Monday, December 23, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Scott Z. Burns

Erica Rivera spoke to screenwriter-director Scott Z. Burns about his latest film, The Report, for City Pages' Artist of the Year issue. Read how Burns did a deep dive into the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and brought this story to the silver screen in the Dec. 23, 2019 issue of City Pages or online here.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Jack El-Hai

Erica Rivera spoke to author Jack El-Hai about his new book, The Lost Brothers, and podcast, Long Lost, for City Pages' Artist of the Year issue. Both of El-Hai's projects follow the case of the Klein brothers, three young boys who went missing from a Minneapolis park in 1951 and were never found. Read the piece in the Dec. 23, 2019 issue of City Pages or online here.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Erica Rivera Names Best Music of 2019

Erica Rivera contributed to City Pages' 2019 top albums and songs list. Find out what she was listening to this year here.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Valerie Castile

Erica Rivera spoke to Valerie Castile, mother of police shooting victim Philando Castile, about the non-profit she founded in his honor to help pay off student lunch debt. Read the piece in the December 2019 issue of Women's Press or online here.

(Photo by Lorie Shaull.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Alyssa Baguss

Erica Rivera spoke to artist Alyssa Baguss, who brings the outdoors inside for her latest exhibition at Mia. Read how her work as director of Silverwood Park inspires her nature-themed artwork on City Pages here.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Erica Rivera Profiles Band Together

Erica Rivera spoke to participants of Band Together, a concert benefiting Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. Find out how music contributes to climate change awareness and activism on City Pages here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Erica Rivera Profiles Sara Bischoff of Under Violet

Erica Rivera spoke to Sara Bischoff about her new musical project Under Violet, which was recognized in City Pages' 2019 Picked to Click poll. Read the piece in the Oct. 16, 2019 print issue or online here.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Jack Klatt

Jack Klatt thinks you need more love in your life.

The 34-year-old local musician has crafted his new album, It Ain’t the Same, around precisely that premise. “Love seems like a thing that we need, really badly, more than ever right now,” he says.

Klatt has always gravitated toward sad love songs, but on the new album he explores all kinds of love with levity and delight. He expanded his definition of love from being about romance between a couple to “empathetic, big, capital L love,” he says.

“Prove My Love” is the most upbeat love song on the album, and its tone also marked a shift for Klatt. “I did intentionally try to get away from the heartbreak stuff. It’s just such an easy emotion to tap into. Pain, the negative things we get handed in life, are really easy to channel into art. And a bunch of great stuff comes out of it, too, but with this batch of songs, I was thinking, ‘You know, what about falling in love? What about something positive? Why not use that to make something?’ Which, funny enough, had never occurred to me. I guess I used to think of songwriting as a cathartic thing and with this record, I was really thinking about the audience more than myself.”

He was also thinking about the current state of our country. Klatt wrote many of the songs on this album in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and was influenced by the subsequent cultural shifts in society. “I don’t like to get too political, but it’s hard not to in these times,” he says.

The most blatantly political song on the album is “Caught in the Middle,” a song that came to Klatt out of the blue and wrote itself in a mere two hours. It started with the idea that the world is upside down and that we’d have to stand on our heads to make sense of it. The song examines perspectives of several people who feel like they’re on the fence politically. “I think there are a lot of people who are duped and are getting targeted with misinformation and are confused and can maybe feel something in their gut that’s going really rotten but they’re not sure what to do about it. It’s a disempowering kind of feeling,” he says.

While all of his songs come from a personal place, he insists he’s a private person. “My hope is that people can relate the tunes to their own life,” he says. To further that goal, he paid special attention to avoid gendering the lyrics, another change for him.

Stylistically, what makes this album unique in his catalog is the amount of time spent in the studio. Klatt’s previous two records were made in two days each, “in a flurry of worrying about money and time,” he says. “With this record, I made the decision going into it that I was just going to focus on the music and not let anything stop me.”

He assembled a studio band with John James Tourville on electric guitar and pedal steel, Casey McDonough on bass, and Alex Hall drums and piano. They recorded at Hall’s Reliable Recorders in Chicago, where Hall also wore the engineer hat. “He’s a genius. I’m convinced of it. Very talented man,” Klatt says.

While in the studio, the guys were “vibing through the songs, figuring out what they want to be, what we can get away with,” he says. “We did it kind of old-school. We figured stuff out as we were recording it. That was really fun, just exploring with the band and trying out new things.” They even recorded more than one version of some of the songs in the name of experimentation.

To pay for the recording of the album, Klatt picked up a job at a musician friend’s fabrication shop in northeast Minneapolis. “He ended up teaching me how to weld. I took to it really quickly. I’ve been making a bunch of strange metal structures over there over the last year,” Klatt says. The most recent job he completed was making metal frames and a dance floor for the First Avenue exhibit at the History Center.

The fabrication shop also served as the location for Klatt’s music video “Prove My Love,” in which Klatt and local visual artist Alberta Mirais dance in the dark with flashlights. “It was like a weird dream,” he says of the set. “We had a hazer going. It was lit very beautifully and so different than the fluorescent lights of the hum-drum of the day-to-day.”

Klatt has come a long way from his humble start in the music industry. A mostly self-taught guitar player, he had bands as a high school student in Woodbury, but it wasn’t until he moved to Minneapolis for college that he got deep into the local music scene. He’d go see Charlie Parr or Spider John Koerner play to learn guitar technique. He also made friends with fellow musicians like Page Burkum and Jack Torrey of the Cactus Blossoms. “We’d get together and play guitars and trade songs. It was very inspiring. I felt like I’d found my people for the first time,” he says.

He often called in sick to his job at UPS to busk in the skyways. “I really just wanted to play music. I just loved it and I was probably testing the waters to see if it was a viable money-making thing. Aside from that, it was mostly just fun,” he says.

Klatt soon dropped out of his cultural studies program and took off for San Francisco, where he crashed on couches and busked on Haight Street. Soon Minnesota called him home, though. “I realized I hadn’t looked in the moon in like two months,” he says. “San Francisco is a big concrete jungle and I’m kind of a country boy at heart.”

Minnesota is where his friends, family, and fan base are, too. When he plays around the state, people often come up to him after the show and share how meaningful his music is to them. Once, he played “It Ain’t the Same,” the title track off the new album which is about living with the absence of someone special, at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen. Afterwards, audience members approached him and shared that the song resonated with them because a skiing buddy of theirs had died recently.

“That’s the stuff that really will keep me going, more than getting a big hit. I’m more interested in affecting people, positively,” Klatt says. “I hope these songs can be a positive part of people’s lives, something that can help people get through hard times.”

Originally published on City Pages in October of 2019.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Erica Rivera Interview MaLLy

Erica Rivera spoke to hip-hop artist MaLLy about getting sober, discovering meditation, and the effect his family has had on his new album, The Journey to a Smile. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Davina and the Vagabonds

Erica Rivera spoke to Davina Sowers, founder of Davina and the Vagabonds, about recovering from drug addiction, caring for her mental health, and how her husband contributed to her new album Sugar Drops. Read the piece in the July 31, 2019 issue of City Pages or online here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Ryan Traster (Again!)

Erica Rivera spoke to singer-songwriter Ryan Traster about how a vocal chord injury inspired his new sound. Read the piece in the July 3, 2019 issue of City Pages or online here.

Rivera also interviewed Traster in 2014 for You can read that Q&A here.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Mary Johnson Roy

Erica Rivera spoke to Mary Johnson Roy, a Minneapolis mother who befriended and forgave her son's murderer. Read about how she creates hope for other victims of violence through her organization From Death to Life in the July 2019 issue of Women's Press or online here.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Erica Rivera On Reviving Chivalry

Erica Rivera compiled a list of 17 chivalrous acts that need to make a comeback for Mandatory. Read the piece here.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Erica Rivera Featured on The Grace Tales

The Grace Tales, a modern mother's lifestyle site, interviewed Erica Rivera about recovering from anorexia, becoming a better mother, and self-care. Read the interview online here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Chris Koza

Erica Rivera spoke to singer-songwriter Chris Koza about tilling his mind for memories while making his new solo album Sleepwalkers Part 1. Read the piece in the April 24, 2019 issue of City Pages or online here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Maggie Battista

Erica Rivera spoke to blogger and entrepreneur Maggie Battista about A New Way to Food, her cookbook focused on feel-good foods and self-love. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Erica Rivera Reports On The Elder Abuse Crisis

Erica Rivera spoke to several advocates at the forefront of the elder care abuse crisis. Read about the maltreatment, lack of legislation, and proposed changes surrounding this epidemic in the April 2019 issue of Women's Press or online here.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Erica Interviews Mark Mallman

Happiness gets a bad rap. Especially in music.

But for Mark Mallman, upbeat tunes were a life-saver. After a freak panic attack that wouldn’t quit, he amassed a playlist of uplifting tunes like Bob Marley’s “One Love,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” and The White Stripes’ “We’re Going to Be Friends.” The effects the songs had on him, and how he emerged from this anxious mood, are beautifully detailed in The Happiness Playlist, his new memoir with Twin CIties publisher Think Piece Publishing.

Mallman also gives readers a peek into insightful conversations with fellow artists about the healing and hurtful repercussions of music, playful repartee with a girlfriend-turned-BFF, and an endearing relationship with his father that revolves, in part, around a Crock-Pot. The book is steeped in local culture and starving-artist life.

Throughout the narrative, however, there is a palpable grief surrounding the death of his mother, Lila, in 2013, though Mallman circles around the details of that event in person and on the page. “My mom was a fighter,” he says. “She survived depression for 68 years. She didn’t lose her life to depression. She fought. I don’t wrestle with that. I witnessed it. I witnessed an outside pain but I still don’t understand the inside struggle. And my heart goes out to people who struggle with it.”

Mallman doesn’t believe there was a direct cause-and-effect relationship between his mother’s death and his own mental health struggles a year-and-a-half later, though he does admit, “I lost my mind when my mom died. I lost my relationship with reality. I feel like my DNA changed.”

Which is why he created a playlist to alter his mood, saying goodbye to some of his favorite acts, like Nine Inch Nails, Patti Smith, and Joy Division. This self-administered music therapy wasn’t his only coping strategy, however. In the same way he diversifies his income as a full-time musician–by scoring a movie trailer, playing a gig, DJing–he diversified his coping strategies, too. Therapy, square breathing, exercise, and eliminating sugar and caffeine have all been helpful. He also leans on faith. “When a person dies, I believe they go to the afterlife and we go to the after-death,” he explains. “The after-death is a place that we deny as a culture, but it’s a place of grieving.”

Writing turned out to be restorative, too, if unintentionally. The Happiness Playlist took eight drafts and two years to complete, and Mallman was intentional throughout about both his tone and objective. “People who are going through shit…need light,” he says. “It’s not a heavy book. It’s a light book about a few heavy topics. But it’s also about music as a path to joy.”

This approach mirrors how he’s made music since around 2001, when he decided he would not write songs while depressed. “I realized that scary music was kind of killing me,” he says. Playing those songs again and again had taken their toll, and he felt karmically responsible for what he was putting out into the audience. When touring, he only had an hour a day to actually play music onstage – and he wanted that hour to be the best part of his day. So he stopped creating from his “woe is me” moments. “I don’t want to walk with my demons,” he says. “If someone hurts my feelings, I work through that outside of songs.”

With The Happiness Playlist, Mallman proposes a new use for music, one beyond that of a soundtrack for driving, ambiance at a dinner party, or as a way for teens to annoy parents. “What I’ve learned about music is that there’s a power in its frivolousness, and that empowers me to do some of the harder things in my day,” he says.

That doesn’t mean sad music doesn’t sometimes seduce him. Towards the end of the book, there’s a scene where Mallman hears Phoebe Bridgers’ “Smoke Signals,” a gorgeous downer if there ever was one, and the songwriter in him can’t turn it off. It made him wonder if the happiness playlist was “permitting joy or prohibiting emotion.” Though the playlist taught him that he could feel good again, his conscience questioned whether or not he was denying himself a full range of feelings. Now, he understands it as: “There’s a place beyond happiness…It’s a meditative spot.”

It’s the spot he seems to be in now, wild-haired and wearing bright pink-framed glasses as we discuss The Happiness Playlist at Mia. After the interview, he plans to check out a Van Gogh before heading to the gym. He hopes his quest for good vibes will spread with the release of the book and its accompanying Spotify playlist.

“When you feel good, that joy manifests and you create tangible positivity,” he says. He’s currently channeling that energy into a podcast and a new funk album, one of the only styles of music he says can be both in the minor key and happy at the same time. “People want to be happy right now,” he says. “There’s a zeitgeist of happiness. We need it.”

Originally published in City Pages on March 20, 2019.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Erica Rivera On Must-See Movies

Erica Rivera started a series of posts on must-see movies for Mandatory, a lifestyle website for Gen Z men. Whether you're feeling lonely, need a testosterone infusion, want to run away, or are tempted to text your ex, you can indulge those sentiments vicariously through Mandatory Movies. Check in on Mandatory every week for a new installment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Lazerbeak

Erica Rivera spoke to Doomtree CEO and musical artist Lazerbeak about managing anxiety with meditation, his ever-growing crystal collection, and the mellow vibe on his new album Luther. Read the piece in the March 6, 2019 issue of City Pages or online here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Marlon James

Erica Rivera spoke to Man Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James about socio-political commentary, queerness, and the trickster narrator in Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first novel in his new Dark Star trilogy. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Erica Rivera Interviews Karen Babine

Erica Rivera spoke with author Karen Babine about her new book All the Wild Hungers and about how cooking became a form of caretaking during her mother's battle with cancer. Read the piece on City Pages here.