NILE RODGERS, ROGER WATERS, JOHN MELLENCAMP, CARLOS SANTANA AND GEDDY LEE LAUNCH PREMIERE SEASON OF FRONT AND CENTER’S NEW CONVERSATION SERIES SPEAKEASY
Guest Interviewers Include Ashford & Simpson’s Valerie Simpson, Journalist Bill Weir, Rolling Stone Founder Jann Wenner, Singer-Songwriter Harry Belafonte, and Pulitzer Prize Winner Michael Chabon
Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame recipients, Grammy Award winners, and legendary iconic musicians are featured on the all-new public television interview series Speakeasy. The premiere season, created by the producers of the critically acclaimed public television concert series Front and Center, debuts this month (check local listings), and will feature iconic musician/producer and co-founder of CHIC, Nile Rodgers; acclaimed composer and rock musician Roger Waters; Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp; iconic guitarist and social activist Carlos Santana; and legendary Rush front-man and bassist Geddy Lee.
Each hour-long episode gives audiences revealing insights into the lives and careers of some of the music industry’s most revered figures, facilitated by each episode’s host — an interviewer personally selected by the principals. The five-episode premiere season, taped before a live audience on a 1930’s-era set in New York’s historic McKittrick Hotel, features Nile Rodgers sitting down with Valerie Simpson, Roger Waters talking with television journalist Bill Weir, John Mellencamp with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, Carlos Santana being interviewed by Harry Belafonte, and Geddy Lee conversing with Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Michael Chabon.
“Artists of this caliber have doubtless done thousands of interviews throughout their careers, answering the same questions over and over again,” said Speakeasy creator and Front and Center Entertainment founder, Don Maggi. “The beauty of the Speakeasy format is that it affords these artists a level of comfort, which in turn stimulates a unique, compelling, and topical conversation that we would otherwise not have an opportunity to hear.”
As a result, Speakeasy topics run the gamut from Nile Rodgers’ reminiscence of forming CHIC, and then going on to produce some of the biggest hits of our time, to Roger Waters’ insights into how to make the world a more peaceful place. Songwriting, politics, and his encounters with musical heroes Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson highlight John Mellencamp’s hour; Carlos Santana shares his spiritual beliefs and positions on social activism; and Rush bassist Geddy Lee opens up about how he maintains the strength of his voice after 40 years, as well as his Jewish upbringing by parents who met in a concentration camp during World War II.
SPEAKEASY EPISODES: (Check Local Listings):
Nile Rodgers with Valerie Simpson
Nile Rodgers, the three-time Grammy Award winning musician, composer, arranger, producer, guitarist, author and co-founder of the band CHIC, invites his good friend, Valerie Simpson of Ashford and Simpson, to reminisce and candidly discuss his illustrious career and personal journey. From his early days frequenting Studio 54 and his seminal work with David Bowie, Madonna and Diana Ross, to his Grammy-award winning work with Daft Punk, Rodgers discusses how he’s kept a four decade long career that has survived the excesses of an oft documented drug culture of the 70s, very much intact.
Roger Waters with Bill Weir
In 1965, Roger Waters co-founded Pink Floyd, one of the most influential rock bands in history. “The man behind The Wall” sits down with American television journalist Bill Weir to discuss his legendary career; the past, present and future of the music industry; the ravages of war; and his insights about many of the underlying issues facing the world today.
John Mellencamp with Jann Wenner
John Mellencamp settles in to discuss his early days, his work with Stephen King, Farm Aid, his recently released new album Plain Spoken, and work as a painter, with Rolling Stone Magazine co-founder Jann Wenner. Mellencamp also candidly explores his philosophy on success, what drives his passion for expression, and his uncompromising creative will.
Carlos Santana with Harry Belafonte
Ten-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist and composer Carlos Santana meets with social activist and “King of Calypso” Harry Belafonte. Together, they discuss much-debated social issues, spirituality, and alternatives to the culture of fear inherent in today’s media.
Geddy Lee with Michael Chabon
Best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboard player for the band Rush, Geddy Lee spends his time on Speakeasy talking with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon. The two discuss Lee’s perspective on growing up Jewish in an assimilated world, as well as the evolution of his band mates’ relationships that have seen catastrophic loss and the growth of a brotherhood that has sustained more than four decades. The son of Polish Holocaust survivors, Lee also talks openly about how he has maintained his singular singing voice over his Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame career.
Speakeasy is produced by Front and Center Entertainment, LLC; presented by WTTW National Productions, and distributed by American Public Television. It is directed by Pierre and François Lamoureux of FogoLabs.
Front and Center Entertainment, LLC produces the popular music performance television series Front and Center, as well as the groundbreaking new interview series Speakeasy. Both shows are broadcast to viewers nationally on public television. Speakeasy, which begins airing in January 2015, features an iconic talent chatting intimately with an interviewer of their choosing. It will feature five episodes upon its launch, including intimate conversations with Nile Rodgers, Roger Waters, John Mellencamp, Carlos Santana, and Geddy Lee.
About WTTW National Productions
WTTW National Productions is a premier producer and presenter of original, high-quality television programs for both public and commercial television broadcast. WTTW National Productions is a division of Window to the World Communications, Inc., the parent company of WTTW11 Chicago. For almost 60 years, WTTW11 and WTTW National Productions have introduced a wide array of groundbreaking television programming – reflecting the world’s rich and diverse arts and entertainment scene as well as education, politics, public affairs, business, and religion – to a national audience. Its landmark innovative series and original productions include the critically acclaimed performance showcases Soundstage,Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, Proclamation of Hope, and David Broza at Masada: The Sunrise Concert; the cultural series MEXICO—One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless, Grannies on Safari, Ebert Presents At the Movies, and The Artist Toolbox; the business series CEO Exchange; the documentary series Retirement Revolution; the transmedia online educational children’s properties Mission to Planet 429 and UMIGO, and the award-winning animated children’s series WordWorld. For more information, please visit wttw.com/national.
Jessica A. Poulin