1/ So First Off - Tell Us your Name, City and Country and what you currently do for a living?
Hey world! My name is Brent Faulkner, and I hail from the United States, specifically the Bluegrass State, Kentucky. I’m originally from the city of Danville, but currently live and work in the ‘big city,’ Louisville, as an elementary music teacher. Also, on the side, I maintain my own music blog/website, The Musical Hype, which features music reviews, interviews, and evergreen music lists (“playlists”).
2/ Is This Something You Always Wanted To Do? What Do You Enjoy About It?
Well, I’ve always been incredibly passionate about music, so a music career in some capacity was always the plan. I’m passionate about all areas of music in regard to career paths – education, business, composition (arranging, songwriting), and performance. I studied piano beginning at age 7 and joined the school band playing trombone in the 7th grade. From there, any instrument I could get my hand on, I learned how to play – flute, saxophone, clarinet, percussion, etc. Meanwhile, I accompanied and sung in my church choir from boyhood. I went on to major in music in college, becoming a certified music educator (BA in music education) and earning a Masters of Music (M.M.) in music theory/composition. #Total Music Nerd
What I enjoy about teaching is sharing my passion and knowledge of music with the future generation. If I can pass the ‘musical torch’ off to them, then I’ve definitely accomplished a major goal. Even if they don’t become musicians themselves, but picked up something influential from myself, that is a truly rewarding experience. In regard to The Musical Hype, I’ve always loved writing in general, and specifically about music. Prior to founding the site, I contributed over the years to multiple sites including The Urban Music Scene and PopMatters.
3/ Tell Us About Your First Musical Memory - Why Do You Think You Remember It?
Man, oh man – this is tough. Having parents whose musical prime was the late 60s and early 70s, I remember my parents playing all sorts of classic soul, classic rock, and gospel vinyl when I was a little boy. Honestly, I think part of the reason I’m an ‘old soul’ is thanks to the influence of hearing a mix of musicians like The Rolling Stones (“Miss You” comes to mind), The Temptations (“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”), and Rev. James Cleveland (“Jesus is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”).
4/ Who Did You Make Your First Mixtape / Playlist For - What Was The Result - Did They Dig It?
Hmm, don’t know about the very first mixtape, even if the saying goes, ‘you always remember your first,’ but, I would compile mixtapes/playlists for my parents all the time, adding songs that fit their musical sensibilities. As aforementioned, their musical listening wheelhouse is from the 60s and 70s, in addition to some more tasteful contemporary R&B (neo-soul especially) and a dash of easy listening. So, I’d curate from my vast collection of CDs giving them some awesome ear candy to listen to in the house and take with them while driving.
5/ What Made You Go Online And Search About Music Curation?
I wanted another an additional avenue to share my love of music beyond The Musical Hype I suppose. At the time, I was between jobs, so I spent lots of time writing because, well, I love writing. On the site, my most popular written pieces tend to be my creative evergreen playlists – collections of songs centered on a key word, a theme or specific topic. So, with my knack for being creative and being able to express myself through writing, I thought music curation would be a means to be more influential in the music business.
6/ Tell us about the name of your Playlist - where did that come from?
Originally, ‘Music to Atone to’ was ‘Music to Atone for the Hardships of Life.’ That was a bit too long obviously, but the point of both the shortened and longer version was music that attempted to fix a variety of troubling life issues. ‘Atonement’ just happens to be one of my favorite words, so I wanted to construct a playlist around it. The name was meant to be broad, allowing for a wide variety of songs of a countless number of genres – no typecasting here.
7/ What does a track have to have to make it onto your list, is there something special that you look for?
The common threads for most of the tracks that end up on the Music to Atone to list, are the emphasis on relatable themes/topics and lyrics. Generally, I opt for topics that are relatable to a number of different people – a ‘melting pot’ if you will. Examples of topics that are easily atonable include death, life (growing up, growing old), love, politics, and social unrest (inequality, racism, homophobia, misogynism, sexual assault). Furthermore, the specific lyrics, particularly cleverer lyrics are key to selling the respective issue or atonement for the issue. An instrumental track wouldn’t be turned away from the list, but the music would need to sell the premise without the aid of lyrics of course.
8/ What can an artist do in their track submission to your list to ensure that you'll listen to their track?
The biggest advice that I would give to someone who submits their track to Music to Atone to is to write a blurb that truly compels me. It’s all about selling the product. As a teacher once taught me back in middle school, “presentation is everything.” Sometimes, if the artist simply has a topic that’s not frequently covered, that can do the trick. That’s more of the exception, so I encourage being thorough when describing your music. The other piece of advice – patience, patience, patience. There are lots of submissions (the e-mail struggle can be real, ha ha) so do everything in your power to make yours the tour de force that tickles my fancy.
9/ We know - these change all the time - but as of this week - what are your all-time top 5 favorite tracks.
Ugh, this is so hard because you leave out so many groundbreaking musicians and awesome records.
I have such great admiration for the late, great Aretha Franklin, and her 1968 song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” is among the great R&B records of all time (co-written by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Jerry Wexler).
“Like a bridge over troubled water / I will ease your mind….” Ah, the oft-covered 1970 Simon & Garfunkel staple “Bridge Over Troubled Water” never grows old – gorgeous and timeless as albeit.
The Temptations ‘ace-in-the-hole’ was “My Girl,” but “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (1972) is epic through and through, specifically the production work with those marvelous, dramatic strings, and the anchoring drum groove and robust bass line. Of course, the vocals speak for themselves (“It was the third of September…”).
Elton John is one of my all-time favorite musicians and choosing just one song is nearly impossible. That said, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” from Caribou (1974)still strikes me each and every time I listen. Bernie Taupin’s lyric game continues to be masterful, while John’s music and vocals are simply awe-inspiring.
“Tell me who I have to be / To get some reciprocity….” Going a bit more contemporary, Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor”, which appears on this list purposefully, is one of the classics of the neo-soul movement that spanned the 90s-00s. Listening to this pitch-perfect record, it still makes you yearn for that proper sophomore album following up The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, sigh.
10/ And finally - which Music to Curator should we interview next?
Mussie Fitsum from Music to Have a Picnic