(Soundbite of song "Checking Out")
Mr. LANGHORNE SLIM (Musician): (Singing) Sometimes I don't recognize, Sometimes I don't recognize the house I live in, Or the street that my house is on.
Sometimes I don't recognize, And that leads me to be surprised. On my way home...
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
That's Langhorne Slim, with a song called "Checking Out." He was born Sean Scolnick. But young Sean always wanted a nickname, but no one ever gave him one that he liked. So, when he left his hometown of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, to pursue a music career in New York, he renamed himself.
He gave himself the name Langhorne Slim. His thoughtful lyrics and energetic live shows have earned him a reputation as a country singer-songwriter with a punk-rock sensibility, and after success on an indie label, this week he releases his first major-label album, entitled "Langhorne Slim." He's off to a good start.
Just a couple weeks ago, he made his first ever television appearance on "David Letterman." Langhorne Slim and his band, the War Eagles, came by our studios yesterday to talk a bit, and to perform some music from their new album. I started off by asking him what his TV debut was like.
I hear that you were on a big TV show a couple weeks ago.
Mr. SLIM: Yeah.
MARTIN: How'd that go? "David Letterman"?
Mr. SLIM: It was very, very exciting. Sort of a dream come true, the call that I've waited for my whole life, and then when we got it, I nearly crapped in my pants, but I think it went well, so...
MARTIN: Was it everything that you had wanted it to be?
Mr. SLIM: I think that, with the excitement that it brought my grandparents and my mother, it was everything that I expected it to be. I mean, it goes by so quickly when, you know, you sort of have a few days to be a little nervous or think about what you're going to, and then you get up and do your two minutes and 22 seconds or whatever and then it's over, so the result afterwards is very rewarding.
MARTIN: Your grandmother, your parents, have those people been supportive, instrumental, in this whole music thing?
Mr. SLIM: Yeah. Incredibly.
MARTIN: Is this something that they saw you wanting to do from a pretty early age?
Mr. SLIM: I think that they knew that I wasn't going to go into any other sort of profession, so they were just sort of hoping that this would work out. So, as much as this works out they're happy because, you know, this is it.
MARTIN: And I was looking at your tour schedule. I mean, you guys are all over the place. After today, you're playing almost every night, right, for the next few months, and almost never in the same city two nights in a row? That's tough. And you're doing all this, speaking of your grandmother, in your grandmother's car!
Mr. SLIM: We've upgraded to a functional van that fits our upright bass, and Paul, and Malachi, and our tour manager Dixie, and myself. So, when we first started touring, it was my grandmother's Toyota Camry, and that was pretty...
MARTIN: That was a little tight. That's a big bass that you got there.
Mr. SLIM: Yeah. A little tight, but thankfully we've been able to upgrade a little bit.
MARTIN: And you just, when you were using that, I mean, literally, how do you get a bass in there?
Mr. SLIM: Carefully.
MARTIN: Carefully, but it worked?
Mr. SLIM: It worked. Yeah.
MARTIN: Before we get any further, I do want to hear a little bit of music from you. So, what do you want to play for us first?
Mr. SLIM: We're going to play a song called "Restless."
MARTIN: Now, this is off of the new self-titled album. Let's take a listen to "Restless."
Mr. SLIM: Thank you. One, two, three...
(Soundbite of song "Restless")
Mr. SLIM: (Singing) I felt restless and I felt soft. I didn't know anymore who I was ripping off. I packed a picnic lacking seriously on food. I had more wine than I knew what with to do.
And I just don't know what it is. I just don't know what it is to be free, To hold and have somebody lean on me.
Can blame it on your teachers? You can blame it on the weather. Can blame it on how your mother And your father didn't stick together? Someday, darling, it's got to make sense in your head. Can't make up your mind 'til you wake up and make your bed.
And I just don't know what it is. I just don't know what it is to be free, To hold, and have somebody lean on me.
One day I felt so good nothing could bring me down. Next morning I awoke I was plastered to the ground. Whistle your favorite tune when it's all said and done. If your maker don't approve then at least you know you've had your fun.
And I just don't know what it is. I just don't know what it is to be free, To hold, and have somebody.
To be free to go out singing in the rain. To be free to believe completely in somebody. To be free to let love win again.
MARTIN: That was awesome. Thank you. That was "Restless" off of the new album, self-titled, "Langhorne Slim," and there's a lyric in that song "Restless." You say "I felt restless, I felt lost. I didn't know anymore who I was ripping off." Who are you ripping off? Or who have you felt like you've been ripping off?
Mr. SLIM: Damn. Wow, I didn't think you were about to get so deep.
Mr. SLIM: Well, the line is I felt restless, I felt soft.
MARTIN: Ah, soft.
Mr. SLIM: And I didn't know anymore who I was ripping off. I think just in the - this might sound a little cheesy, but in the process of trying to, you know, find, you know, my voice or my true sort of colors I think sometimes you hit it.
And sometimes you are, you know, true to your own heart or soul, and then sometimes it doesn't work that way, at least in my experience. But you know, I'm just trying to, you know, find my way, my path, my unique sound, and hopefully have it be my own.
MARTIN: Do you remember your first paying gig?
Mr. SLIM: I do.
MARTIN: What was it?
Mr. SLIM: It was - I mean, it was hardly paying, but it was in Atlantic City, and the bartender nearly, you know, killed me, and then an old man took me to a strip club, and I was I think 14 or 15, and it was a weird day.
MARTIN: Wow. Yeah. I wouldn't have expected the story to go that way.
Mr. SLIM: Yeah. Neither would I. I might have just made that up. I'm not sure that that actually ever happened.
MARTIN: When you're performing, are you a different person than when you're off stage? Are you pretty much the same person? Or is there a different part of your character that comes out when you get up there?
Mr. SLIM: I feel a little bit more confident singing than I do talking, I think.
MARTIN: Doing this, for example.
Mr. SLIM: For example.
MARTIN: You can move, if you want, while we're talking.
Mr. SLIM: OK. I'll try that.
MARTIN: I want to hear another song from you. What do you want to play next?
Mr. SLIM: We're going to play a song called "She's Gone."
MARTIN: OK. Let's take a listen.
(Soundbite of song "She's Gone")
Mr. SLIM: (Singing) Whether I'm right or I am wrong, I'm going to be gone for long. Now, you can wave your hand goodbye. Well, you can dry those tears from your eyes.
And I said she's gone. I'm staying in, And I'm nobody. She's gone and I'm staying in. She's gone and I'm staying in. I'm nobody. She's gone. I'm staying in.
I'm unhappy. Half the time I'm toast and I suppose that's so. Put on a happy face on Halloween. Scatter the ghosts. Well, there's just so many people with unwanted filthy demands. Oh, if you lift upon my breath, I'm alone, but at least I'm not your man.
Well, honey, I said, she's gone. I'm staying in. I'm nobody. She's gone. I'm staying in. She's gone. I'm staying in. I'm nobody. She's gone. I'm staying in.
Well, whether I'm right or I am wrong, I'm going to be gone before. Now, hurry, no time to laugh, no time to cry. Why don't we just wave and say goodbye?
And I said she's gone. I'm staying in. I'm nobody. She's gone. I'm staying in. She's gone. I'm staying in. I'm nobody. She's gone. I'm staying in.
So, pick it up! So, pick it up! Now, crouch now, pick it up. Now, crouch, darling, pick it up.
MARTIN: And that was "She's Gone" off of the new self-titled album. I want to ask you, on your last album, you have a particular lyric where you say, "At 24 years of age I've got to pick up the pace." You're a few years older. You're 27 now.
Mr. SLIM: Yeah. I'm 27. I'm still singing the same song.
MARTIN: Do you feel that same sense of urgency? Do you still feel like you have to pick up the pace? Or has it been phonetic enough that you'd like to slow it down a little more?
Mr. SLIM: Well, "pick up the pace" doesn't necessarily mean move faster, just, you know, do what you're doing. Do what I'm doing better. So, that sentiment has not changed. I still long to do what I'm doing better.
MARTIN: Where do you see doing better? What does that mean for you? What do you want to do better?
Mr. SLIM: I think continuing what we have gone, but more sort of self-fulfillment. More kind of writing songs that mean something to me, and then hopefully to other people. So, I think that's kind of the very serious answer.
MARTIN: You have a song called "Hope and Fulfillment," also from your last album. It's a lovely song ,by the way, and part of it goes, "if there's a thing for certain I have seen, self-desertion and everyone's hurting, don't lean on another, get yourself together. There's no one to blame, no parent that's fair. Don't you care? There's nothing to fear and no one worth losing yourself for."
And, that's a theme that you see in other songs that you've done. This idea of self-reliance, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Don't blame other people. Where does that come from?
Mr. SLIM: My mother.
Mr. SLIM: My mother taught me that, yeah, a lot. She reminds me of that every time we talk pretty much, so...
MARTIN: Did you blame people for things when you were younger?
Mr. SLIM: A little bit. I mean, I had a hard time in school and, you know, thought that like the teachers were out to get me, and then I just realized that it wasn't, you know, it just wasn't my scene really. But no, I mean, just I think in life in general, you know, it's you that's got to take care of yourself.
MARTIN: Langhorne Slim, the new album is self-titled called "Langhorne Slim," and before I let you go, I do want to have you introduce who played with you today. Who's in your band?
Mr. SLIM: On the bass was Paul Defiglia, and on the drums, Malachi DeLorenzo.
MARTIN: We appreciate you guys coming in. Thanks very much. Good luck with the tour.
Mr. SLIM: Thank you very much.
MARTIN: That was my conversation with Langhorne Slim, and as we normally do when we have cool folks like him performing in studio, we've captured a song on video, but we have more than that on our blog. Producer Dan Pashman is in studio to tell us this concert extended. We took it down to the park across the street.
DAN PASHMAN: That's right. We put the in-studio video up on the blog already, and in the next couple of days, we're going to have a very special video. We actually took Langhorne Slim and his band out into Bryant Park with almost no promotion whatsoever, walked him out into the terrace area of the park, and just let him play and turned on the cameras.
MIKE PESCA, host:
And how did the people react?
PASHMAN: The people reacted quite positively. One pleasant grandmother from Italy told us she was going to have her grandkids buy a CD.
MARTIN: Oh, good.
PASHMAN: And, but no, he was just a perfect guy to do this with, and he is a great personality, and the video footage that we got is beautiful. The park looks great.
PESCA: And you worked hard on...
PASHMAN: It was a lot of fun.
PESCA: And you worked hard on arranging that, but the people of Bryant Park, they were cool.
PASHMAN: Special thanks to the people in Bryant Park who were, yes, very kind to us and helped us make it happen.
PESCA: Well, that is cool. Thanks, Dan.
PASHMAN: All right.
MARTIN: Check it out online, npr.org/bryantpark. And that is it for this hour of the BPP. But, you know, we're always online, just where I told you to go, npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Rachel Martin.
PESCA: And I'm Mike Pesca. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.
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