a good job.

Eddie Tuduri

Eddie Tuduri is a drummer who has toured and/or recorded with Delaney Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock, The Beach Boys, Rick Nelson, Jim Messina, Dr. John, Ike Turner, Johnny Rivers, and many others. After a 1997 surfing accident, Tuduri founded The Rhythmic Arts Project, which integrates drums into the treatment and education of children with developmental disabilites.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Eddie Tuduri: Take lessons, find a good teacher. Don’t start playing without direction. I studied when I was a kid – when I was twelve, I learned how to read music, I learned the rudiments. It’s very important find a good teacher, so you don’t start off with bad habits.

Brute Force

Brute Force is the recording/performance name of Stephen Friedland. Friedland was a member of The Tokens in the mid-1960’s, and composed songs recorded by The Tokens, The Creation, Cyrkle, and The Chiffons. In 1967, his bizarrely brilliant solo album I, Brute Force, Confections of Love was released, including songs such as “To Sit on a Sandwich” and “Tapeworm of Love”. He is best known for the 1969 single “King of Fuh”, which was admired by George Harrison and John Lennon and was released on Apple Records. Unfortunately, Captiol/EMI refused to distribute this single because some of the lyrics sounded like profanity. Confections of Love was recently re-released on CD, with “King of Fuh” as one of the bonus tracks.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter and/or musician?

Brute Force: Listen to music of the world. Here and There. Learn something to know you can make money, because making money in the arts is not that easy as picking up a consistent paycheck. If you have to make a choice between a day job and dying for your art it’s probably a happier choice to keep the day job. Be kind to yourself for you are the greatest ally you have. That means realizing what a powerhouse you are and how your body is very sensitive to substances which enter into your body.

You may wish to do drugs. If you’re a singer you ought to know that smoke dries the throat. Your consciousness is far superior without drugs. It is what you are prior to any drug.

Remember when Dorothy, Toto, and her three friends walked thru a field of poppies? They fell asleep! Well, making it in life is a good deal more successful when you’re awake.

You don’t have to know a lick of formal music training to be a songwriter, yet it couldn’t hurt to learn notation, how to play keyboard, or guitar, or instrument of your choice. Take vocal lessons. Learn networking in the arts. Remember that if you are looking to make it in show business that it is 2 words…”show” and “business”.

[later] I would add, belief in oneself, maintaining health and Spiritual Reality.

For full interview with Brute Force, click here.

Mark Tulin

Mark Tulin was the bass guitar player for The Electric Prunes, which is best known for 1966’s psychedelic garage-rock classic single “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night),” the lead track on the highly-regarded Nuggets collection compiled in 1972 by Lenny Kaye. The Prunes’ original line-up also released 1968’s psych obscurity Mass in F Minor, a Catholic mass, sung in Latin, composed by music producer/arranger/composer David Axelrod – the track “Kyrie Eleison” from this album was on the soundtrack for the generation-defining movie Easy Rider. Tulin passed away on February 26, 2011.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give an aspiring musician?

Mark Tulin: I think there’s two things. One is, you’d better love the process. Because if you don’t love the process, no success makes up for not loving what you’re doing. Especially in art of any form. Because at the end you’re left with your process. And you find that as nice it is that people like what you, if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing there’s an empty space somewhere.

And the other thing is, don’t give up. At any age. I think the shame is that my generation took their guitars and put them in the garage, and never picked them up again. I’m a firm believer in dreams, and that dreams come true. And what I think we said on one our newer albums is that dreams never quit. You quit on them. They never give up. So love what you’re doing, and do it.

And keep in mind that someone not liking you is an opinion, not a statement of fact. It’s just somebody’s opinion. And it can be a very high-ranking opinion. If I play a track and Bono goes, “I hate what you just did,” that’s his opinion. So that’s it. I just think it’s internal faith, that is what it basically comes down to.

For full interview with Mark Tulin, click here.

Ian Underwood

Ian Underwood is a multi-instrumentalist who played on classic Frank Zappa albums including Hot Rats and We’re Only In In For The Money. Check out his woodwind playing in “Peaches En Regalia”, which just might give you goosebumps. He later contributed to recordings by Quincy Jones, Barbara Streisand, and many others. He also played on the soundtracks of Blade Runner, Aliens, and Titanic.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give an aspiring musician?

Ian Underwood: I would just say do what you want to do. There isn’t any one thing. There’s no path in the arts. I don’t think there is any one way to do it. The main thing is knowing what you want to do, and applying yourself and saying, “That’s what I’m putting my energy into”.

A lot of times people do that just because they can’t do anything else. I mean, Frank [Zappa] would be useless without doing what he did. And that would apply to a lot of other people. It’s not like, “I could do this or I could have a dry cleaning store. Let’s see, which will I do. If I had a dry cleaning store I’d be making money and supporting my family. Yeah, I think I won’t do music, I’ll do a dry cleaning store.”

But it never works out that way. Because people that do it at any level, you know that’s kind of up there, they’re prisoners of their own brain. They’re complete prisoners of their own brain. That’s it. You could say lots of words to it, but it amounts to just being… I mean, it’s not a bad thing to be a prisoner that way. Everybody lives in their own mind, and you have to just see what the result of that is. If somebody wants to do it, I would always encourage anybody to follow whatever is in their mind, music or something else. But music, absolutely.

Billy Cox

Billy Cox is best known as a bassist who played with Jimi Hendrix, first in the early 1960’s when they were in the army together, and later in the Band Of Gypsys and in Hendrix’s Gypsy Sun and Rainbows at Woodstock. He is the last surviving member of Hendrix’s core bands The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band of Gypsys. He is currently part of the Experience Hendrix tribute tour. Photo taken by L. Paul Mann.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Billy Cox: Keep practicing. In order to be good you have to love something greater than you love yourself. If you love that music greater than you love yourself, you gotta be successful. That’s the key. [Hendrix and I] knew we were getting good and getting better, it was just a matter of someone discovering us. He got discovered first, before me [laughs].

Jim Kweskin / Geoff Muldaur

When the Jim Kweskin Jug Band formed in 1963, they breathed new life into the jug band music genre whose heyday had been several decades earlier. In the process, they inspired many bands including the Grateful Dead and the Lovin’ Spoonful, played several times at the Newport Folk Festival, and had a helluva lot of fun.

After the Jim Kweskin Jug Band broke up in the late 1960’s, Muldaur played with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, and contributed to recordings for a number of notable artists. Both Kweskin and Muldaur have also released various solo albums over the years, and in recent years they have resumed performing together.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Geoff Muldaur: Stop copying. If you don’t have your own thing, get a real job.

Jim Kweskin: Don’t follow anyone’s rules.

For full interview with Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur, click here

Chris Pinnick


There are a number of musicians who might not be household names, but have been instrumental (pun intended) to the music that we have known and loved over the years. A great example is Chris Pinnick, who from 1980-85 played guitar with Chicago, an era that included monster hits like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, “You’re the Inspiration”, “Hard Habit to Break”, and “Stay the Night”. And lest we think that Chicago went completely soft during that time period, check out this YouTube clip from 1984 with Pinnick on guitar.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Chris Pinnick: Well [laughs], boy thats a rough one nowadays because the business is so, so different. The basics are still: learn your instrument, learn how to read, be prepared for anything they might throw at you. But also be prepared for long haul, because when I grew up playing here in the Valley and doing gigs, there were a lot of gigs, there was enough for everybody. Now, it’s pretty tight. I feel bad for some of the up and coming musicians, you know, because they might be better of moving out of California. Because California, well, L.A. I should say, is just, music-wise, is not what it was, let’s put it that way.

But just like any other field of work, you have to be good and better than anybody else, or as far as your knowledge, you have to be able to play in all situations. Unless you’re a band, then that’s a different story, but as far as just like how I grew up, I’ve always been a side-man, so that meant I had to know how to play country and jazz and rock and folk and anything that came along. And the more versatile you are the more gigs you get.

But I do kind of feel bad for the players now cause there’s not as much work as there used to be, so it’s much much tighter. It’s harder to get into, that sort of thing. It’s a little different business nowadays.

For the full interview with Chris Pinnick, click here

Kevin Barnes

Kevin Barnes is the mastermind behind the indie pop band of Montreal, which got its start as part of the Elephant 6 collective that spawned other notable bands including Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and The Apples in Stereo. The latest addition to the band’s diverse catalog is last year’s Lousy With Sylvianbrian, which tilts in a more straightforward rock direction, making it arguably one of the band’s most accessible recordings.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Kevin Barnes: The only thing I can really say is to believe in yourself. If you receive fulfillment from the creative process, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re bad or that you’re wasting your time or that you should focusing on something else. If that’s the thing that you love the most in life, then just do it and don’t worry about how it’s perceived by the outside world.

It’s almost like an affliction. If you’re passionate about something that doesn’t really help you, it doesn’t help you pay the bills or whatever, but it’s your main obsession in life and you can’t do anything else… I think of all these people like Philip K. Dick, for example, eating dog food in some shed just because he can’t really do anything but write. In a way, it’s like an affliction, because he’d be better off, not the world would be better off, but he’d be better off at a personal level if he gave up writing and became an accountant or something. You know, more dependable work, more consistent income. But there’s a lot of people like that. I just finished reading this Malcom Lowry book Under the Volcano, and he had a pretty crazy, self-destructive life. Terrible alcoholism and madness and all that. There’s so many people like that, but their work is just so fantastic and timeless, and it still touches people decades later. So it’s kind of a trade-off.

Advice for an aspiring artist? There’s no advice, really. You do it as long as you want to do it, and as long as you get some fulfillment from it. When you stop, then you stop.

For the full interview with Kevin Barnes, click here.

Will Cullen Hart

Will Cullen Hart is a co-founder of the Elephant 6 Collective of musicians. He has written and performed songs for The Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory Systems. Hart is also a visual artist, and created much of the the album artwork for these bands.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Will Cullen Hart: Listen to your heart. Even if somebody says it could be better this way, you’re probably right in your heart. That’s really it. That’s what I did. Even if it’s out of fashion, go for it. If you feel like it’s right, then it’s right.

Scott Spillane

Scott Spillane is a member of the Elephant 6 Collective of musicians. He played horns and helped with horn arrangements on the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, wrote “The Fool” from that album, and is frontman for the band The Gerbils.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Scott Spillane: Listen – really listen – to what you’re playing. That’s number one. And kill your babies.

JM: What do you mean by that?

SS: Edit yourself. Don’t be afraid to edit yourself.

Julian Koster

Julian Koster is a member of the Elephant 6 Collective of musicians. He played saw, banjo, and accordian on the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. He is also the leader of the band The Music Tapes.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Julian Koster: Belief and faith. And then more belief and then more faith. And then more belief and then more faith and then more belief and then more faith and then more belief and then more faith.

It’s just there’s so much that’s required to do anything that is truly and sincerely heartfelt. It requires a constant, massive amount of faith and belief. And over, and over, and over again.

Bert Lams

Bert Lams is a guitarist extraordinaire from Brussels, Belgium who is best known as a composer and performer for the California Guitar Trio, which in addition to original compositions plays covers ranging from “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “Pipeline” to “Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor”. He was also part of Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists and the Robert Fripp String Quintet.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bert Lams: Wow, there’s lots of things here. From my own experience, I can say that I learned a lot by finding somebody with experience, to share that with me. So I was lucky enough to find some good teachers, and that’s really important. Genius is not that common, so most of us need to stand on the shoulders of others.

JM: Was that [Robert] Fripp for you?

BL: It’s been different people, it’s been different people all through my life. It can be someone who you’re a fan of, who you listen to the music of and imitate all the licks of. But ideally it’s someone that’s there for you.

That’s one thing. If it’s younger people, if they’re very young, if they’re like teenagers, I always recommend that they just go and play with their friends. That’s how it happened for me, playing with other people as a teenager. That kind of opened me up.

Paul Richards

Paul Richards, from Salt Lake City, Utah, is also a guitarist extraordinaire who composes and performs with the California Guitar Trio, and was part of Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists and the Robert Fripp String Quintet.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Paul Richards: The thing that worked the best for us was to find a way to do it ourselves. Because you can’t rely on the elusive record deal, especially now that all the record companies are struggling. So if you can find a way to do things on your own as much as possible, that’s one of the best things. In the beginning we booked our own gigs, we did our own recordings at home, you know, bought good equipment and found ways to good quality recordings and found a way to promote ourselves, all without having to rely on somebody else. So that’s a big part of it.

The other thing is, it took us eight years of constant work to get to the point where we could start to make any money playing music. Some bands can go much quicker than other bands. First we started in L.A. and then we started going beyond L.A. and then beyond California and just gradually expanded. And then we did a whole tour at Borders Bookstores [JM saw them at Borders in Palo Alto way back then] and found other things we could do that weren’t reliant on a big promotional unit. They were things that we could do ourselves.

You know, first of all we could get ten people to come, then maybe twenty people, and then fifty people, and then once we could show an agency that we could sell a few tickets then we got a good agency. I don’t think you need a manager, I don’t think you need a record company, but an agency helps you get good gigs. And you can probably do that on your own, too, but for us that’s the thing that makes the most sense, and it works well for us. An agency typically takes 15%, but for the amount of work that they do, 15% is well worth it. And a good agent will have a lot of connections to venues, to places like McCabe’s where we’re playing tomorrow. On our own we had tried to play McCabe’s for years and years and years, and they never had us until our agency finally had a connection and had some other artists who had played there. Then they got us in the door there. So I think an agency is key. But beyond an agency, doing things on your own is one of the best things that you can do.

John Kadlecik

John Kadlecik (pronounced Kad-le-sik) is the lead guitarist for Furthur, the band which is keeping the music of the Grateful Dead alive thanks to original Dead band members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, and Kadlecik’s Jerry Garcia-inspired guitar explorations.

Before joining Furthur, Kadlecik played in Dark Star Orchestra, which was notable – and quite popular – for covering full Grateful Dead setlists from throughout that band’s history. And before that, Kadlecik was a member of various bands including Uncle John’s Band, Wingnut, and Hairball Willie, the latter of which I can personally attest to having put on a great show in Ames, Iowa back in the early 1990’s. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

John Kadlecik: Well, the only good reason to make art is because you have to. Everyone has the perks that they appreciate in different proportions, but people who are focused exclusively on that, whose idea is to make a living at it or getting fans or attention or girls or money or whatever… The only good reason to make art is because you have to, or are compelled to.

With that being said, I would really just be paraphrasing Jerry Garcia from one of my favorite quotes of his. The three things a musician really needs to get them where they most likely can hang, maybe not make it as a rock star but at least be able to take music as a profession. Have something to say as an artist, is one. Two, have enough skills, or develop the skills you need to say what you need to say. Which is more important than, I think, making some sort of hypothetical technical standard. You know, if a punk rocker only needs to know one or two bar chords to get their music out, then that’s all they need. You don’t need to be able to play like Al Di Meola [laughs]. But they need to know those three chords, and at least get the guitar somewhat in tune, right [laughs]? And then the third thing is to be able to get along with other musicians. If you can get those three things down, you have got a pretty good shot, at least, of living a life as a musician. Not necessarily as a famous musician, which is really kind of like winning the lottery, in a lot of ways. But you get a chance to get your art out and live the life of an artist.

For the full interview with John Kadlecik, click here.

Seymour Duncan

Seymour Duncan is the co-founder of the company that shares his name and for 35 years has been making guitar pickups, which convert the mechanical vibrations of a string into an electrical signal that can be amplified. Duncan’s pickups give guitarists some of the finest tones in rock ‘n’ roll, and have been used by artists such as Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, Slash and Joe Satriani. Duncan is also a fine guitarist himself, playing in the Santa Barbara band Flatfoot Joe. (Photo: L. Paul Mann)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Seymour Duncan: It’s best to be very patient, and really believe in what you believe in. Just do it. Just be out there and do it. Don’t let anybody discourage you. Everybody’s different. Everybody has their own soul and their own creativity, and I believe in that. Be your own, and go out there, and just really do it, it’s so important.

For me it’s important to try to help other kids. I got helped by Les Paul, Jeff Beck, The Ventures, they’ve all helped me by asking questions. You know, I want to be there for younger kids, too. I want to try to be a good inspiration for them.

Nolan Gasser

Nolan Gasser is an acclaimed composer, with compositions including American Festivals and two pieces written for NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. He is also the Chief Musicologist for Pandora Media, Inc., which provides the popular Pandora Radio streaming music service; he is the architect of all five Music Genomes (Pop/Rock, Jazz, Hip-Hop/Electronica, World Music, and Classical). Moreover, he is the Artistic Director of Classical Archives which is the web’s largest classical music site.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician/composer?

Nolan Gasser: There are four essentials to building a career as a musician, but I think they apply elsewhere.

You have to have natural talent. You have to be honest with yourself about if you have enough natural talent that’s going to make you stand out in a crowd, and be able to be employable. You have to work hard, because music, like everything else, if you have the audacity to think that you can become a composer, well good luck, buddy. Because there’s been so many geniuses, so many people that you’d be lucky to carry their water. So you just have to work so hard to be the best you can be.

The third thing is you have to be lucky. And luck is one of those things, of course, that you make. You have to be out there, you have to be pushing hard and be daring so that you have the opportunities to be lucky. Getting that email from Tim was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me. But I was there. I had put in the time as a musicologist, as a composer, as a rock and jazz musician, so I was ready for that. Because if you’re not ready for the lucky meeting… I always quote Emerson: “I pity he who is a victim of fate, but blessed is he who’s guided by destiny”. Fate is something that happens to you, but destiny is something that you make happen. You can call it luck. You ask anybody who is successful, they say, well I’ve been very lucky. But you make your own luck.

And the fourth thing is you’ve got to be smart. A lot of musicians, including a lot of great jazz musicians and a lot of great rock musicians, are not the most practical people. But if you want to raise a family, send a kid to college, pay your mortgage, and have a nice life, then you need to be smart. You need to figure out how can you take these tools that you have and translate them into making a living. And part of that is, you’ve really got to do all the other things, but you’ve got to have a big toolkit, you’ve got to make yourself indispensable by having skills that other people don’t have.

I always tell young people, do something dramatic. I went to Paris after my undergrad. And that has helped me in more ways than I can count. In part by people just saying ‘wow’, and suddenly you look different in their eyes. You’re not just a kid that grew up in Southern California and stayed there. You went across the ocean. And it wasn’t that hard. It was a lot of fun. But you grow so much. So be dramatic, do something dramatic. And think big. Especially when you’re young. Imagine your wildest dreams, and say OK, I’m going to get there. Maybe you won’t get there, but you’ll get a lot closer than if you say, well, I just want to be able to play at that bar down the street.

For full interview with Nolan Gasser, click here.

Daniel Levitin

Daniel Levitin is a cognitive psychologist, record producer, and best-selling author of “This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession” and “The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature”. He has been a producer or a recording engineer for artists including Blue Oyster Cult, Chris Isaak, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Santana, and The Grateful Dead, and has been a consultant for albums by Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton. He is a professor and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition, and Expertise in the Department of Psychology at McGill University. (Photo credit: Arsenio Coroa)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Daniel Levitin: Practice. Deliberate practice. Not mindless, but mindful. And practice a little bit every day, because your brain has to consolidate the information through sleep. So three hours, all on a Sunday afternoon, isn’t the same as even 15 minutes a day.

David Freiberg

David Freiberg was a co-founder of 1960’s psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service, which was known for extended jams as captured on their classic album Happy Trails. He toured with Jefferson Airplane toward the end of that band’s existence, and stayed on when the band evolved into Jefferson Starship. He was a co-writer of Jefferson Starship’s 1979 hit song “Jane”. Both Freiberg and Paul Kantner quit the band as its sound became more commercial, in particular before the recording of “We Built This City” as Starship. Photo taken by L. Paul Mann.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

David Freiberg: Having fun is more important than going to #1. If you’re in a band and something goes to #1, that’s really good luck. But it’s also a big curse. It’s like winning a lottery. Hardly anyone who wins a lottery is ever happy. Their life goes to hell immediately. Everybody wants to get that money, and they don’t know who their friends are, because everybody’s a friend, right? I don’t know, it’s kind of like that. Just don’t change.

Steve Young

Steve Young is a singer and songwriter whose best known song is “Seven Bridges Road,” which was covered by and became a Top 40 hit for The Eagles. He also wrote “Lonesome, On’ry And Mean”, which became a trademark song for Waylon Jennings, and “Montgomery in the Rain”, which was covered by Hank Williams, Jr.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would give to an aspiring songwriter?

Steve Young: Become a dentist [laughs]. You know, go to dental school. That’s just my joke.

If you’re a true writer, then you’ve got to write. My real opinion is you should do it, and if you don’t make any money from it, try to have a backup plan and just try to see what happens. Because it’s probably tougher than it has ever been. The music business itself is pretty low-key, let’s face it. So, I think you have to be a little crazy to do it. It’s really an unknown. Just like acting, there are a few people who actually make a living doing it. But again, I don’t want to deny anybody their expression or their art. You should try it, you should do it, if nothing else for yourself and a few friends. Just do it and see where it goes. If it goes nowhere, you still have the pleasure of doing it.

JM: Your answer reminds me… I asked the bassist from the Meat Puppets what advice he’d give an aspiring musician, and he also said “become a dentist.”

SY: He did? Wow, that’s cool!

JM: But then he also said, “Look at what I did, and don’t do that.” Because he got involved in drugs and had problems…

SY: Boy, could I ever say the same thing? It sounds like we have a similar story. I was my own worst enemy in the music business itself. I was just lucky to have any degree of success doing anything.

For full interview with Steve Young, click here.

Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts was in the indie rock band Pimentos for Gus before becoming an award-winning children’s musician who writes clever, thoughtful songs with a well-crafted power pop sound. His latest CD is 2008’s Pop Fly.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give an aspiring songwriter?

Justin Roberts: I think as with anything, it’s practice. Keep doing it, and be willing to write bad songs. Sometimes I look back on some of the simpler songs I wrote early on and think, wow, I wish I could write one of those. But you can’t. So you have to just accept what you’re doing at the time, and try to be content with that. Because you can only do what comes out of you, and you just have to let that stuff come out and not block it too much.

There’s a book called “Art and Fear” that was recommended to me during one of my many sessions of [writer’s] block. It’s a great book. It’s mostly about visual artists, but there’s a great story in there where there’s a pottery class, and they divide the class into two groups. They say for one group they say they’re going to graded on the quantity of pots that you make, and for the other group you’re going to be graded on the quality of the pots that you make. They went off and did the thing, and a week later when they came back all of the best work was done by the group that was going to be graded on quantity. And the people who were graded on quality ended up not finishing things or it was half-baked because they were trying to perfect one thing. Whereas the group that was just trying to make as many things as possible came up with the best stuff. I think with songwriting, it’s a lot like that. You have to just try to write as many things as you can, and certainly discard stuff that is not up to snuff, but don’t judge it right away. Try to work with it and see what could happen.

I think being an editor is good, too, for a songwriter. I sometimes find, for me at least, people that make records and have eight million songs on them, I’m like, you know what, this would be a great record if you had gotten an editor and just gotten rid of some of this stuff. No one has the attention span for a 72 minute CD [laughs]. My favorite records are usually over in about 35 minutes. When vinyl was popular, you could only fit about 18 minutes on a side, and that’s it.

So I think it’s a combination of trying to create as much as you can, and then weeding through it trying to only pull out the best stuff.

Also having people that you trust around you that you can play things to that are the best critics. You don’t always agree with what they say but it’s nice to have people to bounce things off, for me.

JM: Would you answer differently if I asked what advice you would give to an aspiring childrens songwriter?

JR: I think the only different advice I would say is to try not to write a song about what you think a kid would like to hear. You just have to write something that is honest, and if you shoot really high then kids will come with you. I think the mistakes people make often is stuff I wouldn’t personally want to listen to, when it sounds like they’re imagining what they think a kid would want to hear a song about and it comes back as condescending and preachy.

For full interview with Justin Roberts, click here.

Taylor Goldsmith

Taylor Goldsmith is the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for Dawes, a Southern California band influenced by The Band and the Laurel Canyon style of the 1970’s. Dawes has released two very nice albums, and has been a live backing band for Jackson Browne, who sang backing vocals for one song on their latest release, and for The Band’s Robbie Robertson.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Taylor Goldsmith: I would say play locally until the rest of the country starts hearing about it. Even if you live in nowhere’s-ville, like if you live in Chattanooga, Tennessee but you’re getting 400 people to each show and eventually more, people are going to notice. People always say you just gotta get on tour. I think the only way to do that, and have it mean anything, is if you’re relevant locally.

Jeff Apruzzese

Passion Pit has come a long way since Michael Angelakos recorded a set of modern electronica songs on his laptop in his dorm room as a Valentine’s gift to his then-girlfriend. Those songs ended up getting released on an EP that included the additional song “Sleepyhead”, which became a minor hit.

Since then, Passion Pit has released two popular, critically acclaimed albums of well-crafted electronic pop, the latest of which, 2012’s Gossamer, includes “Take A Walk”, their biggest hit to date. In its full-band touring configuration, Passion Pit has appeared on Saturday Night Live, played at Coachella, and much more.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give an aspiring musician?

Jeff Apruzzese: I don’t know, I don’t want to say anything cliche like “don’t give up”. You know, I think if you’re making honest music, and you’re doing it for the right reasons, then good things will happen. I don’t really know any bands that were planning on making it. I feel like things just happen.

It’s kind of like marrying a woman. It’s very similar to love at first sight. When you meet a person you’re going to marry, do you know instantly? That’s kind of similar with music. I think the bands that try to do it for seven, eight, nine years, they’re hammering their heads against the wall, and they’re working at whatever crappy part-time job they’re working to make their music. Obviously, not to be harsh, but if you’re doing something generic or something that’s not standing out, that’s the reason for where you are.

I think if you’re creating music that’s interesting, you’ll know it off the bat. You’ll gain the attention of people off the bat. I don’t know what that really means, but that’s my perspective and reflection on it. You know, I’ve played in bands my whole life, starting in middle school. There was the one project that I was playing in the summer after college, that I wasn’t really thinking that was the one, that took off.

For full interview with Jeff Apruzzese, click here.

Nolan Wheeler

The latest band to bubble up to receive the prestigious Austin Music Award for Best New Band is the Austin-based band The Wheeler Brothers, consisting of brothers Tyler (bass guitar), Patrick (drums), and Nolan (guitar, piano and vocals), plus friends A. J. Molyneaux (lapsteel, guitar, vocals) and Danny Matthews (guitar, vocals). The Wheeler Brothers’ “rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of twang” on their debut album Portraits has been well received in Texas and beyond, and their second album is in progress. (Lobo Sucio photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Nolan Wheeler: If someone comes along who believes in your project and wants to help it grow, get out of their way and let them help! I hear a lot of bands along the road that are so proud to have done every little thing themselves, which is cool, but there is a time and place for publicity work, management, booking and such. The real advice: Surround yourselves ONLY with people you know and care about, and who believe whole-heartedly in your project.

For the full interview with Nolan Wheeler, click here.

Charles Bradley

Going all the way back to seeing James Brown perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1962, Charles Bradley dreamed of being a singer. He found some success as a James Brown impersonator in Brooklyn under the monikers “Black Velvet” and “James Brown Jr.”, eventually catching the attention of Gabriel Roth from Daptone Records. Bradley started releasing singles on Daptone Records in 2002, and by the time his first album No Time For Dreaming was released in 2011, he was the ripe age of 62. And it turns out that the album is awesome, with an old-school soul music vibe that gives it a timeless quality. Amongst the album’s honors was it being named one of the Top 50 albums of the year by Rolling Stone magazine. Even better in a live setting, Bradley lives up to his nickname as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Charles Bradley: The greatest gift that you can find is who you are and what you have to give to the world. It is your own instrument. Your own instrument is you. You’ve got to find out who you are, knowing what you want to give to this planet Earth. If you want to give turmoil, if you want to give corruption, the Earth will fill that. But if you want to give love to the world, we’ve got the win over all of the corruption. When you’re doing that, you’re doing the will of God, who I believe in.

I may not get where I want to be in the music industry, but one thing I will get is peace and love within my soul. So, love deeply. Everything comes out of the Earth. These chairs you’re sitting on come out of the Earth. God gives us the wisdom and knowledge to learn how to make something out of these things.

So don’t give up. Love is the greatest instrument on Earth. And when you know that, go for it. Don’t be afraid of man’s laws, everything they made for us. Be honest to your spirit.

It’s not what you’ve got, it’s the friends that you carry around. You may have two cents, but your heart is good, and we’re gonna come together, and we’re gonna make some music. Find out who you are. Get to know one another, make some music, and rock this world.

Bob Margolin

Bob Margolin is best known for his time from 1973 until 1980 as a guitarist with blues legend Muddy Waters’ band, appearing on various albums with Waters including 1977’s Hard Again. With Waters, he was also part of the concert documented in the movie The Last Waltz. Starting in 1988, he has also released various blues albums as a solo artist.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Bob Margolin: Don’t stay home. Go out and play with as many people as you can, because the bandstand is where you really learn. That was an easy one.


Freebo is best known for playing bass guitar for a decade with Bonnie Raitt, and has also recorded and performed with Ringo Starr, John Mayall, Dr. John, Willy DeVille, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and others.

For the last decade and a half he has recorded as a singer-songwriter, and his most recent album is 2012’s Something To Believe.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Freebo: Play from your heart.

Thomas Brenneck

Thomas Brenneck has played guitar with some of the key players of the recent funk/soul revival, including session work on Amy Winehouse’s breakthrough album Back to Black, and session work and touring with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley. He is also the guitarist for The Menahan Street Band, whose latest release is The Crossing. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Thomas Brenneck: Just be true to yourself, and follow your heart. Play the music that you dig. And try to find some like-minded musicians. Because collective is better than individual.

In music history, whether it’s The Beatles or The Stones or Stax or Muscle Shoals or Motown, there’s a whole bunch of like-minded musicians following a leader or a good record producer, believing in the song. You have twenty musicians playing a Smokey Robinson song under the direction of Smokey Robinson. You have a visionary and you have an amazing piece of music. Whether it’s The Marvelettes singing a Smokey song, or The Temptations singing “My Girl”, or whatever it may be.

You know, it’s like when you’re young and broke you have to play some music to make a buck. But if you are priviledged enough to play the kind of music that you love, man, that’s what we’re doing, and it’s a blessing. The way we got here is by following our heart, and playing music with our friends. That relationship evolved over years and years. We’ve been playing music with each other for maybe ten years, this band, eleven years. Our drummer and bass player, those guys have been playing music together for maybe fifteen, sixteen years. So if I have an idea, or one of the other guys has an idea, before we even finish expressing our idea these guys pick up on it and they make it a little bit better.

Mike Deller

Mike Deller plays keyboards with The Menahan Street Band, whose latest release is The Crossing, and which backs “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley on record and on tour. He also plays with The Budos Band, which deftly blends funk, soul, jazz, and Afro-beat. (L. Paul Mann photo)

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Mike Deller: I would say you should try and know as many instruments as possible. You know what? Persistence and quantity. Just join every band and play every instrument, and I guess that will give you your best shot. Unless you come across a star, then you’re in.

Paul Kowert

Paul Kowert is the bass player for the band Punch Brothers which uses traditional bluegrass instrumentation – mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and stand-up bass – but with a repertoire that is not limited to traditional bluegrass music. Indeed, they push the boundaries of what can be done in such a format, both with their original songs and with covers of the likes of Radiohead’s “Kid A”.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Paul Kowert: Trust what you love, and try to make more of it.

For full interview with Paul Kowert, click here.

Larkin Grimm

Larkin Grimm is a well-traveled, eclectic singer-songwriter in the “freak folk” genre. The Swans’ Michael Gira has described her as “the sound of the eternal mother and the wrath of all women”, and also said “her voice is like the passionate cry of a beast heard echoing across the mountains just after a tremendous thunder storm, when the air is alive with electricity.” Grimm’s fourth album Soul Retrieval, which was recorded with the help of famed T. Rex and David Bowie record producer Tony Visconti, will be released in February 2012.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Larkin Grimm: Don’t do it. It is a hard life. We do it because we aren’t suited for anything else. If you can hold onto another job, stick with that! But if you get fired from every job you have ever had and you are a high-strung orchid living on the edge of sanity, GO FOR IT! and try to be kind to the show promoters. They tend to be generous, sensitive, kind people and they deserve respect for what they do.

For full interview with Larkin Grimm, click here.

Jason Reeves

Jason Reeves is a singer-songwriter originally from Iowa City, Iowa. Shortly after moving to California in 2005 he met Colbie Caillat, and co-wrote many of the songs on her debut album Coco, including the hit singles “Bubbly” and “Realize”. He also co-wrote songs on Caillat’s follow-up album Breakthrough, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, plus “The Show”, which was a hit in the UK and elsewhere for Lenka. His 2007 album Magnificent Adventures of Heartache And Other Frightening Tales won acclaim for its heartfelt pop-infused folk songs, and his album The Lovesick will be released by Warner Brothers sometime in 2011.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter / musician?

Jason Reeves: I would say it’s all about insane amounts of patience and belief in yourself. You have to have a vision and know that it’s worth seeing it through. Other than that, just be true to your heart.

For full interview with Jason Reeves, click here.

Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller is a Nashville-based singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and recording artist. He has released several solo albums, and has toured with and/or recorded with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin, Linda Ronstadt, Alison Krause and Robert Plant, and Robert Plant’s Band of Joy.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Buddy Miller: Just keep doing it. That’s all I’ve ever done. I feel really fortunate to be able to say that. But, you know, if you love it just keep at it.

Black Francis

Black Francis is the primary songwriter, lead singer, and rhythm guitarist of the Pixies, the alt-rock pioneers whose trademark use of quiet verses and loud screaming choruses was a huge influence on Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s songwriting. In fact, Cobain admitted that when he wrote the genre-creating smash hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, he “was basically trying to rip off the Pixies.” Francis’ post-Pixies recordings have been variously released under the names Frank Black, Frank Black and the Catholics, and Black Francis.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Black Francis: Go play. Go play in front of people. That’s the best thing.

Alex Ebert

Alex Ebert is the lead singer for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, whose music mixes elements of folk, rock, gospel, soul, and a touch of glam, and whose live shows – in Music Illuminati’s opinion – are not to be missed. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros released their first album, Up From Below, in 2009. Ebert won the 2014 Golden Globe award for Best Original Score for the film All Is Lost.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Alex Ebert: Do it, even if you don’t feel ready. Just do it. And then, be like a child. That’s the most important thing.

Al Kooper

Al Kooper is a legendary songwriter and musician, who is most notable for co-writing the Gary Lewis and the Playboy’s hit “This Diamond Ring”, playing organ on Bob Dylan’s classic “Like A Rolling Stone” and with him at the Newport Folk Festival when he “went electric”, founding Blood, Sweat, and Tears, playing on sessions with Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, playing on the album Super Session with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills, signing The Zombies to Columbia for their album Odessey & Oracle, and discovering and producing Lynyrd Skynryd.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter/musician?

Al Kooper: Go to law school. I wouldn’t want my son to become one.

Jeff Hanneman

Jeff Hanneman co-founded and played guitar for thrash metal pioneers Slayer, whose 1986 album Reign In Blood is often hailed as one of the most important and influential heavy metal albums ever produced. He was also one of the band’s songwriters, with credits including “Angel of Death”, “Raining Blood”, “South of Heaven”, “War Ensemble”, and “Seasons in the Abyss”. Hanneman died on May 2, 2013 of liver failure; he was 49 years old.

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Jeff Hanneman: Kick ass!

Ira Kaplan

Ira Kaplan is the guitarist, and a singer, songwriter, and co-founder of Yo La Tengo, a “cult band” formed in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1984. Yo La Tengo’s sound is often compared favorably to that of the The Velvet Underground, a band they played in the film I Shot Andy Warhol. Photo taken by L. Paul Mann

Jeff Moehlis: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Ira Kaplan: Don’t take advice from anybody.


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