PODCAST

Basic Folk

The Bluegrass Situation

Basic Folk is a podcast with honest conversations between musicians and Cindy Howes, a well-versed public radio host and music curator, and guest host: singer/songwriter Lizzie No. Basic Folk approaches interviews with warmth, humor and insightful questions. This podcast fosters the folk community and showcases a genre that is often misunderstood. Basic Folk features complex conversations about the human experience witnessed from an artistic angle. Our definition of “folk” is extremely broad, so you’ll hear interviews from Amythyst Kiah, Tom Rush, The Lumineers and many more. Basic Folk is dedicated to showcasing the best in folk and roots musicians including BIPOC musicians who have been excluded, or felt like they did not belong, in the folk world. Both Cindy and Lizzie bring unique perspectives to our honest conversations and are dedicated to changing the landscape and the gatekeepers of the folk music community.


Grant-Lee Phillips, ep. 168
Jun 9 2022
Grant-Lee Phillips, ep. 168
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at Grant Lee Buffalo frontman, Grant-Lee Phillips' latest solo album, All That You Can Dream, is -quite- dreamy. During the pandemic, Grant's been contemplating many things and figuring out how to spend his time away from the road. One interest he's been cultivating is painting. He's been sharing his paintings on social media and even used a painting of his beloved silver headphones, which you can also find on the liner notes for Grant Lee Buffalo's Mighty Joe Moon. He worked on this album from his home in Nashville where he produced, engineered, mixed, and recorded himself. And in addition to a few other musicians, he's joined by the crack team of bassist Jennifer Condos and drummer Jay Bellerose. It's always a treat to hear this dynamic duo! He said working on the album at home "pushed me to take the wheel as an engineer, mixer and producer. Consequently, so many nuances remain in the final mix, all the weird stuff that sometimes gets lost in the polishing stages of production." I'm all about that on a GLP recording. It sounds rich and raw at the same time, which feels very good in the chest. All That You Can Dream is filled with his signature songwriting: “using rich historical references to illuminate modern truths.” Grant says "I'm always juxtaposing the events that we're all going through with similar events in history.”In our conversation, we talk about Grant's early life in Stockton, CA. He grew up knowing his family included Native American on both parents' sides. He made an album in 2012, Walking in the Green Corn, which explored his indigenous heritage. He gets into how David Bowie opened up his world, why he started playing guitar and what he likes about playing a 12 string versus a 6 string guitar. He talks about how acting has been a constant in his life; from being a professional magician at age 10 to appearing regularly as The Town Troubadour on Gilmore Girls. Hope you enjoy this interview with one of my favorite people!Advertising Inquiries:
Richard Thompson, ep. 166
May 26 2022
Richard Thompson, ep. 166
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at Thompson's memoir, Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967 - 1975 (now out in paperback) is a page-turner of a read about a legend at the dawn of British folk rock. Thompson details his early days with Fairport Convention, one of the most influential folk bands of all time. He writes how they strived to be different and sought out then-unknown songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen while adapting a modern sound for traditional British folk songs, some that were over 500 years old. He recounts tragedy when the band suffered a huge loss: the 1969 car accident that killed their drummer, Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend of just two weeks, Jeannie Franklyn. He writes about their first experiences in America: rolling around Los Angeles with the likes of John Bonham and Janis Joplin and their triumphant debut at The Philadelphia Folk Festival. RT was game to get into anything I threw at him: talk about experiencing such excruciating grief at a young age, what British fortitude means to him, did he ever really get to know his parents, being outwardly calm and inwardly chaotic. There's a chapter in the book where he details some session work he did in between the time he left Fairport Convention in 1971 and his solo work and work with his then-wife, Linda Thompson. I had a blast looking up all these albums on YouTube, especially Lal and Mike Waterson's Bright Phoebus from 1972. Very fun music and fun that RT is playing on it! I highly recommend his memoir and hold out my hopes that there may be a part two in his future. I think there is much left to write: his days after the very public breakup with Linda, establishing himself as a solo act and then coming back to work with his extended family in the group Thompson in 2014 on the album Family. Richard's got a busy summer ahead of him with a couple of cruises and the tenth anniversary of his writing camp, Frets and Refrains. I'm grateful he was able to make some time for us on Basic Folk!Advertising Inquiries:
John Doe, ep. 165
May 19 2022
John Doe, ep. 165
John Doe's career has gone from poetry to punk to country to acting to punk to folk and back again several times. Frontman for the extremely influential LA punk band X, John was there at the dawn of West Coast punk and has written about it (twice) in his books Under the Big Black Sun and More Fun in the New World. He actually sourced out most of the books’ chapters and had his friends and other people who were there give accounts, which makes them both pretty well rounded. John grew up mostly in Baltimore, under the influence of John Waters and Divine. He worked odd jobs and ran a poetry group there. He moved to Los Angeles in the mid 70's and met his future X bandmates Exene, Billy Zoom and D. J. Bonebrake. John's been in countless films and TV shows since 1987. He kind of stumbled into acting by getting an agent after he was in the indie film Border Radio. You may have seen him in films like Road House or Boogie Nights or series like Carnivale. He's lived in Austin, Texas since 2017 and loves to tell people it's terrible, so no one else moves there.John Doe's latest album Fables in a Foreign Land takes place in 1890's and surrounds a young man who's found himself alone in a cruel hard world. The album’s sound was developed through weekly jam sessions in his bassist's backyard. This time around, John's played up his interest in folk and roots music, all the while keeping that punk sensibility. John says "These songs take place alone, wandering, searching and hungry accompanied by horses not machines." And speaking of horses, John's got a couple and it seems they've kept him grounded especially during the pandemic, so yeah, I ask the guy about his horses. That and we also talk about controlling the ego, listening to intuition, taking care of your physical health and his cameo in The Bodyguard (yes the Whitney Houston movie). Thanks Joe Doe!Advertising Inquiries:
Steve Forbert, ep. 164
May 12 2022
Steve Forbert, ep. 164
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at Forbert is not a dramatic person. His stories are fairly straight forward even though he's lived a pretty incredible life, which began in Meridian, MS as a young musician. In the hometown of Jimmie Rodgers, Steve found a great guitar teacher in Virginia Shine Harvey, who claimed she was a relation to the famous singing brakeman (Jimmie Rodgers). Ms Harvey taught Steve music through performance and connected him to other young musicians in the area, who then went on to form a couple of bands. He left his town for New York City in his early 20's where he pounded the pavement as a singer/songwriter for a couple years before catching a break. During his climb upwards, Forbert found acceptance in New York's punk scene, especially at the historic CBGB's where club owner Hilly Kristal gave him a chance and introduced him to his manager. From there, Steve went on to start recording records. His second album, Jackrabbit Slim, gave him his hit song, "Romeo's Tune," which he credits giving him his career and "a ticket in to the show." He's releasing his latest, "Moving Through America," with more character studies and focuses on life's oddities.It's not easy to get Steve to talk about himself and his reflections, but he's up for giving it a shot. He wrote a memoir in 2018, Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock, which sounds like it was a challenge for him to revisit and write about his past, not because it seems like it was filled with mistakes and scandal, but because it was sooooo much about himself. He seems grateful for the opportunity to still have a career and does not take it for granted. He also makes some very hip and hot music references in our conversation: like bringing up rappers Megan Thee Stallion and Jack Harlow. Color me impressed, Steve Forbert is watching the Billboard Hot 100.Advertising Inquiries:
Lily Henley, ep. 163
May 5 2022
Lily Henley, ep. 163
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at and singer/songwriter Lily Henley's latest album, Oras Dezaoradas, is a full-on celebration of her Sephardic Jewish Heritage. The lineage of Sephardic people can be traced back to the Iberian Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492. For Jewish people, there are many diasporas and lots of different ethnic heritages and practices that have been adopted and blended from many other groups along the way. Lily's heritage is different from the Ashkenazi Jewish people, which is the most represented Jewish sect in The United States, who can be traced back to Eastern Europeans. Lily graciously gives a very brief overview of the diaspora (which is pretty amazing to take in) and the geographical and cultural differences.Lily grew up moving around a lot and talks about how that act of moving from place to place impacted her as a young person and how it still affects her. She found a sense of belonging and home at the fiddle camps she attended alongside other musicians her own age. At camp, she learned to play Celtic, Old-time and Cape Breton style tunes. While at home, she played traditional Sephardic tunes, sung in the Ladino language, also called Judeo-Spanish, a combination of Spanish with Hebrew, Arabic, and Turkish elements and is spoken by less than 100,000 people. As an adult, she was inspired by living in Tel-Aviv for three years and immersed in Sephardic culture. She was awarded a Fulbright research grant and is currently an artist residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. She recorded her latest album in Paris: on a label run by a Sephardic community leader while being embraced by and collaborating with the Sephardic community there. OH!: Lily has another new non-Ladino album on the way: Imperfect By Design coming January 2023. It's an Indie-Folk anthology about love, belonging, independence, and change. Look out for that and enjoy this deeply educational conversation!Advertising Inquiries:
Grace Givertz, ep. 162
Apr 28 2022
Grace Givertz, ep. 162
Grace Givertz, born and raised in South Florida, began writing and performing at age eleven when she got a guitar and learned to play off YouTube videos. Grace is a survivor in many ways: she manages and confronts several chronic illnesses, she survived having her Berklee scholarship rescinded due to a systematic error and lived through being struck by a city bus in 2015. The accident left her unable to play her instruments for several months. During that idle time, she reflected on how being a musician defines she who is. Her writing changed and became more open and honest about chronic illnesses. In her most recent single, "Papa," she writes about the traumatic murder of her grandfather and how he lives on in Grace.I first came across Grace working at Club Passim in the Boston area, where she currently lives. Grace's visual appearance, sense of humor and sparkling personality are undeniable. In addition to music, she's super crafty and her reputation for cute outfits, cute earrings (which she sells on Etsy) and her cute apartment (which I've seen a lot of thanks to Zoom concerts and social media) proceeds her. She surrounds herself with her adorable pets that pop up frequently on her social media. One time, my mom (unprovoked - she doesn't know Grace!) sent me a video of Grace's bearded dragon, Baby Pancake, being cuddled by her peachy cat Persimmon. Yes, I know most of her pets' names and have a Grace Givertz t-shirt with a sweet Baby Pancake design on it. I am a fan all around.Advertising Inquiries:
Amy Correia, ep. 161
Apr 21 2022
Amy Correia, ep. 161
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at singer/songwriter Amy Correia will tell you that she is not a prolific writer, which… okay maybe she doesn’t write a million songs in one year, but holy crap, those songs and that voice will wallop you. Originally from Lakeville, Massachusetts, Amy’s musical roots lay in New York City’s lower east side in a scene that produced Jeff Buckley, Richard Julian and Jesse Harris. She discovered her musical voice while recovering from a back injury her junior year of college. She was actually a big fan of laying in bed and doing nothing but writing songs and playing around on her guitar. After college, she was playing around and got offered a major label deal, recorded an album with seven different producers and countless musicians, left her label and signed another deal, which would eventually become the place where she released her debut, Carnival Love in the year 2000. Another album followed in 2004 (fan funded) and another in 2010 (also fan funded). She opened for big acts like Chrissie Hynde, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson and Marc Cohn. She started living in Boston, fully embraced by “a collective of musicians who uplifted her with their creative camaraderie,” which included Kimon Kirk who turned out to be one of her most important friends and collaborators.Kimon encouraged Amy to record this new batch of songs on her latest release, the EP As We Are, which just came out in March 2022. During our conversation, Amy revealed that the recording session took place in 2015, but she wasn’t ready to release the music until now. Kimon had persuaded her to revisit the songs during the pandemic and the plan was set in motion for the EP. We also discussed Amy’s connection to spirituality, her affinity and experience in the theater world and letting go of control. She also opens up about her relationship to her singing voice, which is so special and always digs deep in me every time I hear it. I hope you enjoy this wonderful and vulnerable conversation with Amy Correia!Advertising Inquiries:
BF Presents: Why We Write
Apr 17 2022
BF Presents: Why We Write
Editor’s note: Basic Folk is pleased to introduce our listeners to one of our favorite podcasts by sharing an episode in our feed! Why We Write features conversations between folk music reporter Kim Ruehl and a hand-picked array of great songwriters, presented by Folk Alley.So much goes into a song—the songwriter’s intimate life, their upbringing, their worldview, what they see going on in the world. What moves them to put pen to paper? How do they do it? When, where, and why? Ruehl explores all of this with some of the finest songwriters working these days—old favorites, up-and-comers, and everything in between.Kim is one of my favorite music writers and (frankly) one of my favorite people. Her laid back demeanor is easy to vibe with and does well for her scholarly approach. Kim is basically a folk-brainiac and cannot be stopped. I first met her while she was the editor in chief at No Depression. She's since gone on to publish her first book A Singing Army: Zilphia Horton and the Highlander Folk School. A former singer/songwriter herself, Kim not only brings her big writer's brain and cool attitude into these conversations, but she has a unique musician's perspective that her guests can feel and relate to.Basic Folk is pleased to share Kim's interview with Rosanne Cash (This episode was originally published on June 9, 2021). There is much that could be said about Rosanne Cash’s number-one hits and Grammy awards, her family legacy and her celebrity. But whether she’s writing songs, articles, essays, or books, Cash is always a writer’s writer.She has a knack for catchy, chorus-worthy turn of phrase, sure, but she also has a generally superb literary sensibility. Thus, the opportunity to discuss writing with her for this episode of Why We Write was a bit of a no-brainer.One of the things that strikes me most about Cash’s songwriting is the way she sets her songs and stories very strongly in a specific place. So, we began our conversation with the relationship between story and place. Press play and come along for the ride.Advertising Inquiries:
Mason Jennings, ep. 160
Apr 14 2022
Mason Jennings, ep. 160
Mason Jennings has the most interesting songwriting process I've come across. Since he was around 13 years old, the Minneapolis songwriter has had songs just come to him while randomly playing guitar and singing. He gets in touch with his subconscious and discovers his songs there very naturally. He also never writes the songs down. That's right, he commits each song to memory and only writes them down for liner notes. Born in Honolulu and raised in Pittsburgh, he chose Minneapolis to settle into his music career. There, he found lots of success and managed to avoid the ever-tempting major label record contracts, which were being offered as high as $1 million. Wanting to remain in control of his creativity, he opted to stay independent until he signed with Glacial Pace, a subsidiary of Sony's Epic Records headed by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. He released Boneclouds in 2006 and gained much acclaim. An album with Jack Johnson's label and an appearance on the soundtrack to Todd Haynes Bob Dylan film I'm Not There, solidified his presence in the folk mainstream.Fast forward to his latest album (his 14th studio record), Real Heart, co-produced by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, is an ode to the acoustic guitar and a love letter to songwriting. Lately, Mason's been working on himself through therapy and self-reflection. In the last few years, he's been working on conquering and controlling depression, agoraphobia and living a sober life. He's also gotten married again to Josie Jennings and the couple just recently welcomed their son Western in March 2022. A lot of these themes appear on Real Heart. We dig into those as well as his painting, the lake he lives on and Painted Shield, his synth-based rock and roll band with Stone Gossard and Matt Matt Chamberlain. Mason's a very special person and I'm grateful for this conversation!Advertising Inquiries:
Tatiana Hargreaves, ep. 159
Apr 7 2022
Tatiana Hargreaves, ep. 159
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at  Tatiana Hargreaves was younger, she was a shit-hot fiddle player; recording her debut album at age 14, a first prize winner at the Clifftop Appalachian Stringband Festival Fiddle Contest that same year and gaining all sorts of accolades before even graduating high school. After some thought, she went after a degree in ethnomusicology and performance at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, where she continued to play fiddle like a maniac. Her time in college allowed her to reconnect with her friend, the equally impressive banjo player, Allison de Groot. She reflects on one summer where she and Allison kept finding each other and jamming at various events and festivals. They decided to record their debut album and tour. The duo are back again with the new record Hurricane Clarice, using traditional stringband music as a way to interpret our uncertain times. Our conversation leads into topics like the negative impact of music as competition. Tati has spoken before of her experience competing on the Texas Fiddle circuit that’s pretty popular on the West Coast. Also, after college, she moved to Durham to be closer and work with old-time legend Alice Gerrard. Since 2017, she’s been soaking up Alice’s influence and knowledge through being her fiddle player and digitizing her old photos. This has led to a vast amount of inspiration, from recording songs on the new record that Alice had introduced to her to going back to school to study archival science. I am fascinated by this person and her work. Tatiana keeps it close to the chest, but I’m grateful for what she shared in conversation.Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves’ new album, Hurricane Clarice Advertising Inquiries:
No No Boy, ep. 158
Mar 30 2022
No No Boy, ep. 158
Julian Saporiti is the brilliant mind behind No No Boy, a recording project that tells the incredible stories of historical triumphs of Asian Americans making their way in the United States. Julian, an Italian American and Vietnamese American, has always been drawn to history and music and has used his two passions to elevate these stories. He was truly inspired by his doctoral research at Brown University on “Asian American and transpacific history focusing on sound, music, immigration, refugees and everyday life.” Julian began to explore his family’s history, pore over archival material, and conduct interviews; and found untold musical stories of Asian American artists like himself.Julian got the No-No Boy name from Japanese Americans who were forced to live in internment camps during World War II, soon after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1942. They were asked to serve in combat and swear allegiance to the United States. Those who answered “no” to those two demands on the government’s “Loyalty Questionnaire” became “No-No Boys.” and Those who refused were sent to concentration camps. It’s also a novel by Asian American author John Okada (also a song by The Spiders). Our conversation covers his own family history, in which he also unabashedly shares his perspective on the concept of “generational trauma” (he’s not super into it). He expands on the influence of Asian musicians who have learned and perfected the music of the oppressor, like the George Igawa Orchestra, which was a jazz band held at an internment camp led by the Los Angeles musician George Igawa. When he was forced to relocate to the camp, he could only bring what he could carry, which, to him, meant his instruments. He formed a group in the camp where they would play parties and even outside beyond the confines of the camp’s barbed wire.Julian’s identity and the identity of No No Boy is solidly rooted in his Asian American experience, but I decided to start our interview with questions about his dad’s work in the music industry. Julian’s father was a major player in Nashville’s country music industry and he would often take Julian with him to work. This left huge impressions on young Julian, so of course, I had to dig into that first thing!Advertising Inquiries:
Brent Cobb, ep. 157
Mar 24 2022
Brent Cobb, ep. 157
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at basicfolk.com/donateEditor’s note: Lizzie No interviews Brent Cobb on Basic Folk! Be sure to go back and listen to Lizzie’s previous guest host spots on the pod and subscribe, so you never miss Lizzie!Georgia-born Brent Cobb is a true blue southern Gospel country artist. His music career kicked off when he shared a demo tape with Dave Cobb, one of Nashville’s finest producers and Brent’s cousin. The two have collaborated on numerous albums since Brent’s debut and I had a lot of questions about that creative relationship during our interview.Cobb’s 2016 album, ‘Shine On Rainy Day,’ earned him a Grammy nomination and saw him tour with country stars Chris Stapleton and Zac Brown. He has also written songs for stars like Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert. Brent has fascinating insights about touring, collaboration, and his role as an interpreter of Southern culture in an interconnected world.In July of 2020, Brent was driving with his one-year-old son when their truck was t-boned. He got up off the pavement and found his son unharmed in his car seat. This brush with death inspired him to create a Gospel album, drawing on the musical tradition in which he was raised. ‘And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…’ reimagines time-honored hymns and features one original song co-written by Brent and his wife, Layne. Life, death, love, community, and Willie Nelson-style gentle vocal performances, this album has it all.Advertising Inquiries:
Suz Slezak, ep. 156
Mar 17 2022
Suz Slezak, ep. 156
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at basicfolk.com/donateEnter to win the Basic Folk/BGS Sweet Prize Pack: or Slezak is one-half of the extremely talented and thoughtful band David Wax Museum. Suz, along with her husband David, has been touring and performing their Mexican-inspired, Americana folk act since 2009. Along the way, the two got married, had a couple of kids, and settled pretty finely into the pandemic with bi-weekly and then weekly live streams. All the while, Suz has been living with her bipolar disorder, which has impacted her life in incredibly unbelievable ways. She's also been pretty vocal, especially lately, about how she interacted with her brain health, mental health, and treatment for both of those elements, which includes her intense journey with medications. Her Instagram is filled with brutally honest posts about the difficulty of finding meds that continuously help her stabilize her brain.On her new album, Our Wings May Be Featherless, Suz is addressing her life from the perspective of a person who is bi-polar, a mother, a touring musician, and a creative person. She digs into the power of acceptance, traumatic birth, and grief. In our conversation, we talk about what a special musician she is and how she's been able to cultivate and keep a childlike wonder alive through her playing. This conversation is heavily rooted in Suz's journey with her bipolar disorder and you'll learn a lot about her experience as she is very open. She addresses the choice to share her experiences publicly and how the sharing impacts her. About the album she says: “I hope you will also hear the way that a song, or any piece of art, can transform haunting pain into sounds and rhythm, allowing it to finally diffuse. I have needed to make this record for a long time. The relief I feel that it is finally emerging into this physical realm for you to enjoy is immense.” SUZ!Advertising Inquiries:
Maya De Vitry, ep. 155
Mar 10 2022
Maya De Vitry, ep. 155
Help produce Basic Folk by contributing at to win the Basic Folk/BGS Sweet Prize Pack: or Maya De Vitry released her third solo record, Violet Light, earlier this year and I, for one, am happy that my fiancée has a new Maya record to play endlessly in our house. Lol j/k. I love Maya and this album is perfect. Maya’s originally from Lancaster, where she lived and met the members of her old band The Stray Birds. Since the dissolution of the Birds, she’s been incredibly prolific with all these solo albums, co-writes and the like. If you’re not familiar, this record is a great intro to the genius of one of the greatest musicians on the scene today. The vibes I’m getting on this record are John Prine, Patty Griffin and, of course, Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings. We. Are. Digging. IN!I’m so happy Maya was up for going through this beauty of a record track by track! It’s a brilliant collection that subtly knocks you to the ground over the course of its eleven songs. Produced at home with her partner, the much in-demand bassist and producer, Ethan Jodziewicz (The Milk Carton Kids, Sierra Hull, Aoife O’Donovan, Darol Anger, Tony Trischka), Violet Light actually contains a ton of collaborations from Maya’s extensive musical community. This includes her own family; her siblings all collaborated for the very first time on tape for the song “Real Time, Real Tears,” about losing a favorite uncle. Yeah, you try not to cry during that one. Anywoo. It feels like a gift to be able to turn these songs over and over, contemplate their meaning, their creation and then be able to talk directly to the brains behind it all. I implore you to check out this whole episode and then go buy Maya’s new album, preferably on Bandcamp. Support an independent artist who’s music is meaningful and worth getting paid for. She’s a once in a lifetime artist.Advertising Inquiries: