The New Yorker Festival: Interviews with Alison Bechdel, Atul Gawande and Raphael Saadiq

Read our chats with three New Yorker Festival participants to find out what to expect at their lectures.



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  1. Alison Bechdel
  2. Atul Gawande
  3. Raphael Saadiq
New Yorker Festival: Raphael Saadiq

New Yorker Festival: Raphael Saadiq Photograph: Jeff Vespa/

Musician Raphael Saadiq released his latest album, Stone Rollin', in 2011. TONY chatted with him about that record, his famous collaborators and what fans can expect at the New Yorker Festival.

How did it feel to be named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, complete with praise from Elton John?
Overwhelming and surreal. I’ve worked really hard for the last 25 years doing what I love. I was just honored. In regards to Elton, he is a champion of good music. He doesn’t just sit back and praise himself. He sees things that he thinks are good and that aren’t getting any praise, and he will take it upon himself to promote them. He’s always been a person to champion great musicians, and I thank him for that. He’s been listening to my music for years, way before the Time 100 honor. He has his finger on the pulse of good music, and it’s art first before anything for him.

Old-school soul music seems to have really come back into the mainstream in the past decade or so, and your most recent record, Stone Rollin’, has a really awesome throwback vibe. Do you think that kind of music’s appeal never really goes away?
It’s like a great pair of shoes. It’s always going to come back. Things come back in cycles. If you put a lot into your art, it’s going to be everlasting. And that kind of music will never go away, because it’s timeless.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of really legendary musicians. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?
Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mick Jagger and the Bee Gees.

How has your music changed over the years?
For the past six or seven years, I’ve been able to show different layers of what I do. I’ve been able to come out of the shell of who I am and show more versatility. I’ve always known that I’ve had that [in me], but it just takes a certain amount of time to pull different things out of you.

Do you prefer writing and performing, or producing?
I look at them all as one. I think that you should be able to do all three things if you’d like to. They all go together. Not that I feel that you have to do all of them, but if you’re a producer and you want to sing your music, you should be able to sing and perform it—whether it be at a coffeeshop or a stadium.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new album. I’ve been given the opportunity to play on Elton John’s new record. I’m also working on music and scoring for a few films. The sky is the limit. I’m just taking everything as it comes, while keeping an open mind.

“Gospedelic” with Raphael Saadiq and Ben Greenman happens Oct 6 at the Gramercy Theatre (127 E 23rd St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave;; 10pm; $35).

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Interview: Raphael Saadiq
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  1. Alison Bechdel
  2. Atul Gawande
  3. Raphael Saadiq

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