Author Archives: Chris Milam

Another Cup of Coffee with E.J. Friedman of Loudersoft

E.J. Friedman—the author of loudersoft—is a music blogger, artist manager, social media whiz, songwriter, and all-around Renaissance Man. 

A native Memphian, he’s also lived in NYC, Seattle, Los Angeles, and more. But here’s the point: every music community needs an E.J.; a scene needs a connector. Someone who makes, shares, promotes, engages, debates, and fervently, publicly, loves music for a living. Someone who invests in what’s going on around him. Someone who goes out to a show at midnight on Monday and blogs about it at 8AM on Tuesday. Someone who can start the conversation, or advance it, or elevate it. If you’re lucky, your music scene has an E.J. Friedman. Memphis is lucky to have ours.

So, enjoy Another Cup of Coffee with E.J. Friedman!

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Another Cup of Coffee with Witnesse

DJ Witnesse, real name Jason Sims, is a gifted guy. As a DJ and student of music, his talent for effortlessly blending musical styles is awe-inspiring. He’s shared the stage with Pretty Lights, Rusko, Girl Talk, Big Gigantic and many others. He’s played festivals like Spring Rites, Beale Street Music Festival and Bonnaroo. He is not only an innovative DJ on his own, he is also the man behind the decks for the inventors of aristocrunk, Lord T and Eloise.

He can turn on a dime from dubstep to jazz, from techno to hip hop, melding the best elements of any genre into something new, exciting, and uniquely his. But as a person—in this case, a person teaching me Electronica 101—he’s patient, thoughtful, and passionate about the music he loves.

Conversations like this are why I do “Another Cup”: Memphis music—like electronica itself—isn’t a monolith. It’s bigger than what our parents listened to, and certainly bigger than our own self-made bubbles (in my case: singer-songwriters, rock, and soul). Memphis music at its best has always been about shaking people out of their comfort zones. In talking with Jason, and in listening to his music, I was thrilled to step outside of my own.

Now, enjoyAnother Cup of Coffee with Witnesse! 

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Another Cup of
Coffee with Super
Fan Randi Lynn

Another Cup Of Coffee is a monthly feature in which I talk to a different person from the Memphis music community. The idea is to, over time, see how all the pieces fit to make something really special. In 2011, I talked to artists past and present, producers, music business experts, sound guys, festival entrepreneurs, and everything in between.

But I wanted to kick off 2012 with one of the most important members of any music community: the fan.

If you’ve ever gone to a quiet Sunday show at the Hi-Tone, or the Blue Monkey on a Tuesday, or spent any time “out” in Memphis, you’ve seen Randi Lynn. When I met her in 2005, I went out to shows several nights a week. I saw her literally everywhere I went. At that time, I assumed that going to concerts was somehow her job. Turns out she’s just that passionate about the music she loves.

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Another Cup of
Coffee with Brandon Herrington of the Fareveller Music Fest

Here’s one thing about Brandon Herrington you need to know: he founded Fareveller, a weekend-long music festival in Memphis that will celebrate its second year this March. Here’s (maybe) a more important thing about Brandon Herrington: he founded Fareveller because he loves music, and because no one else had yet. 

To anyone else, creating a 4-day, multi-venue music festival from scratch would be the last conceivable way to stay active in music. To hear Brandon tell it, it was as simple as going to the store when you realize you’re out of milk. Because he’s so naturally laid-back, as Brandon talks about Fareveller—and his own background as a musician in Memphis—he honestly sounds unimpressed.

He shouldn’t be.

Enjoy Another Cup of Coffee with Brandon Herrington!

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Another Cup of Coffee with Jody Stephens of Big Star

There are a handful of bands that made me want to pick up an instrument; Big Star’s one of them. There are a handful of songs that made me want to write songs; “Thirteen” is one of them. I’ve written before about their music, what it’s meant to me, and what it’s meant to generations of artists and fans alike. In the interest of time and space, I won’t repeat myself.

My first “meeting” with Jody Stephens–Big Star’s drummer and last surviving member–came in February. I was recording an Ardent Presents session and, mid-song, recognized him in the control booth. It was all I could do not to stop the take and ask for his autograph.

So, it was a thrill to sit down recently with Mr. Stephens and talk about Big Star, Memphis music, and more. Enjoy…

Another Cup of Coffee with Jody Stephens!

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Another Cup of Coffee with Cities Aviv

If his music is any indication, Cities Aviv might be hard to talk to. The Memphis-based rapper isn’t just lyrical, self-aware, and hyper-smart on the mic – he’s combative. In his most-recent releases – the full album Digital Lows and the “Coastin” single – he evaluates his own talent (“I’m not the best/but I’m coming for the next spot”) and takes aim at his competitors (“In a city full of fake Rick Rosses/I rock Cuban link chains with inverted crosses”). He’s good, he knows it, and he’s anxious to prove it.

But in person, Cities Aviv is laid-back, affable, self-deprecating, and generous in his praise for other artists. We talked for an hour about Memphis, New York, what people mean when they say “Memphis rap,” being bad at Twitter, and a lot more.

During our conversation, one thing became clear: Cities Aviv takes his music seriously, but not himself. Don’t let the t-shirt fool you: the guy’s having a blast.

Enjoy Another Cup of Coffee with Cities Aviv!

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Another Cup of Coffee with Jeff Powell

If you don’t know Jeff Powell’s name, you know his work. As an engineer and producer at Ardent Studios, he’s worked with Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, Afghan Wigs, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Big Star, Tonic, and BB King. He’s worked alongside studio legends Tom Dowd, Jim Dickinson, Rob Fraboni, and John Hampton. Since he began his career in 1989, he’s worked on several platinum-selling and Grammy-winning projects. He’s also the Chairman of the Memphis chapter of NARAS’s Producing/Engineering wing.

As an artist and a fan of Ardent, I knew Jeff Powell before I knew him. Last September, I had a meeting at the Grammy’s Memphis chapter. I mentioned that I’d like to get in the studio soon. An hour later, I had an email from Jeff Powell saying he’d been to my site, heard my music, and wanted to talk. I thought I was being Punk’d.

We met at Otherlands on an insanely hot afternoon. Jeff’s been an engineer for 22 years. He’s got a wealth of expertise, and he’s got stories for days. But above all, he’s someone who clearly still lives and breathes music. I capped the interview at an hour, but I could’ve listened all evening. Enjoy…

Another Cup of Coffee with Jeff Powell!

[Before I can start the recorder, Jeff mentions he’s been cutting vinyl for a new project all day.]

I don’t own a record player, but they say more and more people my generation are either buying mp3’s or vinyl. CDs are getting phased out.

Well, it’s both. What I’m seeing is that almost everybody’s making vinyl. I was on a panel on vinyl recently and one of the questions I asked the crowd was, “how many of you are buying vinyl?” Almost everybody raised their hand. Then I go, “how many of you are buying vinyl and not listening to it?” And about half of them raised their hand. But they’re collectors’ items.

It’s a more visceral experience. My parents had records and the thing I remember most is the smell.

Absolutely, there’s a smell. The artwork is a square foot. And it sounds so much better. Half of it is the aesthetic of…it’s just a whole other listening experience. You have to lift the needle and put it down and it requires more of an investment from the listener. The first time I cut vinyl myself and listened back, I thought, “what the fuck have we been listening to for the last twenty years?” It blew my mind open.

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Another Cup of Coffee with Cory Branan

I’ll be honest: I don’t know how to introduce Cory Branan. Sure, there are the press release bullet-points:

–Critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter from Memphis

–Released The Hell You Say in 2002 and 12 Songs in 2006

–Performed on Letterman and Carson Daly

–Toured with everyone from Jamey Johnson to Lucero to Dashboard Confessional

–On tour now, and gearing up for the release of his greatly-anticipated third album

But there’s so much more to it. When I first heard Cory, I was a kid sneaking into his shows, often playing alongside Lucero. It was a huge source of pride and inspiration seeing this new generation of artists emerging in my hometown. In the years since, he’s continued to make Memphis proud, evolving from a songwriting prodigy to a master craftsman. As a performer, as a songwriter, and as a poet, Branan isn’t just a rare talent; he’s been a major influence on my own music, and on so many of my peers.

We’ve crossed paths several times, but we’ve never talked at length about his music, his creative process, his upcoming record, or his time in Memphis. We talked about all that and more at Otherlands last week. So please, enjoy…

…Another Cup of Coffee with Cory Branan!

[Note: Cory Branan will be playing at the Hi-Tone in Memphis, Thursday May 26. To stay updated on all of Cory’s news and tour dates, click here. To read all the past Another Cups of Coffee, click here.]

 

So you’ve been in town for a little bit?

Yeah, yeah. Laying low, helping out at home, being with family.

Where’s that–Southaven? Did you grow up in there?

Mm-hmm. Born in Memphis. I always joke that the hospitals sucked, but it’s the truth–there was no Baptist Southaven then. So they came up here and had me.

Southaven’s different from even ten years ago. Lots of development.

Yeah, I’m one of those old dudes now, “remember when this used to be…” But where that hospital is now, where all that craptacular clusterfuck of fast-food places is, that used to be dirt. My old man made model planes, we used to fly model planes up there by the hospital.

So, when’d you come to Memphis? Did you immediately start playing around town?

Started playing guitar young, played in some bands, nothing anybody would’ve heard of though.

I think everyone’s read the metal-band-to-Leonard-Cohen press release by now.

Yeah! It’s true and not true. I guess I moved up here and started bartending at the Peabody.

That’s a good gig.

Yeah, it was fun, and it got me out of my shell. Because I was more of a shy kind of kid.

It’s funny, I always talk about the two things that are really influential on what I’ve done: the church and the bar. It really is true. You can’t underestimate the power of hearing the poetry of the Old Testament read to you every day in a really fundamental church; and then shooting the shit at the bar. That really got me out of my shell.

Were you already performing in town then, too?

Yeah, about then. I guess I started playing at the Daily Planet first, just getting on open mic nights, playing covers. Didn’t start writing until that summer when I was between 24 and 25.

That was a cool time in Memphis. Lucero was really getting started around then too.

I ended up running into the guys when we were both starting. I think I first ran into them at WEVL, the radio station. We’d play after each other on some radio shows.

I was introduced to you, Lucero, and Pawtuckets all at the same time. I was in Nashville, my family had just moved to Arkansas, and I was missing Memphis, feeling displaced. Then a friend gave me The Hell You Say, Tennessee, and Dogsbody Factotum all coming out of Memphis, all at that time. Knocked me out. Still, three of my favorite albums.

Hell yeah! We used to go see Pawtuckets all the time.

Next thing I know, I’m forcing everyone around me to come watch you on Letterman. Tell me about that.

Ah, stories for the kids, I guess. It was a fluke that we got to play it. It started because I had a killer publicist who took on the record as kind of her pet project. She was a monster, worked with Moby, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson. She got it in the hands of the people. They put the record on as load-in music–you know, when they were getting ready for the show, it would be playing. So he heard it every day and I guess he liked it.

So Letterman personally did it?

Yeah, least that’s how it was told to me. He was like, “let the kid come on.” The best part of it was getting the guys together for the gig and not telling them what it was for, then telling them all at the same time.

Then the Carson Daly performance was around the same time. Letterman was full band, Daly was solo acoustic. Really different performances.

The Carson thing came out second but it was shot first. I’d never done anything like that, so I thought it would be funny to just do the song like I do it at each show–walk out and do whatever the fuck comes off the top of my head. So I did it that way that night. Walked out, picked a couple people in the crowd, and said, “alright, I’m going to give this song to them.”

It might be a terrible version, I don’t know. I watched it once. I’m actually kind of proud that I did it that off-the-cuff.

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Another Cup of Coffee with Will Odom


Full disclosure: this month’s Another Cup features one of my closest friends, Will Odom. He’s also one of the best sound guys in Memphis. Straight out of school, he started working at Ardent Studios. He’s run sound at nearly every venue in town. He’s worked events everywhere from Hawaii to New York, Orlando to San Francisco. He’s been a sound guy for Lucero, John McCain, and seemingly everyone in between.

Because the last few months focused on folks in the music business, I wanted to spotlight someone working on the ground level, night after night, room to room, show to show. These folks–the sound guys, bartenders, working musicians, scenesters populating the shows, etc–are the lifeblood of any music community. They’re at the sparsely-attended Monday open mics, and they’re at the packed-house weekend shows. They’re present for all of it, every night–the tedium and the magic–partly because it’s their job, and mostly because they just love music.

Usually, this is Another Cup of Coffee. This time, I met Will at the Blue Monkey midtown, before he started setting up for the night’s show. So, we had a few cups of “not-coffee.” When in Rome…

Enjoy Another Pint of Beer with Will Odom!

William Odom.

Christopher Milam.

Does anyone call you William?

Does anyone call you Christopher?

Three people. One’s my mom. I’m going to ask some questions as if I don’t know the answers. Pretend I’m James Lipton. Where did you grow up, sir?

I grew up in the wonderful suburbs of Memphis in Germantown, Tennessee.

Where did you go to high school?

I went to Germantown High School.

(Booing because I went to its rival high school.)

Your recorder won’t pick it up, but that’s a middle finger for you.

Where did you go for school after that?

That was a long career. There were two and a half years after high school that I had an on-again, off-again relationship with the University of Memphis.

A lot of people have that relationship! Very love-hate, Sam-and-Diane.

Yes, it’s true. Then I went to Full Sail in Orlando to study sound engineering.

Is Full Sail akin to SAE (School of Audio Engineering)?

It is. It’s a two-year technical school they condense into one year. A lot of people at Ardent went there. A lot more people from the studio world went there than from the live world. I know a lot of guys who went to U of M’s recording program, too–they’ve got a good one.

How long were you in Orlando? What was the music scene like?

About a year, and I was too poor to really find out!

What year was it?

2000-2001.

That was when Orlando was the boy-band capital of the world.

Oh yeah, that was huge there. I saw a bunch of shows at the House of Blues. I saw some really amazing shows there.

Local bands or touring bands?

Touring bands. To this day, some of the best shows I’ve ever seen were there. The Mos Def Lyricist Lounge tour. DeAngelo. Susan Tedeschi.

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Chris Milam Interviews Cameron Mann (Director of Programming for the Memphis Music Foundation)

When I moved back to Memphis last September, the first person I met in the Memphis music community was Cameron Mann. This wasn’t an accident – Cameron has probably met 90% of the city. Just sitting with him for an hour, he greeted everyone coming into Bluff City Coffee as friends. It was as if he worked there, and was saying hello to the regulars.

So, lots of people know Cameron. But even more know him without knowing it: he co-created the “aristocrunk” rap duo Lord T and Eloise. That guy below in the white Oxford and grey sweater vest? That used to be Lord T! He’s played Bonnaroo and SXSW. He’s toured with 8Ball & MJG. But wait–there’s more!

Cameron has worked for WorldCom in London, traveling Western Europe and learning telecommunications. He co-founded a record label/production company (Memphis Records) and recording studio (Young Avenue Sound) before he could legally rent a car. And now he’s the Director of Programming at the Memphis Music Foundation, where he uses his insane spectrum of expertise to help local artists advance their career.

Last week, Cameron and I sat down to talk about his history on both sides of the music business. Enjoy Another Cup of Coffee with Cameron Mann!

(Note: To read all the past Another Cup of Coffees, just click here.)

Are you not getting anything? No coffee?

I think this is my third or fourth time in here today–I’d better stop.

I’ll have yours. I saw the CNN story on the Memphis Music Foundation today. How’d that happen?

I asked my boss, and he said CNN’s focusing on a handful of cities. I think they did some internet research and found us and said, “the two things we’ll focus on in Memphis is what the Music Resource Center is doing, and the revitalization of Beale Street.”

Let’s get a little bio info and connect some dots, because you’ve got such a cool story. You’re from Memphis, right?

Correct. I went to [all-boys private school] MUS and graduated in 1996. Don’t hold that against me.

Never! Half my soccer team back in the day were MUS kids. Good guys. Where’d you go to college?

I did undergrad at Tulane. I was choosing between Tulane and Wash U in St. Louis, and I fell in love with New Orleans and the culture there, especially the music. You could say my passion for music started when I went to Tulane. I went to shows four or five nights a week. I’d put up posters for local promoters there called Superfly. That was maybe my first window into the music business.

Were you studying music or business?

I was an American Studies major. It ended up being a lot of English and history, and I minored in philosophy. I wrote a lot of papers.

Cindy [last month’s Another Cup] said she studied Poly-sci and Russian in college. Lots of unconventional majors.

I think the music business inevitably attracts a motley crowd. I don’t know that there is a “standard path” in the music industry. I bet Cindy’s path was just as random and weird as mine.

For sure. I was kind of a misplaced Belmont kid at Vandy.

Did you take any classes at Belmont?

Nope. I was taking classes at Blair [Vanderbilt’s music school], trying to hang with the jazz kids and the classical kids. And then everyone I ended up playing with in Nashville were Belmont kids. They’ve got a great program.

Definitely, and I know they’ve got a music MBA too.

So how do you go from college kid street-teamer to aristocrunk rap superstar?

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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