VERSED: The ASCAP Podcast / Ep. 8 - Dom Flemons

February 20, 2020

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VERSED is a bi-weekly podcast illuminating the heart and soul of music. Featuring in-depth interviews with songwriters and composers, plus tips and insights to help you navigate your music career. Brought to you by ASCAP, home of the world's greatest music creators.

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Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is also a historian with a passion for the history of black musicians in America. His acclaimed album, Black Cowboys, pays tribute to the music, culture and complex history of the golden era of the Wild West. It received a GRAMMY nomination for “Best Folk Album,” and just last year Flemons won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for the liner notes he wrote. The recording is now part of the African American Legacy Recordings series, co-produced with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Flemons was in New York City recently where he sat down with ASCAP’s Erik Philbrook and talked about his own musical journey and the experiences of the black music creators who helped pioneer the American west both physically and musically. He also performed a few songs from the album. Also, from the ASCAP Archives, we have a clip from our 2018 ASCAP EXPO panel called “The Paths of Rhythm: From Producer to Composer.” The panel featured producer-composers Adrian Younge, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad - an original member of A Tribe Called Quest. The two of them collaborated on the music for the Netflix series Luke Cage. They also have a group called The Midnight Hour, who wrote the bumpin’ theme music for this very podcast! Joining them on the panel was Morgan Rhodes, a music supervisor who’s worked on projects like Selma, Queen Sugar and Dear White People.

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Dom Flemons  

EP. 8 FEATURED INTERVIEW: DOM FLEMONS

Grammy Award winner and two-time Emmy nominee Dom Flemons is originally from Phoenix, Arizona and currently lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife Vania Kinard and their daughter Cheyanne Love. He has branded the moniker “The American Songster” since his repertoire of music covers over 100 years of early American popular music. Flemons is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, actor, music scholar, historian and record collector. He is considered an expert player on the banjo, guitar, harmonica, jug, percussion, quills, fife and rhythm bones.

On February 28, 2020, Dom Flemons will release his third solo album titled Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus on Omnivore Recordings. The two-CD album features three parts: the original Prospect Hill album, the 2015 EP What Got Over, and The Drum Major Instinct which includes twelve previously unissued instrumental tracks.

In 2019, Flemons was chosen to be a "Spotlight Artist" at the Soundtrack of America event curated by the world-renowned Quincy Jones and Emmy-winning director Steve McQueen. He was featured in the Bank of America and Ken Burns Country Music commercial that airs regularly on PBS. Also, Flemons had a successful international solo tour in Spain, France, Belgium and Holland, and served as a US representative at the YodelFest in Munich, Germany.

In 2018, Flemons released a solo album titled Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys on Smithsonian Folkways, and received a nomination for “Best Folk Album” at the 61st Grammy Awards. This recording is part of the African American Legacy Recordings series, co-produced with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. 

The Black Cowboys album peaked at #4 and spent over 55 weeks on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart. Flemons was nominated for “2018 Artist of the Year” at the International Folk Music Awards, “Best Acoustic Album” at the 2019 Blues Music Awards and “Best Folk Album” at the 2019 Liberia Awards. He won a 2019 Wammie Award for “Best Folk Album, a 2019 Living Blues Award for “New Recordings/Traditional & Acoustic album,” and received the ASCAP Foundation Paul Williams “Loved the Liner Notes” Award.

In 2018, he had his major solo debut on the Grand Ole Opry, on a night with Carrie Underwood and Old Crow Medicine Show, and has been included in the American Currents Class of 2018 exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame Exhibit alongside Reba McEntire, Jeannie Seely, Chris Stapleton, Molly Tuttle, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Kane Brown, Dan Auerbach, Dan + Shay, John Prine and more.

Flemons was nominated for two Emmys at the 2018 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Mid-America Awards for the PBS episode SongCraft Presents: Dom Flemons and for the co-written song “Good Old Days” with songwriter Ben Arthur.

He was the first Artist-in-Residence at the “Making American Music Internship Program” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the summer of 2018. Flemons currently serves on the Board of Directors for Folk Alliance International, Music Maker Relief Foundation and is a Governor on the Board of Directors for the Washington, DC Chapter of the Recording Academy. 

In 2017, Flemons served as the only US performer at the Rainforest Music Festival in Kuching, Malaysia. He was featured on David Holt’s State of Music on PBS and performed as bluesman Joe Hill Louis on CMT’s original television show Sun RecordsIn 2016, Flemons released a duo album with British musician Martin Simpson titled Ever Popular Favourites on Fledg’ling Records. He launched a podcast, American Songster Radio, with two seasons on WUNC Public Radio and filmed two instructional DVDs through Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. 

In 2007, Flemons had an acting role as a Juke Joint Musician in and recorded songs for the Golden Globe-nominated, Oprah Winfrey-executive-produced, Denzel Washington-directed feature film The Great Debaters, starring Denzel and Forest Whitaker.

In 2005, Flemons co-founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops who won a Grammy for “Best Traditional Folk Album” in 2010 and were nominated for “Best Folk Album” in 2012. He left the group to pursue his solo career in 2014. In 2016 the Carolina Chocolate Drops were inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame and are featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Flemons has archived the legacy of the CCDs in his personal collection at the Southern Folklife Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.

Website: theamericansongster.com // Twitter: @domflemons // Facebook: @DomFlemonsMusic // Instagram: @domflemons

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Kevin Randolph, Adrian Younge, Morgan Rhodes and Ali Shaheed Muhammad at the ASCAP EXPO
(l-r) moderator Kevin Randolph, Adrian Younge, Morgan Rhodes and Ali Shaheed Muhammad before The Paths of Rhythm: From Producer to Composer panel at the 2018 ASCAP EXPO

EP. 8 FROM THE ARCHIVES: ADRIAN YOUNGE, ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD & MORGAN RHODES

DJ/Producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a hip-hop icon. As one-third of legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, his influence and impact on the musical landscape is still felt today. Adrian Younge is the next generation of soul music. A self-taught musician and recording engineer who has dedicated his life to the study of classic soul music, Younge finds himself at the center of a new soul renaissance with a vision for pushing the boundaries of the music itself. Visit Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge on the Linear Labs website.

Together, Muhammad and Younge create music as The Midnight Hour: an ode to the cultural sophistication that the Harlem Renaissance established for its people. Performing with their jazz rhythm section and an orchestral section reminiscent of maestros such as David Axelrod and Quincy Jones, The Midnight Hour is sophisticated hip-hop. They released their debut album in 2018 and will soon release the anticipated follow up. Visit The Midnight Hour at LinearLabs.com

Morgan Rhodes is an LA-based music supervisor who’s spent the last eight years working on films (Middle of Nowhere, Selma) and television (Queen Sugar S1, Dear White People S1 and S2).  Her music career began in radio at influential station KCRW and she now is one of the featured music critics on KPCC’s weekly music show “Tuesday Reviewsday.” She also co-hosts Maximum Fun’s podcast Heat Rocks, a 40-minute conversation with artists, scholars and writers about seminal and canonical albums. She’s obsessed with indie and obscure music finds and is always in search for the perfect song. Visit Morgan Rhodes online at www.morganrhodes.co

+Read our interview with Muhammad & Younge about their score to Marvel's Luke Cage

+Watch the entire "The Paths of Rhythm: From Producer to Composer" panel from the 2018 ASCAP EXPO

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Lauren Gaspard
EP. 8 GUEST HOST: LAUREN GASPARD, ASCAP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR | MEMBERSHIP, RHYTHM & SOUL (URBAN)

A native of South Central Los Angeles, Lauren Gaspard has continued to strive above and beyond in the world of urban entertainment and communications. Lauren graduated from Howard University in July 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism - Public Relations with a minor of African American Studies. She catapulted into her first career job in the industry with 42 West Public Relations as a talent assistant to the top Publicist in the company. From there, she transitioned back into the freelance realm, picking up an internship with ASCAP's Rhythm and Soul division and Ne-Yo's Compound Entertainment (a joint venture with Motown Records), where she landed a full-time position. Lauren's primary focus lied within the A&R and Creative realms, while taking on some artist management duties. She received her first credit on Ne-Yo's 2015 album Nonfiction, and received her second credit on the season 2 soundtrack from the hit show Empire.

In between, Lauren transitioned into live music and brand partnership, working with Burrell Communications and Cashmere Agency with experiential campaigns and music strategy. She helped to develop and broker partnerships for culture-shifting events such as A3C, Afropunk, Broccoli City, Essence, CIAA, Lollapalooza, and others. Lauren has managed experiential and digital campaigns with the likes of Lance Gross, Lisa Leslie, Kevin Hart, Janelle Monáe, DeAndre Jordan, Sonny Digital, Netflix, Adidas, Nike, TNT, NBA, Youtube and more. In full circle, Lauren is now at the same place she began, as ASCAP’s Associate Director of Rhythm & Soul (Urban) in Los Angeles. She also manages rising star and on-air personality Mouse Jones and a few new talents that you will hear about real soon. One of her primary goals in all of her roles is to continue to be an advocate for the city of Los Angeles and its creatives, bridging the gap between the executives in the buildings and the executives in the trenches.

Mama, I'm going home.

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