Kristin Hersh needs to make music. Whether it’s with her bands Throwing Muses and 50FOOTWAVE or in her solo albums, making music is a compulsion. But she only recently figured out that music was her way of managing trauma. Kristin tells Marc about a life changing car accident, her dissociative disorder, PTSD, “switching,” and how processing all of this helped her understand the music she’d been hearing in her head all her life. They also talk about her new book, Seeing Sideways, which deals with Kristin raising four children on a tour bus.
Steve Miller didn’t expect to become a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with hit songs that stand the test of time, like The Joker and Fly Like An Eagle. He was just a kid from Wisconsin who loved the Blues and wound up with teachers like T-Bone Walker and his godfather Les Paul. Steve tells Marc how he got his first breaks in clubs run by the Chicago Mafia, how he learned an important lesson from Paul McCartney, and how he discovered a lost 1977 concert performance which he’s finally releasing.
Mark Normand is relieved to get back to the comedy clubs after a year of doing outdoor shows and other compromised sets during the pandemic. But Mark never considered stopping because comedy is something he has to do. Maybe it goes back to growing up feeling like an outsider in his own family of overachievers, or maybe it’s how he coped with childhood anxieties like bedwetting, or maybe it has to do with being a victim of crime at several points in his life. He tries to get to the bottom of it with Marc while they also reminisce about the New York comedy scene and the fight-or-flight impulses they have as comedians.
Nancy Wilson is one of the world’s great guitarists, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and creator, along with her sister Ann, of one of the great American rock bands, Heart. But after more than 40 years in the business, she’s finally releasing her first solo album. Nancy tells Marc what led up to it, from opening for big rock acts to writing massive radio hits to headlining giant arena rock shows all over the world. Nancy explains how things got messy within Heart when romantic relationships cropped up and she details how they were able to navigate the cocaine-fueled ‘80s to score some of their biggest hits ever.
Robert Smigel became best known for having a foul-mouthed dog puppet on his hand, but the truth is he’s a defining force in popular comedy for the past 35 years. Robert tells Marc how he was on the path to becoming a dentist until a stand-up comedy competition changed his life. From there it was on to SNL where he forged relationships with people like Conan O’Brien and Adam Sandler, collaborating over the next decade to change the comedy landscape. Robert also explains the origin of Triumph and why he’s gone back to puppets with his new show Let’s Get Real.
Richard Kind knows his face is memorable, but he still thinks he uses it too much. He knows his characters often exude warmth and joy, even though he is personally powered by dread and anxiety. He wants to be more like George Bailey, but worries he’s closer to Willy Loman. Maybe this is why Richard and Marc connect so easily. They also talk about Richard being a part of the Coen Brothers’ legacy, his friendship with George Clooney, and how he did most of his acting training in front of the camera.
On the day this episode is released, John Waters is celebrating his 75th birthday. But he’s still doing the same things that brought him cultural notoriety when he started making movies in the ‘60s: Celebrating filth, fighting censorship, and breaking any rule you can think up. John and Marc talk about those early movies like Pink Flamingos, as well as John’s relationship with Divine. John also tells Marc why Hairspray was the most transgressive movie he ever made, why he prays to Pasolini, and what is the only thing he regrets in his life.
Tom Jones doesn’t feel like resting on his laurels. He tells Marc there’s one main reason he’s going strong, recording new music and performing live at the age of 80: Because he still has a point to prove. Tom and Marc talk about his big hits like It’s Not Unusual, Delilah, and What’s New Pussycat?, how he learned to belt them out by listening to gospel music, and the secret weapon he calls The Push. They also discuss his friendship with Elvis, his musical heroes, and his new album Surrounded by Time.
Yo-Yo Ma remembers a moment in his childhood where it all began to make sense. As a seven-year-old prodigy, he was playing cello in front of an audience that included two U.S. Presidents. But it was an act of kindness and respect from the actor Danny Kaye that helped Yo-Yo look at the world in a different way. He also tells Marc how he found the meaning of art and culture in the Kalahari, why he developed a friendship with Mr. Rogers, and why he chose the title “Beginner’s Mind” for his new musical narrative project for Audible.
Sally Struthers is thinking a lot about the passage of time these days. For one, this year is the 50th anniversary of All In The Family premiering on CBS. She’s also thinking that so many people she worked with in movies like Five Easy Pieces and The Getaway are no longer with us. And she’s thinking about how all this downtime from the pandemic is keeping her from doing what she loves: touring the country in stage productions. Sally talks with Marc about how time catches up with all of us, but also how she can look back fondly and with gratitude on what has passed.