Nora Jane Struthers might never have become a professional musician were it not for a moment of euphoria at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Struthers had gone to school to study education — and was actually working as a teacher in Brooklyn — when she turned around to face away from the stage at Telluride. When she saw the crowd and the mountains, she decided to follow her heart and head to Nashville to make music.
Greg Holden isn't a name everyone knows — at least not yet — but his work has reached a massive audience. His song "Home" was a massive hit for American Idol winner Phillip Phillips a few years ago.
A U.K. singer-songwriter, Holden put out his own crowd-financed album in 2012, and is now making his major-label debut with Chase The Sun. On this episode of World Cafe, he performs a few songs and tells the story of how he took the money he made from "Home" to finance a backpacking trip to India.
Piano-playing singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. has seen his fortunes in the music business improve dramatically. The singer-songwriter recently put out his first album, Goon, which has received rave reviews and even been tweeted by Adele. But his career didn't take off until after he'd given up: In 2012, while recovering from a breakup in L.A., he was hit by a car, which impaled his hand on its hood ornament. While lying there, he saw a thief abscond with his bike. The next morning, he learned that his mother had been diagnosed with cancer.
This week's World Cafe: Next artist is Philadelphia's Hop Along, a band that evolved from the solo freak-folk recordings singer Frances Quinlan made while still in high school. The music on Painted Shut, Hop Along's first album for a national label, is no one's folk music — it's brash and powerful, led by Frances' intense, almost abrasive vocals.
U.K. singer-songwriter Laura Marling has had a packed career since she released her 2008 debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, while still a teenager. Each subsequent record has been a critically acclaimed worldwide hit; her fifth full-length, Short Movie, came out last month.
To hear Beat Latino host Catalina Maria Johnson tell it, the bolero is everywhere — and not just in the Spanish-speaking world. The bolero, like so many Latin styles, originated in Cuba, but it's since spread around the world.
For her look at essential boleros, Johnson plays two songs you probably know, but may not know as boleros: the international standard "Besame Mucho" and the English-language ballad "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes" from Dinah Washington.
Will Butler, the keyboard player and jack-of-all-instruments for Arcade Fire, has been playing smaller stages lately and liking it. Arcade Fire plays sheds and festivals — led by his brother, singer Win Butler — but he's been playing 150-seat clubs as a solo artist who's just released his debut album, Policy.
A few years ago, Matthew E. White and his crew formed a production company and studio in Richmond, Va., and called the enterprise Spacebomb. White and Spacebomb's first album, 2012's Big Inner, was produced primarily as a demo to showcase the group's strengths.
Ibeyi is made up of twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, who grew up in France but went home to Cuba every summer. Their father, Anga Diaz, was a percussionist who played with the Buena Vista Social Club.
On this week's episode of World Cafe: Next, hear and download two songs by the Nashville band Humming House. The group's third album, Revelries, features the songwriting of Justin Wade Tam with the addition of vocalist Leslie Rodriguez. Throughout the record, Humming House synthesizes influences from the Celtic and bluegrass worlds to create strong folk songs.