Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Richmond Magazine: Interview with Tony Bennett

Over the years, I've managed to interview a few well-known celebrities, performers, artists and public figures -- even some outright stars. My upcoming autobiographical tell-all, Personalities Who Have Talked To Me, will be very revealing. 

Seriously, I thought I had become pretty jaded about this gig. But when the phone rang one day and a familiar voice on the other end said, "Hello, is Don Harrison there? This is Tony Bennett," the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

We're talking greatness here. And Tony Bennett is hotter than ever (he currently has a top-selling duet CD with Lady Gaga burning the charts, among other things). During my recent Q&A interview with him for Richmond Magazine, I got the veteran crooner to talk about his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," his relationship with Frank Sinatra, his love for painting, what he calls "America's Classical Music," and his newfound duet partner and their unlikely success.

To read my interview with the legendary Tony Bennett, available in the December issue of Richmond Magazine, click right here.

And for more on Tony Bennett, let yourself go right here.

Photo by the mighty Mark Seliger!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Richmond Magazine: Someday My Prints Will Come

Think collectively and carry a big steamroller! 

My feature article on Studio Two Three, and its director Ashley Hawkins, is now online at the Richmond Magazine website. 

This scrappy printmaking collective is not only responsible for creating giant screenprinted maps of Richmond (pressed by a huge steamroller at the Richmond Street Art Festival, RVA MakerFest and other public events), the space provides 24-hour equipment and facility access for printmakers and budding artists across the region. 

You'll be impressed. Read the story by clicking here.

And for more on Studio Two Three, imprint yourself here.

(Photo by the mighty Rosemary Jesionowski)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Style Weekly: Q&A with Leo Kottke

I love it when I find myself.

This has happened a few times: I do a Google search on a completely unrelated topic and somehow one of my old stories pops up -- usually a story that I had completely forgotten about. This thrills me to no end because that means I get to read it "fresh," as if someone else wrote it. 

The other day, researching a potential feature on astrology (don't ask), the search engine coughed up an interview I conducted with the legendary folk guitarist, Leo Kottke in 2009. In the introduction to the Style Weekly piece, titled "Dreams and All That Stuff," I write that "I'd always heard that Leo Kottke was a tough interview -- when you could get him on the phone, that is. What a crock. Calling from a tour stop in El Paso, Texas, the finger-picking specialist is gracious, funny and forthcoming with details surrounding his still-evolving career in music."

Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Q: You say you were self taught.
When I was 13, I got sick… Once I got sick, I got sicker. After a couple of months I was in bed and not allowed to sit up. So I'd been on my back for two months. My mother brought home a toy guitar because you could play it on your back. I was a trombone player. I didn't really think that the guitar was a musical instrument. It was invisible to my ears. I was into marching bands and wind ensembles and stuff like that. So I was lying there and really sick, all screwed up, and the guitar had a little -cowboy stenciled on it and it was garbage, I can hear it really well and it was junk, but I didn't know that. I made what turned out to be an E chord and strummed it. I don't know how I got it in tune.
And that was it. I can still remember it – the sun was shining. I was out of bed in a week, never wound up back in bed. I knew exactly what I wanted and that was the guitar. I didn't dream that it would become a job. I couldn't have cared less and, in some ways, that is still true. The job is a distant second to just being allowed to get my hands on the guitar every day. I sat up immediately and I remember everything about it, beautiful weather – big cumuli out the window, blue sky. It was a happiness that I had never met and it's still like that.
Q: Has your romance with the guitar ever worn off?
It never did wear off. But I did notice that some behavior of mine would cloud it, so that was it for the behavior (laughs). Dizzy Gillespie talked about that, he wrote a great memoir, "To Be or Not to Bop" He said that you have take care of [your art], to be a kind of a monk, otherwise it won't sustain for you. That's the trick. You'd give up anything for it.
And for more on the evocative folk guitar of Leo Kottke, take yourself here