Every single artist who visits us at World Cafe makes a mark with their words. Some have changed the way I hear a lyric, some have changed the way I see the world. Sometimes the shift is subtle, sometimes it's tectonic. With heartfelt thanks to every guest we've had on the show in 2018, here are 10 of my favorite quotes from World Cafe interviews this year — 10 moments in which an artist shared something that rewired my brain, opened my eyes and gave me something I'm still thinking about.
"Odds are the people that love you are just dying for you to tell the truth."
Kiley Lotz, who records as Petal, was dealing with major depressive and panic disorders while writing her sophomore album, Magic Gone. She also came out as queer at that time, especially difficult given she was in a long-term heterosexual relationship. Kiley's road to getting better started with telling people what she was coping with. She trusted in the unconditional support of her loved ones and she was proven right in doing so. (Full episode)
"The sun comes up in the morning, even if you're sleeping in the park."
Charley Crockett grew up poor in South Texas. He tasted wealth for a moment, before the stock fraud scheme his brother got him caught up in was exposed. Charley's brother was eventually sent to prison, and Charley himself was investigated. Eventually, he found his version of hard-won optimism, playing in subways and on street corners in New York City. (Full episode)
"It's important for me to say gay and black, and not just queer and brown."
When I asked Josiah Wise why he chose the name serpentwithfeet, he told me the answer depends on the day. But on that particular day, he wanted to talk about king cobras and their preference for eating other snakes, saying he found it beautiful and also allegorical to his experience as a black man who romantically loves other black men. To him, the words he chooses to make that point matter. Words always matter. (Full episode)
"May you ever return / To the warmth of your species."
That line closes Neko Case's tremendous album Hell-On. When she visited World Cafe, we spoke about hunger, history's hatred of women, having her house in Vermont burn down and the disrespectful and dangerous way she says it was handled by local journalists. We also spoke about these lines, which I've returned to often: They are hopeful, haunting and many hues in between. (Full episode)
"That doesn't help anybody, for you to weigh your pain against mine. Just be here for me and I'll be here for you."
During one of his visits to rehab for opioid addiction, Jeff Tweedy was anxious about sharing his own experiences with his therapy group, feeling that his own emotional pain paled in comparison to what some of his fellow residents had been through. This was the advice one resident gave him in return. (Full episode)
"I'm not from here, but neither are you."
When Jorge Drexler and I spoke, he shared a little translation of "Movemiento," the song that opens his charming and poetic album Salvavidas de Hielo, going on to say, "At some moment, we arrived to this place." Some of those moments of arrival we hear about in songs, some we hear about in the news, and some we don't hear about at all. (Full episode)
"I'm out there to tell you that you can make it."
I didn't think twice when Candi Staton said this during our World Cafe conversation in the fall. Candi's life and career have been defined by a tenacious spirit that allowed her to overcome a difficult childhood and several abusive marriages, and turn pain into song. Shortly after our interview, Candi publicly announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer back in July. That means when we were talking, the whole time I was asking Candi questions about the resilience she displays on an album called Unstoppable, she was holding on to the truth about another battle she would have to face ahead. And her voice didn't betray an ounce of doubt about the fight. (Full episode)
"If there's plenty of roosters and lots of corn, that's heaven to a chicken."
This is not about poultry. This is about empathy, in the most David Byrne-ian way. Many of us walk around seeking our own versions of heaven, and maybe even assume that others would take pleasure in the same things we do. But our individual versions of heaven are relative to our experiences on earth. We might understand each other better if we imagined flying a mile in someone else's feathers. (Full episode)
"I was taught if you don't speak your conscience, if you don't have the courage to state your own convictions, then you're not worth very much."
Rosanne Cash was 2018's recipient of the "Spirit of Americana" Free Speech Award. The first-ever recipient, back in 2002, was her father, Johnny Cash. For all the connections some people might seek between their careers and legacies, this one seems most meaningful. (Full episode)
"I think that we're still learning about what diversity means."
When I asked Bonjay's Alanna Stuart whether the D-word is indeed useful in understanding the human experience, she spoke about her family. Both of Alanna's parents immigrated to Canada; her father is from Jamaica, her mom from Grenada. When she was growing up, her mother housed foster children from El Salvador and Brazil, as well as Inuit children. Every single person has a story to tell that day Alanna told a few of them. (Full episode)