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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Sound Check: Contemporary Bands and Musicians Profiled
Aired January 14, 2012 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. And welcome to "Sound Check" where CNN introduces you to the best music right now. You will hear from artist that is cross all genres, some you've heard of, some perhaps not. First up Wilco, an American Indy rock group that continues to push artistic boundaries.
JEFF TWEEDY, WILCO: It's three dimensional. It's Wilco in 3d.
JOHN STIRRATT, WILCO: I'm John, the bass player of Wilco.
TWEEDY: I'm Jeff. I play guitar. We both sing. We're both here. It can be kind of intense to play some new material, and that tension I think makes for a more exciting show. There's all kinds of things --
STIRRATT: Yes, the insecurity comes from the fact that my mind comes from the fact that we're not giving the audience the best version of whatever tune we're doing. I think my mind is caught up in that.
TWEEDY: There's always going to be insecurity when you put yourself up on a stage and say look at me. I don't know. There are people that are really good at that and good at making themselves believe that they're invincible. But I don't believe there's many of them that aren't crazy.
STIRRATT: I never quite feel equal. But there are these sort of pinch-me moments that I get every year or so in the band, whether it's being on stage with Neal Young during "Rockin in the Free World," you know, it's times like that where you walk of and it's out-of-body.
TWEEDY: It's good to be a fan, to feel like a fan and not feel like an equal.
STIRRATT: Well, we started a record label partially because our record deal was up and we didn't have a record label. I think also because it became pretty obvious over the years that nobody really knows our audience and feels -- I don't feel like we can trust anybody else to know our audience and treat our audience the way we want them to be treated. I don't think there's anybody out there that can do it better than us or who really wants to spend the amount of time to understand our audience.
Encouraging my children to find something that they love to do and then do it, I think that's your job as a parent. I guess what people always -- when people ask are you going to encourage your children to be in a band or pursue a career in music, they always assume that you have had such a miserable time that you would never want to wish that on your children. I haven't had a miserable time. I've had a great time. I feel blessed.
BALDWIN: Wilco, by the way, touring the west coast this January and February. If you get a chance to check them out, dynamic.
But now I want to share the gospel with you, the gospel of Mavis Staples. She started her career some 60 years ago with a family ensemble called the Staples Singers.
MAVIS STAPLES, SINGER: When I sing, I sing from my heart. Mavis, sing from your heart and you'll reach from the heart. What comes from the heart reaches the heart.
STAPLES: I'm just -- I feel like I'm the luckiest old girl in the world, to be able to stand there and pour it out, you know, to give of myself, to deliver, and my message, I just feel that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, you know, singing and making people happy, uplifting. I want you to be up lifted.
STAPLES: My background with my family, the staples singers, we started singing in 1950.
STAPLES: The disk jockey would say this is little 13-year-old Mavis Staples singing this song. People would bet before we would get to where we were going, they had bet that I was not a little girl. I had to be a man or a big fat lady. So we would fool them.
STAPLES: When I finally finished high school, papa said, Mavis, OK, we can hit the road. You don't have to make it to school. I said, pops, I don't want to sing, I don't want to sing full time. I want to go to college. I want to be a nurse.
STAPLES: He said, Mavis, you're already a nurse. You're healing people with your singing. Music heals. You're healing people. He said, you see those people crying out there? They're crying happy tears because you're making them feel better.
Pops has always taught us, instilled in us, that family is the strongest unit in the world. Always stick with your family, your brothers and sisters. You stick with family, can't nobody break you.
BALDWIN: Next, banjos and mandolins as I sit down with one of the hottest groups around right now, Mumford and Sons. Also a musician who could do just about anything on the cello.
But first, the first female guitar god -- this is according to "Rolling Stone" magazine -- I give you Khaki King.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Mumford and Sons got together in 2007 thanks to a love of folk and bluegrass. I sat down with one-half of the quartet at Atlanta's FOX Theater before one of the best live shows I've ever seen.
BALDWIN: How many instruments do you guys play?
BEN LOVETT, MUMFORD AND SONS: I know what things I can't play.
BALDWIN: What can't you play?
LOVETT: I can't lay the guitar very well.
WINSTON "COUNTRY" MARSHALL, MUMFORD AND SONS: That is not true. You're very good at the guitar.
LOVETT: Violin. Can't do that.
BALDWIN: What's your favorite to play?
LOVETT: Favorite instrument to play is the drums. It's all around keyboards and stuff. Love to have a grand piano on stage. It would be awesome.
BALDWIN: So when people say you're the "it" band of the moment, is that a compliment?
MARSHALL: It's silly things like "it" stuff, because we've been doing what we've been doing for the last three years. It hasn't really changed for us except we get to play for more people. BALDWIN: Look at all the seats you fill. You fill this.
LOVETT: This is one of the most beautiful venues we've ever been to.
BALDWIN: It's amazing, the FOX Theater here in at any time.
MARSHALL: We try not to take too much of it.
LOVETT: I felt like, even though this is amazing, we don't feel like we've had any major jumps. Even know this is a bigger venue.
BALDWIN: You started out playing to like 50, right?
LOVETT: No, less than that. It's every tour -- we've done five U.S. tour now, and every tour it's slightly bigger. It's like the next step up. It hasn't felt like going from a small club to suddenly playing a venue like this. For us it's been really helpful because we can build and we've worked on everything in detail and worked on the set to play bigger places because it's grown into bigger places.
MARSHALL: Fortunately we've hit that wall now, in a way fortunately because it's time to make a new record. We can't play anything bigger than these venues. You're entertaining a lot more people and want to know more music and they want you the play for longer. Our album is like 50 minutes long. So we've been playing new songs, but even though our album launch party we were playing new songs like that.
LOVETT: Every night, you always play new songs, which makes the old songs sound fresh.
BALDWIN: How is it going?
LOVETT: It's going well. We may play a new one. Practice a little bit.
BALDWIN: How would the sound be different than this album? I hear it was influenced a little bit by your time in Tennessee? Is that true?
MARSHALL: Yes, I think Tennessee and the left of America. We're kind of transparent when it comes to our writing in a sense that we reflect the experiences we've had on the road and our lives in general. I think we've seen a lot more and we found we have different things that we've had to cope with and deal with in life that didn't exist, like five or six years ago.
BALDWIN: A couple of names you'll know along the FOX Theater's wall of fame -- REM, Paul Simon, Erica Badu. One name you may not be familiar with -- Ben Sollee. He fuses genres like folk, classical, bluegrass, you name it, with his cello.
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SOLLEE: My name is Ben Sollee. I'm from Kentucky. It's a song called "The Globe."
BEN SOLLEE, MUSICIAN: The cello is a four string instrument tuned in fifths. So you can create a lot of different cords that you're not going to usually hear on different instruments, but you can hear them on the cello because it's a spread out spectrum.
I grew up in Kentucky and I picked up the cello in public schools. When you pick up the cello, you -- the vehicle for technique is classical music generally. People teach you by teaching you Bach.
SOLLEE: Other things -- you learn all these shapes. You learn techniques in finger exercises. But when I would go home all my friends and family played R&B music and fiddle tunes. I would go home and jam with them. It would be like --
SOLLEE: Outside of the orchestral context I'm playing with mandolins and violins. Being around that and learning to accompany in all those different environments just invited all these different techniques, like chopping, any type of scratch work, a lot of listening to deejays and turntables got that sound of --
SOLLEE: The basis of it is I just -- I've grown up on so much folk music that I want to be able to accompany myself with song. The cello always delivered whatever sound I was looking for.
A lot of it is subconscious. And somebody will say to me in a show, oh, yes, I can hear that Brahms lick. I didn't put a Brahms lick in there. It's all coming from basically the same human experience.
SOLLEE: The hardest thing to avoid is getting up on stage and being like, I'm going to show these people what a cello can do. You got to play the song and you've got to tell the story. I think that's the best way to approach it where you're most likely to get that amazing connection between people.
BALDWIN: The extremely talented Ben Sollee in his own words.
Coming up next, the sweet sounds of Janelle Monae.
BALDWIN: Janelle Monae had quite the year. She played the White House state dinner, the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, and toured the world, because this funky singer songwriter says this music is more about where she's been than where she's going.
JANELLE MONAE, SINGER: Hi. I'm Janelle Monae and I'm a "mugician," that's a musician magician.
MONAE: I'm born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. I come from a very hard working class family who made nothing into something. Both my parents were janitors at one point in time in their lives. So I started off wearing my uniform, which is black and white as you can see, in honor of them and honor of everyone who is working hard.
It's inspired my music because I really want to create music that is an experience for people who -- again who are working hard each and every day. I want my music to be their choice of drug.
MONAE: I think when I decided that I wanted to be an independent artist, I was just moving back from New York. I was a young playwright and decided I had more to say as an artist.
I started to fall in love with artists like Stevie Wonder and David Bowie, and I loved knowing that I didn't have to just be an actor. I didn't have to just sing. I could create this concept album that could possibly one day be a Broadway musical and I would be in control of it, versus being someone's type cast character for a role that has been played for thousands of years. So I started to write stories that I felt were inspirational not just to me but to again all the people that I'm thinking about in my community.
MONAE: "Metropolis," which was suites one because I'd released the album we've only gotten to two and three. It deals with an android. You can mirror that to I guess the other, whoever you think is the other in our society today, whether gay, whether African-American, the minority and the majority.
MONAE: This deals with someone again, Cindy Mayweather, who is very special and she's bringing people together, the haves and the have- nots, very similar to what I've always wanted to be looked at as a uniter, somebody who brings people together, not catering just to a red or blue state, but creating this purple state where we can all live and breathe and love and just really unite. I think music is that common denominator and the concept album has brought so many people together. I'm just honored to be the narrator of it all.
BALDWIN: Thanks for joining us for this "Sound Check." For more amazing music just go to CNN.com/entertainment. And if you're in the U.S., check out my favorite music picks. We call it "Music Monday" in the CNN Newsroom.
For now I'll leave you with this, someone you'll see next "Sound Check," G Love.