Beezy Douglas is a Cleveland-based musician, event producer, and family man. On this show he sits down to talk with grassroots performers, activists, and other persons of interest that he's had the fortune to cross paths with.
Follow me @bzdug, and use #bzlistening if you share any of the episodes!
Today my guest is Matt Pless, a punk/folk/protest musician that I first encountered at Occupy Wall St, which we reflect on a bit, in addition to the standard questions I get into with every musician. Like many other artists I've interviewed, it's a goddamned national tragedy that Matt isn't more widely known.
From his bio:
Combining elements of folk, punk, pop and rock, Matt Pless can lyrically turn a phrase with the best of them and has been compared to some of the preeminent songwriters of our time.
A consummate performer with a high-energy stage presence, Matt Pless travels the road continuously entertaining and astounding his audiences. With guitar and harmonica as his tools of choice and words as his main characters, he has shared the stage with the likes of Maroon 5, Rilo Kiley, Alkaline Trio, Arlo Guthrie, Bad Brains, Fallout Boy, All Time Low and others.
Matt’s extensive touring schedule has taken him to Europe, and across the U.S. multiple times playing venues from bars to boxcars and basements and everything in between...wherever there are people to hear his music.
And almost anyone can relate to a Matt Pless song. His unique gift for writing lyrics and melodies that appeal to the core of the human condition is, like Matt himself, an experience.
Brent Kirby’s been called by many of his peers one of Cleveland’s hardest working musicians and his actions prove that. In 2013, Brent Kirby was voted “Best Singer” and also “Best Male Vocal” by the Cleveland Scene, and 2012, he was voted “Best Musician”. When he is not playing solo or with his band, called His Luck, he writes the tunes and fronts the Jack Fords (2007, 2009 Best Rock Band Cleveland Scene), leads the monthly revival of Gram Parsons with his band The New Soft Shoe, and plays drums for the talented Cleveland holiday band, the Ohio City Singers. His 10 x 3 Songwriter showcase weekly series at Brothers Lounge has created an encouraging, vibrant original music scene.
If you haven’t listened to part one yet, I would definitely recommend it, because that’s weird, but it’s your life.
Next Monday my musical guest will be Brent Kirby, and the following Thursday I’ll be releasing my interview with a local director, Roger Hill, to talk about his new film Huckleberry. So if you want a spoiler free experience, I highly recommend you watch the film, which is available to rent or buy on Amazon, or free with Prime.
This may have been the most difficult interview I’ve ever had to edit, which is a direct result of the fact that it was one of the easiest interviews I’ve ever conducted with a total stranger. I did my best to whittle down our five hour conversation, but there was no way this episode wasn’t going to be a two-parter.
In part one, I chat with the mayor about his mother’s work with the National Organization for Women, his early political experience in college, his work as a trial lawyer, how Trump’s election inspired him to run for office, and how he came to run for mayor. We also talk about “The Lawn Incident”. We go off on a tangent or two about national issues, but most of that will be in part 2, which will be out next Thursday.
I took the weekend off, and so no new musical guest this week. Instead, I've put together this mix tape of all the musicians featured so far on the show.
Check back tomorrow for part one of my interview with Michael Brennan, mayor of University Heights.
1:40 - The Year Ahead by Ray Flanagan
5:05 - After Laughter by Charley Crockett
8:50 - Lenny Bruce by Curtis Eller
14:18 - Black Magic by Hannah Stak
17:23 - Montana Sky by Apostle Jones
22:45 - Apocalypses by Kate Hart
26:20 - One Foot in the Mud by Larry Elefante
28:33 - Glow by Cutleri
32:23 - Flawless by Indre
36:03 - When It's Dark by Madeline Finn
40:43 - Second Life by Michael McFarland
43:48 - Piece Movement by Xe La
47:00 - One More Soul by Robinson Treacher
52:30 - My Blood is Red by Molly Ruth
This week I’ve got another guest that I met while I was living in New York City, Molly Ruth. We talk about how growing up in NYC shaped her and the state of the city, the meaning behind some of her song lyrics, and her time at Standing Rock.
In a pinch I’ve described Molly as a cross between Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, and Joan Jett, but that isn’t nearly as accurate as the bio on her website:
“Every song is a blood-sacrifice. Sometimes she howls to the animal kingdom, sometimes sermonizes in a spirit language, sometimes she is wailing a bitter, jealous country ballad that leaves your heart ragged and your soul purified. “
I’ve been a huge fan of Molly’s since the first time I saw her perform nearly 10 years ago, and am very excited to have the opportunity to introduce her music to my audience. So much so that I’m gonna change things up this episode and lead right in with a song.
Check out Molly Ruth on Spotify
Today’s guest is Robinson Treacher, a singer-songwriter with a heart and voice of gold that I met nearly 10 years ago at a family-owned cafe in Queens called Waltz Astoria.
We talk about Robinson’s formative experiences with music, his creative process, the spiritual undertones of his lyrics, and his newfound love of house shows. This is one of the first guests I’ve had on the podcast that spent time in the open mic scene of NYC during my formative years, so we take a stroll down memory lane discussing some of the spots that were our most and least favorite to play.
You can find all of Robinson’s music and upcoming tour dates at RobinsonTreacher.com.
More songs and stories from Xe La. We don't have the budget for one of those fancy "Previously on BZ Listening" intros, unfortunately, so you'll have to go back and listen to part one to see what you missed!
Over dinner I explained to my sons how I prepare for an interview on my podcast, that it's almost all figuring out good questions.
While I recorded an interview with a remote guest in my office they did this. They're really excited about it, so maybe consider this a pilot episode...
My guest today is Alexander Alvarez, aka XE La SOL. Alex is a man who has a very pure and complicated relationship with music and the world, and one of the most beautiful hearts and minds I’ve had the privileged to watch unfold on this show.
You can listen to the episode and find links to Xela’s projects at http://bzdug.com/podcast/xela
One of the questions I ask every guest is “What is your measure of success?”
It was after talking with Xela, that I realized my own answer, which is that I’ve already succeeded because I have chosen to make music and support others who do.
That’s the sort of truth that bubbled up in my brain after four hours chatting with today’s guest. So I’ve decided to break his interview up into two parts. Today is part one, and next Monday come back for part two.
You can find links to Xela’s projects at http://bzdug.com/podcast/xela
In part two of my interview with Michael McFarland, we chat about the history of McFarland Manor.
McFarland Manor is a Cleveland house venue in the Gordon Square District, organized by Michael McFarland, Cassie Bishop & Mikey Silas. The Manor hosts monthly concerts, generally on the last Friday or Saturday of each month.
McFarland Manor on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/McFarlandManor
This week my guest is indie-rocker and musical architect, Michael McFarland. We ended up covering a lot of ground, so I had to break this interview up into two parts. Today’s episode covers Michael’s childhood being homeschooled by his two exceptionally brilliant parents, what it was like gigging as a teenage musician (I even got him to recall his most cringe-inducing lyric from those days), his creative process, how he’s managing to achieve a middle class career in music, and his new conceptual sci-fi music project “Hello Headrush”.
The second part of the interview will drop tomorrow, where we discuss the origin of McFarland Manor, the Cleveland house show Michael co-produces with former guest Mikey Silas and future guest Cassie Bishop.
For any of you in the area, the next McFarland Manor show is coming up this Saturday April 27th.
On today’s episode, Madeline Finn and I talk about her early start in music, the lessons she learned as an American Idol contestant, and how she plans to move forward as a musician using Patreon to sustain herself and leveraging that commitment to fans to fuel her creativity. This one runs pretty long, closing in on the 90 minute mark, but I promise you I cut everything that I could. In any case, I blame Madeline, she was such a fun guest. No joke, I could have interviewed her all night.
Welcome to another Music Monday, today my guest is Indré, a local singer/songwriter that splits her time between Cleveland and Akron. I caught one set by her at the Winchester open mic in Lakewood and immediately booked her for an interview, and as the featured act for the my next house show, which is this Saturday, April 13th if you’re in town.
In our chat today, I learned that Maddie was singing by the age of three (and she has the receipts), that she spent some time towards a Public Relations degree at Kent State before deciding to focus on music full-time, how her first album came to fruition, would she eat crickets if there were a global food shortage, and on and on. I could keep summarizing, but that seems pointless. It’s all in the interview
If you’re listening to this episode in Cleveland on the day it drops, you can catch Indre at Mahall’s tonight at 7pm.
For anyone out of town or out of time to catch those shows, you can find Indre’s links in the footnotes for this episode or visit bzdug.com
Today’s episode is part two of a new segment on the show, “Personal Days”, where I talk with friends and family about issues we are currently dealing with or have in the past. The subject of for this personal day is transgender issues, because my brother Carl has decided to transition into my sister, Valouria or Val for short.
If you haven’t heard part one yet, I highly recommend you go back and listen to that episode where I interview trans-advocate and mother of two trans children, Sara Kaplan. I shared that discussion with Val before we spoke to serve as a primer for our interview.
This is the most important episode of the show that I’ve produced thus far, because until now, none of my family have really been talking about it. I know mom is very interested in hearing this conversation because Val has always been pretty terrible at keeping in touch, or opening up about herself without a nudge, or sometimes a very aggressive shove.
This discussion made me so damn grateful for my family. Mom, I love you, and I love that you are probably already looking into ways to support your daughter in her new journey. I also need to give a big love shoutout to Val’s wife N’Lou, who was immediately on board and ready to help dole out makeup tips.
My heart truly sinks when I think of the transgender people who have had to walk this road without support from their families. My hope is that anyone who’s listening this and has less than friendly feelings towards transgender people, especially within your family, you’ll think a bit about all of the difficulties they have to endure and the persecution that the world heaps upon them, and realize you can do a lot to make their life better. I love you all, and thank you for listening.
Valouria's Website: http://argylebox.com
Goldfish "We Come Together" Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-tNUur2YoU
Today kicks off a new series on the show that I call “Personal Days”, where I focus on a topic that hits close to home for me. This first one is on trans-rights and acceptance because this year, my brother Carl has come to the realization that he wishes to transition into becoming my sister, Valouria.
My discussion with Valouria, which is essentially the first conversation she and I have about her transition, will be out tomorrow. But before I reached out to my sibling, I contacted an old friend from high school, Sara Kaplan.
Sara is the proud mother of two trans children, and as such, is a vociferous advocate for trans-rights. I wanted to understand what she has been learning going thru the process of helping her children transition, and how I can be a good brother to my new sister.
Sara's story in the SF Chronicle: https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2017/transgender-child/
Sara's Public Display of Self Love: http://publicdisplayofselflove.com
Welcoming Schools: http://www.welcomingschools.org
I’ve known Cutleri for about a decade going back to when I first started playing music in 2009.
It was at Penny’s Open Mic that I first discovered Cutleri when they were the featured guest. They immediately stood out, from the sheer number of instruments and musical toys amassed around them. Heidi Harris would play everything from piano or blower keyboard to thunder-makers and finger chimes, Christen Napier perfectly plucked away at her banjo while Jessie Shaffer shifted from barnyard fiddling to concert soloist mode on her violin. All the while the trio is tossing out haunting harmonies and rattling their ankles, which were just covered in bells.
Cutleri is truly a band to behold, which is why I booked them for my variety show the Carnivale as many times as I could. Several years back, Cutleri had to disband as the three sirens set sail for separate seas. They recently reunited to record a new album, and hope to continue to circle back to each other over the years. Today we talk about how and where they came together, how they approach songwriting, and what projects they’ve been working on in the years since Cutleri was playing regularly in NYC.
They may not be playing live anymore, but you can still find their music on Spotify and Bandcamp, and you can follow them at the links below:
Vote for BZ Listening as "Best Local Podcast" in Cleveland Scene's 2019 list:
Today my guest is Michael Rutushin, aka “Larry Elefante”. On the show we talk about Michael’s musical family, his first gigs, his worst gigs, and his new album, “I Get Sentimental” recently released on vinyl by way of a successful kickstarter campaign and now available on Spotify and Bandcamp.
As always, if you like the show, please throw the episode a good rating, and like the page on Facebook. If you live in my neck of the woods, you can vote for BZ Listening as “Best Local Podcast” on the 2019 Cleveland Scene Best of Cleveland list until April 11th. If it’s any sign of my commitment to publishing an musician episode every Monday, and I’m recording this intro at 2am in my downstairs bathroom so I don’t wake the fam.
Also coming up on the show, this evening I will be interviewing an old friend from high school who is the mother of two trans children, which has roused her to become an activist for trans rights. This is an issue that has hit home for me recently, but I’ll get into that when the episode airs.
For now, please enjoy my interview with Michael Rutushin of Larry Elefante.
Today my guest is Steve Holecko, Political Director of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus or CCPC for short. This is by far the longest episode I have released, so I will keep the introduction short.
As the seemingly endless marathon that is the 2020 democratic primary gets underway and starts to take up all the political oxygen in our brains, I thought it was important to make sure to keep my ear to the ground more with local issues.
For the first half hour, Steve and I discuss his background in political organizing and the campaigns that first activated him, and talk a bit about our experiences with Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign. From there we move on to discussing CLASH, the Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing, and the work they are doing to force the city to deal with a lead paint problem in older houses and rental units that is causing lead levels to skyrocket in children. Then we spend the last half hour discussing the Green New Deal Town Hall that the CCPC is helping to organize.
The town hall is actually the reason I am releasing this episode today. If you are in Cleveland, and would like to attend, it will be held at the Brooklyn Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library at 7pm on Thursday, March 21st. I would be there, but my wife and I have our first show booked in quite some time. I will be bringing Steve back again regularly, and we’ll hear how this town hall went in a few weeks.
As always thanks for listening! Do all the like and subscribe things, and consider telling someone about the show with your mouth! It's great.
Green New Deal Town Hall:
Today my guest is Robert Evans: journalist and host of the “Behind the Bastards” podcast. I first noticed Robert’s work in 2013 when he was writing for Cracked.com, a comedy site that did a surprising amount of important reporting and political commentary. The piece was entitled “6 Myths About Drone Warfare You Probably Believe”, and it kicked off a long running series that came to be known as Cracked's “Personal Experience” articles. They ran the gamut from Sex Workers (both voluntary and involuntary), Ukrainian rebels, drug dealers and undercover agents, and eventually evolved into a podcast.
In 2018 Evans kicked off a new show, Behind the Bastards, where he profiles the worst people in history along with a comedian, to lighten the mood. Robert’s has also done extensive reporting for Bellingcat.com, a relatively new but important journalistic outfit. He penned an in depth report on radicalization through online subcultures, a topic became incredibly important since I recorded this interview on March 10th. Just five days later, the Christchurch New Zealand mosque massacre occurred. The following day, Evans published a follow up piece on Bellingcat, and was quoted in a Washington Post piece covering the attack.
The subject of Robert’s podcast on the week leading up to the shooting was eerily prescient. He profiled George Lincoln Rockwell, a man Evans calls “the grandfather of all modern fascists”. Over the course of three episodes, Evans lays out how Rockwell is the original holocaust denier, coined the term “white power”, and devised tactics that fascists and their sympathizers continue to use this day. It is highly relevant, and highly essential.
Be sure to follow Robert on Twitter @IwriteOK and consider supporting his GoFundme campaign, "The War on Everyone"
Kate Hart is a Cleveland pioneer of “nerd folk”, a genre she may or may not have invented. Please do let me know on twitter or elsewhere if she’s wrong because Kate is also a scientist, and therefore very much would appreciate the criticism, so she can correct that claim.
In today’s interview, we talk about her work as a chemical engineer for a green energy startup in Akron that specialized in waste heat recovery, which apocalypse she thinks would be most fun (if we survive catastrophic climate change), and what she learned after challenging herself to write one song a week for a year.
You can find the album that resulted from that challenge, titled “2018”, at katehart.bandcamp.com.
Today’s episode is with another rising star of the Cleveland music scene, Mikey Silas. Mikey’s stage presence is as big as his heart, and is a font of positivity and encouragement, both in person and online. I first heard him at an open mic in 2018 and was instantly captivated by his soulful vocals and passionate performance style. If you dig Mikey’s work, be sure to visit mikeysilas.com and follow Apostle Jones on Facebook and Instagram.
Today’s episode is another throwback, reflecting on Occupy Wall Street, which we are currently in the 7th anniversary of. The occupation began on September 17th, 2011, and was viciously evicted on November 15th.
Living in New York during OWS is something I will always treasure. I first heard about something going on downtown from a few friends’ posts on Facebook. It wasn’t long before I realized that this was a historical moment, and so I tried to participate as much as I could.
At the time, I was working full-time at an ad agency cranking out animated banner ads (for Citibank, ironically). Deb and I were not yet married, and we were 8 months into occupying our new roles as parents with our first son, Dominic.
I started spending my lunch breaks down at the park, holding up a sign that read “I have worked in advertising for 13 years for corporations such as GE, Pfizer, Merck, Wells Fargo, Citibank, HSBC, and many more. I know this beast, and it is not human. END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD” On the weekends, the whole family would go down together for a few hours to talk with people or play some music. My favorite song to perform down there was Sixteen Tons, by Merle Travis.
A few weeks into the occupation, I had a flash of inspiration. I remember, I was smoking a cigarette on my apartment stoop, when I suddenly realized that the people’s mic, the only means of amplification permitted in Zuccotti, would be an amazing way to propose to Deb. I spent the next week looking through antique flea markets for a reasonably priced ring, writing a speech that would work within the people’s mic format, and organizing some friends to meet us at the Park the following Saturday. Deb thought we were just heading down there to hang out and play some music again.
I knew that my idea was going to go over great with Deb and our friends and family, but I had no idea that the damn video would go viral! I uploaded it to YouTube on Saturday evening, October 15th. On Monday, friends started messaging me that my video was featured on Gawker.com. By the end of the next week, we'd been featured in The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Gothamist, The New York Daily News, and dozens of blog entries, with over 100 thousand views.
The experience galvanized our support for the movement, and we used every media inquiry into our story as an opportunity to articulate specifically why we were supporting OWS. We then became aware of Parents for Occupy Wall Street, and figured that be a good entry point for going deeper into supporting the occupation.
On October 21st, the group organized a sleepover in Zuccotti park, which ended up being quite a fiasco. So much so that the night after, Deb and I decided to sit down and record a recap of what transpired.
If I weren’t spread so thin with work this month, I’d love to have done a full episode discussing all the aspects of OWS that we witnessed and participated in, but I just don’t have the damn time. Shit, I wanted to have this episode prepped and ready to drop a week ago, but it took me this long to write and record this introduction. So in the meantime, please enjoy this time capsule recollection of the night Deb, Dominic, and I spent in Zuccotti park, and thanks for listening.
This week’s episode is with Cleveland singer-songwriter, Hannah Stak. I first heard her play at the McFarland Manor house show, and she lived up to the high praise I’d been hearing from my wife, Deb. She was one of the first artists I booked for the revival of my Carnivale last August. I also loved her banter and stories between songs and was really glad to have this opportunity to get her to elaborate a bit more on some of those stories. This summer Hannah released her first EP, “Retrograde”, which you can find on Spotify. Hannah can be found playing or hosting events all over the city. Be sure to keep an eye on her Facebook page so you can catch one of her upcoming “Sounds and Stories” showcases featuring other great local musicians, or visit her website https://hannahstak.com for more information.
Today’s interview is with my first non-musical guest, Holly LeCraw. She’s a Boston-based author of two books, The Swimming Pool and The Half Brother, and is currently working on a third. I met Holly in the spring of 2016 during my brief stint as an amateur journalist, covering the debacle that was the New York Presidential Primary election. You can review some of the work we did together at nyelectionjustice.org, putting together a timeline of the failures of the NYC Board of Elections leading up to and following the primary.
During our discussion, we reflect on the work we did with New York Election Justice, and how we’ve been staying active and maintaining our sanity since Trump’s election. I hope to have more members of the New York Election Justice team on the show in future episodes, but Holly and I became very close friends during our work together, so she was my first choice for diving back into this period of my life.
I discovered Curtis in the summer of 2009 when he opened for the Squirrel Nut Zippers in New York City. I don’t remember a thing about them, but I’ll never forget how Curtis captivated me. His performance involved a fair amount of high kicks, twirling, intimate storytelling, some light yodeling, and absolutely no recognition of the fourth wall.
In this interview, recorded back in 2014, we talked about Curtis' early years growing up with a father who ran a small time circus, honing his craft in New York City, the time he got to play a Pete Seeger song for Pete himself, and how he developed his unique performance style.
Be sure to visit www.curtiseller.com to hear more of his music and to find out when he’s coming through your neck of the woods.
It has been an honor and a privilege to know Charley Crockett, and get to watch his star rise. I met Charley Crockett in 2009 at a small open mic in Astoria, back when I was giving standup comedy a shot. Shortly after we met, he put out word that he was looking for a place to crash short term, just as one of my roommates was going outta town for a month and looking to sublet. Serendipity-doo-dah!
Over the years , we've remained close even when we weren’t in proximity. You can check out the previous episode to hear more about Charley’s early days. In this episode, I caught up with him when he rolled through Cleveland as part of what he describes as a “never-ending tour” promoting his new album “Lonesome As a Shadow”, and riding a rising wave of well-earned success. Be sure to follow him on Instagram @charleycrockett, and check out his website, CharleyCrockett.com for tour dates.
Charley Crockett is the man who nicknamed me BZ, back in 2009 when we first met at an open mic in NYC. This episode is pulled from my very first attempt at podcasting back in 2014. We cover a lot of Charley's background before he came to NYC, his life as a full-time busker, and the troubled waters of his first experience with a major label.
Later this week I'll be posting a brand new interview with Charley Crockett from May of 2018, when he came thru Cleveland to perform at the Beachland Ballroom main stage.
Ray Flanagan is one of the most prolific musicians in the Cleveland music scene, and can be found delivering his own songs intimately in his dynamic solo performances, rocking and rolling with his band The Authorities, or playing sideman to any number of bands and artists around town. You can keep up with Ray via his website https://www.rayflanagan.net
Hi there, I’m BZ Douglas, a musician, and event producer.
I came to the craft of music late in life. I waded into the waters of the New York open mic scene back in 2009 as a stand up comic, and came out a musician. The open mics are also where I met my wife, Deb Zep, who I’m now raising two rambunctious boys with in Cleveland Ohio.
Over the last decade I’ve been very privileged to have forged friendships with dozens of incredible performers. On this show I’ll be sitting down with them, as well as other interesting folks I’ve had the fortune to cross paths with.
Thanks for listening, be sure to subscribe on your preferred podcasting app, and follow me on twitter at https://twitter.com/bzdug or my website: http://bzdug.com
Check back tomorrow for the first full episode with local Cleveland rocker, Ray Flanagan.