Exclusive Interview: John Baumann

John Baumann is an unassuming yet confident man. He strolled up to our interview at Austin’s Houndstooth Coffee wearing a black Under Armour polo with a subtle line of color running horizontally across the collarbone, matching his black Ray Bans with clear trim around the inside. He’s not flashy, but he understands how little accents of differentiation can go a long way in helping one stand out.

The rest of Baumann’s character fits with his style of dress. His handshake is firm and strong but not overbearing, and his Texan accent is the same, laden with a twangy warmness that evokes his southern pride without ever coming off as elitist. The man knows who he is, that much is clear. His strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. He bares it all openly, just as he does in his music.

The San Antonio-raised Baumann, who now calls Austin home, is almost five years into an ever-more promising career that started with the humblest of beginnings: writing songs in his car during 15-minute paid “breaks” from work:

I graduated from TCU around Christmas of 2010 and after moving home for two-to-three months I ended up getting a job at a call center in Austin. I always had a love for songwriting, country, folk, and americana, and I always found myself going down YouTube wormholes at work to listen to other artists. Before I knew it I was sneaking out to my car, taking 15 minutes off from work here and there, writing songs on a 3/4 size acoustic guitar. I was always cheating the system (laughs). The ‘West Texas Vernacular’ EP was totally written in the parking lot of my job or at my apartment.

Now Baumann is being managed by Pat Green’s drummer and Willie Nelson’s tour manager, just two of the Texas legends who have inspired his love for singing and songwriting. He’s almost ready to release his third project, a six-song EP which will follow the aforementioned West Texas Vernacular and 2014’s High Plains Alchemy. He’s also recently engaged to his long-time sweetheart, and he’s taking life’s twists and turns graciously — step-by-step, day-by-day.

Read on to hear the now clean-shaven Baumann talk about the legendary ‘stache he was rocking on the West Texas Vernacular cover, the knee injury that led him to teach himself guitar, and where he sees himself within the tradition of Texas music.

Interview by Cameron Gibson and Yunus Church, words by Yunus Church.

How did the first EP, 2012’s ‘West Texas Vernacular’ come about? Who produced it?

Rich Brotherton produced it. He’s Robert Earl Keen’s guitar player. I just sent him an email and he called me and let me know who he was and what he was about… Which was funny because I already had heard of him since I was a kid. You grow up listening to Robert Earl Keen, you listen to the No. 2 Live Dinner album, and it’s Rich Brotherton on the guitar, so… I just went into the studio and they brought the whole band in to back me up. It’s easy, they just write music charts out that the whole band can follow.

That was my first professional studio experience and it was kinda like a holy crap moment. It’s weird being 24-years-old with a bunch of professional musicians and not really knowing what you’re doing. You go out and you have this really professional sounding record, and then you have to play a live show with your friends who aren’t pro musicians, they’re just your friends. The first two-and-a-half years were really tough. It’s hard to be a band. It’s a whole lot more than just songwriting and playing a guitar. You have to be an electrician, driver, manager, you know…

Were you doing all the social media and marketing/promotion stuff up until recently?

Yeah, and I still am doing a lot of social media stuff. At the time I really liked it, it was fun. Lately it feels a lot like more work (laughs).

Who were you listening to growing up who made you want to write songs?

James McMurtry and Robert Earl Keen were big ones. Guy Clark is another one. So many great songwriters come from the state of Texas and there’s such a long line of tradition. In my head it was always like, you want to be in that echelon. There’s something integral and there’s integrity in the Texas songwriting tradition that I’ve adored since I was 12 or 13 years old. When I got [to Austin] I started really thinking, “I can do this.”

When did you pick up the guitar?

About 13 or 14 I would say. I played high school football, tore up my knee in an Oklahoma drill, and it sucked, man. I was cooped up at my house for six months and I learned four basic chords on Guitar for Dummies and went from there. I was writing songs on Microsoft Word and I would print the lyrics out and leave them in the printer, my parents would find them and be like, “oh, what’s this song about?” They probably thought it was neat but I was always a bit ashamed of it (laughs).

I thought it was kinda silly so I kept it on the quiet throughout all of high school. I would pull the guitar out at a party here and there. People were into it but I would hate to know what I sounded like, looking back.

Did you ever get voice lessons back then, or did that start when you moved to Austin?

Yeah, at the request of one of the guys who’s managing me. It wasn’t like I was at the far end of the bad spectrum or anything, but I just had to get better at studio recording. Singing live is one thing; you’re feeling it, your whole body’s working, there’s something about it. It’s like being an athlete. But the studio is different. There’s strangers in the room, you’re paying for your time, and it’s sort of an uncomfortable feeling.

So I took some vocal lessons from a dude in Pittsburgh. I would call him twice a week and spend 30-45 minutes on the phone, for about three or four months. Learning how to go from your chest to your head, doing scales.

Was there a song on ‘West Texas Vernacular’ that really made you feel like you could do this?

Yeah, “Midland” was the one. I wrote it at my apartment in about 20 minutes. It was funny how that happened. It was just a reflection on some love experiences gone awry from the college days, of course. Some tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, nothing meant to hurt any feelings. The first time I ever played it was at an open mic and everybody there was just like, “damn!” I remember getting an applause that night and I was like, “alright, I can do this.” I got a rush that night and from there it was no turning back.

You are definitely a storyteller. Is storytelling a main focus when you write?

Yeah, I listened to other storytellers growing up. I’m not a great storyteller if we’re just sitting around drinking beers, I can’t always articulate from point A to point B and deliver the punchline, but if you give me a guitar and three-and-a-half minutes, I can put together the bits and pieces to get the story across and make it interesting. Sometimes to me, it’s harder to not tell a story.

You recently signed with Red 11 Music. How did that come about?

Pat Green’s drummer and Willie Nelson’s tour manager heard me on the radio one night and decided to reach out to me, it was incredible. They’re managing me now, and they helped open doors with Red 11. It’s a great opportunity. Every musician has knocked on doors that turn into dead ends at one point or another, so I’m just grateful.

We cut eight songs this past December and January. It’s me post-vocal lessons, a little more mature, a little more developed sound. We’re putting out a six-song EP and saving two songs for an upcoming LP. The EP will be out this October. It’s getting mixed and mastered in Nashville right now, and we’re going to release a couple singles to Texas/Americana radio next month.

Any plans to tour?

We’re out on the road pretty hard right now. I just bought a 15-passenger van and I’ve got the LLC set up (laughs). We’ve only busted out of Texas one time so far, which was for a show in Oklahoma. There will be more out-of-state touring soon, but I’m kind of waiting as long as I can. I can already feel everything ramping up a bit, and it’s like once you’re gone, you’re gone. Being on the road is awesome but you give everything up for it.

We’re out Thursday-Saturday every week, going to DFW, Houston, Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, San Antonio, etc.

What does the term ‘High Plains Alchemy’ mean to you?

Basically, the guy in the song is asking for rain. He’s in a drought scenario. This guy doesn’t know whether he should ask the Native Americans, or ask God, or who to talk to for rain. The bigger metaphor for me is that he’s looking for some help. If you boil the term down real fast, ‘High Plains Alchemy’ sounds like ‘help me’.

I’ve always been so fascinated by the imagery behind the high plains. The sky, the terrain, and mixing that with the notion of being up high on a different plane of thinking. But I really wrote that song thinking about performing it live, which is why it’s easy to sing along to.

Do you write most of your songs with the live experience in mind?

Not really, no. I write ’em all pretty much with the idea of somebody listening to the words. My joy is mostly found in the writing. I’m not the best singer or guitar player, but I feel like an English major with a guitar in front of me sometimes.

Where is your favorite place to play?

Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. It’s a 100-year-old dancehall in a river town that’s geared towards my style. I opened for Pat Green and Turnpike Troubadours there. We were just getting mobbed by people after the show who were like, “Keep going! Keep going!” It gives you that fuel.

In Austin I really love playing the Saxon Pub. Also Stubb’s, but in terms of a place to listen, Saxon Pub has the best sound.

Who would you like to open for if given the chance?

I’d really like to open for Sturgill Simpson. Jason Isbell. Willie, of course. There’s a guy named Bruce Robison who’s a huge hero of mine. There’s a long list, but those are just a few.

At the end of the day when it’s all said and done, where do you envision yourself within the tradition of Texas songwriting?

That’s a great question. It’s funny, my dad wrote me a letter one time that said, “I don’t know if this road is going to bring you fame, riches, or personal fulfillment…” I’m not rich by doing this, but lately I’ve been feeling incredibly fulfilled. So that’s good.

In terms of my legacy — if there is a legacy — I would love for songs that I’ve written to be staples or standards. Not in the sense that you can listen to them on a jukebox, but more so for people to say, “man, that was a damn good song. That guy really knew how to write a great song.”

You’ve gotta grow the ‘stache back, man (from the ‘West Texas Vernacular’ cover).

That cover was a total joke! That picture was for my work ID badge at the time (laughs). So I was like, “this will make for a hilarious album cover.” Little did I know.


Website: johnbaumannmusic.com

Twitter: @jebtunes

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JEBtunes

And be sure to download JamFeed for free right now and follow John Baumann to stay up-to-date with his latest news, releases, and tour information as he announces it.

Kid Rock is Rolling Into Trouble with Fans, Corrections Department

Kid Rock is rolling his way into trouble after a week of strange and negative publicity.

In the past week, he’s found himself at odds with angry fans insisting that he stop associating with the Confederate Flag after the removal of the flag from the South Carolina state house last Friday. During this same week, Kid Rock and the anonymous production company producing his latest music video were denied access to film in an Ypsilanti, Michigan women’s prison after the prison cited security issues.

Furthermore, Kid Rock even told Confederate Flag protestors in his home city of Detroit to “kiss my ass,” according to an article in Rolling Stone.

Most interestingly, he has aligned with three separate artistic identities over the years: a rapper, a rocker, and a country artist. In line with his more recent association with the latter, and his 2012 album Rebel Soul, he has adopted symbols of Southern pride and rebel America as part of his country/Southern rock character, despite his Motor City roots.

But how does his association with the Confederate Flag satisfy his former, but well-known identity as a rapper?

The Detroit native seemingly has conflicting identities — a rowdy rock and roll rebel, and a tough-talking, blue collar kid from Detroit, often represented by his multiple artist personas.

He starts with defending the Confederate Flag, the quintessential symbol of racism in America, only to add to the contradictory personas by attempting to rock out with a prison scene backdrop in an upcoming music video.

At the very least, it seems Kid Rock has offended the victimized population of his hometown, one he claims to proudly represent. The last time I checked, the people of Detroit (a Union city) who support his blue-collar, rebel attitude are likely not supporters of his recent affiliations with racist symbols.

He alienated and lost a group of his fans, and probably won’t be gaining any new followers of his increasingly unpopular opinions.

I’ve always considered my appreciation for Kid Rock to be a guilty pleasure; an on again, off again satisfaction I find in his ability to genre-hop. But supporting the Confederate Flag, requesting to film videos at women’s prisons and telling the hardworking people of Detroit to kiss his ass crosses the fine line between a rebel and a royal asshole.

And I don’t like assholes.

Top 10 Things To Know About Faster Horses Festival 2015

The third annual Faster Horses Festival is coming to Brooklyn, Michigan July 17-19. Faster Horses is new to the music festival scene, so don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it alongside Electric Forest, Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza.

Faster Horses is a three-day country music and camping festival at the Michigan International Speedway. The 2015 line-up boasts Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, and Florida Georgia Line as headliners, and performances from Dustin Lynch, Lee Brice, Michigan’s own Frankie Ballard and many more.

I can tell you first hand that it’s a blast — from the artists and the mouthwatering food, to the foam pit and Ferris wheel. But if you don’t know your way around, navigating the vast grounds with two stages, carnival rides, and Porta-Potty villages can be rough.

Luckily, I know my way around the town and the Festival, so allow me to be your guide. Here are the top 10 things to know about Faster Horses Festival:


1. There are two stages, and they’re both worth a visit.

Faster Horses has a small stage and a main stage, one for up-and-coming artists, one for the big-timers. Sam Hunt was on the small stage just last summer, and his first studio album, Montevallo, just went gold in April. The newcomers are always worth checking out, at least for a song or two. Conveniently, the festival is timed so the small stage has performances scheduled while the main stage is in between acts. So really, there’s no excuse not to check it out, you might hear something you love that you would’ve never heard of otherwise.

2. It’s country.

Expect to see a lot of cowboy hats, daisy dukes, and boots. Also, an unfortunate amount of Confederate Flag attire. This is not the place to wear neon tutus and body paint — keep it simple.

3. Wear a bathing suit.

July in Michigan is hot; temperatures are usually in the 80s. Most people wear bathing suits, at least under their clothes. Aside from the hot weather, there’s a foam pit and water slide you’ll want to hit to cool off.

4. Seating.

Seating is first come, first serve. There is simply a large grass area in front of both stages — walk up as far as you can, or sit back in the grass in your own lawn chair — either way it’s a blast. The grounds at the Michigan International Speedway are huge, so you’ll want to note where you left your chairs or group if you venture toward the stage or around the grounds. Note where you park as well, and take a parking lot shuttle to the entrance gate.

5. Don’t necessarily go all day, every day.

The best thing about Faster Horses Festival is it’s affordable — $185 for a 3-day general admission festival pass. That breaks down to only $62 a day to see over 10 artists per day. Even if you don’t go all day every day, your festival pass will be worth it. If there’s a few opening acts you don’t care to see, you could still go for just the headliners each night and it would still be worth $62 to see some of the biggest names in country music.

6. The food really is delicious (and water is free)…

The vendors at the festival go way beyond typical carnival food stands. From a Michigan favorite, Cottage Inn Pizza and elephant ears, to authentic barbecue and free water, the festival will not send you home hungry. The festival allows you to bring CamelBaks and empty water bottles to fill up at the watering holes. Stay hydrated — the sun (and alcohol) can be devastating.

7. …But bringing your own food is a great idea too.

The food sold at Faster Horses is on point, but expensive. Luckily, they let you bring a small (gallon) clear bag of snacks and one full, factory sealed, one liter plastic water bottle per person. However, you cannot bring a cooler, so pack your gallon bag wisely. Last year I was able to stuff Twizzlers (yes, they were necessary), chips, a few granola bars and an apple into a gallon bag, so it’s doable.

8. Brooklyn, Michigan is a small town.

Don’t expect a big, tourist town in Brooklyn, Michigan. Brooklyn is a quaint, country, small town with a few restaurants, a couple bars and a Country Market. If you want to check it out, I recommend JR’s Hometown Grill & Pub and Shady’s Tap Room for food and spirits, and Knutson’s Recreational Sales for the outdoorsy types.

9. Plan/pace drinking.

I mean it. You have to pace that shit. Take it from me — the hot sun and carnival rides combined with greasy grilled food and beers sold by the 24 oz. are recipes for a day hangover (the worst kind). The gates open daily at noon, so if you plan to go for the full day (ending around midnight), pace your alcohol consumption — maybe don’t start drinking until dinner, when the sun goes down, and the biggest artists are about to take the stage. That way you avoid the day-drinking dehydration that leaves you hungover by the time Brad Paisley comes out.

10. You don’t have to camp.

Camping not your thing? Me neither. While camp sites are in walking distance of the festival grounds and allow for awesome tailgating, Brooklyn, while small, offers other options for those wanting a shower after 12 or more hours of drinking, dancing, and petting farm animals. Less than 10 minutes from the festival grounds there’s a Super 8 Brooklyn, and other accommodations are located less than 15 miles away from MIS. My advice though, is to check out motel/rental property options on the surrounding lakes, such as Lake Columbia, Devil’s Lake, Clark Lake and Wamplers Lake.

Artist Spotlight: Jamestown Revival

Jamestown Revival’s Jonathan Clay is no stranger to the music industry. The Magnolia, TX, born-and-raised singer/songwriter has been active as a solo artist since the release of his debut EP, 2006’s Whole New Me. From there Clay was able to sign a development deal with Atlantic Records and released his second project, Back to Good, in 2007. A third album, Everything She Wants, came in 2010 amidst various song placements for shows on MTV, ABC, and FX.

However, accomplishments rarely ever hold any real weight by their lonesome. What good is a dream come true if you can’t share that dream with your best friend — especially if that best friend is someone as musically inclined as Jamestown’s other half, Zach Chance?

Speaking with Clay (and briefly with Chance) on the phone for about half-an-hour, it quickly became evident that the joy of creating something meaningful alongside another meaningful person is the ultimate reward for the childhood partners-in-crime, who reunited to form Jamestown Revival in 2010. I could keep writing cliches about friendship, or I could let Clay explain why: “We just enjoyed playing music together a lot more than playing it apart.”

Five years later and the southern folk-rock duo find themselves in the midst of an extensive tour for their highly successful and critically acclaimed debut album, UTAH, which was released in September of last year. The tour has brought them in front of massive festival crowds at Austin City Limits (a homecoming of sorts for them), Coachella, and Wakarusa, amongst others, with an appearance at Lollapalooza on the horizon later this summer.

But as much as Jamestown appreciates the overwhelming love and support, they remain some of the most humble and grounded musicians that I have ever spoken to. Indeed, if I didn’t know anything about them, I very well could have mistaken them for a far less established group. Perhaps this ego-less approach to life is why they opted to forego the expansive studio budgets and bright lights of a big city recording experience, instead finding a log cabin high in the mountains of Utah to track the aptly-titled album entirely to tape.

The story of Jamestown Revival is really that of two best friends who help each other remain true to themselves, relying on and sacrificing for one another in the midst of a crazy musical journey through an even crazier music industry. Read on to hear directly from Jonathan (and at times, from Zach) about his thoughts on Jamestown winning iTunes’ singer/songwriter album of the year, why they don’t record while on the road, a preliminary release goal for their UTAH follow-up record, plenty of stuff about their current home of Austin — which they share with JamFeed! — and much more.

L-R: Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay of Jamestown Revival. Image courtesy of the artist.


Interview by Julia Waicberg.

How did you guys get started as musicians?

Jonathan Clay: My dad played guitar, music was a big part of my household growing up. Zach’s mom sings and his dad played piano, so it’s something that is in both of our family lineages. None of our family members performed professionally, but music was on both sides of our families. We wrote our first song together when we were fifteen. At first we were friends, but then that friendship developed into a bandship. But we started as friends, and first and foremost, we still are friends.

You (Jonathan) had a solo career for awhile. Why did you and Zach reunite to form Jamestown Revival?

JC: We just enjoyed playing music together a lot more than playing it apart.

Who are your musical influences?

JC: Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, and John Prine are big ones. Everybody from James Taylor to The Everly Brothers to The Rolling Stones… a lot of classic music. We don’t listen to a whole lot of current music. Zach does a better job of listening to more current music than I do, but I’m a bit of a grandpa.

You call your fans “revivalists.” Where do you find your biggest fan base?

JC: Austin, LA, New York, Boston, and Chicago. I guess that parallels all of the biggest cities, but it’s where we have the biggest shows… We can rest assured that the fans are going to be there, and that they are going to have our backs.

You moved from Austin to California in mid-2011. What caused the move away from your home state?

JC: We just wanted to change it up. We wanted a change in scenery. We felt like it might inspire something, and that it did. It inspired an entire album!

You lived near Bakersfield, CA. What about that area allowed you to write so much of UTAH?

JC: I think it was just being away from home and feeling completely displaced. There was a longing for familiarity. And the mountains and the water were all new to us.

You guys have been touring for awhile now. What are your thoughts on recording while on the road?

JC: For us, if you’re tracking vocals and guitar for a song and you don’t finish it that day and you want to come back and finish it the next day, you’re not going to be able to get the same sound. You can never repeat. When you break down and then come back, you’re never going to get the same sound twice. And I think that holds true in a larger sense. For us, the album should really be one complete thought. It’s a really important thing. And I feel like it would introduce a bit of a disjointed quality if you were doing a couple songs in a studio here and a couple songs in a studio there. The whole cohesiveness of the album is a really important aspect of it — for it to read like a book from start to finish, for it to feel like a complete thought, and to feel like all those songs are of the same family.

Do you have any necessary touring rules?

Zach Chance: You can tell when people aren’t in a good mood. You know, when someone needs their space. There are some general unwritten rules, like if you’re lucky enough to be on a bus you need to be clean. But nothing too crazy. Everyone’s pretty respectful.

Is there anything you make sure to do while you’re on the road to take your mind off of music?

ZC: We always make a point to get some camping in. We really do enjoy the outdoors. You get out and collect your thoughts, even if you’re not writing a song about hiking. I think doing that, stepping away from your phone and the congestion of the city, is a really good place to figure out where your head’s at. So we try to make time for that. We’ve also gotten really into bowling.

What has been your favorite festival to play at?

JC: Being from Austin, I would say ACL. It was really cool. That was the first festival I had ever been to, just as a fan… That was five years ago. And then five years later, being able to play that festival, that was pretty special.

What is the next step in terms of your next album?

JC: Our plan right now is to finish a song or two by the end of the year and follow it up with an album early next year.

Do you have plans on where to record yet?

JC: No. We haven’t gotten to that part yet… Making an album is a team sport. You’ve got me and Zach, you’ve got our management, our band, our producers, our label (Republic Records). We have a lot of people involved and it will be a decision that we all make together.

iTunes named UTAH the Best Singer/Songwriter Album of 2014. How was that experience for you?

JC: That was really cool! You know, when you create something like an album, and you listen to it so many times during the mixing process and the recording process, you can’t even tell by the end of the process whether or not it’s good. So getting a little bit of recognition, it gives you some much needed approval and affirmation that what you’re doing is worth it, and that you’re not crazy.

Do you listen to your old music still?

JC: Oh, no. Once we’ve signed off on the final master, we don’t ever listen to it… It’s kind of like “Okay, I think I look okay in this picture,” and then “Okay, I’m done with this. I don’t have a need to look at this picture ever again.” Whereas, your significant other, you could look at them over and over. But when it’s yourself, it’s not fun to look at necessarily.

How do you know that a song is good and complete?

JC: It just has a bit of magic to it. And sometimes finding that bit of magic is really difficult, so when you find it, it’s obvious. Sometimes it feels like you’re digging for a needle in a haystack, and then all of a sudden you prick yourself. And then it’s obvious that it’s right there… When you get it, you just know. You just think to yourself, “Okay, that’s it.”

You guys are from Magnolia, TX, but lived in San Marcos and have been residing in Austin (for the second time) since late 2013. Your sound seems to fit into the Austin folk scene, would you agree?

JC: Yeah. And from a larger perspective, just Texas and southern music in general. Austin is obviously a very dynamic, eclectic place. There are so many different kinds of music, but I do feel like we took a lot of influence from the south and southern music. You know, Texas songwriters. Guy Clark and Willie Nelson, to name a few. We merged that with kind of our own inclinations and I guess this is what you get.

What is your favorite venue to play in Austin?

JC: To have a show at Stubb’s Outdoors — that’s the goal. That could be my favorite place. We’ve played inside at Stubb’s, but yet to play outside.

You’re playing at Blues on the Green in Austin later this summer. Have you played before, and are you excited about it?

JC: We’ve been to Blues on the Green before, but haven’t played. But we’re very excited. It seems like in the city of Austin, we’re legitimately building a musical home. It’s always been our home in the truest sense of the word, but now it’s starting to feel like a musical home as well.

What is your favorite national park in Utah?

ZC: Man… Utah is a well-kept secret. Zion is great. I’m pretty partial to Bryce Canyon, just because we took this backpacking trip there. I think we did 18 miles in a day-and-a-half and were covered in blisters, but we spent several days out there and had a great time. And obviously, Zion is awesome. Utah is amazing. And Park City, we always love getting up that way.


Follow Jamestown Revival on JamFeed to stay up-to-date with all of their latest moves, and if you’re in the Austin area be sure to catch them at Blues on the Green on August 5th.

Ranking the Best Musical Moments on ‘Mad Men’

The series finale of Mad Men is this Sunday at 10pm on AMC. Right now I’m going through the seven stages of grief, landing somewhere in between bargaining and depression. In an effort to keep this show alive, I’ve been re-watching old episodes (my favorite? season 5, episode 5, “Signal 30“), recounting classic scenes, and reading every single thing on the internet that I can find. I binged through the first season on DVD (remember those?) back in July 2008 and have watched every subsequent episode in real-time over the course of the final six seasons. I don’t know what I’m going to do without this show, but I figure I may as well play some small part in trying to keep it alive.

One of the many virtues of Mad Men is its commitment to finding distinct, credible, and compelling musical moments to accentuate many aspects of the wide-ranging territory that it covers. The 1960’s produced some of the most memorable music of the 20th century, but creator Matthew Weiner and his team found ways to capture the songs of that decade as they happened. This comprehensive guide shows how the vast majority of the song choices fit the timeline of the series, with a mixture of classic cuts and forgotten one-hit wonders sprinkled throughout each season.

Here are my ten favorite musical moments during the eight years of Mad Men. A few disclaimers: I didn’t include any songs that were not recorded. That leaves out “Zou Bisou Bisou,” Bert Cooper’s touching farewell, and an unfortunate moment from Roger Sterling. I also left out music from this final part of season 7, which include some very fine tracks.

Oh and just for kicks, here’s my prediction for Sunday’s final ending credits song.


10. Frank Sinatra, “My Way” (season 7, episode 6, “The Strategy”)

Let’s begin with arguably the most famous artist to be featured on Mad Men. One of Ol’ Blue Eye’s last hits, “My Way” is used here to wrap up a moving conversation between the show’s primary characters. Their intimate dance doesn’t just symbolize the importance of their relationship; it also represents a passing of the torch from master to protege as Peggy crafts the perfect pitch to the Burger Chef.


9. Nashville Teens, “Tobacco Road” (season 4, episode 1, “Public Relations”)

Mad Men goes electric as Don recounts SCDP’s heist-like departure from PPL at the end of season three. The brash, pulsating guitar hook ushers the British invasion into the show and echoes Don’s public display of swagger and confidence.


8. Vic Damone,  “On the Street Where You Live” (season 1, episode 1, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”)

The first ending credits song of the series shows Don kneeling in between his sleeping children’s beds as Betty looks lovingly from the doorway. This syrupy Vic Damone cover is a classic from My Fair Lady, the most popular Broadway musical of the late 50’s and early 60’s. It’s the first glimpse into the home of this seemingly happy American family in the Ossining suburbs, blissfully unaware of the secrets and lies of their patriarch.


7. Chubby Checker, “The Twist” (season 1, episode 8 “The Hobo Code”)

This song comes during a pivotal moment in the relationship between Pete and Peggy. After a long day at the office, which included their second and final sexual encounter, she playfully twists her way over to him and invites him to join. He squashes her enthusiasm with icy control. Sitting alone and quietly judging her, he replies “I don’t like you like this.”


6. The Zombies, “This Will Be Our Year” (season 7, episode 2 “A Day’s Work”)

I’m a bit biased since The Zombies are one of my favorite 60’s bands. Still, there aren’t many better songs you could ask for to end this episode, which features Sally quickly telling her father “Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you,” as she heads back to boarding school. Don’s stunned, poignant reaction is followed by the affirming piano introduction. It gives us hope that the wayward protagonist just might be on his way to finally turning his life around.


5. Big Brother and the Holding Company, “Piece of My Heart” (season 6, episode 10, “A Tale of Two Cities”)

Pete Campbell smokes a joint and, if only for a brief moment, joins the counterculture. Need I say more?


4. Jack Jones, “Lollipops and Roses” (season 2, episode 3, “The Benefactor”)

While Weiner often inserts songs that tie into the action of each episode, he will occasionally choose music that contradicts or subverts theme and mood. This episode concludes with a tense but ultimately successful dinner between Don, Betty, the seedy Barrett’s and clients from Utz. On their drive home, the alienated Betty begins to cry as this soft, charming ballad begins to underscore the tension in their relationship. “When I said I wanted to be a part of your life, this is what I meant. We make a great team,” she says, still largely ignorant of Don’s many infidelities.


3. The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows” (season 5, episode 8 “Lady Lazarus”)

Procuring this song cost Lionsgate, the studio that produces Mad Men, $250,000. This may have been a power play by Matthew Weiner to show that he would let nothing derail his creative vision. Regardless, the song thoroughly represents Don’s growing disconnect with the latter half of the 1960’s. He’s never been one to “surrender to the void.”


2. Judy Collins, “Both Sides Now” (season 6, episode 13 “In Care Of”)

I’ve always felt that this scene could easily have been the final moment of the entire series (especially given the discovery in last week’s penultimate episode). What could be more profound than Don, for one of the first times ever, having an honest moment with his children as he shows them the tattered home where he grew up? The knowing glance that Sally exchanges with her father solidifies, to me, the most interesting and touching relationship of the entire series. The song perfectly accentuates Don’s ambivalent quest to sort through the “illusions” and realities of his past.


1. Nancy Sinatra, “You Only Live Twice” (season 5, episode 13, “The Phantom”)

From one Sinatra to another. This single was written for the 1967 James Bond film of the same title and it’s use here is fitting as Don Draper and Bond share many qualities — drinking, womanizing, and persuasiveness are a few that come to mind. This closing scene, which caps off the series’ strongest season, is structured perfectly with this full but quiet song from the very beginning as Don walks away from Megan and into the darkness. Shots of Peggy, Pete, and Roger show their own diverging paths before settling back on Don at a bar. He has “one life for himself and one for his dreams.” He is asked a pointed question but we don’t need to hear his response. We know that, like Bond, he is perpetually alone.


And here’s ten more that just missed the cut:

Rosemary Clooney, “Botch-A-Me” (season 1, episode 7, “Red in the Face)

Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (season 1, episode 13, “The Wheel”)

Kyo Sakamoto, “Sukiyaki” (season 2, episode 2 “Flight 1”)

Peter, Paul & Mary, “Early in the Morning”  (season 2, episode 8, “A Night to Remember”)

George Jones, “Cup of Loneliness” (season 2, episode 12, “The Mountain King”)

Simon & Garfunkel, “Bleecker Street” (season 4, episode 7, “The Suitcase”)

The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (season 4, episode 8 “The Summer Man”)

Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe” (season 4, episode 13, “Tomorrowland”)

The Kinks, “You Really Got Me” (season 5, episode 11, “The Other Woman”)

Paul Mauriat and His Orchestra, “Love is Blue” (season 6, episode 5, “The Flood”)

‘Love Story’ Proves That Yelawolf is the New Kid Rock

Yelawolf is the new Kid Rock.

From 1997-2002, Kid Rock created and introduced the world to rap-rock, a genre defined by cocky slang, punchline-driven lyrics, and southern rock roots. It was angst-filled, rebellious, party music. Over a decade later, Yelawolf has reimagined the genre with Love Story.

If Kid Rock is one of the kings of crossover, then Yelawolf is a prince. He’s known as a hip-hop artist, but his second album under Shady Records shows this country boy’s range. He sticks to his usual fast-paced flow, but the entire album is softened by southern charm ballads, soft rock elements, and an overall country vibe.

Kid Rock classics like “Bawitaba,” “Cowboy,” and the Eminem featuring “Fuck Off” catapulted the Detroit rapper to superstardom. At the time, it may have been a shock to hip-hop; a cocky new white guy out of Detroit claiming “I’m going platinum” on “Devil Without A Cause,” the title track from his genre-defining 1998 album (Which would ironically surpass platinum and go diamond).

Fast-forward to 2011. Yelawolf signed with Shady Records, solidifying his identity as a rap artist with validation from one of the best rappers of all time, his label boss Eminem. Yelawolf’s Shady Records debut, Radioactive, put him on the map with tracks like “Let’s Roll,” which ironically featured vocals from his kindred spirit, Kid Rock.

But after four years on the label, Yelawolf is now returning to his Southern roots, showing maturation in his subject matter and a willingness to take risks within the genre. Similar to the way Kid Rock has evolved as an artist, incorporating more Southern rock revival and country vibes on his most recent albums, Yelawolf is becoming more experimental as well.

Love Story is reminiscent of late-90s Kid Rock during his rap-rock era.

Adding a rap-rock, bluesy tinge to the album is likely a natural progression for Yelawolf, having grown up in Alabama and Tennessee. Despite my genuine (and sometimes embarrassing) affinity for almost any music Kid Rock makes, I must say Yelawolf has beaten the genre’s best player at his own game with Love Story.

The best thing about the album is that the return to his roots feels authentic. Yelawolf has engineered a perfect blend of rebellious rap that is rich with southern slang and rooted in country and rock and roll. And somehow, he remains grounded as the fast-rapping emcee that I fell in love with back when Trunk Muzik dropped.

Tracks like “American You,” “Fiddle Me This,” “Tennessee Love,” and “Whiskey In A Bottle” are the epitome of rap-rock, and noticeably reminiscent of Kid Rock jams like “Devil Without A Cause” and “Cowboy” — songs that feature solid guitar and piano melodies, harmony, and even a tambourine rattling in the background.

Overall, I give Yelawolf a huge thumbs up on Love Story — he delivers for his long-time followers and fans of his signature hyper-speed raps, but isn’t afraid to show his sensitive side and country roots, giving the album a new personal feel.

Any time an artist experiments with authenticity, I can’t hate. Love Story is a winner.