Displaying items by tag: From Cradle To Stage

Review: 'From Cradle To Stage'

05 May, 2021

As much as I hate to admit it, I've been interviewing people for more than 25 years. I like to think that I have some level of skill when it comes to asking questions, but I don't think any journalist has a firm handle on the best way to interview a well-known performer. Whether it's an actor that is a household name or a musician with a couple of Grammys under their belt, stars are a tough interview. By the time that they've become a household name, celebrities have been interviewed a thousand times. They're locked into their personal "brand" and how they want to be perceived by the public. They only remember the terrible interviews, so they are wary about the interviewer and deathly afraid of saying something that will become tomorrow's social media hot take. So most of the time, celebrity interviews tend to be safe and dry and polite. You don't learn much - other than what the celebrities want you to know.

The music industry is slightly different in that there are rare occasions when an interview or a TV show can provide surprising results. For instance, the podcast and TV series Song Exploder does a magnificent job of convincing musicians to discuss their creative process. It's not that the interviews reveal some great secret. It's just that you get a glimpse of the music and the person behind the mask.

The new Paramount+ series From Cradle To Stage is a wonderful series that will give you insight into how some of your favorite musicians became the people they are today. Produced and semi-hosted by Dave Grohl, the six-episode series is based on a book written by his mother. From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars was written by Virginia Hanlon Grohl and it examined the special relationship that musicians have with their mothers. The series takes some of the same journey, with each hour-long episode featuring a well-known musician. Each episode has a similar format, with Dave Grohl interviewing/hanging out with the performer while his mother Virginia focuses on the parent. Interwoven into each episode are some snippets from Grohl's life, generally something that tracks the conversation in the episode. Those snippets will be gold for Grohl fans, who among other things will get to see footage of him playing his first live show in what looks to be someone's living room.

Because the artists know Grohl can relate to their stories, they open up a bit more than they would with normal interviewers and it's a similar story with Virginia Grohl, who is able to put the mothers at ease as she draws out the stories of how they struggled to understand the ambitions of their children. Teresa Carlile talks about the struggles she had when daughter Brandi came out and how seeing the reaction their small town had to her girlfriend helped make her understand that her daughter would be fine. Christene Reynolds - mother of Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds - talks honestly about raising a family of nine children and navigating the world between her Mormon religion and her son's rock and roll career. Miranda Lambert's mother Bev and her husband were private investigators and she ended up becoming Miranda's manager during her teen years. As you might imagine, that brought a great deal of conflict into their relationship and as they discussed it, you can see the emotion is still there bubbling just below the surface.

The segments with the musicians are just as enlightening, as they discuss their childhoods and revisit old haunts. Some interviews are more successful than others, but the stories of their parents and their childhoods always make it worthwhile. Fans of Rush won't discover much new about Geddy Lee's career in his episode. But he spends a lot of time talking about his parents, who were both Holocaust survivors and who met and fell in love at the work camps. They had extraordinary lives and watching Geddy taking his now very elderly mother around town for their regular Saturday morning breakfast and shopping tour provides viewers with a new perspective on his life and music.

Dave Grohl does a wonderful job with the show as he is able to bring just the right amount of levity to the conversations. He's a star and he's well aware of that. But he also has a fun sense of perspective that keeps the conversations from veering into the mock seriousness of an Oprah interview. At one point, he talks about his father calling to give him feedback on the lyrics of some Nirvana. "I told him, I hear you, Dad. But I'm just the drummer, " explained Grohl. 

The final episode ends with a dinner Virginia Grohl held for some of the mothers featured in her book, including the mother of Amy Winehouse. At the end of the dinner, Dave Grohl's daughter Violet sings for the group, accompanied on guitar by her father. Aside from the fact that Violet is crazy talented, it's an appropriate way to end a series about musicians and the relationship they have with their parents. 

From Cradle To Stage will be a treasure for any music fan and as Mother's Day approaches, it's a good reminder of how even the people with the strongest personalities and most confidence still have those moments when they need their mom.

The first episode of From Cradle To Stage premieres Thursday, May 6th, 2021 on Paramount+.  A new episode will premiere each Thursday through June 10th.