Bear and a Banjo, the 8-song soundtrack for the groundbreaking podcast by the same name, released this morning, Friday, Dec. 6, on all streaming platforms. It is being made available under the Empire label.
“Gone But Not Forgotten,” — which can be heard below — is a new song with lyrics by Bob Dylan. It debuted on the series’ final podcast of the season and is also now available on all streaming platforms.
The Bear and a Banjo podcast was created by Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd and “Jingle” Jared Gutstadt, and launched via the iHeart Podcast Network. The series is the tall tale of a griot (Poo Bear) and a guitarist (Gutstadt) who scrawl themselves into the great American songbook with equal parts whimsy and pure weirdness.
“In the age of audio we’re living in this post-literate society,” says Gutstadt. “There is so much digital distraction, and this generation has not had the opportunity to experience music that’s not bite-sized.
“This shrinks our ability to listen. What we’re doing here is almost like reading a novel, except that you’re hearing a story based around a song.”
Dennis Quaid voices one of the series’ main characters, supplies high-testosterone lead vocals on the soundtrack, and shares executive producer credits with multi-Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning songwriter and music producer, T Bone Burnett.
Gutstadt, the co-founder of Jingle Punks music publishing and licensing company, is on guitar and banjo. He describes himself as a “composer-gatherer”, and the meandering path that led to working with Bob Dylan as “…a Talmudic quest in patience.”
Gutstadt and Poo Bear have been collaborating to create catalog music when Poo Bear, the ûber-pop hit-man associated with the ascent of Justin Bieber, suggested that they create a “fake band.”
Gutstadt said that good fortune had a big part of success, “It’s just been the craziest thing. We just got really lucky, and we’ve been making it all up as we go along.”
Scripting the storytelling around the original songs, the creative ensemble plays fast and loose with history, spinning true lies and gleefully spanning genres.
Across the sprawl of the 8 episodes, the pair is possessed by a poetic restlessness that makes Kerouac look like a couch potato. For instance, they find themselves rubbing elbows with the Lomax dynasty and Lead Belly in one episode, and crashing Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s wedding for 20,000 guests in another.
Of the success of Bear and a Banjo, Poo Bear said that he, nor those that signed up for the podcast, saw it coming. He explains that no recording label would touch the initial 7 cuts that he and Gutstadt had compiled as a next-gen concept album: “They don’t know. They’re supposed to know, but they don’t know. I care about what people feel, and I value their opinion. As far as the labels go, nobody really knows except the people.”
As advice to young artists and producers, he adds, “I’ve been rejected my whole life. Rejection is gonna happen. And getting laughed out of the building just makes you more resilient. Your intention just always has to be to get your music out there.”
He confirms Gutstadt’s bemused sense of wonderment about how it all went down. “Greatness comes from not planning,” he says, even though he’s a Virgo (notorious planners). “The coolest part of the project for me was that I got to play myself, being honest and vulnerable, and inviting people in, excluding no one.”
At the time of publication, Bear and a Banjo is awaiting news of a second season.
Gutstadt’s working on a new project about women in country-western music.
And meanwhile, in the words of Dr. Q (Dennis Quaid), Bear and a Banjo rocks on, “Raw and funky, dirty and musty, and the sound is way happenin’.”