Episode 111- Singer/Songwriter Jules Shear
You’ll have to excuse us if we are a little preoccupied with music right now. This past week, aka “Election Week 2020: Your Hair Officially Turned White,” brought music to the forefront in surprising ways. We’re not just talking about the Stone’s “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” or Ozzy’s “Crazy Train.” In Philly, people played Beyoncé at peak volume to drown out a television interview. A lone fellow played the bagpipes at a NYC park after the winner of the presidential election was called. (Interesting historical note: This might mark the only time a response to a bagpipe solo was, “Woooooooo!!!!”) And we’re guessing somewhere in the U.S. “Proud to be an American” got some airtime.
But the most fascinating aspect of music and elections is who plays what, which musicians sue politicians over the use of their songs, and what politicians play during their victory laps. (The eternal struggle over Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” is real. Also, CCR’s “Fortunate Son” is an anti-war song. Seriously, people, just listen to the lyrics every once in a while!)
All of this music has us thinking about what we’d like to having playing when we have our first post-election speech as president and vice president — we’ll leave it to you to guess which of us is which. Luckily, our guest for this week’s episode was singer/songwriter legend Jules Shear, and he had some great advice about using mixes and listening to them in the car in order to narrow down what you like.
Of course, we asked Jules about a lot more than that. He’s known for writing brilliant songs, including Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night,” the Bangles’ “If She Knew What She Wants,” and Alison Moyet’s “Whispering Your Name,” and has been a member of several bands with great names such as the Funky Kings, Jules and the Polar Bears, and the Reckless Sleepers (with the Cars’ Eliot Easton). As if that weren’t enough, his 14th solo album, Slower, comes out on Friday. So the fellow knows far more about music than your average mixtape-ologist.
Jules shared with us his process for song writing and why he prefers writing solo to collaborating. As you’ll learn, it doesn’t have to do with ego — it has to do with efficiency. The pains of decision by committee are pretty universal, whether you record with famous singer/songwriters in Woodstock or need to decide whether the slide presentation to Corporate should include more than one Venn diagram. (The correct answer to the later dilemma is to quit your Venn-diagram-obsessed job and move to upstate New York to write songs. Obviously.)
For how influential he’s been on the music scene, Jules is pretty humble about it. We talked with him about what it’s like to be responsible for so many great cultural moments without people necessarily knowing he’s the guy behind it. His perspective is admirable — if we were responsible for helping create MTV’s Unplugged like he was, literally everyone would know. “Would I like to supersize my value meal? Yes, please, and did you know I hosted the first 13 episodes of Unplugged? Pretty sure that merits a free chocolate shake, at the very least…”
You know, upon further reflection, we don’t need a mix of tunes to know what our presidential victory lap song will be — one of the great songs from Jules Shear’s latest album. “Sugar All Day” is currently in the lead, as that philosophy has largely gotten us through this year. To find out what makes his album (and all of his previous ones) so great, tune in to this week’s episode. And as a bonus, you’ll get to hear about his adorable rescue dog, Clem. For more about Jules, check out his website. He’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And for heaven’s sake, download his new album from iTunes this Friday. It’s a better panacea than sugar all day and won’t leave you with a stomachache.