I interviewed many talented musicians in 2015, so this list is not based on who gave me the best quotes or who is most-talented. This collection is based more on who I connected with the most and who I felt tried hardest to come up with thoughtful answers rather than take me through the motions – just like I try to ask questions the artists haven’t been asked before.
Below, you can also listen to a playlist of all the artists I interviewed this year.
In the case of Pentatonix, it was meaningful to interview two of the band members less than an hour before they won a Grammy Award, becoming the first acapella act to do so. We met at their hotel a few blocks away from Staples Center in Los Angeles, and other than a handful of young female fans, they went largely unrecognized. I’m guessing they don’t have that issue anymore. Oh, and they were totally cool with my wife and daughter sitting in on the interview.
In George Ezra and Benjamin Booker, I found artists who share some of my interests and background. Ezra is a fun, plan-ahead traveller who isn’t afraid to come out looking like a tourist. Booker went through the International Baccalaureate program in high school, as did I.
I interviewed Marina Diamandis (Marina and the Diamonds) and Héloïse Letissier (Christine and the Queens) twice in 2015; the first time on the same day, before their show at the Warfield in San Francisco. Both were energetic and lacked any of the common “I’m playing a show soon, why do I have to be doing this now?” mentality that’s very common for performers. Neither tried to rush me through my questions, even though both interviews went long.
In fact, listening back to my interviews (I save them all), nearly everyone on this list, including Alejandro Rose-Garcia (Shakey Graves), at one point or another tell me to take as long as I need. Midway through conversations with Rose-Garcia, Sunny Levine (Boss Selection) and the guys and gal of MisterWives, I could tell these are the kind of guys with whom I want to drink a beer.
Speaking with Larry Parypa of The Sonics, trumpeter/freedom fighter Hugh Masekela and Russell Mael of Sparks/FFS, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. Interviewing Alex Kapranos and Bob Hardy of Franz Ferdinand/FFS at the Fox Theater in Oakland was also a thrill because Franz is a band I have followed closely since the beginning. During each of these interviews, I took mental pauses to remind myself that the moments were happening right there and then.
Finally, I spoke to Memphis singer-songwriter Julien Baker twice within a couple of weeks this fall. The 20-year-old is still in the beginning of her music (and interview) career, but the depth with which she answered questions, and the level of thought she put into our conversation was something to marvel at. I look forward to meeting her when she performs in San Francisco for the first time in February.