Indie Music Digest Interview
1. How would you classify your music?
Man, my style is all over the place. Matt Smith, who produced and played on the album, calls my music
“Prog Uke”, but it’s more than that. I started my artistic career as an actor, in New York, in the late 70’s
and then founded a theater company in Austin, Texas. Also, for many years, I was a
playwright/screenwriter working with such icons as Willie Nelson and Bud Schrake. I think my
theatrical experiences inform the majority of my music. I write songs that tell stories. Listen to the
album and I think you can see that “Some Things Are Better Left Alone” is a murder ballad, inspired by
Nick Cave. “Shrimp” is a mash of Tom Waits, Lord Buckley and John Coltrane.
2. Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?
I saw the Beatles at DC Stadium in 1966. My brother’s date backed out and he asked me to go. We had
to walk through a gauntlet of Ku Klux Klan members to get inside. That image has always stayed with
me of music’s power to inspire and incite.
I love Stan Ridgeway and the way he can effortlessly weave a complicated story line into a three minute
Tom Waits, the greatest storyteller of our time.
Randy Newman, for his unflinching sense of humor.
“They Might Be Giants”, for proving there are songs everywhere and in everything, you just have to
listen for them.
P.S. I have to add Neil Young if only for “Powderfinger”. If I could write a song half that good, that would
3. What do you want fans to take from your music?
I want them to take the cd home, play it, and be awed by the sheer depth and breadth of my talent.
Seriously, though, I want them to see that the ukulele is an instrument that has great range and passion,
from the soprano to the baritone. It is not a novelty instrument. It can tell a story that impacts emotion
as good as any other instrument. No, that is bullshit. It can do it better.
4. How’s the music scene in your locale?
Are you serious? Have you ever been to Austin? There is nothing happening here.
5. There was no question five, but if there was my answer would have been pancakes.
Definition of pancakes
: plural form of pancake
Definition of pancake
: a flat cake made of thin batter and cooked (as on a griddle) on both sides
6. What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?
I just saw “Wilco” on their latest tour, and I would be hard pressed to say that I’ve ever seen a better
show: a beautiful set, incredible lights, great Jeff Tweedy songs and three hours of Nels Cline on guitar.
As for playing live, I am a newcomer as a musician. I only started playing eight years ago, and until
recently didn’t have the skill or confidence to play in front of an audience. Now that I do, the thing I like
most about playing live is remembering all the words to my songs, and not throwing up.
7. Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?
I really like “The Middle Ages”. It’s got a nice beat and you can dance to it, and I think it’s funny. Also, I
am very fond of “Betty Goes Shopping”, it has a Jimmy Webb loneliness and I think Jimmy Webb is
about as good as songwriting gets. Damn, I was only supposed to list one song. Why can’t I follow
directions? What is my problem?
8. How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?
I spent six months in the studio making my first cd. Matt Smith is an incredible producer and musician.
He very patiently showed me how to take the bare bones of a song and raise it to the next level. It was a
profound learning experience. When he told me I was going to do all of the vocals on the album, I
thought I would die. But he explained and demonstrated what he wanted me to do. Going into the
project I would have never believed I could sing harmony.
Now, with the help of Auto-Tune, I can!
9. If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead
or alive) who would it be?
I would want to meet Keith Richards and go roller skating with him. But only if we could skate to Donna
I would love to play a gig with Bootsy Collins and feel the love and energy he radiates from the stage.
For dinner, David Bowie, if I could have fried chicken.
I would love to go drinking with Shane MacGowan of “The Pogues”, right up until the fighting started, then I would want to go home.
You didn’t ask me, but I would go for coffee with PJ Harvey, because her music scares the hell out of me,
in all the best ways. I would hope she would get decaf.
10. What’s next for you?
I am writing a theatricalized version of the album for when it tours. It’s not a story with a continuous
arc, but more a group of anecdotes, bald face lies and yarns that inform and comment on the work;
hopefully in a funny way. Also, there are a couple of videos in the works, some more time in the studio,
and my fourteen year old daughter’s choir concert. I have extra tickets, if you’re in town.
From Vents Magazine
Already a legendary playwright, Austin, TX based Randall Wheatley’s debut full-length CD release Everything Matters brings this “rock star of the playwright world” into the realm of the singer/songwriter with an album that spans a wide variety of genres within its ten tracks. Wheatley sings and plays ukulele with Austin’s finest musicians backing him. It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging around the house or partaking in a road trip, it’s easy to follow his compelling story which is just as playful as it is serious.
The story begins with Wheatley delivering some soft guitar lines before going into “Betty Goes Shopping” and it gets rather humorously descriptive from there, telling of a trip to Wal-Mart and all of the typical holiday trials and tribulations (with Betty sometimes getting what she deserves.) The story gets a little dark but is a pleasure to listen to due to the great storytelling and the fantastic melody driving it. The proceedings move right along with “Furniture As It Relates To The Failure Of Our Dreams” and you’re all the way into things by this time.
The story is a thread of interesting, funny and musically satisfying tracks continuing with “Letter From Shelby County.” This is where it gets dramatic.
“Lyon” is a commanding track. It’s a cool tune. He answers back with an even more musical statement with “Runway Lights” as it becomes clear that it’s all about staying sane during the end of the year antics people go through at Christmas time. The rest of the album is more accessible, with several more stories/songs to wrap your ears around.
Enjoy the ups and downs as Everything Matters clearly expresses the finer (and not so finer) points of all the boring stuff we go through. “Some Things Are Better Left Alone” helps to describe it all the more. It shows he can write, play and sing with everything it takes to make a good album, all the while without compromising his playwright talent. Only Wheatley knows what that is like, but “The Emperor Of Nothing” and “The Middle Ages” do the business to round out a top shelf effort by Wheatley and Co.
From Skope Magazine
Austin, TX based legendary playwright made singer-songwriter, Randall Wheatley, releases his debut full length album entitled Everything Matters. Wheatley’s previous success and reputation as ‘‘the rock star of the playwright world’’ is carrying over into his newest role as a singer-songwriter. Each track on the album provides pure entertainment no matter your genre of choice, with Wheatley on ukulele and backed by some of Austin’s finest musicians, the album achieves the perfect blend of quality musicianship, songwriting and precise lyrical delivery.
Ten tracks make up this unique album with playwright construction being the feature tool of expression. It tells a story you can take something away from. Not being familiar with Wheatley doesn’t pose any snags in describing what’s written all over it.
The CD follows the playwright's concept with a strong narrative approach. The songs keep it interesting, and it is equally divided between singing and spoken-word.
Everything Matters never gets hard to follow (especially for lovers of spoken-word.) It’s very musically fulfilling as well. This was a great experience from my perspective, and it only seeks to further interest into what Wheatley will offer on future releases. This album begs for a follow up.
“Betty Goes Shopping” kicks off with a tune about getting prepared for the holidays, etc. It goes through the vernacular of average happenings which include everything from working in the kitchen to hearing Brenda Lee on the radio. That's just how the album plays out, with some songs even getting explicit.
Following in narrative fashion, “Furniture As It Relates To Our Dreams” has a comical delivery, but should not be taken any less seriously. This one stays locked into spoken-word, with a galloping percussion that builds up around some nitty gritty lyrics that verge on adult-only appeal. Other tracks include “Letter From Shelby County” which covers the obvious lyrical territory.
Take in everything this album has to offer, including the enjoyably sublime comfort of “The Damages Of My 6:20 Alarm” with its catchy guitar playing. They’re worth any music or playwright lovers time. Once you dig in, you don’t want to stop until you’ve heard how it all plays out.