Talia Schlanger

Talia Schlanger is a contributing host and radio producer at World Cafe, produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. Schlanger joins the World Cafe team straight from CBC, Canada's public broadcaster, where she hosted a triple-A radio show on Saturday and Sunday mornings. She was the on-camera host for two seasons of the CBC television series CBC Music: Backstage Pass, which saw her interview some of Canada's best and brightest artists. Schlanger also hosted several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor featuring Serena Ryder, CBC Music SongCamp and the CBCMusic.ca Festival Special 2015. Schlanger served as the the interim host of CBC Radio 2's Canada Live and was a regular guest host on CBC Radio One's flagship artist and culture show q. She also filled in on Canadian current-affairs radio shows including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Some of her favorite music interviews include St. Vincent, Tanya Tagaq, John Fogerty, Barenaked Ladies and Grimes.

Schlanger's first project at CBC was as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip which won a Canadian Screen Award in 2014. She was also the digital producer for Hockey Night In Canada Song Quest, CBC Music's search for the next great hockey song.

Born and raised in Toronto, Schlanger is a proud alumna of Ryerson's Radio and Television Arts program. She's also a professional actress, singer and voiceover artist. Schlanger spent most of 2012 performing in the first national tour of Green Day's rock opera, American Idiot, at various theatres throughout the United States. (She thought she would be really cool when she met Billie Joe Armstrong after he watched American Idiot. She was not cool at all.) She has also performed on stage with Mirvish Productions' original Canadian company of We Will Rock You, as well as in the ensemble and understudying lead roles in Scaramouche, Oz (Canon Theatre, 2007/2008), and in Mamma Mia! (Royal Alexandra Theatre, 2003/2004).

Andy Shauf's latest album, The Party, landed on last year's short list for Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize. It's filled with songs that chronicle the awkward moments and juicy encounters that can happen at a house party in a small town: the half-wit spilling his guts after a bottle of wine, the friend making late-night confessions to his crush while her boyfriend stands oblivious and stoned in the corner, what it feels like to be the first person to show up at the party.

Happy April 20, or — in certain circles — 420 day. The history around April 20's unofficial designation as Weed Day around the world is a little hazy. Some say it started with the Grateful Dead. Others say 420 is police code for "pot smoking in progress." Still other stories start with "The Waldos," a group of five friends who say they coined the term 420 in 1971 to refer to a certain hour of the afternoon. There are probably as many stories about 420 day's origins as there are strains of the herb.

Grammy-winning guitarist and producer Eric Krasno's collaboration credits read like a who's who of the music industry over the past couple decades.

Gabriel Garzón-Montano's latest record, Jardín, is liquid-smooth, intricate and organic. It's the sum of Garzón-Montano's many influences: the slick pop of New York City, the cumbia flair of his Colombian dad and even hanging out with famed minimalist composer Philip Glass when he was 5 years old:

This Latin Roots session all started when four guys from Los Angeles showed up at our studio looking like, well, four guys from Los Angeles, in track pants, T-shirts and sneakers. They finished sound check and disappeared for a while — and when they came back, it was like somebody'd hit the 1976 button on the time machine. Those four guys returned sporting matching tuxedos with ruffled collars, their two back-up singers in blinding, sparkly dresses. They had morphed into Chicano Batman.

You wanna talk about stories? Kristin Hersh has stories. You might know Hersh as the frontwoman for the innovative late '80s-early '90s alt-rock band Throwing Muses or the hard-rocking power trio 50 Foot Wave. She's also an author — her 2010 memoir Rat Girl was named No. 8 on Rolling Stone's "25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time" list.

Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman's new record is called Life Will See You Now. It feels sort of like going to a tropical roller disco with your therapist — and it comes after a period of colossal frustration that led Lekman to dump an entire truckload of his records in a landfill. As he tells it: "I felt like ... I need to find my way back to finding how to take something bad and make something beautiful, how to pour manure into a espresso machine and have a cappuccino come out."

In this session, we bring you a performance from Tame Impala's touring bassist, Cameron Avery. His debut solo record sounds nothing like what you're used to hearing from him with the band. Instead, picture Dean Martin swooping down to light a cigarette in the back alley behind some lover-laced boudoir, and you've sort of got the idea.

In this session, we're shining a spotlight on two elements that never seem to take center stage: backing musicians and music without words. But trust me, they deserve the limelight. Steelism is a Nashville duo made up of ace guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal-steel player Spencer Cullum Jr.

A couple years ago, rock veteran Alejandro Escovedo and his new wife, Nancy, were on their honeymoon on the coast of Mexico when disaster struck and they were sure they were going to die. It was so bad that they even called their family to say goodbye.

Felony Blues is the name of the new record by Jaime Wyatt. That title is neither a metaphor nor a gimmick — it's lived experience. Wyatt was charged with a felony for robbing a drug dealer and served a sentence in the Los Angeles County Jail. When she got out, she wrote an album based on her own true story — from her crime to doing time and the addiction, depression and shame she had to overcome to even turn her experience into song.

When Sting set out to write his latest record, 57th & 9th, he says he had to "play tricks on [himself] to get the creative juices flowing." He'd step out on to the terrace of his New York apartment in the freezing cold and tell his wife, Trudie Styler, "Don't let me back in until I've finished a lyric." He calls this self-imposed, cold quest "hunting" for the muse, and the fruitful bounty he collected is on full display on 57th & 9th.

Rose Cousins has an arresting voice that gets right under your skin. She hails from Canada's eastern coast, near the Atlantic Ocean. Just like that body of water, her music is spacious, expansive and liquid. Her last full-length album, We Have Made A Spark, came out to rave reviews in 2012 and propelled her into a couple years of constant touring. When that period was over, Cousins was burned out.

We first met Becca Stevens when she sang a show-stopping solo vocal line on a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" during a World Cafe session with David Crosby. She was part of Crosby's young, Brooklynite backing band, and we were thrilled to learn that they also write songs together.

Over nearly two decades, Ireland's Bell X1 has mastered melodic indie pop that is bright, thoughtful and gracefully rough around the edges. It's one of the most played bands on Irish radio, it's sold out shows at home and abroad and its members have established families with kids. But to make their latest record, the members of Bell X1 had to pretend they were scrappy teenagers again.

Hurray for the Riff Raff has always been a voice for the underdogs and the outsiders, and the band delivers that spirit in spades on a new, rousing album called The Navigator. It's based on a fictional character named Navita, whose journey mirrors the one taken by courageous band founder and songwriter Alynda Segarra.

Last time Laura Marling visited World Cafe, the city sounds of Los Angeles had begun to drone their way into her English folk-based music. Almost two years later, her new album, Semper Femina, features winding vines of sound that are darker, smokier and utterly tantalizing. It's the sixth full-length studio record she's released in nine years.

If you're not up on your avian anatomy, it may come as a surprise that in many species of birds, the feathers outweigh the skeleton. How can feathers, a symbol of lightness and beauty, be so heavy? How can a skeleton, a symbol of strength and support, be hollow and fragile? And how can love, which gives a heart its wings, be both freedom and cage?

With 16 musicians in tow, Gregorio Uribe has certainly earned the right to call his ensemble a "big band." The ambitious frontman fuses the cumbia rhythms he heard growing up in Colombia with the 1940s flair of American brass to create music that is rich, explosive and undeniably danceable. In this session, Uribe sings, plays the accordion and conducts as the band performs highlights from its 2015 album, Cumbia Universal.

Hear Cumbia Universal on Spotify.

If Tash Sultana didn't put her guitar down at the end of her performance, you might assume it was attached to the end of her arm. The same is true of the pedals and her feet. If you've ever seen her live, you might still not be convinced that she and the instruments she plays are separate entities.

Back in 2012, Thomas Walmsley and James Bagshaw took a couple songs they had been working on in a home studio in a small town in England, and uploaded them to YouTube. Before they even had a full band, they had fans, gigs and a handshake record deal. They called themselves Temples — and they unleashed a full-length debut, Sun Structures, in February 2014. Drenched in '60s and '70s guitar-based psychedelia, the album was instantly loved.

For someone whose music evokes a nighttime Nick Drake drenched in blue, Leif Vollebekk has a surprisingly light sense of humor. It's on full display in this World Cafe session, and so are his warm bath of a voice, his fluid command of synths and guitar and his thoughtful poetry. Here, Vollebekk performs songs from his third full-length album, Twin Solitude, the follow-up to 2013's North Americana.

Robert Randolph has built an entire life and career on the gospel that music is religion. His musical education began in Orange, N.J., at the Pentecostal House of God church, where the walls ring out with a lively, powerful style of music called sacred steel. It's based around the pedal steel guitar — a 13-string instrument that found its way into African-American churches in the 1930s, and has since become an integral part of praise.

Danish songwriter Agnes Obel's session might give you the shivers for more than one reason. Her latest album, Citizen Of Glass, was named for a pretty eerie concept. "I got the idea from the German term gläserner mensch, which is the term you use when an individual in a state has lost all his or her privacy," she says.

Note: The audio version of this interview touches on sensitive topics, including Steve Jones' experiences of drug addiction and sexual abuse.

Think back to your college days and you can probably name at least one band that got together in its members' dorm rooms and played a couple of sweaty late nights at the local campus dive bar, but didn't make it past graduation. If that's the college-bar-band rule, Arkells is the exception. The band formed more than a decade ago in the dorms at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and last week it returned to that same city to headline its first sold-out arena show. It was a full-circle moment for a band that's earned its fans one bead of sweat at a time.

Relationships are hard work. Music is hard work. And somehow, these magical musical couples manage to make both work at the same time. It's beautiful, it's enviable and it deserves celebrating. So happy Valentine's Day from World Cafe to these 10 past guests: lovebirds who are also bandmates.

Hear the Valentine's Day special in the player above and stream the complete sessions from the World Cafe archives below.


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