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).

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.

What The Dap-Kings are to vintage soul, Los Hacheros are to the golden era of Latin music. A strong statement, yes, but this New York City five-piece acoustic band has all the soul, fire and reverence of the late Sharon Jones' backup band — and is even signed to Chulo, Daptone Records' new Latin imprint.

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.


Break out the tissues, because Aurora says, "I have always enjoyed watching my songs make people cry."

Bobby Rush is one of the last living blues legends of his generation. He toured the South and the chitlin' circuit in the '50s and was often forced to perform music behind a curtain for white audiences. Shortly before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rush heard through fellow Chicago bluesman J.B.