Unstarving Musician Episode 100, Featuring Mark Wenner of the Nighthawks, Mike Dawson of Modern Drummer Magazine, Vocalist Lisa Leuschner Andersen, David Barrett of Blues HarmonicaI had no idea how rewarding it would be to speak with all of the talented music artists I’ve met and interviewed for the Unstarving Musician podcast. I wanted to do something a little different for the 100th episode. A best-of compilation seemed a fitting way to celebrate the journey. The interview segments I chose to feature are based largely on listener downloads, and inspirational value to me personally.

It was tough choosing only four episodes to focus on when there are so many episodes that really stand out as among the most popular and personally inspirational. So I am pretty sure that there will be another best of sometime in the future.

I ultimately decided to go with these four contributors.

1. Mark Wenner, frontman of The Nighthawks (featured in episode 30)
2. Modern Drummer Magazine’s Mike Dawson (featured in episode 1)
3. Singer Lisa Leuschner Andersen (featured in episode 33)
4. David Barrett, blues harmonica educator (featured in episode 28)

By the way, thank you for listening and thank you for supporting the podcast. It means everything to me!

Mark Wenner

The first featured guest is Mark Wenner, founding member and frontman of American blues/roots band The Nighthawks.

Conversation Highlights with Mark

  • Mark discusses his band’s touring schedule, past and present. While I suggested that it looks like a busy schedule, Mark explains that it’s nothing like it used to be. When the band was younger, it toured coast to coast. Today it’s more focused on driving home after gigs and spending weekends with family.
  • Mark and I discuss labels, and he shares the many changes he’s seen. Mark believes that they still have a place, but it’s much different than in years past. He also speculates  they’ll continue to exist.
  • Mark shares a story of discovering a punk scene. He found a new generation that had built a complete network for touring and music distribution, completely independent of the “industry.”
  • Mark explains that crossover to the mainstream eluded his band. He admits many of their peers had something The Nighthawks never quite figured out.
  • Mark reminisces on DC as the once epicenter of bluegrass, remembering bands like the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene. He then thought The Nighthawks could have developed a similar ecosystem.
  • Mark explains how opening for Muddy Waters tours created new opportunities and formed important relationships
  • Mark explains how relationships with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, George Thorogood and others came to be, and how they helped the Nighthawks grow their touring circuit.

Mike Dawson

The second featured guest for this episode is Mike Dawson, Managing Editor at Modern Drummer Magazine, co-host of the Modern Drummer Podcast, and drummer-for-hire. He’s one of the most creative guests I’ve had on the podcast.

Conversation Highlights with Mike

  • Mike talks about meeting and working with musicians who are formally educated versus self-taught or educated through private lessons
  • How dynamics and learning to play quietly at a young age has given Mike many opportunities.
  • Mike observes that drummers who can play quietly are hard to come by
  • Mike elaborates on projects he’s passionate about
  • Mike talks about his love of recording, the art behind it, and how it lends to his content on YouTube, Instagram & Facebook
  • Mike shares his morning practice routine and how it benefits his playing
  • Mike shares his creative method and his goal to create without over-thinking
  • Mike sees his morning routines as a way of setting himself up for daily achievement
  • On the business of music, Mike discusses the importance of word-of-mouth, reputation, relationships, and professionalism
  • Life-lesson from Mike’s father that have paid dividends in his music career

Lisa Leuschner Andersen

The third featured guest of this episode is vocalist Lisa Leuschner Andersen. Lisa is a partner at the acclaimed Greaseland Studio. She was featured in seasons 2 and 3 of American Idol, and on Showtime at The Apollo.

Conversation Highlights with Lisa

  • Our conversation opens with how Lisa came to be a member of the Michael Jackson tribute band Foreverland
  • Lisa explains why her stint on American Idol got her started on the road to doing music full-time
  • Lisa talks about the fun and difficult parts of her American Idol appearances
  • Lisa shares her experience as a contestant on Showtime at the Apollo
  • Lisa discusses her contributions at Greaseland Studio as a vocal coach and singer
  • I ask her about also being a drummer, and she talks about the skill of challenge of singing while playing (drums)
  • Lisa and I discuss Bedtime Jams, a Facebook Live creation of Greaseland Studio and company

David Barrett

The fourth and final guest of the episode is acclaimed music educator David Barrett. He was originally featured in episode 28. David founded the San Jose School of Blues and BluesHarmonica.com. He also holds the distinction of being the only guest to do a live performance for the podcast. That performance has been included in this episode.

Conversation Highlights with David

  • The conversation opens with David’s admission that schools could have cared less about harmonica when he was in college
  • David explains his endless fascination for the harmonica
  • David shares the motivation and evolution behind the creation of the School of Blues
  • David shares a full-circle story involving local musicians and the School of Blues faculty
  • David explains his teaching philosophy
  • David tells me why he feels an obligation to create opportunities for all of his School of Blues students
  • David offers advice to others interested in starting a music school, sighting the importance of community and a nurturing environment
  • The interview closes with David playing a tune on the harmonica

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