With Cocaine and Rhinestones offering up so many incredible stories about some country-music legends, we also decided to spotlight some excellent podcasts made by the artists themselves. Some like to recall moments from their own storied pasts, others like to conduct interviews with musicians they find interesting in an effort to learn everything they can about them. Here are seven of the best, from Questlove’s funky interview odysseys to Henry Rollins’ accounts of some of his most incredible stories.
Format: An energetic host, Questlove leads fun interviews that dig into the nitty-gritty of his favorite songs by his guests.
Schedule: Every week
Why He Does It: “Usually when I do a project, it’s to satisfy the curious fan in me,” he says. “I may come off as a forty-something music know-it-all, but I’m still the same nine-year-old trying to prompt an investigation over the ‘Love Rollercoaster’ murders.”
Best Moments: From the off-the-cuff “Supreme Roll Call” that starts each episode to revealing insights like Bootsy Collins’ wild all-nighter seeing Fela Kuti in Nigeria, it’s a lively listen throughout. Here are Questlove’s favorite moments: “Learning that Prince made the best fried-egg sandwiches (episode 4 with guests the Revolution), or that James Brown had a Dinty Moore beef-stew handler on call 24/7 (episode 5, Alan Leeds). Also, finding out that both Les Paul and T-Bone Walker gave Steve Miller guitar lessons regularly before the age of 10 (episode 66), and there’s stories about the audacity of blasting N.W.A in the White House (episode 61, DJ D Nice), getting fired by Diana Ross (episode 62, Sheila E), dealing with racist hecklers pre- and post-Hootie (episode 59, Darius Rucker), learning which celebrity took a hit out on one of Def Jam’s rising superstars (episode 22, MC Serch), the time Babyface stopped a near pugilistic confrontation with a bandmate to pen the lyric of one of his greatest classics (episode 29) and the challenge of Steely Dan harmony-stacking with Michael McDonald (episode 55). I also loved hearing about Herb Alpert dropping the Sex Pistols from A&M in seven days (episode 52), and finding out Whitney Houston was supposed to sing on ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ with Michael Jackson (episode 34, Siedah Garrett).”
Best Guest: Ray Parker Jr., who recalled writing the Ghostbusters theme and claimed his old boss Stevie Wonder can drive: “He didn’t care about hitting the cars.”
Format: Jessie endearingly banters back and forth with her mother, Lennie, and guests, mostly about cooking. “It all revolves around food, my favorite subject, and family,” Jessie says. “I hope the listener feels like they are around the dinner table with us and learns something new about someone they may already know lots about, or even better, be introduced to someone I want everyone to know about.”
Why They Do It: “It was a chance for me to ask other people questions,” Jessie says. “I’m so sick of talking about myself. It was also a chance to hang out with my mum and get her to cook me dinners every week. I think I pushed her over the edge when we had four guests in a row, though. She had to go and see her chiropractor.”
Best Moments: Ed Sheeran proclaiming his distaste for kale and “American-boiled” hotdogs and Sam Smith explaining how quitting drinking has helped him chill.
Best Guests: “My mum fell in love with [Get Out‘s] Daniel Kaluuya and [Game of Thrones’] Joe Dempsie over the podcast, Sam Smith told us he thought Mexico was in Spain, Ed Sheeran had four portions, and Sandi Toksvig encouraged us all to add a woman to Wikipedia because there aren’t enough on there,” she says.
Format: The former Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman and his sweet-sounding manager, Heidi May, share hilarious stories and anecdotes about their working relationship, and Rollins tells stories from throughout his career. “Hopefully, the listeners have some fun listening to it,” Rollins says. “That’s one of the reasons we made it free, so the fun element was never far from the front.”
Why They Do It: “One day Heidi mentioned that I’ve told her a lot of stories that never made it to the stage and we should do a podcast so I could tell them,” Rollins says. “That was pretty much it. I thought it was a good idea and people seem to like how the two of us get along. We’ve been working together for over 20 years and are very good friends.”
Best Moments: Rollins explaining how he and his band at the time recorded their landmark End of Silence LP, recalling his first concert (Aerosmith and REO Speedwagon) and making an appearance on a record by William Shatner, among many other fascinating chapters from his life.
Best Moments According to Rollins: “I like the corny sound effects we use and that it’s so low-tech,” Rollins says. “I like the Heidi’s Headlines section a lot because I don’t know how I’ll be cornered. Mostly, my favorite part is that people like it so much. That’s really cool.”
Format: Loose and freewheeling, Watt spins records and spitballs on everything from jazz to punk and goes deep his guests about their musical history for three hours at a time. “I hope people get turned on to all kinds of trippy shit,” Watt says.
Schedule: Almost weekly
Why He Does It: “I dislike that bullshit name [podcast] ’cause it makes feel like a shill for some device,” he says. “Fuck, I don’t think that device is even made anymore but fuck it, I call it my radio show ’cause it radiates through the Internet and can be heard by anybody with a machine that can play an MP3 file. Second, I do it because I feel very strongly that my show is one way I can pay down the debt I feel I owe the punk movement for letting people like [Minutemen frontman] D. Boon and me have a chance at expression and letting our freak flag fly. Punk for me was not a style or type of music but more a state of mind. I don’t play any mersh [commercial] shit. I play what folks flow me after putting in all they got from the autonomy pried open by those cats in the old days with balls like churchbells. I try to create a trippy kind of forum [where] folks can speak their mind using sound.”
Best Moment: Watt can’t pick. “I have to yet to hear the same story about a person’s journey through music,” he says. “They’re all fucking different, each and every single one. The stories are compelling and I feel is a righteous thing that can be shared and maybe even inspire some listening to also take up their freak flag and fly it their way, another part of the big crazy chorus letting itself be heard, finding itself a fucking mind-blow and tripping on that wonder.”
Best guests: Jack Black on his early interest in making music, Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament on his college band Deranged Diction and Fred Armisen on his hardcore-punk days. Armisen ended up interviewing Watt about his career. “it’s still mysterious,” the former Minuteman says of playing bass guitar. “There’s too much to learn.”
Format: Rubin and guests discuss how songs are made. Gladwell narrates.
Schedule: Whenever they feel like it
Why They Do It: “It’s as important to hear artists talk as it is to hear them play,” Gladwell says.
Best Guest: Eminem, who broke down the influences behind his single “Walk on Water,” for an easy-to-digest 15-minute installment. It’s also the only episode: “More are coming by the end of the year,” Rubin promises.
Format: Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack sit down and reflect on their hit MTV show and go on crude tangents. “I hope people have a laugh,” Ozzy says. “We all have had our share while recording. We really are having a lot fun with these episodes and just saying whatever is on our minds.”
Schedule: Every week.
Why They Do It: “Jack first came to us with the idea last year and we all sat down and discussed it,” Ozzy says. “Surprisingly we loved the idea of getting together and reliving some of our memories about The Osbournes.”
Best Moment: They recalled Bill Cosby blasting their show’s sign language. “Hey, Bill Cosby, how you doin’, motherfucker?” Jack said in the episode. Added Sharon, “What a fucking joke!”
Best Guest: Big Dave the Manny, who talks about getting hired to watch the kids while Ozzy was on tour. “I was gonna do it even if I didn’t know how to do it, because that’s the role I’ve played with you guys,” he said of being a “manny.” “Like, ‘Oh, we can’t figure somebody to do it, we’ll just get Dave to do it.'” When Kelly asks who the most difficult kid was, he says, “Jack was in the beginning because he never wanted to go to school … but then I got ‘older Kelly’ going out on tour and that whole thing. I think you were equally as bad and as annoying.”
Format: Shiflett sounds both homey and warm while talking with his guests about guitar, country music and touring.
Why They’re Doing It: “The initial idea was to interview was many older musicians connected with the Bakersfield sound but now it’s just people I’m a huge fan of,” he says. “The problem was there just weren’t a whole lot of those folks around anymore. So I started cold-calling people. My podcast is obviously about Americana, country and roots-based music. Now I just pick people I’m a huge fan of.”
Best Moments: Steve Earle talking about fishing with locals while on tour with Jackson Browne, and Chris Stapleton talking guitar while his road crew thuds around his stage before soundcheck. “Is Snoop opening for you today?” Shiflett asks when a particularly bassy sound bleeds into their interview as Stapleton laughs.
Best Guests: “I got to interview Merle Haggard not long before he passed away, and that was a really big one for me just from a fan’s point of view,” he says. “I was so nervous going into it, because he had a reputation of being kind of a hard-ass with journalists. But he was so nice and so welcoming and hospitable and talked to me for a really long time – it couldn’t have gone better. From, like, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell to Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell and Marty Stuart, it’s just people I’m a fan of. We’ve been lucky.”