Monday, March 2, 2009

WTBU Interviews: Jennifer O’Connor and Michael Brodlieb!

Photos by Nina Mashurova

Folk/Indie rock singer Jennifer O’Connor played a show at the Middle East in Cambridge on Thursday February 26th. She and her bassist Michael Brodlieb sat down with us beforehand to talk about her roots, influences and the plethora of bands she’s worked with. Jennifer’s fourth full length CD Here With Me is out on Matador Records and has been getting great reviews from Spin magazine, as well as NPR radio.

Emma Dessau: Where did you grow up and when did you start playing music?

Jennifer O’Connor: I lived in Connecticut until I was about thirteen in Danielson. It’s a small town about an hour from here. Then I moved to Florida before high school and I went to college in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a lot of moving. I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but I didn’t really start playing until after college.

Nina Mashurova: You were in a punk band in Atlanta, right?

JO: Punk makes it sound a little cooler than we were but yeah, my first band was called “Violet.”

NM: Was that after the Hole song?

JO: Yeah it was! I think you’re the first person that’s ever guessed that. I was a big Nirvana and Hole fan in college. That was right around the time Nirvana became really huge.

NM: It seems like a big shift from a punk band to what you play now. Do you still listen to that kind of music at all?

JO: Oh yeah. I like all kinds of music.

ED: I saw you in Hoboken when you opened for Yo La Tengo. That was a really awesome venue, I am from that area and had never been there before, and you were really good.

JO: Oh cool! That was really exciting.

ED: Do you have a favorite venue to play in?

JO: In New York I like the Mercury Lounge. I like playing here at the Middle East, I haven’t been here in a while.

ED: When was the last time you played here?

JO: It’s probably been about a year or so. We played here with Langhorne Slim.

NM: I think I saw you! I remembered that Langhorne Slim had a girl open for him. Did you cover “Achin’ to Be” by The Replacements?

JO: Probably! Yeah it must have been me. I played solo. It’s funny because I recorded that as a B-side for the record so I must have played it that night.

ED: When I saw you you played a Carly Simon cover, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

JO: Yeah that was probably the first time we ever played that. We tend to learn covers right when we play them.

ED: I heard that you recorded some tracks with Franz Nicolay from The Hold Steady on your record and someone from Ben Folds Five.

JO: Yeah, Darren Jessee was the drummer for Ben Folds Five. He is actually a very good friend of mine, so that was really cool to work with him. He’s a great singer and songwriter. I didn’t really know much Ben Folds stuff, but apparently he is a fantastic drummer. He’s apparently one of the best drummers in the area.

Franz (from The Hold Steady) is really great, we met him through our record producer. He made records for the Hold Steady and he made our records. That’s how we got hooked up with him. We’re actually doing a show with him tomorrow night, which we’ve never done before. It should be really fun.

ED: We’re kind of obsessed with The Hold Steady.

JO: They’re a lot of fun. They live in our neighborhood in Brooklyn. Craig Finn goes to our gym.

ED: That’s awesome. Does he spazz out when he’s working out at all like he does on stage?

Michael Brodlieb: No, he just completely ignores everybody and rides his bike. He only benches like one pound.

ED: Yeah, that’s what I would guess. He’s not the type of guy I could see lifting a lot of weight.

MB: That’s pretty much what I can bench too so I can’t say anything.

ED: You’ve released a couple records on Matador and you’re making your own record label now. How is that going?

JO: Well my first CD that I put out I had made it on my own label. All that really means is I came up with a name to put on the CD. And after that I put that by the wayside. I’ve put out a couple of 7” since then, but I’m sort of bringing it back a little bit to put out a few CDs of some of my friend’s bands.

ED: Is that the main reason why you’ve decided to do it, or do you feel like you have less freedom on a bigger record label?

JO: I’m still on Matador. This is just kind of like a side project I guess. I just want to help out and be involved with friend’s music and help them reach a new audience as well as put out little side projects of my own.

ED: Matador is a really good record label, right? It’s got some big names like The New Pornographers.

JO: Yeah definitely. It’s done tremendous things for me. This is just my way to build my own little thing as well.

ED: You’ve been compared to Aimee Mann and Elliott Smith. That’s a pretty big compliment. How do you feel about that?

JO: I feel good. I mean, I think that you tend to get compared to people no matter what you do and those are people I really like. I think they are great song writers so I would much rather get compared to them than somebody I don’t like at all.

ED: Is this your first headlining tour?

JO: We’ve done a couple of headlining tours. Not that many. You’d be right in thinking

it was. We’ve been mostly opening for other bands. This is probably our second or third headlining tour. We were on a really long tour before this.

ED: Who else have you toured with?

JO: We’ve toured with Damien Jurado, Jamie Lidell and Amy Ray (of the Indigo Girls) most recently. We’ve done a few shows with Wilco. I wouldn’t call it a tour but, I’ll stretch it and call it a tour. Who else? I’ve done a few shows with The Mountain Goats, and Mason Jennings. I’ve pretty much been all over the map. I do shows with a lot of singer/songwriter people and then some indie rock shows as well. Sometimes I play with these guys (Michael Brodlieb and Jon Langmead) and other times I’m solo.

ED: Is it true that you recorded your latest CD “Here With Me” in 12 days?

JO: Yeah it is. Our record producer helped us out with that, John Agnello.

ED: And he’s also produced Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.?

JO: Yeah, that’s really why I wanted to work with him. Someone recommended him and I went to his website and saw that he’d made some of my favorite records. I saw Sonic Youth a million times in college and Dinosaur Jr. too. We did it really fast, but it was awesome.

ED: Do you have a favorite song to play live?

JO: That’s a good question. Yeah! I have a few actually. What’s your answer? I wanna know what you think.

MB: I’d say Lightbulb.

JO: Yeah. We have this song Lightbulb that didn’t make the record, but it’s a B-side. You can get it online. I like playing that and I like playing “Here with Me,” the title track. I also like playing “Dirty City Blues” from my last record.

ED: I bought your CD after I saw you and I have a new favorite song from it every week.

JO: Oh good! That’s what I like to hear. What’s your favorite right now?

ED: I really like “Daylight Out” right now. Actually, I’m not sure if you played it in Hoboken or if I just heard it online, but I also really like “Hole in the Road” from your older CD “The Color and the Light.”

JO: Oh yeah. We’re gonna play that tonight, just for you.

ED and NM: Thanks a lot for talking to us guys! Have a good show.

-Emma Dessau and Nina Mashurova of Nick at Night, Emma in the Evening

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