February 2010 Script
Interviews with Sugarbeach, Phil Putnam, Skott Freedman & Joe Settineri
Sugarbeach - I Just Love Girls (2007)
Obviously, they just love girls. This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and welcome to my February show. This month I'm visiting with two acts I like quite a bit, the duo Sugarbeach and, later in the show, singer/songwriter Phi Putnam. Sugarbeach is comprised of Marlee Walchuk of Vancouver, Canada, and Tully Callendar of Sydney, Australia. They are partners on and off stage and Tully moved to Vancouver in 2007, and the formed the duo Sugarbeach. As for "I Just Love Girls," Tully and Marlee tell us about what inspired that song.
TC & MW: We wrote that song before we came up with the name Sugarbeach. We'd come to Canada and we weren't really sure where we fit in, and we were noticing that partly in the gay community people had their own little groups and we just wanted to say to them, I guess, that we're all together and we all in terms for the lesbians, we just all love girls, and that's what we're about. We don't want to be in separate groups, and it shouldn't make any difference how I want to wear my hair, I love women and that's it. So that's kind of where the idea came from and it just kind of appeared the song just came, and it was really fun to write, and it was really fun to do something upbeat and It really started it all. It was the reason that we decided to put out our first album and to create the group, because the song different songwriters have different feelings about how they get their music. We have a very strong feeling that it comes from another place, so that would mean, you know, whatever you believe, your spirit world or whatever is your choice of belief. But sometimes we feel like conduits for the music that comes through us, so for us it actually it came to us, it came very easily and quickly, and we just knew that something had begun here. And for us it was the work that we want to do inside the gay community, which is to just keep coming out, and out and out, and let people know that they're not alone, and try to fight for more human rights, and keep everybody unified. There is a lot of separation within our community, and I guess when you come into it a little later sometimes you're kind of like that guest that everyone invited and all of a sudden they walk in a room and they notice that things can be a bit odd here, so what can we do to help that, so we do see it as a bit of a mission to just keep heading on in and doing what we can.
And the song "I Just Love Girls" attracted a lot of attention very quickly. It was the lead track of the EP they released in 2007, and right away they began performing at many pride events all over. In fact, that led to one of their most popular songs, one called "Living Out Proud."
MW: "Living Out Proud" was a song that we wrote for the Vancouver Pride Society. They needed a theme song for last year's pride, and we were actually having a drink one night and they said, you know, we were thinking of running a contest to do a song, but now we've run out of time. And I was talking to the president at the time, John Voichuk, and I said, well, I'll write you a song. And he laughed, like we've got two weeks or something, so he thought this was hysterical. So I said, well we can do this, this is something we can get our heads around it. So within a couple of weeks I sent him a quick idea and told him in two more weeks he was actually going to have it on his desk and I sent it over to him and they absolutely went over the moon with excitement. So they've been using it now for two years, on all of their ad campaigns, and of course we sang the death of it for the last couple of years in every pride event that we had, and we also had gifted it to the community, and in doing that people were able to download I think they still can for free off the Vancouver Pride website, as well as ours. As a result of that we ended up getting eleven cities around the world using it for their pride celebrations. So it was wonderful. It ended up going everywhere. So it's been amazing for us, and the song seems to be very powerful, and people seem to be quite taken by it.
Sugarbeach - Living Out Proud (2009)
That track is from their CD released last year called "Not Deserted," and the song "Not Deserted" was the one they picked when I asked of what song on the album they were the most proud.
MW: Wow, gee, that's really a hard question. You know, for me I really love "Not Deserted," because of the meaning behind it, and the fact that it was connected with the suicide of Carl Joseph Hoover, the 11-year old boy who killed himself from partially from anti-gay bullying, and then when I started to research more I realized that we'd lost by, I believe April, we'd already lost three or four middle school children in the States for the same reason, to suicide from anti-gay bullying, and I was just shocked, so this song for me is like the five minutes if I could have had five minutes to talk to them before they made this decision to this, this is partially at least what I would have said to them. So I hope that at some point in time it gets to kids in places where they feel they are very alone and that they are the only ones. Cause a lot of these kids are so young sometimes that they are not even sure how they identify yet, but the cruelty in schools can be mind-boggling, and they're just seeing no way out, other than to take their lives, so I guess for me the message of that one is particularly powerful.
- Not Deserted (2009)
After you heard the song "Not Deserted," I wanted to be sure you knew that Sugarbeach was also very good at slower songs. That one was called "If I'd Known."
Tell me about how you picked your name.
MW: You know, I have to tell you, we went on the internet, thank god we have the internet now, cause otherwise we probably would have had a name or two that everyone else had, so we punched in we liked the sugar, we liked that bit we tried sugarbeats, sugarbitch, we went through the whole thing, sugarbutch I mean, there was like a million we wanted sort of a gay connotation as well, but it turned out that everything was taken. And then I said, why don't we go on and look at some art, because I'm also a painter, and often artists will name their art interesting things, and you can get some good names. So we went on this site and found this beautiful painting called Sugarbeach, which we didn't realize at that very second, was actually a place in Hawaii, and then when we did a little more research the more we sat with it, the more we just loved it. And the fact that Nat Natalie is from Australia, and of course they are known for their beaches, and we're very beach-oriented, even though we don't hang out in the sun we love the beach life. And we also think that beaches are kind of sexy and the name sugar is sexy and sugar also has some sort of sexual undertones as well, so we just put it together and thought, yeah, this could work for a band name. [I guess sugar diabetes was already taken.] See what I mean, and thank goodness we checked that out.
The last song I want to cover is "Mama I Love Her." Can you tell me about that song.
MW & TC: "Mama I Love Her" we have two friends who came from a country that we won't mention just at this moment, cause there's lots of turmoil over there, and their religious and cultural background just absolutely forbid them to be gay and open. It actually wasn't safe. So they moved over to North America, and lived quite happily, decided how long ago? Together for seven years and then decided to come out to their mothers. And that was disaster, just absolute disaster. Their mother's threatened them. They threatened to bring the brothers over. They threatened death. They threatened everything they could to try to get them to split up. And these two mothers moved in with our friends for six months, and it didn't work, and the mothers eventually left and our friends are still together. And we wrote the song totally inspired by their story, and how difficult it was for them, and finally they had to go just, look, this is the way it's going to be, and you've got to accept it. I know it all goes against everything that we've been raised with but the world is changing and you've just got to you've just got to love me anyway. And we've only has a couple of months of performing that, cause the album is obviously very new but every time we do it people come up to us and say, oh, that's so much like my story, or, I know a friend who went through that. So again, another powerful song for us. We're very, very happy to have it, and to have written it.
Sugarbeach - Mama I Love Her (2009)
Again, that was "Mama I Love Her" from the album "Not Deserted," and you can find out more about Sugarbeach at www.sugarbeachmusic.com.
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
And I've got another interview coming up right now, with an artist I much respect, Phil Putnam. Phil released his first recording in 2001 and there have been five since then, and this time period covered the time he was coming out, so there has been a lot of growth on and off the CDs. I started with his latest album. Tell me about the album "Casualties"
PP: Well, "Casualties" is my latest record, and it was recorded mostly in 2007, 2008, and where it came from was me realizing that when I looked at myself, and thought of myself as a person, I didn't see really who I was today. I saw the fat, girly, dorky social reject of junior high. And I thought, well that's just stupid, it's garbage thinking, cause who I am now is quite different than who I was then. And so I started thinking through the ways in which I could possibly close that gap, where I could really sort of update the way that I viewed myself and make it fit with who I am now, as opposed to who I was then. So the songs from "Casualties" all came sort of I like to refer to as kind of a ghost hunt you know, finding out the ways in which I was still stuck on my past, and working on those issues and coming through to viewing myself in the truth of who I am now, and that's really where all the songs on "Casualties" came from.
You had a lot of success this year with the song "More Than This." Can you talk about that song?
PP: Yeah, sure, I love the journey of the song, because it's such a good example of how the song leads the way, and not the artist. "More Than This" was actually written for my album "Best of Intentions" and it was written at the very beginning of that process, so that was written back in 2004. And it got about halfway through the recording process and I decided to cut it, because it just wasn't coming together. And I put it on the shelf and didn't really think much about it from that point on. And so fast forward to 2008 when my producer and I are just getting started on song selection for "Casualties" and he says, you know, I think we need another fast song we've got a lot of good singles, but I think we need another fast song to really lead off the album. And I said, well, I've got "More Than This" back on a shelf and I really don't think it's going to work and I'm not even sure we should do it, but let's demo it, and see how it goes. And you know it totally takes over the album and becomes the first single and it's so fun for me as a writer to see how sometimes my songs think, you are such an idiot, I'll have to show you what you need to do. And that's how "More Than This" ended up on "Casualties."
Phil Putnam - More Than This (2009)
Tell me about the song and the video for "I'm No Prize"
PP: Well, that was a fun one, that's for sure, and I almost didn't write it, which now I'm so glad that I did, because it's really become my signature song of the year it really brought a lot of the success I've had this year, for which I'm very grateful. What had happened was, in general I'm a pretty confident person when it comes to dating but when I was writing "Casualties" I hit this six-week period out of nowhere, where I was just the biggest sopping spineless mess, when it came to dating and thinking that other people would find me attractive, and I'm never going to find a boyfriend, and I'll never get another date, and all this stuff, this rampant insecurity that came up. And I was intrigued by it, and so I thought, why not turn it into a song. But I knew that I wanted to start exploring a new area in my music that was a little more fun and flirtatious not necessarily sexual, but just the way that I would do sexy, which is dorky and white.
So I started playing around with this lyric and thought I want to make this song fraught with meaning like all my others, but I wanted it also to have a tongue-in-cheek feel and really start to use comedy as a way to communicate a message. So I started working on "I'm No Prize" and really fell in love with it. And it's a little known secret, I'm going to first ever say this, but there is a lost verse of "I'm No Prize," a fourth verse that I wrote and then I cut. So maybe someday that will surface. The writing process was really fun and the recording process was just as great. I've never made a song exactly like this before, so it was a great stretch technically and just a whole lot of fun to make artistically.
And then the video came along, and I knew that I needed to make a second video after the success of "More That This" and I knew that I wanted to go with "I'm No Prize" and so I wanted something colorful and fun and very up, and I kind of wanted it to look like a pastry counter, you know, very bright pastel colors and just very tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic and a little bit sexy and flirty, like the song is. And so I put together this concept with my director, my video director who works out in Sacramento, California, and we had a really fun time making it, and I got a bunch of my good friends to come out and roll around in bed with me in their underwear, and it was a good two days on the set, I'm not going to lie.
Besides the humor of that video, I thought it interesting that all the guys seemed to be a bit older than you. Was there a statement or a message there?
PP: Well, you know, there was, absolutely. I wanted as much of a diversity as I could find, and could schedule, of race, and build and age and look, and that's part of the message of the video and the song, is that every expression of who we are has value and it's a prize in itself. And so there are actually a few men who are younger than me as well, but it's also cause most of those guys are true friends of mine, that I've known for years, and most of my friends are older. So that's sort of where the age range came from, but I wanted to get as much of a span as I could.
If I'd known you were going to make that kind of video, I would have flown in and begged to be in it.
PP: Well, that is sweet, next time I do a booty video, I'll call you. [Well, not necessarily that ] I was going to say, the video was a stressful shoot logistically, but when the camera was on, it was so much fun, and most of the stuff was actually shot separately. I was not actually in the scenes with the guys, which was my loss. It was definitely a good experience, and my only concern was hitting the right tone, because I thought if people think that I expect them to take me seriously as a sex symbol, this is just going to be a nightmare, because that's not me. I mean, me being sexy is me being myself. So I was really concerned about hitting the right tone, and I watched the dailies after the second day, and realized that I was fine, no matter what the editing was like I knew that we had gotten the footage that we needed. So that was really what made me realize that this video could really make an impact, and could really be something fun to watch and be a part of.
Well, the video shows Phil in bed with many, many guys, and that should make you plenty curious. You can see the video on my site, but here's the song "I'm No Prize."
Phil Putnam - I'm No Prize (2009)
Can you talk about the reception your videos have gotten on Logo?
PP: Yes, man, it's been amazing. I did the math recently, and I have been on the top ten chart on Logo this year for 46 weeks, of this year. My mind is blown, especially when I think about the fact that I wasn't even going to make videos. I've only put out two in my career, the first one was for "More Than This" and the second one was for "I'm No Prize," and I decided to scrape together a tiny little budget to do the "More Than This" video, and it turned out that it was just fantastically received, and it set the record for the longest running video, longest consecutively running video, in Logo's history. It was on the charts for 20 consecutive weeks. Nineteen of those weeks it was in the top 5. It only dipped below 5 once in the entire time it was on. And then "I'm No Prize" has already broken that same record it's gone on, I've lost count at this point, but it's still on the air, it's been number one twice. And it's just been so humbling and gratifying to see the way that fans have stepped up in support of these videos and really found the message in them as well as the fun. I'm just so touched by all that.
As an artist can you correlate the videos to album sales?
PP: Not really directly. I think that it definitely helps, especially with iTunes sales, but I think the way that it relates is that there's so many more people across the country, and even around the world, that are aware of my music now, because of the videos, and the exposure they've had on Logo, so that does relate to album sales, in that the more people who know about it, the more people that are to choose to buy it.
In 2004 you released an album called "All the Courage Required," and from it I want to ask you about the song "Courage"
PP: Well, "Courage" is a really important song in my career, and also in my life, because the whole album of "All the Courage Required" was me looking at various subtleties of what I felt it meant to live a truly courageous life. For me courage is a matter of emotional honesty. That's what real courage is, and that's the kind of courage that I think empowers a very influential life, somebody who's really going to impact the world around them and make a positive difference in the lives of those around them. So the song "Courage" has continued to be extremely important to me, and it's also become something that's become special to other people, especially in the gay community, you know, dealing with marriage equality right now, and so many equal rights issues in America that we have to deal with that require genuine significant courage. And so I'm really glad that the song has been able to impact others in the ways that it impacts me.
Phil Putnam - Courage (2004)
I'm down to the last song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Marlee and Tully of Sugarbeach, and Phil Putnam for the wonderful interviews. You can hear a little more of my interview with Phil at my website. That of course can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.
To find out more about Phil Putnam and his music please visit www.PhilPutnam.com.
Closing the show I asked Phil to tell me about the song "Here to Stay"
PP: "Here to Stay" was significant in a number of ways, and not just because of the content, which if you've heard the song, it's obvious that the message that it has to us, to our gay audience. And so I wanted to write something that was a little more like Ben Folds, a little more of the rhythmic piano rock, and eventually what came to be the story was the story of a father and his son contending over his son's sexuality. And whenever I write a story that seems, you know, standard, the kid comes out, gets disowned by his family, I always want to put a different twist on it. I don't want to just tell the same old story. But it made me sit back and think, okay, does this story need to be told? And I thought through all the friends that I've got who are going through all kinds of difficulties with their families, all the people that I know about who are still being discriminated against by the ones they love most because they are gay. And I thought, this is absolutely a story that has to be told, because nobody's telling it. You know, it's something like you know, we've got "Will & Grace" on for eight years, and people think across the country that being gay it just, it's cool, it's accepted, and that people don't have a problem with it anymore, but that is completely not the case. And so I thought if there is ever a time that those who are being discriminated against, it's now, when people think that it's not an issue anymore. I also wanted to make sure that I wasn't writing a story where the kid who comes out is this weakling who is cowering in the corner, and I think that when you have these kind of difficulties in your family also both sides have consequences, rather than just the dad gets mad and the kid gets kicked out. And so I wanted to make sure that it was presenting both sides of the experience, presenting a strong gay man, or a gay woman, somebody who wasn't just cowering and afraid, but was willing to stand up for themselves. And really that's where the title was born from, "Here to Stay."
Phil Putnam - Here to Stay (2009)
Sugarbeach - I Know I Should Run (2009)
This is JD Doyle and welcome to Part 2 of Queer Music Heritage for February, and I started it off with another track by Sugarbeach, whose interview I feature in Part 1. This second segment will give me a chance to share more of their music and also more of my interview with Phil Putnam, and I'll slip in some other folks as well, including an interview with an artist I have followed for years named Skott Freedman. The Sugarbeach song was another from their latest album "Not Deserted," and it was called "I Know I Should Run," and I'm very glad I can share this very sexy song by them with you, called "Give Me Your Body."
Sugarbeach - Give Me Your Body (2009)
Again, that was the duo Sugarbeach.
When I interviewed Phil we talked for about an hour and he's one of those people who though you've never met in person, you just feel like you know them, so I ended up with more material than I could use in the main interview. I am really glad that having my own site gives me the opportunity to give you more of what we talked about. It's just too interesting to keep to myself.
I wanted to go back to Phil's album "Best of Intentions" to ask him to tell me about the song "Lyin'"
PP: Hmmm, well, "Lyin'" really became my signature song, in the sense that my greatest passion in life is that people will know what they are worth, in the sense that, there's nothing more important to me and nothing has been more revolutionary to me in my life than fully realizing my value, just as a human being, as somebody who exists. It's touched every part of my life. So I knew that at some point I wanted to encapsulate that message into, you know, a three and a half minute musical package, and you only get so many words a song, so you've got to figure out how you're going to encompass this massive message into this little musical package. And it was written for it was written for my "Best of Intentions" album, which came out in 2006. It was my fourth album. And "Best of Intentions" was written it was done, and then I sat with the songs for a year, so that I could really learn from them. And then when it came time to record them, things had changed a lot in my life, and I also wrote three new songs, and "Lyin'" was one of those three new songs. And it came from a friend of mine named Kyle, looked at me one night, and he said, hey, write a song about me. And I looked at him, and I thought, okay, I've got something to say to you. I was working at Starbucks at the time, as all good musicians must, at one point in their life. And I wrote the lyrics during breaks, in between shifts, and a couple weeks later it was done, and I realized that I was so fortunate as a writer to finally be able to say the most important thing that I wanted to say at that point, and that's where "Lyin'" came from. It is probably the clearest expression that I've ever made of the fact that I want people to know what they are worth.
Phil Putnam - Lyin' (2006)
Your album's been out a year, what have you learned from the whole process, and will it affect how you approach your next album?
PP: Well, I think that it's a cliché, but things are cliché's for a reason believe in your product, believe in what you've created. I've always been confident in my work but I was very satisfied with "Casualties" when it was done, and I really took that confidence in how I presented it to people and the joy that I have in performing the songs. I mean, it changed my live show, it changed everything I do as an artist, and so I think that that really is something that I took away from it was to just carry through that confidence and people will respond to that. And I was able to have that confidence that I had made a record that I first of all believed in and second of all, that I genuinely like. And I've liked all my records, but there is something new and something exciting for me about performing these songs on "Casualties" and sharing them with people.
I also knew that when I finished "Casualties" that the next record was going to be different in terms of how I came to write it. My writing style sort of resets well, not my style, it's more my process, sort of resets itself every two to three albums, and for that I'm as much along for the ride as anybody else would be, so the writing for my next album is coming along slowly but surely, and I feel that all my reference points as a write are different. So I need to go discover how I write a song, again. And I really like that my artistic soul changes the game on me, regularly, because it gives me a place to grow and gives me a place to figure out, okay, how I expressed myself five years ago is not how I can express myself now. I need to figure it out for now. So that's something that I think is going to change the style and the way the songs come together on the next record.
Is there an overall message to your music?
PP: Absolutely, I think the most important thing to me in life, and that I try to put in my music, is that people should know what they are worth. That is my driving life passion.
You've been working in California and now New York City. How do you compare the music scenes, and in particular the GLBT music scenes of the two?
PP: Well, I think it's important to note that I was in Sacramento, California. I think when people think of California they think of Los Angeles or San Francisco. Sacramento is the capitol city, obviously, and no, I don't know the governator, just want to put that out there right now but it has a great music scene of its own, but it's not the right place for my kind of music, for piano-based acoustic music, it's more like a local rock town, so working out there was fantastic for me because I used the internet so much to share my music. I'm always on Facebook, and Twitter, and using social media to share my work, and connect with people. When I moved to New York I live in Manhattan, and it's like steroids for my career. You know, location is everything, and living in an industry town has a value that you really can't beat. So just the physical act of moving here, and being able to build daily relationships with people that are co-creators, people that share the same vision, people that work on the business side, that actually have the power to do something significant with my work, in terms of a record label or a distributor, or booking agent, things like that, that have become available to me by living in Manhattan.
So that's been a big change. Also, the people in Manhattan, they're great, because if they don't want to work with you, they'll just say no. And it's very efficient, it's the way that I like to work. In California it's a little more difficult because I think people are less inclined to say no outright. They'll just say, oh, I'm really busy this week, let's meet next week, and then drag you on, you know, for three months, until you get the clue, or you just don't get the clue and keep dragging on. So I like the way the business runs out in New York a lot. And as far as LGBT music scene here, it's great because there are so many openly gay artists. There's a lot of talent. There's a lot of opportunity to perform with each other and contribute to each other's careers and that's really something that I always try to do in my attitude in that, yeah, we're all competing for the attention of the same fan base, but I really don't care about that when it comes down to the opportunity to work with somebody or support them, or share their work, or whatnot, I'm very supportive in that way. So I like having access to fellow artists that I can both learn from and give support back to.
You've already touched a moment on this, you're very active on facebook. How would you rate it as an internet tool for an artist, and what is the most useful tool?
PP: Oh, it's right up there at number one. I think at this point the three most crucial pieces of digital real estate for an independent musician, are first, your official website, second Facebook and third, Twitter. Facebook is not about numbers. I think you have to be careful. But the value of Facebook is where you really build relationships. And I talk all the time about people being my favorite thing in life, but they really are, so I love talking to my friends, my fans, and people know that if they chat me on Facebook and I'm available, I will talk with them, and get to know them, and learn their story. So Facebook is really the place where artists have a chance from being an artist to being their artist, and building that relationship. And I think a lot of musicians, because they are so concerned about paying the bills and making sure their next project is a success, they don't take the time to learn about their fans. They just get attention from their fans, and don't give it back. So I really enjoy the relational aspect of Facebook. Twitter's about numbers. Twitter is great for a quick news blast or whatever, but I spend a lot of time on Facebook because it's relational.
You've been doing some promotion for other artists, what's that about?
PP: Well, you know, I like to get the work out about other artists that I believe in, or that I'm working with. Obviously if we're working together then I obviously talk about them. Austin Marolla is a good friend of mine. Marolla, m-a-r-r-o-l-a, he's a fellow gay singer/songwriter here in New York, and he's just such a sweetheart and does great work, and we've done a few concerts together, so I like to talk about him and
Okay, let's interrupt Phil to let you hear a song by Austin Marolla, called "My Journey."
J. Marolla - My Journey (2008)
After Austin Marolla I shared with you a song by another friend of Phil's, Scottie Gage, and the song "This Is Who I Am" came from Scottie's 2007 EP "Waterslide."
PP: I like to talk about Scottie Gage, just because he's such a sweetheart. He's become a good friend in town. So there's a lot of other artists that it's just in my nature to talk positively about the things that I'm listening to or the things that I care about. And again it just comes down to the fact that I just love people, and so if you're a part of my life, and you're a good part of my life, I'm going to share you with others in a positive light.
Another artist that Phil has worked with is Joe Settineri, and Phil helped with the promotion of Joe's debut album, "Stay." It happens that I also interviewed Joe for another of my radio shows, and I asked him how he got hooked up with Phil.
JS: Phil was sent to me by the record label that I'm repped by, LML Music, and they said he was a good guy to work with, so it turns out they were right.
Tell me about the new album.
JS: My new album, called "Stay" is an album I'm really excited about. It's my debut CD. It's written the content material is all about things that happen to us every day, emotions about love and losing love, and being walked out on, and all those types of good things. And musically we took a lot of the stuff that I wrote on the piano, and we added some great musical elements like driving rock guitar on "You Walked" and some beautiful haunting cellos that we threw into the song "Walls Close," just lots of different elements from different parts of the world of music.
When you perform what song gets the most audience reaction?
JS: Oh, the most audience reaction well, "Stay" gets a lot of smiles, loving smiles, because it's a song about love, and it's a beautiful song, and when the cellos are added into it people just melt, and as do I, and I'm not saying that to pat myself on the back because the cello wasn't even my idea.
Why did you make "Stay" the title track?
JS: You know, I felt it most represented a couple reasons, it most represented the songs that were on the CD. You know, I tend to write a lot about the different aspects of love, and this one definitely has that. I also felt it was one of the strongest songs. Every time I listen to it, I enjoy listening to it, and lots of people who listen to it love it, and I thought it was a great name for the CD and I thought the song was a really strong song.
Joe Settineri - Stay (2009)
Tell me about the song "You Walked"
JS: "You Walked," it goes, "you walked out the door and broke my heart" and I wrote that and I had some additional music help from my friend Ziggy Sigmund, who's the lead guitarist for Econoline Crush. And he took my piano playing and he threw on some major, major rock drive to it and turned it into just a whizbang of a song. It's turned into one of my favorites.
I think the album needed that.
JS: I do too, yeah. I didn't write that song specifically because I said, oh we need a fast, uptempo song, or something like that, but it just fell into place. There's just so much about this album when I was creating it and recording it, kind of why I decided to make a run for it and do it.
And here is the song "You Walked."
Joe Settineri - You Walked (2009)
Is there an overall message to your music?
JS: Is there an overall message to my music? Yeah, I think so, and maybe it's me putting my whatever the word is imposing my beliefs about my music onto the music, but it's that we all go through this kind of stuff. You know, we all fall in love, we fall out of love, we make mistakes, we get excited by love, and it's just, the message is that we all have this within us, and it's a wonderful thing to experience it, and to live it, and to never, never stop doing that.
Again, that was Joe Settineri, and by the way, he's a cutie, so you can check out his site at JoeSettineri.com, and I'll spell his last name, s-e-t-t-i-n-e-r-i
Okay, back to my interview with Phil Putnam. From your album from 2004, "All the Courage Required," talk about the song "91"
PP: Hmm, "91" was fun. It was written in my head driving home from my college graduation, and there's about three hours between my home town in Sacramento and the town where my university is. And so I was driving home from graduation, on my own, and I had just released my second album, which is "Long Story Short," so I was not thinking about writing another record. And I just was getting pelted with these lyrics in my head, but as I was driving home I was obviously thinking about change, thinking about the next step in life. When I think about change and I think about the next step I think about relationships. I think about how people have changed, about, you know, I think about community and how that's changing, stuff like that, that's where my mind tends to focus. And this song kept coming into my head, and I was listening to a lot of Dashboard Confessional at that time, and he's (Chris Carrabba) very much about teen angst, you know, and so even though I was driving home from college graduation I started thinking about high school graduation. And I was definitely I had my challenges socially in high school, and started thinking about outgrowing the outcast mentality. And "91" is sort of about that kind of sweaty summer urgency, where you feel like you're a kid and if you don't do it now, you're never going to get the chance, and you've got those 91 days of summer, to do what you want to do before you go on to the next thing, before you go to your first adult job, or before you go to college, or before you move to a different city. It's just that got-to-do-it-now mentality, paired with just moving on from that high school clique bullcrap.
Phil Putnam - 91 (2004)
What was the first lyrically gay song you recorded, and what did it take to get the point you wanted to do that?
PP: Well, first of all, my view on gay music, so to speak, is whether or not it explicitly uses a gay-identified pronoun or talks specifically about gay topics and identifies them outright in the lyric. Because I am a gay individual and all of my music comes out of my life, in one way or another it represents a piece of me. But also I don't write every song about quote unquote gay things. I think it's important to write about the entire perspective of a life. But I'm trying to think what the first one of the first I guess it would be I guess it would be "Paris" I mean, it's not the very first one I wrote, but it comes the earliest in the order of things on "Casualties." And "Casualties" was the first time that I started using specific pronouns, because I had three albums out when I finally realized that I was gay, and my fourth one was already in process it was almost already done being recorded, so I did go back and change a few things but kept most of the record the same.
So this is, "Casualties" is the first original record that I've written since I officially came out and realized that I was gay and went through that whole transition in my life. So "Paris" would have been the earliest one. And once I realized that I was gay, for me there was no choice in the matter. If I was going to write a love song, if I was going to use a pronoun, it was going to be a him, rather than a her. Because it's really important for me to be honest, but it's also really important for me to have one integrated life. I'm not much for being haunted, and I didn't want to have to worry about what would happen if and when my fans found out that I'm gay. I'm not the gayken here, no Clay Aiken stuff. I wanted to be out and have one life. So when it came time to write "Paris," and there's a very strong romantic element to that song, it just was a no brainer for me that I would be identifying this person I'm looking for as a man, rather than a woman.
Talk about the song "Paris"
PP: Ah, I know I'm biased, but I love it, I can't believe it's mine. It was one of the earliest ones that I wrote for "Casualties" and I remember writing the chord progression, the verse chord progression, and was just so happy with it, was just so happy that it came out of me. And I thought there was going to be a chorus and eventually I let that go. I since I before I was, as long as I can remember, before I can recall when it started, I've wanted to go to Europe, and sort of fascinated by the whole bohemian Montmartre sort of thing, the Moulin Rouge type thing, not the lasciviousness of it but just the idea of being there to create, being there to write. And so I got this idea that before I was 30 I wanted to go and spend six weeks in a flat on the left bank of the Seine, and just write, and have books and friends and a piano and just be there long enough that it doesn't feel like a vacation, and just have nothing to do but create and be influenced by the environment and grow as an artist. And so I did make it to Paris shortly after my 30th birthday, but when I wrote this I pretty much knew that this would be a dream rather than a reality. And so I wrote it as such. I wrote what my ideal bohemian experience in Paris would be like. And then I took this song to my producer, Steve Wallace, and he wrote just this stunning string, horn and wind arrangement, that I just melt over, still, every time. I almost feel like it's more his song than mine, even though I wrote everything, but he really made the song what it became, and I'm so pleased with it.
And I also agree that the song is gorgeous. Here is "Paris"
Phil Putnam - Paris (2009)
I can picture a very ethereal video for it.
PP: Yeah, it's very much I had "Clair de Lune" in my head, by Debussy, I had some later impressionist work, painting work, not so much the prime time of Monet, but a little bit later and I had such a strong visual and it's very much the watercolor soft-lighting thing, because again it was a fantasy, and it was one of the only songs I've ever done that was not about full-on reality, something I've lived through. And I put it on "Casualties" because the rest of the record lyrically is somewhat intense and it's really about the past, and harvesting the past, and getting the wisdom out of it and then moving on. So I wanted something that would be this lush oasis for the listener, that could be this sort of resting point, this breath of fresh air in the middle of this record, that would allow them to take a break from the intensity, and just have this respite, before we went on and finished the project.
I want to treat you next with the music of an artist I've been following for about ten years, and with a short interview with him. I eagerly awaited the release of his latest CD last year, called "The Cottage Sessions." He's Skott Freedman and I first asked about the name of the CD. Why did you give it that name?
SF: "The Cottage Sessions"? This is the first album that I recorded myself, so I did my own production, own recording, own equipment, and where I live, it very much resembles this old Spanish mission I joke around with my friends, we call it The Cottage, so I figured that would be a very apt title for this very bare bones indy album.
There's two that I like there's a number of them that I like, but I want to particularly hear about the song "Over You."
SF: "Over You" my little anger song, for me it's anger. "Over You" is about a relationship that ended for me about two years ago, and it was probably the hardest relationship that ended for me, cause it was the only relationship that ended before I was ready for it to. Other times I kind of knew it was coming, or even possibly initiated it, but that relationship kind of was a complete blindside, and as I finally got over it I realized that the person who had ended the relationship seemed to be reaching back and sending mixed messages, that I could only construe as kind of doubt, did I do the wrong thing, and at the time I was processing a lot of emotions but I was reading this book that made a great point that when someone ends a relationship, they have the responsibility of having to think they made the right decision, not just for one person but for two people. And that kind of launched the idea of the song of now that you've got what you wanted, was it really what you wanted. And kind of me moving on and regardless of what their own processing is, I decided to move on and leave that whole pain behind. So that's why I was over the person, over the relationship, despite whatever they might be still going through, I decided for myself to move on.
Skott Freedman - Over You (2009)
Tell me about the song "Home"
SF: "Home," that was written around the time I was touring in Australia, and of course this feeling of being so far away, it was very exciting and at the same time very scary for me. So I was in a relationship at the time with someone who was back in the U.S. and you know, this kind of playing between calls and long distance and time changes, and this idea of kind of never losing home for me really propelled the idea for that song. So despite how far you are, it's not necessarily the physical place, but actually this kind of internal place you either view as sanctuary or safety depending on the situation regardless of where you may be.
Skott Freedman - Home (2009)
Do you think the whole CD sets a mood?
SF: It does for me. This album for me is so many different emotions. I think out of my material, which usually is very personal, I'd say this is the most personal, and I think the mood is just kind of I think it's intimate, I think it's raw, I think it's earnest, and it can be painful at times but hopefully comforting that I felt comfortable and kind of vulnerable enough to put this out there. Mostly because that's the kind of music that helped me through a lot of difficult times in my life when I was a teenager, being closeted and kind of dealing with some things, the music that really helped me the most was music I felt was genuine, and I could see my struggle in. so if I can do that for someone else that would be the greatest gift for me.
I want to slip in a cover song Skott did live, about ten years, about a gay teenager who committed suicide. Patty Griffin wrote the song, called "Tony." I kind of surprised Skott that I had it, as you will hear.
I keep stuff in a database, let's see, I've got a live recording by you doing "Tony" in Boston
SF: Hmm, how do you have that? [I got it] I don't even have that. How in the world did you get that, do you know? [I don't remember] That's too funny.
Skott Freedman - Tony (2000)
Again that was an unreleased track by Skott called "Tony," recorded in 2000.
Skott's website is at www.SkottFreedman.com, and his spelling's a little different. It's Skott Freedman.com.
This is JD Doyle and again I want to thank Phil Putnam, Joe Settineri, and Skott Freedman for the interviews and you for joining me on Queer Music Heritage.
I want to close this segment with a song I really love from Skott's 2006 album "Judge a Book," which was a very cool CD he did of cover songs. It included some very nice duets with Jill Sobule, Edie Carey and a long-time favorite of mine, Mark Weigle. Skott and Mark did the Magnetic Fields song "Papa Was a Rodeo," only they did it the way it should have been done.
Tell me about your recording of "Papa Was a Rodeo"
SF: Oh, taking me back, alright, "Papa Was a Rodeo" was a song that I heard someone put it on a mixtape for me, and at first I thought, what in the world is this? And as I listened to it more I thought, this is great, kind of this quirky song about the rodeo, and the character the other guy is singing to is called Mike, and so I thought clearly this is this kind of cool gay rodeo song, and at the end of the verse this girl started singing. And so it was like a record scratch in my ears. I thought, why is there a girl singing here, and I guess the irony and the Magnetic Fields, kind of what they do is the irony was Mike was actually a girl, or something. But when I heard that song I thought, no, no, that's not right. Even though Stephen Merritt wrote it I thought I'm going to right this one. So I decided, who's going to me by male voice, who would kind of fit the theme of the rodeo and this kind of guys-guy. And I know Mark Weigle's music for years. He's so amazing. And we were playing San Francisco Pride together, and back stage I said, you know what, I have this idea. And I pitched it to him, and he was so excited. He passed it by his friend, Armistead Maupin, who was thrilled, cause he always thought it should be a male voice too. So I sent the tapes to Mark. He recorded it up in San Francisco, and we put it out, and we both were just so excited. I guess the reception it got it got a lot of radio play, people sort of liked the kind of retake on that song. It just sounds more right to me.
Skott Freedman & Mark Weigle - Papa Was a Rodeo (2006)