Tracy Bonham is the woman who broke the algorithm. After "Mother Mother" in 1996, no other female solo artist topped the modern rock charts until Lorde in 2013(!). In this week's episode we break down her breakout single and lament, once more, the industry politics that kept her next album on the shelf for 4 years before its release.
Plus we talk to Tracy about her passion for music education, her song "Devil's Got Your Boyfriend" becoming the theme song for Dirty John, and much more, like:
- The lie and the truth coming out at the same time
- The backdoor way Tracy’s song “Devil’s Got Your Boyfriend” became the theme music for Dirty John
- Tracy’s letdown experience at Berklee
- 50-Foot Queenie
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Patreon Producers: Andrea Konarzewski, Ari Marucci, Michael Conley, Peter Mark Campbell, David Steinberg, Randy Hodge, Chaz Bacus, Juan Lopez, Jason Arrowood, Howard Passey, Matt Demecs, Kevin Foley, Micah Murphy, and Christopher Cudnoski
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(This episode was transcribed by baby robots, so please forgive any errors.)
Turn up the radio and sing along time for another Great Song. This is the Great Song pod. Season's greetings and welcome once again to the Great Song Podcast. I'm Rob Alley, I'm JP Moser, and we're here to celebrate the greatest songs in modern music history. We're going to tell you what makes them great, why we think they're awesome and why you should to J.P..
How are you doing today? I am doing fantastic. So I'm going to change my fantastic today based on today. So I normally preplan these Fantastics. I started these Fantastics by being like today, I ate at burger king or blah-blah-blah, or I had this, so today me and Rob went and ate at the red rooster, and I was trying to decide what to eat.
I landed on a spaghetti. Which wasn't too bad. And then it reminded me. It was funny. I was telling Rob, I was like, man, I really like this. And then I'm like, I'm not sure if I like this. And then I went back to liking this, but it reminded me ma something. I love that his mother related my mom makes this pizza casserole.
Have you ever had pizza casserole, but it sounds delicious. And I might make it turn, make it tonight. It's awesome. I love my mother. I love pizza casserole and I love this song which happens to be released on mother's day week. So here we go. We're in the middle of ladies month. We're talking about mother's day.
We're talking about mothers. We're talking about songs. We're talking about pizza casserole. Rob, tell him what song we're covering today. I am so excited for this song. I love it so much. This is mother mother by Tracy.
Just a phone to ease your mind
distance, make a hot girl.
I'm freezing. I'm starving. I'm bleeding.
Wow. Vocal performance of the century, Tracy Bonham here to be for here to be re re nailed it from this point on to be referred to as Tracy freaking bonds. I don't know what her middle name is, but she'll forever more now be Tracy freaking bonds from the 1996 album. The burdens of being upright, an album that I just dearly love.
I listened to the whole thing again on the way here this morning just kicks all kinds of, but dude, 1996 the burdens of being upright by Tracy Bonham and that his mother mother, it went to number one. On the billboard modern rock tracks slash alternative airplay chart at the time, it was the alternative airplay chart.
Now it's the billboard modern rock tracks sharp, but they're the same thing. It went to number three on the Canada rock slash alt chart. Number five in Australia. Number 18 on the U S mainstream rock chart. Number 32 on the billboard us radio songs chart. It was ineligible for the hot 100 placement because it wasn't technically released as a single that's things that we've covered have been in this thing.
It was a way to boost album sales. Hopefully if you want the song, you've got to buy the album on the whole project. Yeah, exactly. So, because it didn't meet that criteria it couldn't have placed on the hot 100. It went gold in Australia and it was the number 46 song for all of 1996. There was a good year in music, ladies and gentlemen.
Yeah, right. Yeah. 96 dude, Australia. Terrifying nature situation, but they're awesome. What a wonderful music scene. This is, we have people request stuff from, we should go. You're right. We chart pretty well in Australia. What the heck? Why are we let's go. Let's go street, grab a boomerang and let's go the and we didn't even tell you guys, but Tracy's hanging out with us at the end.
So you guys are gonna love her. We love her so fun, great community. Yeah, it's good stuff. Yes. Fantastic. And w you know, one of the things that she's going to talk about in the interview is, is her passion for continuing championing music education, which is just awesome. And I love that she's you know, gone out of her way to try and inspire young and learning musicians.
So we're going to talk about that with her as well. But this let's start with a song and I'm going to hit it, probably a couple other pieces on this album, but mother mother was nominated for 1997, Grammy for best female rock vocal performance as it dog gone well, should have been absolutely listen to that chorus one time and tell me there's something better.
You know what I mean? Like, Power in her voice when she hits that. First of all, she hits the course and she screams the everything's fine. The first time it's just a flat out scream. And then the second time it's melodic and it's this like chromatic everything's fine, bro is even even more powerful to me than the scream is when she just goes up and crushes it.
Melodically just kills me. So it was nominated for the Grammy for best female rock vocal performance in 97 along with Tracy Chapman for give me one reason, Joan Osborne for spiderweb Bonnie Raitt for burning down the house and the wind went to Sheryl Crow. Do you want to get the song? Okay. This would have been not.
I'm going to go soak up the sun now it's before then. So a suck up son. Yeah, no, it's probably the most like rock song that Sheryl Crow ever did at least single-wide. I was gonna, I was gonna do All I want to do is have some fun know if it's rock, man. I don't know if it makes you have another screaming kind of her version of screaming.
Yeah. It's as close as like Sheryl Crow gets to, you know, to this can't be that bad. And it was a, it was a huge song. But if, if, like, if I'm in charge of this category and you give me those five songs, mother, mother wins by a landslide. You know what I mean? Nothing gets those other songs or those other artists.
It's at the other in the face. Yeah. Yeah. It it's, you know, it's just, this is, when's it running away from me. Here's a really interesting slash sad note and we're going to talk to sad in like a societal way. We're going to talk to Tracy about this as well, but after mother-in-law. Went to number one on the billboard and modern rock tracks charts slash alternative airplay chart.
A female solo artist did not have another number one on that chart for 17 years after this song went there in 1996, not until Lord and Royals in 2013, did a female solo artist top the modern rock tracks chart after mother, mother. Isn't that wild. That's a long time that just, you go, you go, nah, I mean, you know, like female representation in rock is fine.
There's nothing wrong. And then you go, what? Oh, big, long gap there. Yeah. It's 17 years. Like you could just go, okay. I guess there is something wrong, you know, have you seen the, the Alanis Morissette documentary on Jagen that part of it? They're talking about how hard it was for females to get, not just airplay, but there were like all these, these BS rules about like you know, you can't play two female artists back to back.
Oh, like, that's crazy because they, like, they think people will turn it off. What a stupid bunch of crap, like just let good music be good music and let it all be together and whatever, you know, and let the, let the people decide what they do or don't, you know, like it's just so stupid. Like something as awesome as mother, mother does not have to be treated with kid gloves.
You know what I mean? Like this is going to murder anybody who listens to it in the best of ways. Yeah, that's right. The good kind of murder. And you know what I mean, murder that's holy and sacred murder is this song, you know? It just, I mean, it's so powerful, dude. Let's I have a few listening notes if you'll indulge me, first of all, and this is one of the things I truly love about Tracy and this album in general is the use of chromaticism.
And it's maybe been a long time since we've sort of defined chromaticism. So if you haven't been with us since like season two, let's maybe go over this again. You know, chromaticism is we think of the, like the major scale dough re MI FA Zola DDO in which there are, you know, seven notes and an eighth that matches the first.
But the chromatic scale. Is in Western music. There are 12 notes that make up an octave. And each of them has a half-step. So instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, it's one, one sharp, two, two sharp 3, 4, 4, 5, 5 job, six flat 7, 7, 8. Right. That was impressive. Interested to go back and listen and see how close I was.
Let's get a keyboard and play along with him, but as at home and see how he did now, unless you're, unless you're like Jacob Collier and you're getting into semitones, those are the 12 tones that we deal with. But Tracy uses, I think to her great benefit, a lot of chromaticism where instead of moving N you know, in major scale degrees, you're moving in like increments of half notes, not half notes, that's a rhythm thing.
But yeah, you're moving in, in half steps a lot. And so from the very. Thing. Right. You've got a guitar moving down. Chromatically it's not like, so it starts on an, a bone bone. Let's see, let me get my key bearings again here. So, okay. So one, right. If you're going to recall that the one of the songs which will say, but it's, so it's 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, flat seven flat 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, Donna.
And they're all major chords. So that's like against the rules. Okay. It doesn't make sense. Yeah. We're, we're, we're breaking rules already. And this use of telemedicine. You're not, if you're in, if you're thinking in a major key, or even if you're thinking in a minor key, those don't naturally occur together like that.
Okay. And her initial, initial melody line, mana ma that's all chromatic. Those are three half steps next to each other. That's not natural in a major or minor key that doesn't occur. It's it's, chromaticism in just infused from the very beginning to the song. And it's all throughout this album. She has this beautiful ear for chromaticism.
And it stops on the most wrong of any, the six has to be minor. You can not have a six major unless you're doing some sort of you know, circle of fifths. Like you can get there, but you don't walk down chromatically to a six major. It's just wrong, but it's wonderful. Right. So, you know, even if you're thinking of.
Even if you think in kind of backwards and you're thinking of the, the F sharp chord that it lands on as maybe the one and the a as the flat three that you're starting on. If you're thinking about it that way, then you could maybe figure it out. But like, anyway, it's, but it's guitars moving in, chromatic vocals, moving in chromatic and continues to, you know, in, in various elements throughout.
So that's one of my favorite things about Tracy is that to begin with, okay. Then we get let's, let's skip ahead to this. I'll call it the pre-chorus the, the second part of the, of the verse leading up to the chorus. Okay. Drums. And these drums, dude, this album literally on a, on a few of these tracks contain some of my favorite drum sounds bar, none of all time, like the snare listened to this snare, I'm sure it probably knocked you out of whatever seat you were in the first time you heard it, but let's listen to the entry of this, this snare
Wow. Okay. And so now, by the way, we're in the key of. Okay. We've transitioned from a, in the first section to the key of E and we're going E D the see, easy, easy, easy, easy, easy, kind of the kind of the stairway to heaven progression. That's in a minor, but it's really, but it's a, you know, just kind of E power chords.
Yeah. Fifth. Yeah. And so that's, that's where we are now. And then we're going to go back to a, for the chorus. Okay. Which isn't the four of eight. I mean, it is the four of eight, but it's not really. Yeah. It's just kind of jumping around, you know, we're just kind of jumping around all over the place.
But her, but her melodic work makes it all make sense, you know? And and, and of course, you know, being from E getting to AA is not, is not difficult in a, to ease, you know? So it's not anything that. Challenging to your ear. It's just unconventional, right? What, the kind of movement that we're getting here, not come on, Arlene moving it's yeah, it's right.
It's yes. It's all sort of key related, you know, chord related. So, and then we just get to this chorus. What can you say about this chorus dude? Just, you've got, first of all, these power guitar slides, bow bow, you know what I mean? And it's like And the second I think I literally just blew my voice out, trying to do that.
I was like, I'm gonna put some extra grit in this. It was a mistake. Let me tell you the rest of the episode, Rob will sound like this, right? I'm going to sound like cookie monster in a second. Let's let's hear that impact. One more time. The score monster cover mother mother. Anyway, I smell social media media video shenanigans video.
All right, here we go. Here's this here's this course.
you even got a little major seven going on in there.
bro. There's no escaping that you cannot survive that. You know what I mean? Yeah. We'll find you, man. There's just so much power fury in, in, in the vocal delivery, in the playing drums or doing the accents on the everything's fine. It's just, if mom's in the bathroom and you're in the living room, if Tom's in the closet and you're the bedroom, you can't hide mom.
No, no. And who and okay. So, and then add to that, the potency of the lyric, right? W we've all had this conversation with our mom, right? Like moms worry, you know what I mean? Moms want everything to be safe and laid out for their kids. They want your life to go better than your life. It's just the, it's just the way of the world.
And so we've all had this conversation with mom, dad, whoever your parental figure, you know, has been where just lying through your teeth, you go, I'm good, mom. I'm good. Everything's fine because you don't want, em, you don't want them to worry about you, you know, so you try and ease their mind. And she said, she says it in the second verse.
You know, if I tell you what you want to hear, will it help you to sleep well at night? You know? And I'll, I'll just your memory of me will never be tainted. You'll never worry about what I'm, you know, what I'm hiding from you or, you know, what a den of iniquity I've found myself in. Everything's fine, you know?
And it's just such a it's it's like. It's funny because it's like with that line, and this is just sort of dawned on me the lie and the truth are coming out of the same time. Does that make sense? She goes, you know I'm hungry, I'm dirty. I'm losing my mind. And then in a scream that says, I'm definitely not fine.
She says, everything's fine. It's like that thing when you're lying and you're, you know, you're telling somebody, yes. And you subconsciously shake your head. No, why you're doing it because your body can't stand it. Your body can't stand to be deceitful. It's like that. Right. It's like the line, the truth are coming out at the same time.
And it's just incredible, dude. I, I, I can't really explain the first time I heard this. I was bloody. I don't even want to say the brilliance of this chorus. I could not fully compute, you know what I mean? Just incredible dude. And then let me play a piece from the second chorus. Cause she, she Sykes us out in the second course.
She pumped fakes in the second chorus were on the losing my mind. There's no impact. It goes to just her violin, right? Because she's not only playing guitar, but she's also playing violin. And so let's, let's listen to this a second course, actually first let's listen to the Tom's on the second verse because the drum sounds only get better.
Let's listen to these. Yeah, dynamics for days on this song, right? We're back down to just the acoustic. And now we've got some violin over the top. I can't see,
got split octaves with a violin and hard, right. And hard left hook up of drugs.
I want a sample of that snare ground. I'm not even going to use it. I just want it to play while I go to sleep.
it's like, it sounds like you want your mom to think you're saying it's rosy and beautiful. Darvin.
And then we cap it off with the
I miss you. I love you. That double kick pedal, dude. It just, just incredible. It's what is it? How long has this song? It's three minutes and one second of just pure. You know what I mean? Don't you dare play just three minutes. You need that one second, extra second. That's for you to breathe again. That's right.
That's right. That's when you wake up. Holy cow. You know what I think? I think it's time to meet the band
beat the man.
alright. We're going to meet the band that plays on this track with one disclaimer. Cause there's one thing that when we get to the drummer section, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna asterisk. Hummina hummina hummina I'm going to have I know, right? I straight up got hood there. Okay. So on guitar. Ed Akerson stuff with the wallflowers soul asylum silent.
Why did I have a hard time saying the word, a solid wallflower solar solemn, Brian set, cert mainly as a producer. So mainly a producer guy, but plays guitar on this great guitar work, which we've talked about. I'm going to go ahead and jump into the drummer section because there are three drummers that play on this project and I don't know exactly which one plays on this track.
Okay. So I'm going to mention all three and then I'm going to take a guess on my favorite, if that makes sense. So apologies to the other two, if you were not the one that played, but I'm going to take a stab just based on stylistically. So on drums, Fred L Tring ham also on drums, Eric Paul. And the third drummer, which I'm going to go with is John freeze.
And here's why, because he played with guns and roses, sublime, nine inch nails. This guy is a legend. So in terms of back catalog and notable projects, he's played on the majority compared to the other two. And I like him. So I'm going to give him credit. So in my mind, he's playing drums, I'm on bass guitar, drew Parsons.
We talk with with Tracy in the interview, he was the basis for American Hi-Fi with their song flavor of the week. So yeah, you guys will know that song, play a little flavor of the week, just for those of you that guys want to break up. You know what let's keep going. Okay. Trucking along on Oregon production engineer Sean Slade he produced Juliana Hatfield, whole Pixies Lemonheads.
The other production engineers, same as Sean is they're basically. But others that he did apart from Shawn Radiohead, dinosaur Jr. Somebody mighty Bosstones. So killer production and engineer crew. That's what I wanted to make sure I touch on both of them. So that's the band and production a team from this track.
Okay. After I, after a little more digging according to discogs.com, that is in fact, John. On on mother, mother. And that would be tracks one to six and eight to 10 on the album, all being John freeze.
need to do stuff to genie. Let's do one. Let's go ahead and play it like a jingle and let's play stuff. The genius.
all right, we're gonna play stump. The genius name this TV mom. I'm going to name the TV mom. And your going to tell me the show that she's from. So I'm going to tell the mom, and we're going to do this two ways. You can get bonus points. If I can name the. No. Okay. But that's a good fun, but no, because some of them, ah, no.
Okay. So the way we can do this is let me think here. Okay. So here's how I'm going to do it. Cause I did 10 and I did five. So there's two different iterations of stuff to genius. One where there's five from cheering for him where I'm like, go Rob, yay. We want to stop you. But we really cheer for you.
And then there's the original where I was like, I know this and I bet you don't. Cause I'm a genius as much as you are. Yeah. So I split this into two categories, one through five I'm cheering for you. I'm like get all five of these because I think we both know them. Six through 10. I know them, but I am not sure that you know them.
So that's the original premise was I know this and I bet you don't me. I'm about to get 10 miles to get 10 moms. We're cheering. I'm cheering that you'll go five for five at the front, and then I'm cheering against you. The bat, the back half, or here we go. Number one, Claire Huxtable, Cosby Cosby show Felicia Rashad simply Marge.
Alan. Richo nailed it. Marge, Marge, Marge Simpson of course. Marge Simpson. Correct? Peg Bundy. That's married with children, married with children. I should have rang one, two and three. Good job. Lois Griffin, family, family got four for four. Jill Taylor, Jill Taylor. That's gotta be home and that's home improvement.
Good job. Okay. So five for five. It's been a minute. It's been, that was the toughest. I went harder as it went down on that. Okay. So here we go. All right. These are I'm cheering against you and I know these. Okay. So here we go. Alivia Benson. Olivia Benson, Olivia Benson that would not be Benson. The TV show starring Robert Guillaume Benson was the Butler.
That is correct. Olivia Benson, Olivia TV, mom, Olivia bit. Could you give me a decade on that? No. Okay. No. Okay. Fair enough. Well, it's aired for a while. Okay. Olivia Benson is currently airing erections. Is it your hands? What'd you say? Iterations, iterations, iterations, iterations. I do not know law and order.
Oh, wow. I would've never got there. Okay. So one for me, somebody must have a bail there. Linda Belcher, Linda Belcher, Linda Belcher. I don't know Bob's burgers. One of my favorite shows point for me, this is going wonderfully as I'd planned. Okay. This is hard as a mother. It's hard as a mother, mother, Lucille Bluth.
That would be a rescue man. Wrong. Debra Baroni, Debra Baroni. Come on. You got shouted out wherever you are. Shout out the name of the church. She's on 3, 2, 1 go. Debra Baroni. I'm going to guess. Can you tell me if it's sitcom or drama sitcom? Sit-com Debra Barone. I'm going to guess. Modern family.
Everybody loves Raymond. Okay. Okay. So there we go. And full disclosure, I don't know if the last name is pronounced correctly because I know it has Deborah, like you're saying so. And so there you go. That's it. That's good. Okay. So w we will only give you half a point deduction for me there last, last one.
I, which I love. And this one's fun for me. Thelma Harper, tell him a Harper. Thelma Harper. No. Is it 2, 2, 7. No. Okay. Nevermind. Okay. That would be mama's family as the Carol Burnett show with Vicki Lawrence. So there we go. That way, I'm pretty much according to plan. And I just got to tell the Vicki Lawrence story.
So you guys know, I, for the most part, I try to line up most of the interviews and this was the Vicki Lawrence was the quickest shutdown that I've ever got in the history of interview pitches send an email and within less than two minutes, I got a non-edible two to five minutes. I got a non-automated response back with like, she will not be interested in doing that.
So we will never have Vicki Lawrence, but we love mama's family. We'll have to get Reba McEntire to do the night, the lights, so we'll get Reba instead. So stop the genius mom addition, how did y'all 50 split? How did y'all do at home? Let us know. If you if you sided with Rob Alley, I'm pretty good.
I was 10 of those. That's that's that's awesome. Yeah, that's great. All right. Well done. Well played, sir. Let's see let's talk a little bit more about the album, the burdens of being upright. It was Tracy's debut album, but it kind of wasn't This is from song facts.com in the mid nineties, singer songwriters were expected to pay their dues spending years on the road and toiling and independent labels before landing a major label deal.
I'm signed with island before paying any of these dues. So they engaged in some monkey shines to make it look like she had the struggling artist backstory. Okay. And I'm sorry if, if tray Tracy, if you're listening and this doesn't jive with you, the way that they're wording some of this, I'm sorry, I didn't write it.
Island commissioned the indie label cherry disk to release an EAP by bottom called the Liverpool sessions in 95, which sounds awesome. The title is a joke implying that she made it in the musically fertile grounds of Liverpool, England, which would have been very cool. Indeed. The ploy worked giving journalists a solid talking point for bottom when her album was issued in 96.
So basically it was. Full guys like us who are just trying to be cool and trying to, you know, trying to have something to talk to an artist about and you know, to be like, so tell us about the Liverpool session. It sounds deep, you know what I mean? It sounds, it sounds great. And it, and it gave her some some sort of retroactive backstory, I guess, that they thought the industry.
Yes. Yeah. That, that, that they thought, I guess, you know, w would help her in, in the industry. But dude, we're going to talk about hats and stuff and classic our fashion. So we're going to find stuff. We've got stuff. We'll find our own things. It was nominated. This would be back to the burdens of being upright.
It was nominated for best alternative music album granny, which that year went to Beck's massive ODL a album. Right. You remember how overlay was? Just like everywhere. Yeah. Also nominated Tori Amos REM and smashing pumpkins for melancholy and the infinite sadness, which I would've thought that might have taken the taking that, that Grammy, that album.
Was it, you remember? It was whatever was after monster, I think and for the life of me, I can't think of it not, I don't have it in front of me. I remember it was before months. No, I think it was whatever I followed monster. Let's see, I also contain the single, the one which went to the number 23 spot on the modern rock tracks chart.
Let's hear a little bit of that because if you don't know Tracy for mother, mother, you may know her for the one, the guitars on this sound amazed.
Again, with those freaking explosive drums. So here we go. Let's go with some more chromatic melody.
by the way, it's a one flat, three flat, two
bookie as all get out, dude. Hooky is all good. So the follow-up album, I'm, I'm almost hard of, I'm almost tired of saying this because it hurts my heart for the artists. Her follow-up album got caught in one of those things where her label got bought and everything got dinked around and it didn't get released until 2000.
So you've got four years, which is like an eternity in the music world. And so, you know, those situations are just. Painful. I mean, it could really, you know, think about all the artists who had like a cracker Jack debut album. I don't know why I said that, like I'm from 1870, but you know, an amazing debut and make a big splash or at least they, they come out with something that gained a strong following and shows a lot of potential.
Right? You go this, you know, this person is really on the rise, caught fire, new listenership, let's go. Yeah. And then they have to sit for four years through something that's not their fault because they're, you know, their label folded or it got bought out, changed management, all this stuff. And the new, you know, the new regime doesn't believe in their thing or whatever has other projects to whatever pushed through.
It's just, it's just wild. And I hate it. I'm tired of talking about it. Every song is really good. Maybe the sort of emotional. Peek to me might be track three. Tell it to the sky.
I don't know. I just love that. And it's got some really, really good stuff in it. Here's, here's a song you're not going to hear on any other album. Like you're not, you're never hearing a song like this. I don't think from any other artists, this is a song called brain crack. Okay. And it's, it's Tracy and her violin and that's it like, and it's just weird and dark and.
Yeah, I'd love it so much. It was brain crack
over your head and the ground and to say, and it will go,
that's the sound of your breath? That's the sad that's.
There were backup to the original key. I just, I don't know. I love that. It's only the first time. I, I just remember being really struck by that song. The first time I heard it. There's all kinds of, cause like I've always wanted to know what the sound of my brain cracking it. And now I know without having to crack a brain, hit my head on the ground, you know, it's just great, man.
Just great. And you're saving us some time on that. Tracy Thomas and pain. Thanks for helping with so lots of trips to the ER, saved by Tracy's informational basically a PSA there. So anyway, I can't recommend this album highly enough. I just love it. It is a, it is a perfect encapsulation of powerful female.
Rock from the nineties. I don't know that. And I, listen, I, I say this knowing full well, the impact of this album, but I don't know that even jagged little pill, does it better get sacred ground on that. But I truly feel like for my money, if you told me if you gave me 50 50 on either one, you know, if you had to lose one forever and keep one forever.
Yeah. I would think long and hard and I don't know where I would land to be honest. Although I know this, my listening history would show you that I would lose jagged little pill and keep the burdens of big. How about that? So if the numbers truly don't lie and that's where. I'll tell you this, if I'm a, if I'm this era and I'm crushing on two girls and it's one of them saffron from Republica and the other one is this girl.
I think Tracy might scream out screamer, dude. I feel Tracy without screamer. I think Tracy, without scrapper, you know what I mean? I just felt like it, maybe I'm getting fooled by the album, cover the album cover to the burdens of being upright. Is Tracy in like a sleeveless you know, like sleeveless shirt with like a load of bricks on her shoulders.
She's got like a wooden beam and it's just covered with bricks. And I think she's maybe wearing work gloves, but I'm not sure it's just her being tough on the cover. You know what I mean? You just go definitely beating me up. Yeah. If she definitely takes either one of us saffron, we would have to see, I guess, you know, but yeah, don't mess with her.
Something else you might know Tracy from whether or not, you know, it, if you have ever listened to the podcast called dirty John or if you have ever seen the Netflix adaptation on it. The original the, the Netflix thing was based on this podcast, dirty John four, which Tracy song is the theme song.
So this is devil's got, your boyfriend was play a little bit of. And if you've ever listened to dirty, John, you're familiar with this. You just may not have known this was Tracy Bonham.
it just definitely this like is a template for podcast, intro music.
He's got the one who's always love you. It never leave you. Devil's about your boys, man. It's got your boy, man.
There you go. As the theme to dirty John not written for dirty John, we talked to Tracy about it and actually pretty interesting story, how that song came to become the the theme song to dirty John. So stick around to hear Tracy's story about how that happened. Don't go anywhere because goodness gracious.
Yes. We're about to hang out with Tracy. Those. You were like, dude, I think I got Tracy Bonham. I was like, wow, just exploded. So it was like happy birthday to me. So yeah. Getting to talk, getting to talk to Tracy was super tree and I think you guys are going to really like her as well. So stick around. We're about to, to go to that interview now, but first stop.
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Yeah. All into one. That's right. Yes. So yeah, go to, go to follow us on all the social media things. Be part of the Facebook group, it's called great songs and the great people who love them greatly have lots of stuff going on there. And often we announce things and post things there. First comment, contests and giveaways and just fun, you know, fun things.
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Pretend that where your child, what do you want us to have a nice meal tonight? Podcast children, where your podcasts just think about, think about that. Spread the love. Think about the children for the kids. Sing it, new kids on the block. This one's for the chill. There's nothing more opposite than Tracy Bonam than that new kids on the block song.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Except maybe they're happy birthday song. Happy birthday to you. And we're still in the new kids. So young. I was better with the cookie monster transition into the interview, but yeah, you guys, and then we'll, we'll be around at the end, as Rob says. That's right. We'll we'll come tuck you into the end right now.
Let's go talk to Tracy. This is the Great Song Podcast, ladies and gentlemen, as promised we are here with the one and only Tracy Bonham. Tracy, thank you so much for joining us today on the Great Song Podcast. Thank you for that amazing introduction. You know what, I'm super excited to talk to you. The burdens of being upright is one of my favorite albums of the nineties.
It absolutely blew me away as a teenager, and I continued to love it to this day. I listened to the whole thing again this morning on the way in and I just, I just love it so much. So getting to talk to you is a real treat. Oh great. Thank you. Let's let's start with mother, mother. And first thing I got to ask is, is, is it rooted in truth or is it just a song?
Oh my God, it's rooted in absolute truth, but also truth over the decades. It was based in truth, but it was because I had to lie to my mom. So it was books. Mama's concerned. You've got to make her feel better, right? Exactly. You don't want to call home and tell her exactly what's going on. She's going to be on the first plane out to get you.
Do you really say heavens? No. When you speak to your mother and my lonely heavens no, no, that is not true. So when when you're riding it, when you're, you know, out there trying to get started and all those things, are you living like, obviously you're on the road and all this stuff at this point, but were you already living away from home at that point to, right.
Yeah. So I had gone away to college. I grew up in Eugene, Oregon. And then I went to college. I went off to LA to play classical violin. You know, it turned to the dark side. I wanted to rock out. So then I went to Boston. So it's really about that time in Boston when I was just completely, you know, I've never been on the east coast.
People are different out here. I was broke. I got involved in the, like the most destructive relationship ever with this guy. And so it was really about that. Like trying to come to terms with like, wow, I'm really on my own here. And then wanting, wanting to tell my mom or just wanting support, but not being able to communicate at all about what was really happening.
Right. I know you went to you ended up at Berkeley, like you said in Boston. Tell us any time I talked to somebody who went to Berkeley. I just automatically go, okay. Obviously you've forgotten more about music than I will ever know. But what your time at Berkeley in a very broad way, I know this is a wild question, but like you studied voice at Berkeley.
What, what, in a very broad way, did you learn there about the craft of singing? What did it help you find in yourself? To not listen to critics. That's good because the only, I really, I didn't, I have a different impression of Berkeley than a lot of people. I didn't really come away with a lot. In fact, I bonded more with the string teacher, Matt Glazer, and I played violin with him.
But as far as a vocalist, I had this one teacher who, when I did something, I did a performance in class and he literally held his ears and said, that sounds harsh. I remember that Charlie Sorentos,
that hurts. Yeah. Wow. Well, I mean, he might've been right even, but I don't care. It's still, yeah, seriously. Like that was harsh. What he said was harsh. Shaklee come on Charlie. Jeez. All right. Okay. So one of the things I've always loved about your music is, is especially as a female artist, is that it is tough.
It's kind of got some bravado that I really love. And it's, it's not just a display of like open wounds, which there's nothing wrong with. There's, there's a lot of it, you know, in, in every kind of music, but you're like a tough gal. You know, your music is very confident and strong. Is that a natural extension of your personality or is that more something that comes out when you're.
Oh, wow. That is, I think who I really am meant to be. I think that is who I'm striving to be, and it comes out on stage. Cause I guess that's the place where I feel the most myself and the most comfortable, but it's really a struggle to be that tough and strong in my everyday life. And that's the reason why I wrote mother, mother too.
I can't like in my everyday life, I'm a wimp. I can't say things that I want to say. I'm terrified of confrontation. So the tough one, I'm calling this alter ego. Now I'm calling her 50 foot clini and that's who I'm aspiring to be. And even at this age, Jesus. Come on already. Well, you I'm a big video. I'm a big music video guy.
So I know there's two different videos of mother, mother, first of all, how did that come about and kind of, and kind of a tie in, I heard you can confirm is that really your mother vacuuming in the warrants that is awesome, fresh and everything. So the pink jumpsuit, do you still have the cowboy hat that you put on in chorus?
Well, that was all, that was all props. And like, you know, from the wardrobe or whatever, is that in classical guitar that you beat up somewhere in a hard rock cafe? Maybe I know those pants are, those pants are, oh my God. Yeah. That story is, it's actually a story of real frustration. And it's really still to this day.
I'm so mad at my record label because the first video that came out was the one with my mother. That was the original one. And that was the hit that was in 1996. That was played all over the world. And my stepdad walks through with a golf club. I am actually, I have a little nugget for you too. I'm actually the mystery guitar player that.
As my mom goes through the dining room and looks a little bit like prince to me and drag cameo yourself, cameo myself, it was so much fun, but that video was the hit and I loved it. And it was all taken in one shot. Like it was a real kind of work of art in my, my opinion. But what happened? I don't know why, but my record label thought in the UK, they're not going to get the irony, which still makes me laugh because I'm like, really people don't get irony.
Right. So they made the second version, which is fine, but it's not like, you know what I really wanted to, to display the world. And somehow, because everything went digital, the first video is completely lost. Wow. Not even the director. I can't find it. I've gone to island records, universal, whatever it's gone.
And I'm so sad. Wow. That is really frustrating. It is super frustrating. Interesting. Okay. Well, and speaking, speaking on like videos, I'll try to pick it up with a cool thing in terms of a video point that I, that I liked on your version of other mother that you sang for that Sarah and Myla, I guess you're playing a Martin.
You did like a lot of things you changed the deep dive. She changed the melody on. Everything's fine. And it's so nice. I liked the way that you, that you did that with the acoustic version. When you play that. Now, if you play it out, is that the way you sing the melody? Do? Yeah, cause I can't do the blood curdling scream anymore.
That's going to learn that a long time ago. I love it. I think it's tasty. Did that just happen? Live at one point you go, you went for the scream and it wasn't there and you just went well, that didn't work well. It really like way back in 1996, I was on tour and I had to cancel a bunch of dates and it was, it was because of that screen.
And I had to go to the, you know, the doctor and get the steroid shot in the butt and have to not speak for 10 days. It was like on the verge of, you know, disaster. And so I had to relearn how to scream. It was like a fake scream, kind of like what you would hear, like ACDC, like, yeah. But then after a while, as I got older, I was just like, you know what?
I want to sing. I just want to sing it with the same intensity. So then I found a, kind of a melody note that worked. I love it. That's great. I wanted to ask about the, the band that played on that first record. Were they already like your band that you were, you know, traveling with or was, was it kind of a studio, a players who played on your first.
That was my band. We did go through a couple of drummers, just like spinal tap, but that was my band. Yeah, the bass player. And wait a minute. Now I'm trying to read. I think I played all the guitars, so maybe it was just the two of us and then we did hire other people. So it was yeah. You and drew pretty much.
Yeah. Me and drew. Yeah, exactly. I got a tie in with that because I'm a, I'm a drew fan because of American. Hi-Fi like my wife, my wife's a huge American Hoff fan. So that's, I think that's so cool. And I, I know that he even put, he played Oregon and based on your first project, right? Liverpool sessions. Oh yeah, totally.
So that's been around for a while. He's a great bass player. Yeah. He's he's super cool. Mother, mother being number one on the modern rock tracks chart made you the last female solo artist to top that chart until Lord did it in 2013 with Royals does hearing that make you go, wow, I really achieve something or more like men that fricking sucks.
We need some more women in here. Yeah. Yeah. The second, you know, it was like first I didn't either. I didn't know that either. And when I heard that I was totally blown away. I was like, where, what happens. It's one. I almost want you to like 17 years and it, it really confirms my whole frustration in the early odds where I was like, I just can't believe the pendulum swung so hard.
I mean, it didn't have to go all the way back to where, you know, women can't even get arrested on a radio. That's. Yes, exactly. And it's still, that's still an issue now. I mean, even in, I know, especially, even in even in like country music, it's just hard all over the place for women's voices to be amplified.
Yeah. For no reason at all, you know, then it's just I guess it's just kind of a boys club thing and it's it's so it's anyway, it's bizarre. You said it let's, let's talk a little bit about devil's got your boyfriend. I did not know because it's funny. I, we make podcasts every week. But I don't listen to like a really broad range of, so I was aware of dirty John, but I had not listened to it.
And so then I'm just listening to a bunch of your music and that song comes on and I go, oh, I love this. And so I just start to do some research on it. I'm like, oh, snap, it's the theme song to dirty. John, can you tell us kind of how that happened? I know I it's. I understand it was kind of a surprise, right?
Yeah. It was a little bit of a fluke. There is this gosh, I don't even know. They probably still exist, but it was like this. What was it called? ADI Adion on there. There's this company called audience, I think. And artists would just submit songs and it was kind of the first of its kind where, you know, people anywhere from all walks of life could go to this website and go to library of music from artists.
And they could even like choose a song that they wanted to put in the background of their YouTube video of them jet skiing, or it could be somebody like one DRI was the podcast. I believe that created that dirty John story. And written by an LA times reporter. So the people for the LA times and that Wondery company went looking on this website in the library of songs, it was like, you know, they found a mother, mother, I mean, sorry.
They found devil's got your boyfriend and they paid 300 bucks and then that was it. That's the deal. You put your music up there and you're like, well, it could be like Joe Schmoe's you know, water skiing or something. Cool. And it's really not about the money, but more like the exposure. So yeah, I got the 300 bucks, but
you still have that cat. You still have that check like, oh no, I have checks for 12 cents. So that that's right. It's just the joys of being a musician. That's great. So after that, after, after dirty, John blew up, do you start getting calls? People are like, do my nails. Yeah. You know, there was a few calls and then I was like, you know what, I'm going to be a little more selective now that these things can happen.
And like I'm charging more than 300 bucks. Yeah, no kidding. What, so what was that, what did that do you know for you as an artist? And as someone who is, you know, your music is your life and your living you know, having that kind of exposure and, and and what am I trying to say? That kind of presence in the, in the, in the zeitgeists again, you know
well, yeah, I mean, it was a cool experience too, just, just on a personal level to hear from the writer who said that devil's got your boyfriend even helped him write. The ending. So I felt like I was part of that collaboration process. Yeah. And then they flew me out to LA to do this is weird. They flew me out to do a dirty John live.
Almost like a, like a variety show where they had like the real people on stage being interviewed. And the night came on, played a little set of music. It was so bizarre, but it was fun. They're like, but we're going to need you to pay for your own plane ticket. It's $305. Exactly. Luckily they did pay, they paid for my hotel and they paid for the flight.
And it was just great experience. And so I'd say mostly it's for the experience and some exposure, you know, it did reach a lot of people and a lot of people then would start to follow my music. You know, just from hearing that. So that's, that's where I'll say the pluses where there you go. That's right.
How did the, going back to mother, mother for a second, I've heard more recently the the, like a six, eight version that's like, you know, slowed down and chill and that kind of thing. How did that version come about? Oh, that's a part of the modern burdens album that I put out on the 20th ish anniversary of burdens and.
You know, the original idea was to put out an album, just like so many nineties bands did work. It was a sound alike. Mainly to stick it to the man because it's like, yeah, the masters couldn't, I can't get my masters back. So the, you know, just do the switcheroo and if there's a license, you just, you know, give somebody the soundalike.
And that was all that was on the boards. We were going to do it. And we did mother mother, which was great. But then I was like, you know what? I can't, I just couldn't make myself do it. I wanted to create the album again. And it was 2016. And this is when things I won't go into politics too much, but there was a whole lot of talk about misogyny and the elections were just about to happen.
It felt more like I needed to create a girl power album. And so I asked veering off, but it is kind of related. I asked to seven different singers, female singers that were my favorite, some from the nineties, some from today, and that we made this whole album called modern burdens and they were all completely different versions of all the songs and these girls women were featured on it and their mother was, was something that Isaiah, cause I'm not letting anyone else sing that, but I want to do like an all grownup version of mother, mother.
So I did it in 12 eight and then change the lyrics to, to catch up to the year, you know, 2016. Yeah, well, let's let's talk about the most recent work of yours that I know of, and that is young maestros volume one. Let's what's the, just tell us how you ended up going it's sound for some children's music
know catch me if you can. So I had, you know, touring and, and making albums and, and, you know, always had this, this itch though, to, to make an album of children's music that is music educational. Cause that's what I know the best. And I had all these songs and I was recording with my friend, Josh, Josh Margolis.
I would teach with, he has a company called go on us music club and it's like a school of rock, but a little bit more like, I think sophisticated. But anyway, we recorded these songs and the songs kept dropping from the sky. I was like dizzy with inspiration. I was like, oh my God, I just wrote a song about the movable dough and, or, you know, the minor, certain the majors.
This is so fun. And I started teaching these songs too. Cause I needed to make some extra money while starting a family. And it just became this thing. I was like, I want to build a business. It's going to be music, education, a curriculum. Maybe it's going to be albums. Maybe it's going to be merged. Maybe it'll be an actual shop or a school where kids can go into, but this was always on the back burner because I was always about to release a Tracy Bonham album.
And I didn't really want to confuse people like. Doing birthday parties I've changed my whole thing, but so I'd always put it off, put it off, put it off. And I had this hard drive full of these songs and then COVID hit and on the plane, back from my west coast tour with my amazing basis Renee, we were like, what do we do now?
Like we were shutting down clubs March 13th, 2020 was our last date in LA. And we're like, we're not going to be playing for awhile. So we decided to gather the songs, go to the hard drives and find out, you know, what was there. And I wanted to put out an album and just go on, go in this direction. So I put out young maestros volume one, and I started teaching, you know, because of the COVID thing I was teaching remotely.
It became this whole idea, like, wow, I want to create this whole learning system. You know? So we're still in development with this, but the music really is out there and we've got three videos and it's really fun. It is. It's a lot of fun. I love good. I'm glad for my kids. Cause they don't listen to me when I try and teach them music stuff.
Sure. Right. No, you cannot listen to your parents, but learning music. There's no way. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to play a mother, mother, and they're going to go, that's freaking awesome. And I'm going to be like, here's how she did it. She wants you to do it. Here you go. And there'll be like, absolutely.
So you performed Ram the McCartney. Is that your, is that your favorite McCartney project or do you have one? Absolutely. I just love, oh my God. That was so fun. Tell it to the sky that you did at Pinkpop and 97 smart move to pull out the pink hair. Was that intentional for pink? Yes, but I didn't, I had no idea what kind of reaction that would brightest thought.
Oh, this is funny. He's coughing pop. I found pink wig, but it turned out like every time I went back to Holland, it was like, why did you, you know, it was like, Iconic thing. And it really helps me in that, you know, that, that area to just be like the girl with the pink hair. I don't know it was a good move. I love it.
I love tell it to the sky is one of my absolute favorites on that album. I feel like tell it to the sky and sharks don't sleep are probably the emotional peaks of the album for me. They just have a feel unlike anything else. I don't know. I just love your, your writing style. I feel like your, your sense of melody and even chords is unique in that, in that era, you have a lot of, sort of chromaticism in your, in your melodies and, and you know, that kind of thing.
What's your, what's your writing process? Like what gets you started on a song? I know you're a multi-instrumentalist. And so I just want to know what is your kind of your approach as far as writing? It changes all the time. So maybe back then it was me just picking up a guitar. Knowing that I didn't really know where my fingers should go.
Cause I'm not a guitarist that I would never call myself a guitarist, but that was part of the joy. It was like, just let my ears lead the way. And my fingers would be like, huh. You know? And a lot of my guitar playing's really, I say dumb and I don't mean it as a insult. I just mean it's kind of a dumb way to play, but that would inspire ability on top of it.
And then the lyrics would come later and that was always pretty laborious. But then it changed the next album. It was like me sitting down maybe at a piano. And, and because I know what I'm doing on a piano, I would maybe try to close my eyes and not look at my hands. So it was almost like this divine process of like, what if I put my hands here and make this shape on the keyboard?
Oh, what inspiration? What like melodies come up. For me. And then later, like maybe 10, 15 years later, I started to write lyrics first. And that was really weird for me because lyrics were always really hard. But then lyrics became kind of like the leading tool for certain ideas. And I don't know, they became less veiled and more like direct.
And so like when I went to wax and gold, that was like my most direct album. I mean, it was straight down the middle and most of it was led by lyrics for. Got it all the time. That's awesome. I love that sort of abstract approach. I'm not brave enough to try that. I've gotta be honest. But I love that it worked for you.
That's great. Thank you. Can try. Well there's one question that we ask everybody, Tracy, this has been so much fun. We've enjoyed hanging out with you. You're super cool. Hope you've enjoyed it. There's one question. We ask everybody when you're on tour and you go into a gas station. What is your gas station?
Snack. Food of choice. And why you're are you thinking of it? I'll tell you mine. So it'll give you a minute to think. I get a three Musketeers bar. When I was growing up, my mom would say, you could have any candy bar you want, and that's the most ounces. They're all the same price. So I would get a three Musketeers bar.
What is your gas station? Snack food. I didn't even have to think it's cornets Twizzlers.
Yeah. But don't need them at the same time though. Okay. Okay. Alternation, that's an important note. We'll mark that down, Tracy. Thank you so much for joining us. This has been such a blast, a real treat, and an honor to get to talk to one of my, one of my favorite artists and an exemplary artist of a genre.
I just, I just love it. So thank you so much for being with us today. Great. Thank you. It was really fun talking. Thank you so much. Okay, bye. This is the Great Song Podcast and that was Tracy freakin. That's a middle lane. Let me ask you this. Who rocks more John or trace. John Bonham or Tracy Bonham rocks more, you know, if dirty, John?
Well, hold on. I got it here for you. Okay. John plays the violin. Tracy plays the drums. Okay. If they both play opposite, if they swap in front and freaky Friday well, you know, that's not fair because drums are a louder instrument. I think I'm going Tracy, man. I don't know, dude. I don't know. I don't know.
Jason, does he play Jason? He played fiddle. I don't know. Next week we talked to Jason bottom and we discuss greatest violin riffs of the 20th century. Are we, are you a more aggro drummer than Tracy is a freaking rockstar? We'll we'll get to the bottom of it and we'll let you know. We'll be back next week.
As ladies month continues happy. Mother's day, week mother, mother, mother be good to your mom. If you could talk to your mom, call your mom, make up with your mom, whatever you gotta do. It's secret message. Send her some flowers, give her a hug. My mom, I gotta go. I gotta get her card. Like if I get the gift, that's great.
But the card is the most important thing. It's the words that matter. That's right. Rob's favorite thing and song the lyrics. So do yourself a favor and do your mom a favor. Do your mama solid and write her a card. Even if you've got a lie, like Tracy, just call her and tell her I miss you. I love you.
Everything's fine. Don't worry about, you know, it's going to be great. We'll be back next week with another Great Song until then. I'm Rob...I'm JP... go listen to some music.