npr interviews

Daryl Davis is a blues musician, but he also has what some might call an interesting hobby. For the past 30 years, Davis, a black man, has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan.

He says once the friendship blossoms, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. Since Davis started talking with these members, he says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes. When that happens, Davis collects the robes and keeps them in his home as a reminder of the dent he has made in racism by simply sitting down and having dinner with people.

How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members To Give Up Their Robes

Photo: Courtesy of Daryl Davis

Obviously, drinking gasoline incurs bodily harm on you, but also, being an accessory to that kind of behavior and having to decide — it incurs harm upon you, too. And then, are you responsible for permitting that? If you stay, are you responsible for permitting it? And if you leave, are you responsible for not intervening? If you intervene, are you out of your bounds? Everything about the song is figuring out how you should act in your level of responsibility for your own health and to others in the dynamic of a relationship, which is a difficult lesson to learn.

I feel like I would have put myself into an unfavorable or unhealthy position for this person and maybe recognizing from an outside perspective that that destructivism is a more healthy thing to do than to stay in it for the sort of, romantic, admirable belief that subjecting yourself to this kind of sacrificial, fatuous love would be more of the right thing to do.

Julien Baker on her new song, “Funeral Pyre” 

Tom Petty To ‘Fresh Air’: 'The Songs Mean A Lot To People, And It Means A Lot To Me’

Tom Petty, leader of The Heartbreakers and member of The Traveling Wilburys, died Monday night from cardiac arrest. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee was 66 years old.

Petty told Fresh Air in 2006 that he drew on the music of The Byrds and The Beatles in the hopes of developing his own distinctive guitar style.

“We always wanted very much to create our own sound,” he said. “I tried to take whatever influences I had and make them meld together into something that was our own sound. And we somehow did that. I don’t know how.”

Petty and The Heartbreakers had a string of hits in the late '70s — including “American Girl,” “Listen To Her Heart” and “Don’t Do Me Like That” — but he told us it was his 1989 solo hit, “I Won’t Back Down,” that seemed to really resonate with his fans.

“It’s turned out to be the one song that’s had the most influence on people that approach me on the street or talk to me in a restaurant,” Petty said. “It’s been really important to a lot of people in their lives.”

For his part, Petty was touched by the way his music moved his fans: “I know the songs mean a lot to people, and it means a lot to me. … The rock 'n’ roll stuff is more than just something that you can manipulate into advertising or whatever they do with them. It means more than that to me.”

npr.org
Harry Styles: 'It Was Time For Me To Be Scared'
After One Direction hit the pause button, Styles got to work developing his own voice for his recent solo debut. "I've never felt this vulnerable putting out music," he says.

David Greene: Is there a song where you got it, sang it, created it and said, “I’m doing this. I’m on my own. I’ve created something that’s really me as a musician”?

Harry Styles: I think I’ve always written bits of songs alone, and then I usually take stuff in and try to finish it with someone. “Sign of the Times” was one of those where I just kind of wrote it. We basically ended up in a place where the album had a bunch of rock songs and a bunch of acoustic, kind of picked ballad songs. And I wrote “Sign of the Times” and just felt like there was all this middle ground that I wanted to then explore. And I think that’s the one that kind of started bridging us to different places in terms of experimenting a little more.

I read that the genesis of “Sign of the Times” was the idea of a mother being told that she wasn’t going to make it and what message she wanted to give to her child.

Yeah, I think we were thinking about — there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. And it’s not the last time that we will be in a place like that. I think the way that we receive information all the time now, it’s really difficult to ignore that stuff — and I think it would have been weird for me to write an album and not acknowledge that there’s anything bad going on in the world. And I think we were writing it from a place of — you have five minutes to say, “It’s going to be all right.”

Let me ask you about your fans. When we were walking in here to get to the Roxy, there was a legion of a few dozen young women peeking around to see if they’d get a glimpse of you. It’s so easy to stereotype that kind of fan base and say that it’s just a bunch of young teenage girls who are Snapchatting when they spot you and not paying attention to the music. What do you make of that fan base?

The thing is, people stereotype it as their attraction to the music is something other than the music, and I think that’s unfair. And honestly, I think it’s writing people off. It’s kind of rude. Everyone’s musical taste is different, and there’s no right or wrong answer. So I don’t know who’s the person in the world who is like — that guy has good music taste.

I wondered if, with such a loyal fan base, you ever feared that they were just going to be with you no matter what music you made — so it would almost make it less meaningful what you were doing, because they would never say anything bad about you.

I actually think that the kind of fans that we’ve had are the most honest.

There’s no playing it cool, or overthinking it?

Yeah. Everyone meets those people where they like something and they’ll never admit they’ll like it. … I’d rather someone be honest with me, and I wanted to be honest with the album.

Is it scary to be out on your own?

I’ve never felt this vulnerable putting out music, because I don’t think this is a piece of myself I’ve put out there before. And, simple fact: When there are other people around you, you share the good stuff — but you also get to share the bad stuff and hide behind everyone else a little bit. So with this, yeah, it is scary. But I think it was time for me to be scared. And I’m still very much learning. And I’m having the time of my life working this out.

Is there a song you want us to play, as we go out here?

My favorite from the album is the last song, “From The Dining Table.” It’s just personal, and I don’t feel like I’ve written a song like this before.

2

Hillary Clinton’s final campaign for office ended in a shocking defeat. But she isn’t going quietly into the night.

“I think the country’s at risk, and I’m trying to sound the alarm so more people will at least pay attention,” Clinton told NPR.

That said, her career as a candidate is over.

“I’m done. I’m not running for office,” Clinton said. But for those, including Democrats, who would like her to just go away? “Well, they’re going to be disappointed,” she said.

“I’m not going anywhere. I have the experience, I have the insight, I have the scars that I think give me not only the right, but the responsibility to speak out,” Clinton said.

In her new campaign memoir, What Happened, and in interviews with Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin and NPR’s Tamara Keith, Clinton talks about her own failings, but she doesn’t hold back on calling out sexism in American politics and heaping criticism on President Trump.

Hillary Clinton Is ‘Done,’ But Not Going Away

Photos: Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

I’ve never felt this vulnerable putting out music, because I don’t think this is a piece of myself I’ve put out there before. And, simple fact: When there are other people around you, you share the good stuff — but you also get to share the bad stuff and hide behind everyone else a little bit. So with this, yeah, it is scary. But I think it was time for me to be scared. And I’m still very much learning. And I’m having the time of my life working this out.
—  Harry for NPR
Happy 30th, Fresh Air!

Today (May 11) is Fresh Air’s 30th anniversary of being a daily, national program. That’s amazing. That also means Terry has been doing this longer than I’ve been alive.

Originally posted by logotv

Like a lot of people my age, my first memories of NPR were in the backseat of my parents’ car. It wasn’t long before I became a fan myself. The road trip from my hometown in Massachusetts to Philadelphia, where I went to college, was about 5 Fresh Air interviews long. I distinctly remember picking out interviews with Sacha Baron Cohen, Lisa Kudrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jack Black and loading them onto my pink iPod mini. 

After I graduated and was miserable working in restaurants and retail, Terry’s interviews kept me sane. She kept me company during a time in my life when I felt lost and directionless. I remember Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham, and Matt Weiner, to name a few.

I started at Fresh Air in May of 2013. I co-write the Fresh Air webpages on NPR.org with the lovely Bridget Bentz, run the social media, and handle the podcast. 

In the spirit of our anniversary, I thought I’d mention a few of my favorite interviews since I’ve been here, behind-the-scenes. 

  • John Waters: I have listened to this interview so many times, I practically have it memorized. I love how hard he makes Terry snort-laugh with gems like, “In Baltimore, if you’re hitchhiking, you’re a hooker that doesn’t have the Internet.” 

Originally posted by lastdaysofmagic

  • Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber: Some of my favorite interviews are ones where I’ve never heard of the guest before and then they totally blow me away. Pastor Nadia started a church for outsiders (junkies, drag queens, comedians) and has a really original and inclusive philosophy about faith. 
  • Joaquin Phoenix: I have a special place in my heart for this interview, because the day it aired was the day I was introduced in the credits for the first time. This show was completely bonkers. He was unpredictable and bizarre, but we were all having so much fun listening in while the interview was taping. 

Originally posted by haidaspicciare

  • Lynsey Addario: While working as a bad-ass photojournalist in a war zone, Addario was kidnapped with two of her journalist colleagues. She talks about that harrowing experience in this interview. It’s riveting. Plus, as a web producer, putting together a slideshow of her work was a real joy. 
  • Michael K. Williams: Williams, known for playing Omar on The Wire, was a dream guest (open, funny, thoughtful) I love when he called Terry “T,” and talks about how the Rhythm Nation music video inspired him to pursue a career in the arts. His kindness radiates through the speakers.

Originally posted by artofthewire

I’m sure I’m forgetting tons of other favorites, but those are the ones that came to mind. 

We’ve got plenty of exciting things coming down the pike. Thanks for listening, reading, following the show! We can’t wait to see what you pick as your favorite interviews with the hashtag #freshair30. 

Onward, 

Molly Seavy-Nesper, associate producer at Fresh Air 

It’s an old music industry maxim: You have your whole life to write your first album, but only months or years to write your second. If there’s anyone who knows the pressure of the sophomore record, it’s Ella Yelich-O'Connor, better known as Lorde. Her 2013 debut album, Pure Heroine, sold a million copies in just five months and launched her to stardom, buoyed by the blockbuster single “Royals,” two Grammys and praise from the likes of David Bowie.

With such a heady start, it’s no wonder Lorde’s new album, Melodrama, took another four years to make. “I would go to sleep thinking about it and I would dream about it, and I’d wake up in the morning thinking about it,” she tells NPR’s Michel Martin. “Its grip on me was unrelenting. I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t make something different, singular and something that I would be proud of.”

Lorde On Dialing Out And Turning Inward

Photo: Annabel Edwards/NPR

youtube

It’s 3 a.m. and Whiskers has decided it’s time for breakfast. He jumps up on your bed, gently paws at your eyelids and meows to be fed. Annoyed? Cat behavior specialist Sarah Ellis says you have only yourself to blame.

Ellis says that cat owners reinforce negative behaviors when they give into them. “Cats are not necessarily born meowing and screaming at us for food, it’s a behavior that they learned,” Ellis tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

Instead of indulging Whiskers’ request for an early-morning snack, Ellis recommends adopting an “extinction schedule,” whereby you ignore the behavior entirely until it stops. If cat owners “can be really strong with that extinction schedule and just make sure at every occurrence of that behavior they do not reward it… it will stop,” Ellis says.

In her book, The Trainable Cat, Ellis and her co-author John Bradshaw describe how humans who understand basic feline nature can get their cats to come on command, take medicine and, yes, wait until morning for breakfast.

When it comes to encouraging the positive, Ellis recommends rewards over punishment — especially if the rewards are intermittent. “You don’t give a reward every single time,” Ellis explains. “This sort of keeps the cat guessing, they don’t know if running toward you this time will get the food or it’ll be the next time, and that actually makes the behavior more likely to happen.”

Who Says You Can’t Train A Cat? A Book Of Tips For Feline-Human Harmony

2

“Eventually I found out that I was on a watch list. … This is 2003 [or 2004]. … After the Patriot Act, I would always get my financial packages in the mail and they would just be opened. It was like, “What is going on here?”… On that watch list they would be like, “Yeah your name matches the name of a terrorist or someone that they’re watching.” I was like, “What terrorist is running around with a Hebrew first name and an Arabic last name? Who’s that guy?” NPR Fresh Air Mahershala Ali interview-2/16/17

Lin-Manuel Miranda on his favourite song

MIRANDA: We all love dancing to Latin music, but the fact that Ruben Blades sneaks this short story in - under this incredibly danceable hook, and then the last four minutes are just the most - it’s just a killer piano solo. It’s this killer section where they go into 12/8 time. I mean, the musicianship is incredible. But if you listen, you’d notice he’s telling an incredible story in the mix. Oh, this is my favorite part. 

[starts translating over the music]

So in the middle of his sermon…
the killer came in…
…and without confessing his guilt…
…fired.
Antonio fell.
And without knowing why, Andres, the altar boy, fell at his side without ever having met Pele.
And between the screams and surprise, agonizing once again, there was Jesus Christ nailed to the wall.
They never knew who the criminal was.
El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andres…  

CORNISH: When you hear this song today in the presence of your parents, what happens?

MIRANDA: We dance. We dance, but you know what happens that didn’t happen when I was a kid is we sing along to every word of it. You know, it was - I’m really glad it was around in our house because it’s really - it’s a very personal song for me.

Click here to hear Lin talk to NPR about this song

Red Cross Exec Doesn't Know What Portion Of Donations Go To Harvey Relief

As Americans are opening their wallets and donating to relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, one of the most prominent charities is the American Red Cross.

But donors might be surprised to learn the Red Cross doesn’t make clear what percentage of their dollars will go directly to helping the victims of the storm.

Dating back to 2014, NPR and Pro Publica have reported that the Red Cross misstated how donor dollars are spent.

In an interview with Morning Edition host Ailsa Chang, Red Cross executive Brad Kieserman was asked about reports that the charity has unusually high administrative costs.

“We are committed, I am committed, my team is committed to using our resources and donor dollars in a way that best helps the people of Texas,” said Kieserman, vice president of disaster operations and logistics.

Morning Edition’s Ailsa Chang: Through donations, how much of every dollar goes to relief?

Red Cross executive Brad Kieserman: Yeah, I don’t think I know the answer to that any better than the chief fundraiser knows how many, how much it costs to put a volunteer downrange for a week and how many emergency response vehicles I have on the road today. So I think if he was on this interview and you were asking how many relief vehicles in Texas, I don’t think he’d know the answer and I don’t know the answer to the financial question I’m afraid.

Listen to the full interview