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World Cafe Words and Music from WXPN


WXPN's live performance and interview program featuring music and conversation from a variety of important musicians

WXPN's live performance and interview program featuring music and conversation from a variety of important musicians
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WXPN's live performance and interview program featuring music and conversation from a variety of important musicians




Josh Ritter Performs Stripped Down Versions of 'Fever Breaks'

Twenty years into his career, it's safe to say Josh Ritter is a master songwriter and musician. But while making his latest album, 'Fever Breaks', he felt nervous. Ritter had been making music with generally the same small group of people, The Royal City Band, for most of his career. But this time, he decided to switch it up and have his friend and fellow songwriter Jason Isbell produce the new record. Isbell brought his band the 400 Unit on board, and they headed to the legendary RCA Studio...


Persian Musicians And A Parisian Monastery: Making Glen Hansard's 'This Wild Willing'

Glen Hansard has a new album, but not the album he initially intended on making. Glen wrote much of the album while staying at a monastery in Paris. The record, titled 'This Wild Willing', was initially supposed to be a simple, acoustic album. But, that changed after a chance jam session with Persian musicians. "It just completely opened my mind to a new thought process," Glen says. "And I asked them instinctively would they be interested in coming to the studio with me to do some...


Nilüfer Yanya Has A Very Cool Voice

Rising star Nilüfer Yanya caught so much well-deserved buzz with her first two EPs, it was difficult for her to carve out time to write a full-length debut album. But the Londoner has done it, and her debut, 'Miss Universe', out now, shows off the catchy melodies and grounded guitar playing that first earned Yanya attention, not to mention her unique and stunning voice. Yanya has been writing songs since she was a kid and she explains how an early guitar teacher helped her find the courage...


Cautious Clay's Bold Leap

Cautious Clay makes magnetic and cool R&B that features his honeyed voice and his skills on the saxophone. The first instrument he picked up as a kid was the flute, all thanks to a case of mistaken instrument identity that involves the movie "Aladdin". In this session, Joshua Karpeh, who records as Cautious Clay, shares that story, reflects on his decision to leave real estate to pursue music full time, and explains how being raised by a single mom who made her own bold career change when he...


The Suitcase Junket Is A Master Of Musical Imagination

Dried animal bones, thrift store cutlery, gas cans, baby shoes and yes, a suitcase. Matt Lorenz, who records as The Suitcase Junket, has turned all these found objects and more into a one-man band setup unlike anything we've ever seen. In this unusual session, Lorenz explains how it all works and performs songs from his album, 'Mean Dog Trampoline', which comes out April 5 and features lyrics just as creative and unique as the instruments he plays. Lorenz also shares how he pulls songs out...


Jenny Lewis Finds A "Beautiful Funky Way To Grieve"

Jenny Lewis' new album 'On the Line' is an amazing feat of songwriting. She paints vivid and memorable pictures, from guardian angels with stethoscopes to a narcoleptic poet, Paxil to poppies. The rewards grow bigger with every listen, and a detail that made you laugh the first time might make you tearful the next. Her hooks are surprising and unforgettable, her vocals are warm and it's all absolutely epic without being overdone. Lewis began writing these songs after a significant breakup...


Karl Denson Talks 'Gnomes And Badgers'

Karl Denson has one of the coolest side gigs in the world. In 2015, he took over for Bobby Keys as the saxophonist for The Rolling Stones. In his day job however, he's the leader of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, a fusion of funk, jazz, soul, and rock. He also co-founded the Greyboy Allstars and got his start on 'Let Love Rule' from Lenny Kravitz. Karl is here on World Cafe to talk about his latest album 'Gnomes and Badgers', an allegory for...well you'll find out.


Lucie Silvas: Powerful Pipes And The Right People

When Lucie Silvas first visited Nashville after a decade of navigating the music industry on her own in the United Kingdom, her first reaction was: "I feel like someone is playing trick on me or something". Lucie couldn't believe the tight-knit community of supportive songwriters she found, and what she intended as a short stay turned into her new home. Nashville is where Lucie met her now-husband, country artist John Osborne (of Brothers Osborne), who she says saved the way she thinks about...


Making Mental Health A Music Industry Priority

As a musician who has spent two decades on the road, Menno Versteeg of Hollerado understands the particular challenges of caring for your mental health when you make your living as an artist. There are the high-highs and low-lows of performing, being surrounded by all sorts of substances, having to deal with lots of pressure and little sleep. In fact, a number of European studies have shown that musicians are about three times more likely than the general population to struggle with mental...


What Makes Edie Brickell Happy

This past fall, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians released an explosively joyful album called 'Rocket'. It had been 30 years since the band's 1988 smash hit single "What I Am" made them an overnight sensations. Shortly after that brush with fame, Edie put the band on the back-burner and stopped touring to pursue another dream she had — raising a family. She married Paul Simon, they had children and as she told me "I feel like it's a great privilege to be with your kids". When it felt right,...


Look At Emily King Now

"I'm feeling things! This is awesome!" Emily King describes the moment she stood outside with tears in her eyes, and sang aloud the lyrics to the first song she wrote for her new album. That song is called "Remind Me" and it captures the renewed inspiration King found after packing up her New York City life, learning to drive and moving to a small town in the Catskills. King's entire new album 'Scenery' rings out with joy and hope. The production is a stunning combination of jazz-inflected...


Andrew Bird's-eye View

On his last album, 'Are You Serious', the always inventive Andrew Bird drew inspiration from monumental moments in his own personal life, including getting married and having a son. And now, on 'My Finest Work Yet', Bird zooms way out on humanity across history's timeline, seeking insight about our current age, in a way he hopes "stays above the news feed noise." On "Manifest," Bird traces the evolution of life from single celled organisms through vapor and beyond. On "Archipelago," he...


Popping In For a Pint And Tune At The Cobblestone In Dublin

Ask anyone in Dublin to recommend a pub with traditional Irish music, and you're likely to hear about The Cobblestone. For our last World Cafe dispatch from Ireland, we pop into the cozy spot in Smithfield and can immediately see why this place is beloved by locals, tourists and musicians from far and wide. It's warm and welcoming with a big, long bar filled with people leaning over each other and laughing and clinking glasses. And at the front of the room there are about a dozen musicians...


Bell X1's Paul Noonan Takes 'World Cafe' On A Tour Of Dublin

There's something extra special about going to visit an artist in the place where it all began. On our recent trip to Dublin, Paul Noonan, lead singer of beloved Irish band Bell X1, took us on a walking city tour to show us some of the spots that have been important to the band over its 20-year career. We started off on Clarendon Market where the Dublin Arts Center, the spot where Bell X1 played some of their earliest shows, once stood. It's not a venue anymore, but we still heard a woman...


Ireland's Chief Musical Export: The Chieftains!

When Paddy Moloney formed The Chieftains in 1962, he wanted to take the sounds he loved from his Irish upbringing and share them with the rest of the world. Little did he know things would go so well that eventually, The Chieftains would help take the sounds of Ireland to outer space. In 2010, the band sent instruments with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman to the international space station. In this session, Moloney tells the story of how The Chieftains ended up being the first Western band to...


Pillows Queens Make Spirited Pop Punk

We had a blast visiting this Irish four-piece band Pillow Queens at the iconic Windmill Lane Recording Studios in Dublin. Pillow Queens has a delightfully DIY approach to pop punk and the band's songs are sneak-attack catchy. We found ourselves singing them long after the last amp rang out. Plus, the members sing clever lyrics in loud and proud full-on Irish accents. Pam Connolly, Sarah Corcoran, Cathy McGuinness and Rachel Lyons formed the band in 2016 and sold out their first ever show....


Loah's Worldly And Winding Musical Path

Sallay Matu Garnett, who makes music as Loah, grew up in Ireland playing fiddle and orchestral violin. When she was 12 years old, her family moved to Gambia where she became immersed in polyrhythmic drumming and dance, and then to Sierra Leone where she started writing little bits of songs on piano. Loah's voice is stunning and so is the music she makes, which she refers to as ArtSoul. In this session, Sallay shares stories from her worldly upbringing, and from her winding career path as...


Bench It Like Behan

David Keenan is a young singer with an old poet's soul and wardrobe. His acoustic guitar is adorned with pieces of poems, love letters and photographs. On our recent trip to Dublin, we asked David to pick a meeting spot that felt important to him and were not at all surprised that he chose a spot commemorating beloved Irish writer and poet Brendan Behan. A life-like sculpture of Behan sits on a bench along the banks of the Royal Canal, inspired by a lyric in his famous piece "The Auld...


Amanda Palmer's Sharpest Blow Yet

Halfway through performing her song "Drowning in the Sound", Amanda Palmer smashes her forearm to the keys of a Steinway with the brute force of a heavyweight champion boxer. Moments later she stands over the piano and yells into its body, as if howling into the intergalactic void. Palmer has made a living out of delivering emotionally sobering strikes. But her new album 'There Will Be No Intermission' may be her sharpest blow yet. The album contains songs about climate change, compassion,...


Maggie Rogers On Her Own Terms

Maggie is having a moment. Her debut full length album "Heard It In a Past Life" came out in January and she's been crushing late-night TV performances, including Saturday Night Live and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And good luck getting tickets to her North American shows since she's sold out all over the place. Maggie was thrust into the spotlight unexpectedly a couple years ago after a video of her went viral. Many of her new songs address the aftermath as she struggled to deal...