The third season of the Emmy nominated public television music series Live from the Artists Den will air its season premiere this Friday, April 1, featuring a concert by Elvis Costello and his band The Sugarcanes recorded at the New York Public Library’s world-famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
This innovative programming features music icons and rising stars in unique and intimate venues, allowing the viewer to feel as if the concert is happening right in their living room. The specials also include interviews with each performer conducted by noted music critic Alan Light, who also serves as Director of Programming for Live from the Artists Den.
In an exclusive interview with Rueben’s Ramblings, series creator Mark Lieberman explains the genesis of Live from the Artists Den. “When I was living and working in San Francisco, I became very aware that my friends were no longer going out to hear live music – shows were too late, too inconvenient, too difficult to fit into a life with a job and kids. I wanted to create a way for people to continue to experience music performances in a setting that was inviting and welcoming.”
Besides Elvis Costello being the opening act for this season’s series, Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs performed at the Don Strange Ranch located in Texas (this performance will air on April 5). Mr. Lieberman explained that this was “probably the most ambitious production we’ve pulled off so far” because the performance was held “in a barn on a ranch thirty miles outside of San Antonio”.
While artists like Ringo Starr, Alanis Morissette, David Gray, Tori Amos and The Black Crowes (among many others) have performed in previous airings of Live from the Artists Den, Mr. Lieberman acknowledged that his personal dream artist would be “someone like Neil Young, who is constantly innovating and experimenting with his music, seems like the kind of artist who would take really interesting advantage of an unconventional place to play.” He further explained “that kind of independence is close in spirit to the Artists Den’s vision”.
Among the other performers for this season’s airings are:
Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, who were filmed in New York’s Bryant Park, airing on April 15;
Robert Plant and the Band of Joy at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville to be aired on April 22;
The UK pop legends Squeeze reunite for a concert that was also filmed in New York’s Bryant Park, airing on April 29; and,
A special compilation recorded at Sotheby’s auction house in New York with R&B singer-songwriter Daniel Merriweather, alternative pop songstress A Fine Frenzy and folk singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan.
When asked if he had a personal favorite among all the performances out of the three seasons, Mr. Lieberman shared that “of course (I) love them all, but the last two performances that (were) filmed—with Robert Plant in Nashville and with Adele in Los Angeles—really highlight the range of music we feature, from an incomparable rock legend to a soulful rising superstar”. Notably that is the only sneak peek Mr. Lieberman would give for the planned 4th season of Live from the Artists Den – that UK songstress Adele was filmed for the new season. He jokingly stated “I don’t want to give away any other secrets while we’re still putting this next batch together”.
But if anyone is interested in finding out how to become a part of the studio audience for one of the upcoming performances for this unique concert experience, all you have to do is sign up for the Artists Den mailing list here or ‘like us’ on Facebook because “Artists Den members are the ones who get to register for a chance to win tickets to our shows,” explained Mr. Lieberman.
In speaking about the logistics involved in arranging these unique venues and artists, Mr. Lieberman noted that “we like to have things set up weeks ahead so that everyone can breathe a little easier, but when we filmed Ringo Starr and Ben Harper at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, that whole shoot came together in just over a week”. He further explained that, “it was a scramble, but it’s one of our finest episodes (and) in the end, it usually comes down to a mad dash in the final few hours.”
Also, while Mr. Lieberman did not point out any specific artist who had turned down the opportunity to perform on Live from the Artists Den he did state that “it’s always complicated to line up an artist’s touring schedule with the right venue in the right city at the right time, so it’s always an ongoing process. It’s not so much a question of people turning the opportunity down as it is finding the best chance to make everything come together”.
Obviously it takes a dedicated crew to make the entire series possible and Mr. Lieberman highlighted that he “(works) closely with our Director of Programming, Alan Light, to select the performers, and everyone on our small staff gets their chance to weigh in”. He went on to say that he and his team “are dedicated to artists who are great live performers, regardless of (the) genre. We have featured performers from country (such as Dierks Bentley) to R&B (like Raphael Saadiq and Corinne Bailey Rae), to legends (like Robert Plant, Ringo Starr) and even emerging stars (such as Grace Potter and the Hold Steady)”.
One particularly special music performance was when Live from the Artists Den filmed the Swell Season. Mr. Lieberman stated it was “just after the film “Once” was released. By the time the episode aired, they had won the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year and were selling out Radio City Music Hall.” On the reverse side of that – at least in terms of difficulty with arranging the set up for a specific performance – was “when we filmed the band Fountains of Wayne a few years back. Not only did we arrange the shoot on board a 19th century tall ship docked in lower Manhattan, but the night before the shoot, a tornado swept through New York City. When it passed, the subways were flooded, and the following day was a steamy 90-some degrees. Somehow, we still got a show out of it, but that was certainly the toughest spot we have found ourselves in”. He further explained that “every single show has its own set of challenges, from weather issues (a freak snowstorm in Nashville nearly meant the cancellation of the Robert Plant show) to last minute equipment arrivals (at the Ray LaMontagne show, we had gear arriving from four cities in Texas which caused some last minute scrambling). But the excitement of that improvisational aspect translates into unique and exciting episodes each time. If we filmed everyone in the same studio all the time, the system would be a lot more reliable, but it would also be less fun for us, for the artists, and for the audience.”
Speaking of the audience, Mr. Lieberman stated that “for our shows (there) are generally only a few hundred people, so it’s never been a problem to fill the room”. With that being said I would encourage any interested music fans to sign up for the Artists Den (as stated above) or check out Live from the Artists Den’s Facebook page to learn more about how to register for your chance to win tickets to one of the upcoming shows. You won’t regret that you did.
I would like to extend a hearty thank you to Mr. Lieberman and his staff for taking the time to participate in this exclusive interview with Rueben’s Ramblings. And, for the readers, please make sure to check your local listings for when your public television network will air the upcoming performances of Live from the Artists Den.