95. Sounds of Action! The Stubborn Optimist's Playlist Vol. 1

Welcome to the very first Volume of The Stubborn Optimist’s Playlist!

Every week on the podcast we feature an artist who is thoughtful about the role of art and artists in the climate crisis. This week, we celebrate all the artists we have had on the show so far with 2 separate volumes for your listening enjoyment!

So without further ado, Vol. 1.

Enjoy the music!

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The Stubborn Optimist’s Playlist Vol. 1:

(4:12) Ellie Goulding – Speaking

(5:18) She Drew The Gun – Trouble Every Day

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(8:37) Blackout Problems – Dark

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(12:14) Jelani Blackman – Pretty World

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(15:42) Toukan Toukan – Konowoulen

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(19:49) Billy Bragg – King Tide and The Sunny Day Flood

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(22:49) Robert 3D Del Naja – Speaking

(25:01) Massive Attack ft. Christiana Figueres – Eutopia

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(28:32) Gaeya – Contact

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(32:32) Cosmo Sheldrake – Speaking

(34:15) Cosmo Sheldrake – Cuckoo Song

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(36:56) Nick Mulvey – Begin Again

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(41:54) Baaba Mal – Leke

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(44:44) AURORA – Speaking

(46:00) AURORA – The Seed

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(50:43) Millie Turner – Underwater

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(54:34) Ayoni – The Patriots

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(58:47) Too Many T’s – Speaking

(01:01:18) Too Many T’s Not Enough Bees

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(01:04:50) OK GO – All Together Now

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(01:09:18) Aaron Taylor – Get Through This

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(01:12:06) AJR – Speaking

(01:14:02) AJR – Burn The House Down

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I’m Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana Figueres: [00:00:16] I’m Christiana Figueres.

Paul Dickinson: [00:00:17] And I’m Paul Dickinson.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:23] For many people around the world, Easter is a spiritual time, and after a year of lockdown that still persists in many places and the continuing issues around climate, security and public health, we all probably need some time for reflection. A pause.

Paul Dickinson: [00:00:39] I hope our listeners will take time to fuel your souls. The mind needs a rest. You know, music plays such an important part in telling the story of each generation. And we created this podcast to make more people both aware but also committed to climate action. This is what can and must define our generation. So let me sing.

[00:01:02] Yes, today is history and tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

Christiana Figueres: [00:01:11] Well, Paul, thanks very much for those heroic efforts. I’m so glad we have other musicians on the show that we don’t necessarily have to rely exclusively on your beautiful musical talent.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:27] I couldn’t agree more. I look forward to them.

Christiana Figueres: [00:01:30] Now from my part. I just love how the music artists that we’ve talked to and listened to have enriched our soul and our show by touching the lives of our audiences. Truly, I have gotten so much good feedback on the music part of our show and it is time to honor those artists because, you know, they appear one by one on each episode of Outrage + Optimism. And so to honor them all, we’re bringing them back, all of them together in two amazing volumes on this podcast. So wherever you are in the world, we are united, all of us Stubborn Optimists from all walks of life in this celebration of music that fuels the stories of change and what is possible.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:02:27] So we’ve called this double volume the Stubborn Optimist Playlist. Throughout Volume One, you’ll hear from artists such as Massive Attack, AJR, and many more. And on Volume Two, there’s even more. It’s an extended listening episode continuing on from the first volume. Just music for you to enjoy. You can follow along in the show notes with each playlist where Clay is timestamped for us when each song begins, as well as included links to all of the artists social media accounts so you can follow, connect and discover more of their music. We’ll be back next week with our regular interview format featuring the brilliant aviation entrepreneur and pilot of the first solar powered aircraft to circumvent the world, Bertrand Piccard.

Christiana Figueres: [00:03:11] OK. Enough about enough about our podcast and our interviewees and enough from us. We actually just hope that you enjoy the podcast as much as we love creating it, because in case you haven’t noticed, we actually love it. And we have a lot of fun and sometimes we go into deep pain. So we go through the whole gamut of feelings from outrage all the way to optimism and back. But for today, we start Volume One with Ellie Goulding, who was the first artist we ever featured on this podcast. And you will remember Tom and Paul, what an impression she made on us, how she moved us so deeply with her views on the power of music in a crisis. And with that, let me hand you over to the one and only Ellie Goulding.

Ellie Goulding: [00:04:13] Everyone loves music, music connects everyone individually in some way or another, and it connects people with things. So I love the way that people can relate to what I sing about. And when I write lyrics and I get tweets and various letters and messages from people saying that my songs have helped them through things, and it means so much to me and I think just goes to show that people connect with music, with sound, with film and with stories. And stories are a huge part of what I do. I tell stories about my childhood, about my relationships, about where I’ve been in the world. And I’m lucky enough to have to have traveled the world. And I think that’s helped me a lot to see the bigger picture. I think this is such an unprecedented thing for us all to go through as human beings that it might require some kind of access to some other world and maybe being a bit more open to the truth.

Rob Del Naja: [00:22:50] You know, we’re making music about climate change or oppression or a statement about that war, but we kind of had the sense that you’re not really having any direct effect on anything and it’s slightly futile. So we always ask what can we do? Will anyone ever take us seriously? It’s great that a reviewer might have noticed a lyric or a point or the fact that at a gig we’ve worked with a particular group of identities to try and promote a new idea or sort of draw attention to an issue. But we always feel that it’s the people like yourself that are actually affecting change systemically getting right into the heart of it are the people we look up to. And you’re right. There is an enormous platform which mostly goes untapped. At the same time, it’s a kind of strange balance because if you talk to your fans, the people at the gigs or read the comments on social media particularly, we’re continually bombarded with just ‘shut up and make some music’. And for years, I find that frustrating. And I thought, I’m a citizen. We all need to talk about this. And this always falls back to that really great sort of placard. There’s no music on a dead planet.

[00:23:55] You can draw from these brilliant placards you see at the demonstrations, but there’s always that narrative in the background. Just shut up and do what you’re here to do, which is entertain us. And I do get it sometimes, that people came to us because they found something, maybe provoked something emotional, we’re obviously quite well known for doing quite melancholy stuff. And I think personally, this EP with you, Christiana, as a lead vocalist on it, is one of the most positive things we’ve done in years. Even though it’s serious issues, there’s great lyrics, great delivery, and some people are going, that’s amazing. It was transformative. And other people are just like, I just want some music and it’s impossible to ever get it right for everybody. But what was really important here was recognizing that that we would just want to be the messengers at this point. We didn’t want to deliver. We could be the delivery mechanism in which people with much deeper thoughts on this could actually send the messages out and transmit, because it’s a platform that if you didn’t try to do it, if you didn’t try to utilize it a in a way that made any sort of change, it just seemed like a colossal waste of time.

Cosmo Sheldrake: [00:32:33] I think art has an enormous role to play during a climate crisis. I think often it’s the role of art and artists and musicians to try and create embodied experiences or things that can transcend mere regurgitation of facts and figures and connect people on a spiritual and emotional, physical and intellectual level to the reality of what’s actually happening. I think people can often just be overwhelmed into a kind of state of apathy and art and music, I think can help snap people out of that state. Although I think art’s not just there to help communicate the science or reflect other ideas. I think it is also fully capable of making meaningful and valid statements about the nature of reality itself. Like science. It’s a method of communication and investigation and inquiry.

[00:33:24] I think there’s also many places in which arts and sciences can collaborate and overlap. So I think arts and artists and musicians have a role, not only to help communicate some of the issues that we’re all facing, but also to do something about them in a practical and constructive way, this song is actually written by Benjamin Britten, but I decided to make a version of it. It just felt like a good way of shining a light on one of the aspects of this mass extinction, which we’re currently living through, and to attempt to try and make something that could engage people with this crisis, but without triggering some of the apathy and shut down mechanisms that happens often if people get lectured to or just overwhelmed by facts and figures.

AURORA: [00:44:45] It’s been really strange to me how I feel like the more we have forgotten what music can offer us, the less we have gotten out of music. And I feel like music lately is missing that passion and that anger. Directed anger, not blinded anger that does no one any good, but the really clearly directed anger towards the wish to change something that is not good enough where we are today. And I feel like maybe the young kids haven’t really learned it yet. And that’s why we are so free to really express anger. And is the perfect age also to express anger toward something that’s unfair. And global warming is unfair, especially to us and our children, to all of us. So it’s such an unfair thing because we were just thrown into this world, a dying world. And now we are facing this incredible, important, incredibly important change that we can either be, all of us, can be the generations that killed the planet or we can be the generation that actually fixed it and, saved it for our future children. And forever, we will be a generations like all of us that saved the planet. And I would love to have that in my shoulders, wouldn’t you too?

Too Many Ts: [00:58:48] As our friends at Music Declares Emergency say, there will be no music on a dead planet anyway. All too often, especially in popular culture, it’s commercial successes and profits which are driving artists narratives. And there is definitely a benefit to the escapism that music allows. And I think we all need that. You know, we’ve probably all had positive experiences from it. But right now, this is the most serious issue we’ve ever faced and the next generation are going to be most affected. So as artists, we are naturally role models and need to acknowledge the responsibility and use the influence that we’ve got conscientiously.

[00:59:32] Yeah, definitely. If you have influence over other people, then you really need to be conscious of it. But regardless of what you do, I think there’s an individual responsibility that we all need to get this message in our heads. The first steps to realize are just how out of sync with nature we’ve become in our society as it’s progressed with technology and that we’re so detached from the basics like where we get our food from. We need to take steps to reconnect with these as much as we can. And if we as artists and then the writers and hopefully the leaders do that too, then they’ll naturally impact those around them and those who listen to them. So I feel that we as artists that need to learn and enact change ourselves first and then go from there.

[01:00:20] We’ve created a couple of projects now using our music kind of as a call to fans, you know, and we’re talking well, we’re rapping and raising awareness on subjects that are obviously negative, but we’re counteracting this by offering some solutions and giving fans the opportunity to step up and take some action, which is key, I think, to actually do something about it. But the track we’re playing today, Too Many Ts, Not Enough Bees, managed to raise enough money to build new hives for 60000 new bees. And we’re in the middle of a campaign right now called Too Many Trees, where we’re currently raising money to plant oak trees here in the UK. And we’re going to go and plant a forest with our fans actually on the day they’re going to come with us and plant the trees themselves. So we’re not only building community and getting that positive energy going, but hopefully doing some good for the planet along the way.

AJR: [01:12:07] I think everybody is very aware when they’re being preached to in a song, and so I think it really needs to be like, let me use an example, Burn the House Down, our song. We couldn’t write a song saying, here’s what’s wrong with the world that needed to be a personal thing. Here’s how I am affected. And it ended up being a song about writing a political song. Like If I write this political song, will they allow me to sing it on Ellen?

[01:12:35] You know, there are those people in the world that are those tenacious will lead the pack, those kind of people. But there are a lot of people that are very unsure and don’t really know. And to try to appeal to those people is very smart, because you can scroll through your Twitter feed all day and see this is what we need to do. But a lot of people aren’t super educated like me, for instance. I don’t know, one hundred percent of the answers. I don’t know what to do. But if you can relate and try to make people feel it on that level of a little bit of insecurity and unsureness, maybe they’ll start to actually listen and do their own research and say, OK, this is actually really important to me.

[01:13:05] So it’s really just about connecting to the fans about the exact same mindset as you. So like Ryan said, you have to be subtle about it and not preach.

[01:13:12] It’s funny, a lot of my work in the sustainability space came from this idea, seeing how you get fans involved and excited about something, because so much of the climate movement has been about this this fear of the future and this kind of doom and gloom approach. But when I look at the music industry where I spend so much of my time, it’s all about excitement and how do you build excitement one person at a time to get them involved. And so a lot of the work that I’ve done is taking things that we learned from the music industry and applying them to activism specifically around climate. You know, you get somebody excited and then they follow you on Twitter or they stream a song and then they buy an album, they buy a ticket to a show. They follow you around the world. It’s that ladder of getting people engaged in something. And a lot of my work is how do we take that and apply that to things like climate?